Why do so Many Viennese Not Apply for Austrian Citizenship?

Lifestyle & TravelCulture ♦ Published: September 20, 2022; 16:44 ♦ (Vindobona)

Austria has one of the highest proportions of foreigners in the European Union. A recently published study by the City of Vienna analyses the motivations of the many people without Austrian citizenship and explains why most of them prefer to keep their old citizenship.

Around 31.5 % of Vienna's population does not have Austrian citizenship. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / Gugerell / CC0

A recently published study by the City of Vienna deals with the interesting question: Why do so many people living in Vienna not have Austrian citizenship? The question is particularly interesting against the background of the proportion of foreigners in the capital.

Austria in general has one of the highest proportions of foreigners in the European Union. In Vienna it is comparatively extremely high with almost one third of the population. This is a major problem from the point of view of immigrant integration, but also from a democratic policy perspective.

At the beginning of 2021, around 31.5% of Vienna's population did not have Austrian citizenship - in absolute figures, this corresponds to 604,435 people. 82% of these Viennese without Austrian citizenship have lived in Austria for at least 5 years or were born here.

The study "Desire to acquire Austrian citizenship. An Empirical Study in Vienna" was written by Max Haller and Jeremias Stadlmair within the framework of the Commission for Migration and Integration of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

The aim was to understand above all from those persons who would fulfil the criteria for citizenship but nevertheless do not apply for it.

Within the framework of the study, about 500 foreigners living in Vienna were asked whether they would like to acquire Austrian citizenship and which reasons speak for or against it. In addition, 31 people were asked in interviews about their wishes, ideas and experiences.

The analysis of the 500 interviews revealed three decisive points for not applying. Firstly, many foreigners in Austria see no or only few additional advantages that citizenship would bring, due to instrumental-benefit-oriented considerations. Living in Austria would not be disadvantageous for them even without an Austrian passport.

This can be concluded from the answers of the respondents to the motives for and against the acquisition of citizenship and also from the fact that EU citizens (and here again especially German citizens) are less interested in Austrian citizenship than others.

In addition, many of the respondents still feel strongly drawn to their country of origin. The identification with their former homeland prevents many from giving up their old citizenship to take up Austrian citizenship. Moreover, some play with the idea of possibly returning one day.

The last and probably most important point is the legal and administrative requirements in Austria, which make the acquisition of citizenship more difficult. According to the Migrant Integration Policy Index, there is hardly any other country that makes it so difficult for immigrants to acquire citizenship.

"A simplified naturalisation law would deter fewer people from applying," says study author Max Haller. Another recommendation of the study is to allow dual citizenship. "Austria is now also a laggard worldwide in this respect. Neighbouring countries like Germany, Switzerland and Italy are more generous in this respect," says Haller.

Measures that lower the administrative hurdles could lead to an increase in willing persons. Currently, 39% of the Viennese interviewed are interested in acquiring Austrian citizenship and 61% are undecided or do not want to acquire it.

By far the two most frequently mentioned reasons for naturalisation are: because one feels Austrian and because one wants a secure stay in Austria. One third of those interested mention the right to vote as a motive.

Vienna City Government - Magistrat der Stadt Wien