The British Nationality Act 1981 – Renunciation of British Citizenship not possible by a minor

The British Nationality Act 1981 is the counterpart in English law to the Austrian Staatsbürgerschaftsgesetz 1985. The two laws need to be viewed in concert when naturalising as an Austrian and in particular with regard to renunciation of British citizenship. When I naturalised with my son, my case officer was unaware of the fact that a minor was unable to renounce their citizenship, so I ended up also having to appeal to the discretion of the Secretary of State to allow a renunciation for my son. When this was refused, the case officer was satisfied that I had tried everything in my power to renounce my son’s citizenship.

Since families are likely to be in a similar position, if they are naturalising with children, and make, like myself have their reasons for wanting their children to also take Austrian citizenship with them (in my case, I argued that in light that my son would have to be resident in the UK in order to ever vote or to be able to pass on his citizenship only held by descent through me, and therefore that his not taking Austrian citizenship with me at the time I applied would cause unnecessary disadvantage to him as he grows up, I therefore had his application added to mine). 

The important parts of the British Nationality Act 1981 to be aware of in this regard (and to furnish to your case officer once you have a Zusicherungsbescheid) are:

Part I: Section 1 (acquisition by birth or adoption) or Section 2 (in the case of the child having been born outside the UK and being British from birth by descent). Section 12 (renunciation) stipulates the conditions under which a person may renounce their British citizenship. In the case of a minor, unable to renounce, it is advisable to check whether Austrian citizenship is granted contingent on the minor reaching majority (e.g. say child A naturalises at 14, and cannot therefore renounce their British citizen by dint of being a minor, but their file for naturalisation remains open until they are an adult (ie. 18 unless already married or in a civil partnership prior to the age of 18)), at which point they then would have to renounce their British citizenship.

Suggestion: ask your case officer about the possibility to sign a declaration that you understand that renunciation from British citizenship is not possible until the age of 18 and that you would request citizenship is awarded (verliehen) contingent on having to renounce British citizenship upon reaching majority.

In the case that your child(ren) is/are substantially below the age of majority, explain that the British Nationality Act 1981 does not allow renunciation by minors, and therefore a lack of intent to renounce cannot be proven to exist, and renunciation is not possible at the child(ren)’s age. Already at the Infotermin or Antragstermin ask the case officer about how long the file is kept open for in the case of a minor unable to renounce. If the duration for holding the file open means that the file is shut before the child(ren) has/have reached adulthood, ask them to confirm whether the child will therefore not be required to renounce citizenship upon reaching the age of 18 (or upon marriage/entry into a civil partnership, where that happens before the age of 18).

In relation to the awarding of Austrian citizenship, Article 20 para. 3 no. 2 StBG is important:

(3) Die Staatsbürgerschaft, deren Verleihung zugesichert wurde, ist zu verleihen, sobald der Fremde

2. nachweist, daß ihm die für das Ausscheiden aus seinem bisherigen Staatsverband erforderlichen Handlungen nicht möglich oder nicht zumutbar waren.

Do I need to change my Anmeldebescheinigung or Bescheinigung des Daueraufenthalts if I naturalise?

I’ve decided to give this question a separate answer in light of the fact that there seems to be some confusion still, possibly arising from the fact that people are mixing information between naturalising as an Austrian and naturalising with another EU citizenship that allows British citizens to retain their British citizenship as well as taking another EU citizenship for which they are also eligible.

The answer is simple. If you take Austrian citizenship you no longer have either the Anmeldebescheinigung (this is part of ensuring you this ability to exercise the freedom of movement), which you get after three months of living in Austria. If you have done a Bescheinigung des Daueraufenthalts you turn in this form in any case. If you naturalise as an Austrian you surrender whichever of these you hold when you become an Austrian citizen (for pre 2006 arrivals your Meldezettel or Bestätigung der Meldung covers the Anmeldebescheinigung).

If you are taking an additional citizenship of another EU country to supplement your British citizenship, the advice is to update your registration to reflect your new status i.e. amending your current residence documents to reflect your supplementary nationality.

This advice was confirmed by the HM Embassy in consultation with the Innenministerium as per the tweet exchange below.

The Highs & Lows of Naturalisation – Part 1: The Highs

The author on Wien Heute

From the outset, I have always advocated that naturalisation is a deeply personal issue, and is heavily dependent on personal circumstances. My own personal first foray into looking into naturalisation and becoming an Austrian citizen, back in 2016 was to attend an event about taking Austrian citizenship held by a lawyer specialising in the field. Granted at that evening the audience were not only Britons, but in the last two and a half years the issue has become one of a hitherto unknown importance for Britons. At a live chat on Facebook that the well-meaning British ambassador oversaw, following on from a similar chat by an FCO staff member earlier that year(2017), it soon became apparent that the prime motivation for naturalisation would be to have certainty in uncertain times.

