The final steps on the road to Austrian citizenship

As this post is published, I will be seeing my case officer to finish off the naturalisation process for me and my young son. My case officer called last Monday and has requested that I come with my British passport, as well as my son’s and my Bescheinigung des Daueraufenthalts and my son’s Anmeldebescheinigung. We will be required to surrender these documents (since our circumstances have changed and we will no longer be UK citizens) and our Staatsbürgerschaftsnachweise will then be issued, and we can arrange for passports and Personalausweise to be issued, for which we again enlisted the services of Bildermacher on Tuchlauben (they are great with babies and toddlers) to sort us out with a new set of passport photos (once again the photos need to be recent (i.e. under six months old)). In addition, I have to bring just shy of EUR 1,500 to MA35 (in cash, hence why I delayed this post so will not be carrying the cash on me by the time this post goes online) to cover the costs of our naturalisation, in what I hope should be the final Behördenweg (in February 2017, when asked about Austria as a hub for business and what could be the pitfalls of trying to do business here, I mentioned the lengthy Behördenwege. The quote ended up on the national news, coupled with a rebuttal by the then Minister of Finance).

As I tie up the loose ends in relation to my naturalisation, I’ve decided to use this post to try to clear up some of the loose ends that have been going around in my head in recent weeks, particularly given a lot of the conversations I have had with other Britons in recent times, both in person, and over e-mail/social media.

Dual Citizenship: I’ve lost count over the number of times that I have had discussions in the last eighteen months about why Austria won’t allow me dual citizenship, and the hopes of others that the law might change. The reactions when I have stated my believe that Austria’s current government is unlikely to make a special exception to the UK, particularly given the precedent that it would create for other third country citizens, if that it what the UK becomes after Brexit, have varied from the “how can you be so sure?” and the “they should be grateful to have us”. Gratefulness will not enter into it. Many have said they couldn’t give up their British citizenship, but as a disenfranchised Briton in Europe, part of the issue is one of re-enfranchisement. The option of permanent residency won’t achieve that.

Which brings me back to the Bescheinigung des Daueraufenthalts (the subtitle of which is “für EWR-Bürger/-innen und Schweizer Bürger/-innen” – let’s call it BdD for short!), where my journey towards naturalisation unwittingly began. The British in Austria Facebook Group, regularly has threads about this piece of paper – with tales of people’s experience ranging from the plain-sailing/plain-vanilla/straightforward (as was the case for me in 2016 at MA35 prior to the referendum) through to the curious/strange and outright frustrating.

The experience seems to be far from standard – many in other provinces have said they have only been charged EUR 15, whereas EUR 29.30 appears the norm in Vienna. I paid the latter, and the explanation might be down to whether they charge the fee for handling non-Austrian documents (there is a EUR 7.20/14.30 fee listed for this). Long-standing man about town, Robert Barrett, blogged his experience in his Up the Danube without a Paddle blog, (and the following post) and his experience as a self-employed Brit seems similar to one faced by another who I have had contact with.

At the frustrating end of the spectrum, a Briton was denied it in Mödling, only for another office in St Pölten to grant it straightaway. Two other Britons in Vienna were separately knocked back over missing Versicherungszeiten (insurance coverage periods) – a hazard of the gig economy and rolling contracts apparently, and one I genuinely fear will become a more frequent issue for Britons in Austria in their scrabbling and scrambling for a permanent residency.

On the legal side of who current qualifies for permanent residence, this is addressed the Residency and Settlement Act (NAG; Niederlassungs- und Aufenthaltsgesetz) for EEA + Switzerland by Article 53a NAG. A BdD can be issued to any EEA with a residency right (as clarified in Articles 51 and 52 NAG) after five years of continuous legal residency. An application needs to be nominally made, but is a formality.

Regarding continuity of residency (Article 53a para. 2 NAG), residency is not interrupted by a) absences of up six months in the year, b) absence due to military service c) an absence of up to twelve continuous months for a serious reason (pregnancy, childbirth, illness, studying, secondment for work, professional training).

For the retired: the five year period does not need to be reached, if statutory retirement age has been reached, provided that they worked in Austria for at least the last twelve months prior to retirement or pre-retirement.  Invalidity (being declared unfit to work) is covered similarly, provided that the accident or illness was as a result of work and that the claim to an invalidity pension is partially or fully covered by an Austrian pension insurance provider. Workers working across a border (provided that it is another EU Member State who have kept Austria as their residence and are generally in the country at least once a week) also don’t have their residence interrupted.

EEA Citizens who are partners of EEA Citizens who have been granted permanent residence also qualify, provided that at the the time their partner qualified they were already resident in Austria (para. 4).

In the case that an EEA citizen dies prior to obtaining permanent residency, then their surviving partner, if they are also EEA citizens, resident in Austria qualify, provided that the deceased partner had been resident at the time of death for at least two years, or died as a result of a workplace accident, or if the surviving partner had lost Austrian citizenship by having married or entry into a civil partnership.

A couple of people have also asked about renunciation, and why I didn’t just time my application to coincide with my UK passport(s) expiring. Assuming that they are deadly serious – it is not quite that simple. The British passport does serve as a proof of citizenship (e.g. my son’s passport and my passports all state in the nationality line on the information page that we are a “British Citizen”) but, the lapsing/expiry of a passport does not mean that we become stateless. A flashback to 2003, when I was in Austria and my British passport expired and I needed a new one urgently, reminded me that I was never stateless. There is no “passive renunciation” due to a lapsed passport, it is just that you might have problems travelling, but you would not become stateless, or satisfy the authorities here that you had given up your British citizenship merely due to having not got a valid passport. One thing is for certain, I will not have a blue passport.

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