Austria is a landlocked but wealthy nation, and a member of the European Union since 1995. For centuries, it played a role as one of Europe’s dominant powers, its reins being held by the Hapsburg dynasty. Key turning points in its history include the 1683 Battle of Vienna, which halted Ottoman expansion into Europe, and Austria’s declaration of war against Serbia following the assassination Archduke Franz Ferdinand – one of the triggers for World War I. Today, Austria is highly industrialised, and exports and tourism are key drivers of GDP. Austria’s demographics were recently affected by a significant intake of refugees, amounting to over one percent of the nation’s population.
The particulars of Austria’s citizenship by investment procedures are not clearly codified in the laws of the nation. Rather, the scheme draws broad legitimacy from Article 10, Paragraph 6 of the 1985 Nationality Act, which gives leave to the Federal Government to grant citizenship where a person displays actual or expected outstanding achievements. The Federal Government may, by an order, lay down specific stipulations regarding the grant of nationality under Article 10, Paragraph 6. Its failure to fully do so has made the Austrian scheme one of the least transparent processes in the economic citizenship arena.
The outstanding achievement underlined in Austria’s laws can be economic, and can cover those whose investments in Austria are sufficient to trigger the provision.
Exclusive and limited to those who can guarantee a positive attitude towards Austria, and who do not pose a danger to law and order, public safety, or other public interests, the scheme has operated intermittently, and only rarely are aspiring applicants successful. The scheme is also mindful of Austria’s – and the applicant’s – associations with other states, barring persons whose relations with foreign states would be detrimental to Austria, or who, upon becoming Austrian nationals, would damage the country’s international relations. A person is also barred given the existence of certain criminal convictions, immigration orders, and affiliations with extremism.
The two-year process involves filing the application in person (unless the applicant is incompetent to act) and significant communication with various Government representatives. Article 10(a)(2) exempts prospective economic citizens from having to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the German language and basic knowledge of Austria’s history and democratic system. An applicant who lives outside of Austria must however travel to the relevant Austrian diplomatic or consular authority to give the oath of allegiance (with some exceptions for those who cannot reasonably be expected to appear to deliver the oath).
Although Austria generally disallows dual nationality, Article 10, Paragraph 6 applicants are permitted to retain their original citizenship, bringing the scheme in line with those of other jurisdictions offering economic citizenship. Benefits of Austrian citizenship include the right to live and work in any country in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, as well as facilitated travel to the United States and Canada.