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AUSTRIAN CITIZENSHIP

Austrian citizenship: Can you be rejected because of a driving offence?

Naturalisation processes may be on the rise in Austria, but citizenship is still hard to get, and any mistake could mean you miss out on the opportunity. Here's what you need to know.

austrian passport citizenship
Austrian citizenship is not easy to acquire. (Photo: Amanda Previdelli / The Local)

Becoming a citizen of another country is a big decision, especially in a country with many requirements, rules and fees like Austria. For example, in order to apply for naturalisation, you need to have lived in Austria for at least six years (or up to ten in some cases) and must meet another range of criteria.

The requirements fall into several broad categories, one of which is that you must have no criminal convictions and there are no pending proceedings against you.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Who is entitled to Austrian citizenship by descent and how to apply for it?

Additionally, people who have received one or more administrative penalties in Austria are also barred from applying for at least five years if at least one of those penalties incurred fines of more than €1,000.

Administrative violations include drinking and driving, running a red light or stop sign and, yes, speeding. If your speeding fine totalled more than €1,000, – meaning you have likely been well beyond the speed limit – you need to pay it and wait five years before applying for citizenship. 

How high are speeding fines in Austria?

There are no specific amounts that people need to pay for each offence. Instead, the law stipulates a range, and a judge will decide on a case by case basis.

Exceeding the maximum speed limit will result in a fine from €300 to €5,000 with the amount depending on aggravating factors such as how far above the speed limit the driver was and whether they had previous speeding offences.

READ ALSO: Does Austria have a street car racing problem?

Other offences that can lead to fines of more than €1,000 include driving with an alcohol content above the limit, driving in dangerous conditions such as by participating in illegal street races, failing to stop to provide assistance after a traffic accident and others. 

Other requirements

Being “blameless” is just one requirement for naturalisation in Austria. The applicant must also prove that they speak German to an adequate degree and that they are integrated (they need to show a German certificate and pass a citizenship test).

Additionally, you are barred from applying for citizenship if you have received minimum income support for more than 36 months within the last six years. 

You (or your partner) also need to have a regular income at the moment of application that “sufficiently secures your livelihood”. For a single person living alone, this means your net monthly income minus regular monthly expenses (such as rent and loan payments) needs to be higher than €1,030.49 (2022 numbers).

If the person has one child, the amount goes up to €1,189.49.

READ ALSO: How much do you need to earn for a good life in Austria?

Those are very high standards in a country where the average net income is €2,161.99 and rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the Vienna city centre averages €915. Furthermore, there are also costs to the citizenship process. In the capital, people can expect to pay between €1,200 and €1,500 for the bureaucracy – not adding values for any translation needed, for example.

Finally, a significant requirement, one that certainly puts off many, is that the person naturalising must give up their original citizenship. This is because Austria will only accept dual citizenship after naturalisation in extremely rare cases.

READ ALSO: Austrian citizenship: Do you really have to renounce your original nationality?

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AUSTRIAN CITIZENSHIP

How powerful is the Austrian passport?

No matter which index you consult, an Austrian passport is regularly counted as one of the most powerful in the world. Here's just how far an Austrian passport can take you

How powerful is the Austrian passport?

For many people applying for Austrian citizenship, there are many reasons for not wanting to give up their current citizenship. Yet, chances are high that an Austrian passport is more powerful than any others they might have unless you are from a handful of other EU/EEA countries or Japan, Singapore or South Korea.

Several indices, including two out just recently, focus on travel freedom. That is, how many countries can you visit on that passport without a visa – or with a simplified process which you can get after landing. 

READ ALSO: ANALYSIS: Could Austria ever change the rules to allow dual citizenship?

The Henley Passport Index, which has recently released its 2023 ranking, puts the Austrian passport in the top five of the most powerful travel documents in the world. Austria is among the some of the most powerful passports in Europe, as Austrian citizens can travel to 188 countries or territories where they either don’t need a visa or get one on arrival. 

Internationally, only the passports of Luxembourg, Italy, Finland, Spain, Germany, South Korea, Singapore and Japan score higher than Austria. Japanese citizens can travel to 193 countries or territories without a visa.

Other indices also measure travel freedom, although each calculates it slightly differently, explaining some of the different rankings. Some place more weight on whether you can travel entirely visa-free for another country, while others treat being able to travel somewhere completely without a visa and getting a visa on arrival as more or less the same thing.

READ ALSO: How foreigners can get fast-track citizenship in Austria

Second most powerful?

In a separate ranking, the 2023 Passport Index Austria lands in second place along with Sweden, Germany, Finland, Luxembourg, Spain, France, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland and South Korea. They are behind the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which takes the top spot.

Although Austrians can travel to a few more countries visa-free than UAE citizens, the UAE passport allows entry to a lot more countries through a visa on arrival than an Austrian one does – which is why the index ranks it higher.

Meanwhile, the Guide Consultants Index also factors where certain passport holders might need an electronic travel authorisation (eTA) rather than just a visa or not to travel to a specific country. By this measure, they rank Austria fifth, tied with Portugal, the UK, New Zealand, and Ireland. Singapore ranks first.

READ ALSO: Austrian citizenship: Do you really have to renounce your original nationality?

According to this index, Austrians can travel to 143 destinations without a visa. However, they need a visa on arrival for 33 destinations. For 15, they can get a visa online, and for 13, they just need to apply for an eTA online in advance. Austrians must apply for a travel visa in advance from only 25 countries.

What about EU Freedom of Movement?

Current rankings focus on the travel freedoms associated with a particular passport. Although each measure travel freedom slightly differently, an Austrian passport always does well.

However, none consider the European Union freedom of movement that an Austrian passport grants. In addition to travelling, Austrians can live and work in the EU’s other 26 member states without a visa. 

Through EU treaties, this right also exists with countries in the European Economic Area or European Free Trade Association, like Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.

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