For me there was never the option to exercise my claim to another EU citizenship – those who had that opportunity, I fully supported in their intention to take an additional citizenship, and asked others considering it and waiting and saying why they haven’t acted upon it – the reasons were often their personal ones, which I can accept. Others waivered as the emotional bond of British citizenship and losing it was insurmountable for them. I have no problem with that – it is just one of the many factors that makes naturalisation and renouncing the citizenship of the country of one’s birth a deeply personal decision. Some acquaintances branded me a traitor (and not in an ironic or humourous way). They of course are welcome to their own view, but that won’t change the fact that I naturalised for me and for the welfare of my family.

Having blogged about the Referendum that led to the Decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union from it being called and discovering that I would not be eligible to vote in it, through to waking up on my 39th birthday as a father of a three month old son, unsure of what the future would hold. Leaving the UK from a family party in March 2017, I resolved that I would not enter the UK as a British citizen again. I still have not visited again since. The journey has been a roller-coaster over the last two years, and one which for Britons in the EU will continue to be so for a while yet, although there are promising signs that Austria will be enacting law to underpin the recent messages from the Foreign Minister (see below) and the Federal Chancellery that suggest the future might be more certain again for the approx. 11,000 Britons in Austria, after a slightly alarming remark from Andreas Pölzl in the Innenministerium.

I’ll be following the legislation that comes in on its passage through parliament. I hope for Britons in Austria that the passage is a swift one, without any delays or unpleasant surprises, and that the outcome is a satisfactory one.

The Highs of Naturalisation

In moments of doubt it was sometimes difficult to keep on going, although there were definitely high points along the way.

Contributing to the debate

Part of my motivation for this blog was to also resolve the many half-truths that were circulating about “dual citizenship/nationality”, the approach of “revoke and resume” and to back up my arguments with references from Austrian law. Similarly, in a time when many Britons felt more uncertain about their future than before, I wanted to reassure those considering the route towards Austrian citizen. The experience, particularly with MA35 and attending townhall meetings organised with DExEU and Embassy staff, has also helped me to deepen my interest in politics, to ask incisive questions and put “experts” on the spot.

Media Appearances

As my blog has gained traction, started to be read by a bigger audience and positive feedback has been received, there has been a knock-on effect, and I have been asked to speak on television and radio on a national level. The unexpected positive side of this has been that people I had lost contact with have got back in touch – they heard me on the radio, saw me on television and it motivated them to get back in touch.

It has proven a fascinating insight into the workings of the media and how news is made. I’ve learned what the media wants to hear, how to articulate soundbites in German to suit the needs of the broadcasters and got to understand about being interviewed on various subjects, speaking passionately and how to get to the soundbite that the media wish to have. I’ve appeared on television, in print, on the radio, in English and German, and have of coursed blogged the entire process.

Incidentally this post was partially written when I appeared on a segment in ORF’s Wien Heute on 16 January 2019.

Old and New friendships

I’ve made new friends and acquaintances – contact has been established to and with other Britons in similar circumstances, others wanting informal advice – I realise of course that the advice I give cannot be a substitute for professional advice, although often reassurance is often needed on a human level, and some of the hurdles that others face in going through the same process have been overcome through some suggestions (e.g. helping them with drafting the CV that they need, checking that it corresponds directly to the times on their Versicherungsdatenauszug). And of course, old friendships has been rekindled, contact made after several years again – it is a good feeling not to be a Karteileiche in someone’s phone contact list!

The Milestones

As each stage of the process was completed, there was a definite buzz – each letter, positive e-mail, and appointment negotiated were milestones. But there were other smaller milestones too – not just the Antragstermin, the passing of the test, the Zusicherungsbescheid being granted, the ceremony, the passport arriving in the post and last but by no means least the renunciation. There were other milestones, such as being told that no more papers were required, that the investigative procedure was concluded, that they were satisfied with everything.

The Achievement

When I attended an event about naturalisation given by a lawyer, one of the takeaways was that from Antragstermin to naturalisation it was usually 15-18 months, and that with a lawyer it might be typically cut from 9-12 months. In my case, in the end, the wait from Infotermin to Antragstermin excluded, it took eight and a half months. In my wife’s case as a third country citizen naturalising, due to problems admitted by MA35 that they had “difficulties” in 2014-15 her process took nearly four years. Fortunately, I also managed for my son to naturalise with me, and thereby for my twins, born just a few weeks after my becoming Austrian, that they are Austrian from birth, entitling them, should they ever wish to naturalise as British to exercise a Beibehaltungsrecht to remain Austrian in the process.

