The Austrian Government announced to specify the necessary criteria to obtain Austrian citizenship on the basis of “special achievements” (10/6 Procedure)


The Austrian Government announced to specify the necessary criteria to obtain Austrian citizenship on the basis of “special achievements” (10/6 Procedure)

Monday, 17 February, 2014

Third-country nationals with an EU passport enjoy a great number of benefits and there are certain reasons to give these people easier access to citizenship than others. The most common ones are usually close family relations with citizens, historic and cultural ties to the country whose citizenship is acquired, and the government has a public interest in naturalizing persons who have made special contributions to the country. Most citizenship laws have special provisions for the naturalization of persons with outstanding achievements in sports, arts, science and technology or other undefined special services to the country. Often residence and other requested preconditions are waived for such applicants.

The numbers of naturalizations that occur in these categories are usually very small and sometimes limited by law in some countries. Privileged access by prominent individuals receive public attention and often raise concerns about the fairness of the conditions imposed on ordinary applicants. But what are the criteria for naturalizing an applicant in cases of “overriding interests” of Austria? A year ago it was announced, that the rules for granting citizenship to people with extraordinary achievements for the Republic of Austria will be specified. The announced rules shall determine certain criteria that make privileged naturalization more transparent.

Therefore, the Austrian Ministry of Interior has drafted a criteria catalogue which specifies under which conditions people may be naturalized earlier because of their extraordinary efforts. The new criteria is especially applicable to entrepreneurs, athletes, artists and scientists. According to this new criteria catalogue, entrepreneurs for example, may be naturalized if they can create (new) jobs “to a relevant extent”. Donations or sponsoring is no longer sufficient to qualify for naturalization. Artists, for example, must contribute “essential individual artistic performances” and incidentally “attract audiences”. Scientists, for example, must do research in areas that are “not yet developed”. According to the Austrian Ministry under this future naturalization procedure cases will be handled within six months.

If the new criteria list comes into fruition, the following criteria must be fulfilled:

1. Economic achievements

  • Owner of a company or executive position with a major influence in a company; a board membership alone is no longer sufficient
  • High economic performance of the company
  • Creation and retention of jobs to a relevant extent, especially in economically weak regions in Austria
  • Relevant and special investments of the company in Austria; mere cash flows is not sufficient 
  • Reputation and awareness of the company abroad.
  • Promotion of Austria's bilateral and multilateral foreign relations in the relevant economic sector.

 2. Scientific achievements

  • Scientific activity in areas that have not yet been developed or in the development of new scientific fields
  • The scientific activities have to be performed mainly in Austria, or, if abroad, the scientific activities have to be performed for Austrian research institutions
  • High reputation in the international scientific community and international awareness
  • National and international scientific publications
  • Transfer of new technologies and insight to Austria
  • Active and recognized research activities
  • Teaching at Austrian universities

 3. Sporting performances

  • There is currently no other, in terms of performance levels, comparable Austrian athlete available, not even from the junior level
  • The outstanding athletic achievements have been evaluated over a long period of time
  • Foreseeability of an active and successful career for these athletes that will continue into the future (especially considering the age of the athlete)
  • The athlete can and shall become a member in an Austrian national sports team
  • Strong results in national or international competitions as an individual or with a team

4. Artistic achievements

  • The artistic performance provides a significant contribution to the art scene in Austria (e.g. soloists)
  • With these extraordinary artistic skills, significant achievements in the field of education are provided at Austrian universities
  • Dissemination of the artist´s reputation on an international level
  • The outstanding artistic contribution of the individual attracts a large audience
  • Development of technology, an older art form or the development of a new and modern art form (e.g. in the field of Fine Arts)

 As one can see, entrepreneurs are still very important and a detailed list of criteria is provided for the granting of citizenship for economic reasons. Especially the wording “creation and retention of jobs to a relevant extent” leaves room for interpretation. How many jobs have to be created or secured: 10, 20, 40 or even 120? All in all, not much will change. All criteria, whether for science, sports, or culture, are held in fairly general terms and have been applied before as part of the prior practice, but they were not published.

Apart from this, the Austrian Government wants to implement a new regulation with detailed provisions regarding the procedures for obtaining a confirmation of the Federal Government in the proceedings pursuant to Art 10 para 6 of the Austrian Citizenship Act. According to these new possible future provisions, the Federal Government shall submit and provide the respective documents including the application of the applicant as soon as possible to the Austrian Minister of the Interior. The Minister of the Interior shall then assess the relevant preconditions, whether the extraordinary achievements are fulfilled or not and if it lies within the special interest of the Republic of Austria; where appropriate, another competent Minister shall also assess the relevant conditions. The Ministers shall then provide a reasoned opinion (written statement) for each individual case and the opinion must state the main reasons for the assessment, particularly about the expected or already provided extraordinary achievements by the applicant and the reasons why a granting of citizenship is in the special interest of the Republic of Austria. Furthermore the relevant Minister shall state whether he approves the granting of citizenship or not. Also, further expert opinions can be taken as a basis for the granting of citizenship.

However, third country nationals still have the possibility to become an Austrian citizen by way of legal and continuous residence for at least six years, if a sustainable personal integration can be proved: at least 3-year voluntary work (for instance commitment in a nonprofit organization), or at least 3 years of professional practice in the educational, social or health area or at least 3 years of being member of certain organizations or associations. In such cases the proof of knowledge of the German language can be waived. The applicant has to prove a stable and regular income (sufficient means for living) and that they do not need social assistance.