I started this blog when I had already made the decision that I would naturalise and take Austrian citizenship. From the outset I have always advocated that the decision is the right one for my personal circumstances – both in terms of my professional activities and my family. Given my wife’s experience I am aware that the road ahead is a long one. A number of other Britons in Austria have asked why I already feel so convinced about the decision, while they prefer to wait and see.
The emotional bond of citizenship – and giving up what you have always had seems to be one of the common thoughts that has made others slightly more hesitant. It seems that the exploring of a possibility of (an additional) Irish citizenship in some cases seems the first approach, with Austrian only an afterthought for some where that is not possible. On the flip side others are weighing up the possibility due to being married to Third Country nationals and not having the perceived fallback of their spouse being an EU citizen – although in the reverse situation of EU citizens in the UK, this kind of “fallback” is not taken for granted – particular in light of the opening salvos of negotiations of the UK to leave the EU, and the Prime Minister’s nebulous “UK settled status” opening gambit, which has not been well received by the EU.
Some people still feel “proud” to be British and even “too proud to consider naturalisation”, although there are some who are no longer proudly British. As I quietly sang the national anthem recently at a reception, I did so more because I had always sung it, rather than feeling a proud patriotic stirring as the opening bars began.
For others, who have settled in Austria after having lived in a number of other countries, the perceived bureaucracy (e.g. criminal record checks from all countries where you have lived since your teens) and the cost seems to be a determining factor – I’ve outlined in a previous post that the cost is certainly enough to become a consideration for some.
The language test (and conceivably therefore also the citizenship text, given its political and historical focus) also seems to be a source of concern for some. At a reception at the British Embassy recently, I was interested to hear about an event suggested where the respective citizenship tests would be compared by pitting Britons and Austrians against one another in the form of a pub quiz – the aim being to show perhaps that the focus of such tests was wide of the mark.
Others still feel too “anchored” to the UK e.g. due to business interests and real estate in the UK, while those tending towards it in recent discussions seem to be doing so as a result of weighing up the pros and cons – for some the breaking point is where the lack of benefits of remaining British abroad outweigh the advantages of retaining their citizenship. My links to the UK are really now only in blood rather than financial terms. I no longer consider myself an Expat (despite being nominally involved with the Vienna Expats group).
Others have a more phlegmatic stance in that they see citizenship as a mere piece of paper that does not affect your “real nationality” – so you can be a Briton in your heart, and an Austrian on paper. Others are “waiting and seeing” to see what the UK’s Brexit negotiations ultimately bring, before they commit – some taking the view that they hope and trust that regularising their permanent residence will be enough for their circumstances.
Currently the comments I have seen on a number of threads have not been very vocal regarding loss of voting rights – some posters have mentioned this aspect, but only in passing. It came as no surprise that the “Votes for Life Bill” seems to have been forgotten about by the government, and many disenfranchised Britons abroad seem to have already confined the hope of VfLB consigning the 15 year rule to history to the scrapheap. With impending elections in Austria in October, I am aware that I will also miss out on voting in the country I am due to naturalise in, but I see that as only a temporary hiccough.
And last but not least, what do people see themselves doing in terms of residence? Many seem keen to stay here – using citizenship as a measure to assist their permanency of residency – while others seem happy to just regularise their residency. Some others are entertaining moving on – some are coming to the end of their secondments in Vienna and will seek pastures new, while others are considering pastures new beyond the EU rather than returning to the UK, and in some cases personal circumstances also make that decision for them (e.g. Austrian spouses and children). And what does this all prove? From my take it highlights that personal circumstances, opportunities and situations are the strongest influence of people’s decision. Only time will tell whether more Britons in Austria consider the naturalisation approach.