Citizenship by Investment in Austria - Austrian Citizenship Law & Residence Permit in Austria
Key advantages of Austrian citizenship - Citizenship by Investment Austria
As a citizen of Austria, you can live and work in the country as well as anywhere in the European Union at any time. In addition, as an EU citizen you also have the right to live in Switzerland, which is a very attractive place for tax-advantaged residence. Unless you decide to actually reside in Austria, you are not subject to tax in Austria. The Austrian passport as a passport of the EU-country gives a privilege to reside, legally work and do business in any EU-country, including The United Kingdom, Germany, and France. Moreover, Austrian passport enjoys an excellent reputation and offers very comprehensive visa-free travel, including visa-free access to the USA.
Key advantages of Austrian citizenship:
- Opportunity to become an EU citizen upon making a substantial capital contribution
- Visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 185 destinations worldwide
- The right to reside anywhere else in the EU, as well as in Switzerland
- No requirement to reside in Austria
How does it work in Austria? - Austrian Citizenship by Investment
Unlike certain other European countries Austria does not offer a golden visa for passive investment. Other European countries such as Malta, Portugal and Spain offer residency through investment in government bonds or real estate. Such investments require minimum connection with the country but allow for freedom of travel within the European Schengen zone and ultimately can lead to Permanent Residency (PR) and citizenship.
Austria has no such passive investor visa programme but does offer a citizenship by investment option whereby foreign applicants invest actively in the Austrian economy. Such an investment must be significant, contribute to the economy and create jobs. The investment is typically a minimum of €10 million if injected directly into a business or €3 million as a contribution to the government development fund.
Background and legal considerations - Citizenship by Investment
Acquisition and loss of Austrian citizenship is based upon the Citizenship law of 1965 as amended. Citizenship can be acquired in several ways: by birth, by descent, by naturalization, and for special services rendered to the Republic of Austria (special contribution in the sphere of sports, culture, science, or economy).
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.
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.
Citizenship by investment or by donation: Requirements - Citizenship by Investment Austria
Under the citizenship-by-investment provisions, an applicant is required to invest actively in the Austrian economy, for example in the form of a joint venture or direct investment in a business that creates jobs or generates new export sales. Significant direct investment is generally required. Passive investments in government bonds, real estate, for example, do not qualify.
Serious investors in certain cases can apply for Austrian citizenship without preliminary residence requirements and without requirement to renounce their previous citizenship. In order for a citizenship application to be successful the level of investment must be in the vicinity of millions. Moreover, funds must be invested into venture capital or other innovative business or business in the industry considered of first priority by the Austrian Government. Citizenship for special merits before Austria is available not only for investors but also for people of art, science, for philanthropists, etc., who contribute significantly to the interests of Austria. Successful applicants receive full citizenship of the Republic of Austria by decision of the Government, and can apply for a passport immediately afterwards. The grant of citizenship is not published and not reported to any other country, as it falls within the Government provisions relating to privacy/official secrets.
Procedure of Citizenship by Investment in Austria
The grant of citizenship on the basis of a capital contribution involves various procedures and requires government approval at several levels. It is therefore essential that the applicant is properly advised from the beginning, that each individual case is carefully prepared, and that informal approvals from the key ministries are obtained before the investment is made and the formal application process is started.