Austria’s Staatsbürgerschaftsgesetz 1985 (StbG; Austrian Citizenship Act of 1985) is the law in Austria that covers the holding of, award of and losing of Austrian citizenship. The latter is an interesting point – as just as you can take citizenship, you can also lose it. It is worth stating that the act also used many of the provisions of the previous law on Austrian citizenship from 1965, so some provisions have been unchanged in their wording for half a century, but since entering into force the law has been amended on various occasions.
There is no English translation (yet!) of the text of the Austrian Staatsbürgerschaftsgesetz – or to give it its full title “The Federal Act on Austrian Citizenship” so to help the uninitiated (although naturalisation generally requires a certain grasp of the German language (B1/B2 on the Common European Framework)) I’ve done a quick breakdown of what various parts cover.
Section I – General Provisions (§§ 1-5) – contains some definitions. While gender and marital status do not have a direct significance for applications (i.e. no discrimination against people say for not qualifying through marriage AND residence) you nevertheless have to submit a lot of information in relation to your personal circumstances. § 3 covers the issue of stateless persons (i.e. whose nationality cannot be confirmed). § 5 covers issues about the verification of proof of entitlement to qualify. § 5 (1) addresses how they proceed in cases where they are not sure about where someone has reached the age of majority. § 5 (2) concerns proof of blood relationship – including the applicant footing the bill for a DNA if a relationship cannot be proven. § 5 (3) addresses the issue of resolving identity – including recourse to the use of fingerprinting.
Section II (§§ 6 – 25) Acquisition of Citizenship covers the gaining of citizenship; whether by descent, award, or notification (Anzeige); In the final case if a person is wrongly treated as though an Austrian citizen, after 15 years of being thus treated they qualify (although there is only a six-month window to do the notification). It is also possible by Anzeige to qualify for citizenship if you can prove that as an Austrian citizen you fled the country to flee the Nazis (bodies of the NSDAP or the authorities of the Third Reich). Similarly an application following delayed proof of paternity is also dealt with.
§ 7 handles the issue of citizenship by descent (Austrian citizenship is handled by ius sanguinis not ius soli. By contrast the UK has restricted ius soli). §§ 7a- 9 cover Legitimation (i.e. a child born to unmarried parents being able to qualify when the biological parents subsequently marry and the child is under 14, having applied to naturalise within 3 years of their marriage). § 10 covers citizenship by award. § 10a covers the conditions for the granting of the award. § 10a (1) 1. covers the language component required under § 14 (2) 2. of the Niederlassungs- und Aufenthaltsgesetz (NAG). § 11 addresses the issues of a positive attitude towards Austria, while § 11a covers the 6 year naturalisation route. § 11b addresses the naturalisation of minors. § 12 onwards cover the conditions under which Austrian citizenship might be granted – in particular § 14 (1) 2) is of particular interest for many Brits, in that it enables people who have spent 10 years in Austria as their principle place of residence (Hauptwohnsitz) to apply. Within those 10 years, only the last five years prior to the application for citizenship are required to be uninterrupted. § 14 (1) 3) and 4) also cover which offences under the Austrian Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch) debar someone from being able to apply for citizenship. § 15 continues by clarifying the circumstances under which residency might be interrupted without affecting the consideration for citizenship. § 15 (1) 3) is worth considering in relation to secondments (“20% rule”). § 16 addresses the circumstances regarding granting of citizenship also to their spouse (provided that the couple is living together). § 17 addresses the extending of the granting of citizenship to their children. § 18 covers the issue of extending the granting of citizenship (in connection with § 16 and § 17) only being possible if extra family members also apply at the same time (i.e. to rule out being able to add an unborn child at the time of application to the application once born). § 19 addresses the fact that that application must be submitted by the applicant or their legal representative. § 19 (2) grants the power to the Ministry for the Interior the power to issue a Regulation/Ordinance (Verordnung) stating what documents are required. The Staatsbürgerschaftsverordnung 1985 contains a detailed list of what is required.
