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What documents are required when applying for Austrian citizenship for Nazi persecution victims and their descendants?

Michael Decker
Michael Decker

When applying for Austrian citizenship for Nazi persecution victims and their descendants, applicants must prove that they are eligible to receive said citizenship. To this end, required documents include evidence proving the persecution victim’s center of life in Austria, as well as personal documents of the applicants and their family members.

In 2019, an amendment to the Austrian Citizenship Law (StbG) was passed by the Austrian Parliament. This amendment meant good news for hundreds of thousands of Israelis who are descendants of those persecuted by the Nazis in Austria, and who were added to the list of people eligible for Austrian citizenship following the amendment to the law.

The amendment also greatly eased the process required for obtaining Austrian citizenship for the descendants of Nazi persecution victims (children, grandchildren and sometimes even great-grandchildren), by reducing restrictive requirements that were customary in the past, such as the requirement of proficiency in the German language.

However, despite the significant easing of requirements in the new law, the process for obtaining Austrian citizenship still involves dealing with quite a bit of bureaucracy, and submitting many documents. It is important to obtain all the required documents ahead of time, and submit them in accordance with the instructions of the authorities in Austria, in order to avoid a delay in processing the citizenship application.

Applying for Austrian citizenship

What documents are required to prove eligibility for Austrian citizenship in principle?

Those who wish to obtain Austrian citizenship through the route designated for descendants of Nazi persecution victims will be required, in the first stage, to prove their eligibility for citizenship. This means proving that the Nazi persecution victim family member on whom the application is based was an Austrian citizen, a citizen of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire or a stateless person whose center of life was on Austrian territory and that they left Austrian territory, or alternatively were murdered on Austrian territory, in the period between January 30, 1933, and May 15, 1955.

Documents that may prove this include registration extracts from Austria, residence certificates, educational certificates from educational institutions in Austria (such as a high school graduation certificate or an academic diploma), marriage or divorce certificates in Austria, etc. Another important document, which may be relevant for some of those eligible, is a victim’s certificate (Opferausweis). This document was issued for Holocaust survivors recognized as such by Austria.

The Austrian government has not established a closed list of documents that may be used as relevant proof of eligibility for citizenship, in order to allow as many persecuted people and their descendants as possible to succeed in the complex task of proving their eligibility for Austrian citizenship.

What documents are required when submitting an application for Austrian citizenship?

Those who successfully pass the first stage, proving eligibility in principle, will be required to submit a detailed naturalization application to the immigration authorities in Austria. As part of the application, it is necessary to provide various details about the persecuted person, as well as specifying his or her relationship to the applicants themselves. Depending on the applicants’ characteristics, Austrian authorities will determine a list of documents that need to be attached to the application.

The required documents may include, among others, the applicants’ birth certificates, a valid passport from the country in which the applicants are citizens at the time of submitting the application, marriage and/or divorce certificates of the applicants and their parents, confirmation of the absence of a criminal record, and a certificate of discharge from military service. Documents that are not written in German or English will have to undergo a notarized translation into German.

If the required documents are not at hand, it is important to obtain them ahead of time. The authorities in Austria examine the citizenship applications very carefully, and do not cut corners. For documents originating in Austria that are not in your possession, archival research can be conducted in Austria to locate them.

What is required in order to obtain an Austrian passport?

After the citizenship application is submitted in full, it will be examined by the Austrian authorities. The time for processing the application after the date of its submission is between 12-18 months on average. Those whose application is approved will be invited to the Austrian embassy to receive a naturalization certificate. In this capacity they will officially become Austrian citizens, and will be able to apply for an Austrian passport. The passport will usually be issued within a few months from the date of application.

I received Austrian citizenship – will my children have to go through the same lengthy process?

No. If your children were born after you obtained citizenship, they will automatically be eligible for citizenship. All that is required of you for this purpose is to register your children at the Austrian embassy, in a quick and simple procedure. For those who already have children at the time of receiving citizenship, their children will have to submit a naturalization application. However, the process will be easier, in light of the fact that the proof of their right to citizenship will be based on the right of their parents, which has already been proven.

Why is it not recommended to delay in embarking on the process?

Austrian citizenship confers many benefits, including the right to reside indefinitely in all 27 EU countries, entry to the US without the need to issue a visa in advance, and a variety of business opportunities reserved for EU citizens. In addition, Austrian citizenship holders can benefit from prestigious relocation programs in countries with which the European Union cooperates, including England, Australia and Canada.

It is important to take into account that the Austrian citizenship law in its current form may change. A similar process happened regarding the citizenship law in Portugal: a 2022 reform to the law greatly reduced the possibility of obtaining Portuguese citizenship among those eligible for it. Accordingly, it is recommended that those interested in Austrian citizenship try to ascertain their eligibility and embark on the process as soon as possible.

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