Acquisition of the Austrian citizenship - Basic information about "Citizenship by Investment"
General requirements to acquire the Austrian citizenship and the expedited procedure:
In general, foreign nationals have to meet the general requirements stated in the Austrian Citizenship Act (1985) in order to acquire the Austrian citizenship. In this regard, essential requirements are (among others): the permanent and legitimate residence in Austria for at least 10 years, a secure income, the absence of a criminal record, and the knowledge of the German language.
However, the Austrian Citizenship Act introduces an expedited citizenship procedure: As a reward for an “extraordinary merit”, the Austrian government can grant foreign nationals the Austrian citizenship, if their respective extraordinary contribution is of particularly high interest to the state of Austria. The pertinent provision, i.e. Paragraph 10 Abstract 6 of the Austrian Citizenship Act, provides the opportunity to circumvent some of the general requirements described above – in particular, the residence requirement. To put it plainly, there is a chance to acquire the Austrian citizenship without meeting the residence requirement of at least 10 years as well as the German language knowledge requirement.
The Austrian government is the competent public authority to approve the acquisition of the citizenship; this expedited procedure is strongly based on case-by-case decisions and the decisions found are at the sole discretion of the Austrian government.
What does the term "extraordinary merit" mean?
Foreign nationals can qualify for the expedited citizenship if they already made or will make a significant economic, athletic, scientific, and/or cultural contribution to the country. Such significant contributions must be far above the average in comparison to the respective field of activity. Furthermore, this contribution must be of particularly high national interest.
The economic contribution can include investment or other economic benefit brought to Austria. It is crucial that such an investment must be more than just a donation. For instance, by creating a substantial number of new jobs (especially in economically weaker regions of Austria) or bringing new technologies to the country, the investment must make an extraordinary contribution to the country. Nonetheless, a donation to a public project or private project of public interest could also provide extraordinary benefits.
Investments into government bonds or real estate holdings do not qualify; the investment must be active. For instance, the formation of a new commercial enterprise domiciled in Austria which generates new export sales and creates jobs would be an active investment.
As already mentioned above, the government’s decisions regarding the expedited citizenship are found on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, in order to give serious information a certain amount of money which has to be invested cannot be stated. Perhaps, it could vary between an amount of EUR 2 to 10 million or more but – ultimately – it is essential that the substantial contributions are of particularly high national interest.
The Federal Ministry of the Interior established certain criteria and thereby indented to make the expedited citizenship more transparent; nonetheless, the following published criteria are neither complete nor must be met cumulatively:
- The foreign national has a significant influence over an entity.
- The entity demonstrates a strong economic performance.
- A significant number of jobs are created.
- Substantial investments are made.
- The entity has an international reputation.
- The achievements of the foreign national support Austria’s external relations regarding the economic sector.
Further notable information:
Generally, foreign nationals must abandon their current citizenship as a precondition for holding the Austrian citizenship. If foreign nationals acquire the Austrian citizenship due to the above mentioned expedited citizenship pocedure, they are allowed to maintain their present citizenship.