Finishing off the renunciation process

Altes Rathaus, Wipplingerstrasse
Home of the Magistratisches Bezirksamt

At the start of August, I received a note in the letterbox to say that I had a package waiting. I went to the collection point and it turned out to be my returned renunciation documents back from Liverpool. My British citizenship was officially renounced on 24 July 2018, and my son’s application was rejected, as I had suspected would be the case when I wrote the covering letter, being rejected on the simple and categorical grounds of his being a minor as set out in the British Nationality Act of 1981. In addition, in a superfluity of modal verbs the letter advised that I “should return any valid travel documents that I may still have“. With the legal second having been named, I duly filed my British passports in a safe place (since they contain visa information that might be useful for applications for future visas), although they are of course no longer valid for travel. There is sadly no option for having them cancelled and returned. 

I went into MA35 shortly thereafter to deposit this new information with them, but the specialist person I had been advised to see was away. Her colleague took my forms (a copy of the applicant’s RN form stamped as registered is what MA35 required to be able to conclude my process, including the removal of “British” from my nationality on my Melderegisterauszug, so that I was formally only listed as Austrian (this was important for reasons that will only become apparent in another future post). For my son, I deposited the correspondence regarding the rejection of his renunciation, which her colleague would look at upon her return and promptly went to the Altes Rathaus to have my Personalausweis issued.

I had already got my Austrian passport through the post and the ID card arrived a couple of days after ordering it in the same way. I’ve never got the UK’s opposition to ID cards, which seem to simplify a lot of day-to-day tasks – a credit card-sized document which allows me to get a phone contract, sign for a parcel and many other errand-related tasks, and which can even be used within the Schengen area in lieu of a passport, although I intend to still cross borders with my passport.

I haven’t done a Personalausweis for my son yet, due to the fact that doing one of course takes time and at the age of two would only be valid for a couple of years (Personalausweise are available for minors, but are not valid for the full ten years, as with mine, instead usually being for two or five years). I also wanted to wait for the conclusion of his process (to be handled in another post).

From Nachweis to Gelöbnis

One last queue ticket

As I woke on Monday morning, my head was still getting round the fact that David Davis had resigned on Sunday night, and that was only a foretaste of things to come, later on Monday. Just as I left the house, my Austrian football top arrived, so I hastily packed it into my bag. It was nice to see a friendly face at the entrance to MA35, who was there for a meeting, as I arrived early (since I was expecting a wait and a queue, but I was called straightaway. My case officer had my file in front of her, and there were more forms to sign, including the ones for passports for me and my son. Continue reading “From Nachweis to Gelöbnis”

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). Continue reading “The final steps on the road to Austrian citizenship”

iacta ālea est

Last evening I decided to check whether my credit card had been charged for the payments I have to make to UKVI as part of the process of renunciation of British citizenship. One payment appears to have been taken, which would tie in with the mail I received from UKVI with a case number for my renunciation, although does nothing to resolve what has happened to the second case. Continue reading “iacta ālea est”

Update from UKVI on renunciation of British citizenship

Today I received the first form of confirmation of receipt of my renunciation form being under consideration. It is worth adding that the cost of couriering the papers with an overnight courier service may have proven itself to be an unnecessary expense, given that the paperwork was received by UKVI six working days before receiving a response by e-mail, thereby indicating that Registered Delivery from Austria to the UK may be perfectly sufficient in terms of ensuring safe delivery and that it is signed for upon delivery. Continue reading “Update from UKVI on renunciation of British citizenship”

With my renunciation forms at the Home Office, what next…

According to UPS, my forms were signed for on Monday 18 June before 9am, and I had as requested, not received any acknowledgement to my mail from my case officer acknowledging the copies that I submitted electronically on 14th of the forms that went to the Home Office. I decided to go to MA35 on Thursday (21st) and queued up before the 8am opening time to ensure that the queue in front of me was not too long. Continue reading “With my renunciation forms at the Home Office, what next…”

So I have my Zusicherung der Verleihung der österreichischen Staatsbürgerschaft, what now?

I was granted my ZdVdöS (my abbreviation rather than MA35’s) at the end of April and asked my case officer about the next steps. For her the issue was to prove that I and my son have put in to renounce our British citizenship and to submit the necessary proof of having done so, to then trigger the next stage. Continue reading “So I have my Zusicherung der Verleihung der österreichischen Staatsbürgerschaft, what now?”