Proof of financial means: How much is enough?

Both permanent residence and citizenship hinge on whether you are financially in a position to support yourself. I will have to produce various proof about earnings and my ability to support myself – they also take into consideration dependants (e.g. children or spouse). The same is true for those seeking permanent residence in Austria.

Recently I read a case about someone seeking permanent residence in Austria, although by their own admission their residency had been somewhat “irregular” – moving frequently from one location to another, although often only 1-3 months in a single location as well as being overseas for part of the year. The situation was further complicated by the fact that they had not registered in Austria until relatively recently.

When I arrived back in 2000, it became apparent that getting a bank account, a mobile phone on contract etc. would not be possible without a Meldezettel, and of course steady employment and proof of earnings will be part of the determining factors for my application to become a an Austrian citizen. The tale I refer to above, though puts another perspective on it all, and made me want to find out more about how Austria judges “adequate means”. In most cases the proof of such means can be done by submitting payslips, employment contracts etc. But what if you don’t work, or you have an alternative lifestyle of subsistence and living communally, or are retired?

In the final case of being retired, there is often a requirement to be able to prove that you can live off savings and/or your pension. As the ever helpful Friedrich Bruckner pointed out in a discussion on the matter in a Facebook group, Article 8 (4) of Directive 2004/38/EC on the Rights of Citizens of the European Union also clarifies that:

Member States may not lay down a fixed amount which they regard as ‘sufficient resources’, but they must take into account the personal situation of the person concerned. In all cases this amount shall not be higher than the threshold below which nationals of the host Member State become eligible for social assistance, or, where this criterion is not applicable, higher than the minimum social security pension paid by the host Member State.

The Niederlassungs- und Aufenthaltsgesetz (NAG) outlines in Article 11 about the conditions (including on humanitarian grounds) that must be satisfied (or must not exist) for the granting of an residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel) to a foreign citizen. Paragraph 5 of that Article defines the conditions about what constitutes not being a financial burden to a local authority, and this the amount that is stipulated if required to confirm adequate financial means – based on the reference amounts (Richtsätze) in accordance with Article 293 of the General Social Insurance Act (ASVG;  Allgemeines Sozialversicherungsgesetz).

One misconception is that the annual minimum amount you have to have to not be a burden to the local authorities is also the amount you are required to hold in a bank account at all times – it is of course very wishful thinking to require someone to have EUR 11,000 or so lying around on the side. Austrians are traditionally a country of savers – although in the low interest rate environment, there is not the incentive that there once was. Part of the naturalisation process for me also includes ensuring that I re-establish an adequate cushion to also include the costs that arise in relation to my son, since he will also be naturalising with me.

However, there is some news – namely that life circumstances are to be taken into consideration – so that a retired person living in a home they own outright, and therefore having less costs, will have this fact taken into consideration – and so it should be possible to prove adequate financial means despite more modest circumstances (e.g. a low pension), although this could continue to be an area of particular concern for those feeling the pinch from a pension paid out in sterling.

Taking a step back to the issue of citizenship and naturalisation, from having dealt more with seeking residence, in addition to showing proof of adequate income  I have to prove that I do not have precarious financial circumstances – showing my regular income and outgoings, information about property owned (including proving that I am not in arrears on payments). Having touched upon the costs of naturalisation before (EUR 750 + 10% for the application; GBP 321 for revoking British citizenship; as well as the movable feast depending on life circumstances for sworn translation) the process might also become a genuine financial hurdle for some.

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