Overcoming the Emotional Bond of Citizenship

While I was blogging in the run-up to the Referendum, and in the aftermath of the result, I had many thoughts about whether, and how quickly to start, to apply for Austrian citizenship. My emotions about whether to remain British or take citizenship swung back and forth for a long time during 2016. It was a topic I also looked at in the blog last December.

I think the decision might have be one I would have taken long ago, were dual citizenship allowed in Austria. I’d heard talk about the possibility of “renounce and resume”, whereby an applicant renounces their UK citizenship to allow them to take a new citizenship, and then resumes their original citizenship. However, with too much at stake in terms of employment and the welfare of my family, taking Austrian citizenship is subject to the condition that I give up my British citizenship.

In theory provided the authorities don’t contact one another what German would brand a “Kavalierdelikt” could be perceived to be committed. Unfortunately the Staatsbürgerschaftsgesetz 1985 also doesn’t view it that way. A commentary on the StbG 1985 by a Viennese lawyer, addresses the issue, and in particular considers the point at which dual citizenship is deemed to occur, and be illegal. The wording of § 27 (1) StbG is decisive:

die österreichische Staatsbürgerschaft geht verloren, in dem Zeitpunkt, wo eine fremde Staatsangehörigkeit (wieder)erworben wird.

Or translated: “Austrian citizenship is lost at the instant a foreign nationality is (re-)applied for.”

Having also checked the new fees (applicable from 6 April 2017) for taking and renouncing British citizenship, the cost of renouncing British citizenship is £321 (using form RN).

Back in December I talked about the “emotional bond of citizenship”, and it is true that just as failed relationship takes time to get over, the emotional bond of four decades of being British is not something that can be flicked on/off like a light switch. The decision to renounce citizenship is not one to take lightly, and only after due consideration. Not having any possibility of dual citizenship through another EU Member State, which would allow me to hold a citizenship for professional and personal reasons while retaining British citizenship, due to the emotional bond of citizenship taking Austrian citizenship requires me to relinquish the over-riding emotion bond of being British.

Some people I’ve spoken to see it as a straightforward matter of being British in heart and mind, and Austrian on paper, but to me that feels like taking the oath with fingers crossed behind my back. Some of the uncertainty also lies in whether once I taken Austrian citizenship whether I’ll “feel” Austrian. I feel that I am pursuing citizenship for the right reasons – to secure a better future for my family, to keep the freedoms of the EU open to me, and also to reconcile where I consider home and the country of which I am a citizen.

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