Persons who are very well integrated in Austria can obtain Austrian citizenship after a stay of only 6 years. Moreover, they must prove that their livelihood is sufficiently secured. This article deals with the question of how the responsible authorities evaluate this requirement in practice and how the secured livelihood is calculated in concrete terms.
1) Austrian citizenship can generally be granted after a legal and uninterrupted stay of 10 years in Austria, whereby the applicant must have been resident in Austria for 5 years (e.g. on the basis of a Red-White-Red card or a Permanent Residence Permit EU).
2) Under certain circumstances, however, a legal and uninterrupted stay of 6 years in Austria can be enough for an applicant to be granted Austrian citizenship. Apart from spouses of Austrian citizens, other persons may also be eligible for this shortened period of residence (for which a legal residence is sufficient, a settlement is not required) if they can prove knowledge of the German language at B2 level or if they have at least language skills at B1 level and can prove their sustainable personal integration in Austria.
3) Sustainable personal integration can be proven by voluntary engagement in a non-profit organization for at least three years or by exercising a profession in the educational, social or health sector or by a function in an interest group, also for at least three years in each case.
4) But even if the proof of personal integration is successful, this does not mean that Austrian citizenship will automatically be granted. The general requirements must also be fulfilled. These include no severe criminal convictions, an affirmative attitude towards the Republic of Austria and, last but not least, proof of a sufficiently secure livelihood.
5) Austrian citizenship may therefore only be granted to persons who can cover their living costs in Austria with a corresponding income and without recourse to social welfare benefits.
6) The Citizenship Act (Staatsbürgerschaftsgesetz) contains a precise regulation on how the authority must calculate whether the applicant’s livelihood is sufficiently secured. For this purpose, the applicant must have a fixed and regular income of his or her own from employment, self-employment, legal maintenance claims or insurance benefits. The applicant must provide evidence of these entitlements for a total period of 36 months within the last 6 years before the application is submitted, whereby the last 6 months before the application are always included.
7) This means that an applicant should select the best 30 months of the last 5.5 years before the application is made and submit the relevant income statements to the authorities to prove that he/she has enough means of livelihood. In addition, sufficiently high income should also be available in the last six months before the application is submitted, as this will be included in the assessment by the authority in any case.
8) But how high must the regular income be for the authority in order to be recognized it as a secure livelihood? The answer to this question can be found in the General Social Security Act (ASVG). There, the reference rates for the entitlement to a compensatory allowance for pensions from the pension insurance are regulated. The applicant’s income must be at least equal to the average of the reference rates of the last three years before the application was made, without recourse to social welfare benefits during the period mentioned above (36 months in six years before the application was made). These reference rates change annually. In 2020, the reference rate for singles was € 966.65, for married couples € 1,524.99 and for each child an additional € 149.15.
9) As proof of a secure livelihood, wage slips, wage confirmations, service contracts, preliminary contracts, confirmations of pension or other insurance benefits, proof of receipt of childcare allowance or proof of own assets in sufficient amount can be presented. Maintenance claims will only be considered if they are legally justified. However, benefits from maintenance contracts or voluntary benefits and gifts of money (even if they are regular) cannot be used as proof of a secure livelihood.
10) However, the applicant’s own fixed and regular income is reduced by regular expenses. These regular expenses include rent, loan payments, garnishments and maintenance payments to persons who do not live in the common household. These regular expenses are to be deducted from the net income, leaving a so-called “free station” (for 2020: € 299.95), which is not considered when calculating the regular expenses. Thus, only the regular expenses reduce the income that exceeds this “free station”. If childcare allowance is received in the last six months before the application is filed, the livelihood is considered sufficiently secured during this period in any case.
11) A simplified example of this:
If an applicant (single) has regular monthly income of € 2,000.00 and regular expenses of € 800.00, the “free station” is to be deducted from the regular expenses (€ 800.00 – € 299.95 = € 500.05). In the result therefore the income of the applicant amounts to € 1,499.95 and lies thereby over the reference rate of € 966.65 per month for single persons.
12) Persons who are impaired in earning their regular livelihood due to a disability or a permanent, serious illness are exempt from the obligation to provide the described requirements. These restrictions must be proven by a medical certificate.
13) The exact calculation of the guaranteed living expenses as a prerequisite for the granting of Austrian citizenship can therefore be very complicated, especially if the income comes from different sources or is offset by high regular expenses. Before applying for Austrian citizenship, it is therefore advisable to check carefully whether all legal requirements, such as a sufficiently secure livelihood, are met to the required extent.