The Austrian Citizenship Act provides for the possibility of granting Austrian citizenship to aliens without the prerequisite of a certain period of residence or a secure livelihood, and also without the need to prove knowledge of German or to pass a citizenship examination or to give up the previous citizenship. In such a case, however, it is necessary that the applicant has already rendered or can still be expected to render exceptional performance in the interest of the Republic. This is assessed by a confirmation of the Austrian Federal Government.
What counts as exceptional performance in the interest of the Republic?
The law does not define what counts as exceptional performance in the interest of the Republic. On the basis of the citizenships already awarded for exceptional performance, the Federal Ministry of the Interior has developed a catalog of certain criteria which are to be used as a benchmark in the decision of the Federal Government and provide orientation for an objective assessment of the individual case.
First of all, a rough distinction is made between four sub-areas in which exceptional performance can be made in the interest of the Republic. These are scientific achievements, economic achievements, sporting and artistic achievements, whereby extraordinary achievements in other areas are also possible, provided they are of comparable importance.
Exceptional scientific achievements include, for example, activities in a scientific field that has not yet been explored, a high reputation in the international scientific community, publication activities, teaching at Austrian universities, etc.
Exceptional economic performance can entitle a person to be granted Austrian citizenship if he or she is active in a company as the owner or in a managerial function with significant influence, if this company has a high economic performance, if jobs are created or secured in Austria, if significant projects with high investments are carried out in Austria, if the company is also known abroad and if Austria’s foreign relations in the economic sector are thereby also promoted.
In the case of extraordinary sporting achievements, on the other hand, the assessment first aims to determine whether other athletes at a similar level of performance are already available in Austria, be it in the active or junior area. Only if this is not the case there can be an interest of the Republic in granting citizenship for sporting achievements. In addition, the exceptional sporting achievements must have been made in Austria over a period of at least one year and the active sporting career must still continue over a longer period. Another criterion is whether it is formally possible to field the athlete in the Austrian national team immediately after the granting of citizenship and whether very good placements have already been achieved in international competitions, either as an individual or in a team.
In the case of extraordinary artistic achievements, the criteria are much more blurred. For example, the individual artistic achievement must represent a significant contribution to artistic events in Austria, significant achievements are made in the field of education at Austrian universities, Austria’s artistic reputation is strengthened on an international level, the artistic achievement attracts the public and own techniques are developed or old techniques are reactivated in use or the development of a new technique.
What is the procedure for obtaining confirmation from the Federal Government?
First of all, the application, like every application for the award of Austrian citizenship, has to be submitted to the provincial government responsible for the applicant’s place of residence. The provincial government first checks whether there are any obstacles to the granting of citizenship (such as final convictions, impairment of international relations by the granting of citizenship, no danger to public order, etc.). Afterwards, the authority has to submit the administrative act with the application to the Federal Ministry of the Interior. The Minister of the Interior must then himself assess whether the services rendered or still to be rendered by the applicant are in the special interest of the Republic. If the applicant resides abroad, the Minister of Foreign Affairs must also submit a corresponding assessment. Within the framework of these assessments, the ministers must give detailed reasons why the granting of citizenship is in the special interest of the Republic or why this is not the case, and whether the granting is supported or not.
Afterwards, the Minister of the Interior has to prepare a statement ready for decision and to draw up a recommendation for the decision-making of the Federal Government. The Federal Government decides at least once every calendar half-year whether to grant or not to grant confirmation of the award of Austrian citizenship because of extraordinary performance in the interest of the Republic. The decision on granting or rejecting the application is then issued by the respective provincial government to which the application was submitted.