§ 20 addresses the issue about how to proceed in relation to the revocation of your previous citizenship (e.g. the fact that revocation must occur within two years). § 21 covers the citizenship ceremony – including the oath of allegiance to Austria. A nice touch for those taking it to remain EU citizens: In § 21 (1) it states that the flags of the province in which the ceremony is conducted, the Austrian flag and the European Union flag must be visible! § 22 covers the authority before which the citizenship ceremony is held (e.g. the embassy or consul in the case of new citizens abroad). § 23 covers the administrative decision conferring citizenship and when it becomes effective. § 24 addresses the issue of resuming an application for citizenship that has been suspended. § 25 covers the issue of a foreign citizen arriving in Austria as a minor and subsequently achieving majority, who has never applied for citizenship, and their being entitled to apply for citizenship after 15 years of residence.
Section III (§§ 26-38) addresses losing of Austrian Citizenship. There are four reasons in § 26 why citizenship can be “lost”: taking another citizenship, joining the military of another country, by having citizenship removed “Entziehung” or by revoking it (“Widerruf”) – in the final case e.g. revoking it to take another citizenship. §§ 27 – 30 cover loss of citizenship by taking another nationality (§27 in particular is commented on in regard to the case of certain nationalities taking Austrian citizenship and not revoking their previous citizenship). §§ 32 covers loss of citizenship due to voluntary enrolment in the army of another country. § 33 covers removal of citizenship for anyone acting against the national interest (whether a latent UKIP supporter/activist taking Austrian citizenship would fall under this is questionable). § 34 addresses the removal of Austrian citizenship due to failure to formally take it up or by failure to renounce another citizenship. § 35 covers the role of the Ministry for the Interior (BMI) in the process. § 36 covers the issue of a citizen living overseas and not being reachable (and therefore not being able to be contacted about the conditions in § 34 prevailing) § 37 covers the revoking of citizenship. § 37 (3) in particular addresses the conditions relating to military service (Bundesheer) or alternative service for males up to the age of 35. § 37 (3) e) covers the case of having done military service in another country previously. § 38 covers the written declaration of revocation.
Section IV – §§ 39 – 48 Authorities and Procedure covers which authorities are involved and the procedural steps. § 39a covers the data protection issues (retention of data for up to six years, otherwise deleted upon death). § 41 covers the responsible authority (including for applications when not resident in the country (see § 41 (2)) § 43 covers the issuing of a confirmation of citizenship in the form of an administrative decision. § 44 contains information about excerpts from the Central Citizenship Register (ZSR- Zentraler Staatsbürgerschaftsregister), with the ZSR also handled in § 56a. § 46 covers the certificates – again covered in the Regulation/Ordinance mentioned earlier. § 47 covers municipalities (Gemeinde) that have pooled their registry offices together. § 48 defines about who is responsible for operating costs in “pooled” municipalities.
Section V (§§ 49 – 56) Citizenship Register (Staatsbürgerschaftevidenz) § 49 addresses where someone has to go to consult this register based on a number of circumstances. §§ 51-52 address the kind of information to be provided (e.g. in relation to the circumstances of acquiring citizenship, and about persons). § 53 covers what information is to be transmitted to the register by the Landesregierung or the competent courts (e.g. decree nisi). § 55 covers the eventuality of bodies receiving information that the register might not know about, and their obligation to pass on such information.
Section Va §§56a – 56c Zentraler Staatsbürgerschaftsregister (Central Citizenship Register). This section covers the data to be kept in the ZSR, retention periods, how and when it can be shared. § 56c addresses the handling of queries of the ZSR.
Section VI §§ 57 – 59 Acquisition of Citizenship by Notification This section briefly addresses the special circumstances in relation to having had to flee Austria to avoid persecution.
Section VII § 60 – 66 Final and Transitional Provisions. § 60 addresses civil partnerships (added in 2013). § 61 covers documentation confirming citizenship. § 63 covers the right to confiscate papers such as passports of other nations to prevent their misuse. § 63a covers gender-neutrality throughout the wording of the law. § 63b covers references in other laws automatically implying their current version unless stated otherwise. § 63c handles administrative infringements and also states what the maximum permissible fine is as well as stipulating the equivalent alternative custodial confinement period. § 64 covers punishment for illegally obtained benefits and entitlements. § 65 addresses the entry into force of the law and its amendments. § 66 stipulates who is responsible for the enforcement of the provisions of the law.