Acquiring Austrian Citizenship by declaration (§58c StbG)

Since September 2020, it has been possible for victims of persecution under the Nazi regime (who fled Austrian up until May 1955) to (re-)acquire Austrian citizenship by declaration (durch Anzeige). Unlike a normal naturalisation (durch Verleihung) the party submitting the declaration is not required to renounce their previous citizenship.

In 2022 (the latest full year), out of 1593 British citizens becoming Austrian citizens the overwhelming majority will have been applications for citizenship by declaration under Article 58c StbG. In 2021, out of 1190 naturalisations, only 38 were by award (durch Verleihung) rather than by declaration (durch Anzeige).

How does acquisition of Austrian citizenship by declaration work?

Austrian citizens or citizens of a successor state of the former Austro-Hungarian monarchy, who were forced to leave Austria prior to 15 May 1955 for reasons relating to their race or for political reasons, and who subsequently lost their Austrian citizenship as a result of taking up a foreign citizenship may reacquire Austrian citizenship by declaration (durch Anzeige), as set out in §58c of the Austrian Citizenship Act (StbG 1985; Staatsbürgerschaftsgesetz 1985).

Possible reasons for being forced to leave Austria may have been:

  • Persecution by bodies of the Nazi party, or
  • Persecution by agencies of the Third Reich, or
  • (Fear of) persecution due to their support for the democratic Republic of Austria.

Since 1 September 2020, the direct descendants of such cases have also been entitled to acquire Austrian citizenship by declaration.

Foreigners considered as putative Austrians (Putativ-Österreicher) who would have been Austrian citizens by descent (kraft Abstammung), in the case of their paternity subsequently showing that they were not descendants, are able to acquire citizenship back-dated to the date of their birth by means of a declaration. Acquisition of Austrian citizenship by declaration does not necessarily require the person to renounce their previous citizenship.

Since under this circumstance citizenship is granted upon the declaration to the authority, it is recommended to check in advance with the competent authorities of the country you were citizen beforehand, whether in such a case you would lose your current citizenship (in the case of the United Kingdom, where dual citizenship is permitted, there is no impediment to holding both citizenships when acquiring Austrian citizenship under these circumstances).

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What is the procedure for claiming Austrian citizenship by declaration?

A recent amendment to the Staatsbürgerschaftsverordnung 1985 covers the practical handling of acquiring citizenship by declaration, a method that allows Austrians who fled before May 1955 for reasons of persecution or their direct descendants to obtain Austrian citizenship without having to renounce British citizenship (in contrast to the conventional naturalisation procedure).

The declaration is to be made to the competent representative authority in writing or in written form, accompanied by original documents and copies of them. In the case of someone resident in Austria they make the submission through the municipal office in the Gemeinde in which they live. For persons applying from overseas, it is done through the consulate or the official representation in the country they are resident in.

The copies will be checked against the original documents and their likeness confirmed using a stamp. Documents in languages other than German may be required to be translated and made be required to be submitted as notarised copies.

Required documentation will include a valid travel document, the birth certificate of the party submitting the declaration, a current passport-sized photo, and certificates and other proof required to corroborate the declaration.

Where the declaration is for a direct descendant, further paperwork may be required to corroborate their declaration, typically:

  • proof of relationship (e.g. birth certificates, marriage certificates, papers about divorce or civil partnerships, and as necessary the dissolving of such a civil partnership).
  • proof confirming paternity, death certificates, proof of name changes, registration documents, documents about benefits, welfare measures or compensation measures under the Victims Welfare Act, documents on the restitution of seized assets under the State Treaty Implementation Act, documents on the receipt of benefits from the fund under the Assistance Fund Act.
  • Certificates, documents or other evidential means that prove that the ancestor had acquired citizenship, or would have been able to have done so.

Where it can be proven that the necessary items of documentation cannot be obtained, and the party making the declaration can be determined on the basis of other supporting documents then documents that cannot be obtained will not be required. In extreme cases investigative procedures may need to be conducted to ensure that identity can be proved indisputably. Similarly, documents may not need to be submitted in the case that the information is already held in the central citizenship register (ZSR) or similar registers, that can be inspected by the authorities.

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What future prospects exist of Austria allowing dual citizenship?

Note: this relates to dual citizenship by naturalisation (durch Verleihung). Children of parents of two citizenships, of which one is Austrian (e.g. Austrian mother and British father) may now hold dual citizenship by descent (durch Abstammung).

From September 2020 there has been the possibility for (re)acquiring citizenship by declaration (durch Anzeige) for the victims of persecution under the Nazi regime (who fled Austrian up until May 1955) as well as for their direct descendants. The party submitting the declaration is not required to renounce their previous citizenship in this case. The only other case of dual citizenship being allowed through naturalisation is where citizenship is awarded in the interests of the Republic of Austria (Verleihung im Interesse der Bundesrepublik Österreich).

There have been several initiatives to try to allow dual citizenship, predominantly for Austrians wanting to take a second citizenship and maintaining their Austrian citizenship. This is already possible by exercising a right to retain Austrian citizenship (Beibehaltungsrecht), although the justification to do needs to be well substantiated rather than perceived as trivial.

Any such change would need amendments to be made to Austrian law and therefore require significant political backing since the process would have to make its way through parliament, and many Austrian political parties are not known to be in favour of any relaxation of the law.

It is infeasible that such a landmark change to the law would be made for a single country, and political sensibilities might be particularly averse to any relaxation for citizens from third countries.

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