New appointment dates: How Vienna’s MA 35 is speeding up citizenship and immigration requests

Immigrants moving to Vienna have faced long lines and complex bureaucracy in the city citizenship and immigration office, the MA 35. But now the city wants to improve the service - here's how.

New appointment dates: How Vienna's MA 35 is speeding up citizenship and immigration requests
Expect it to take six months or in some cases longer to get all your visa and residency paperwork sorted. Photo: Steve DiMatteo / Pixabay

The often criticised, long waiting times at Magistratsabteilung 35 (MA 35) – responsible for immigration and citizenship – will be shortened. In the future, consultations will occur in groups, and the staff will also be increased, the City of Vienna said.

Starting from April 8th, information and consultation dates for groups of up to 170 participants will take place monthly. In addition, the staff will be increased by about 90 additional employees, the responsible city councillor Christoph Wiederkehr (NEOS) announced in a release on Tuesday. 

This is intended to speed up the procedures.

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

Increased demand

The demand for Austrian citizenship has increased enormously since last year. Around 1,300 people per month are interested in an information appointment at MA 35, whereas a year ago, this number was about 600, it said. 

The goal, Wiederkehr said, is to make procedures more efficient through these measures and to increase the authority’s capacity by 50 percent by fall. “In the long term, however, the citizenship law urgently needs to be modernised and renewed to prevent lengthy procedures,” Wiederkehr demanded.

According to the city, of a total of 20,606 naturalisations in Austria in 2022, almost 70 percent were carried out in Vienna by MA 35. 14,167 persons were naturalised in Vienna in the previous year — a large proportion related to applications for citizenship submitted for Nazi victims and their descendants.

READ ALSO: Why is the number of people becoming Austrian on the rise?

MA 35 has repeatedly been criticised for its long waiting times and difficult accessibility. 

People looking for a first meeting on citizenship requirements usually have to wait about one year – and then from six months to another year to submit the documents. 

READ ALSO: ‘Bring everything you have’: Key tips for dealing with Vienna’s immigration office MA 35

ÖVP and FPÖ react

In a statement, the Vienna centre-right ÖVP welcomed the announced personnel measures. However, its constitutional spokesman Patrick Gasselich questioned whether holding of initial information meetings in the form of group meetings was appropriate. 

He also took issue with the fact that Wiederkehr wanted to “once again shift responsibility to the federal government.”

READ ALSO: Could Austria change the rules around citizenship?

The far-right Freedom Party also criticised Wiederkehr for wanting to “soften” the citizenship law. 

“Citizenship is a valuable asset and must not be allowed to degenerate into a junk good due to incompetent bureaucratic processing,” said Stefan Berger, a member of the Vienna FPÖ parliament. Wiederkehr should “do his homework and put the scandalous conditions in MA 35 in order”, he added.

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Reader question: Does Austria allow me to have multiple citizenships?

The issue of multiple citizenships in Austria is complex, with many myths surrounding the subject.

Reader question: Does Austria allow me to have multiple citizenships?

Austrian citizenship regulations are based on the principle of “jus sanguinis” (right of blood), meaning that individuals can acquire citizenship through their descent or family connections. 

The laws are different for those acquiring citizenship through a naturalisation proceeding, as the process typically involves meeting specific criteria, including residency requirements, language proficiency, and passing a citizenship examination. 

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

However, one common question regarding Austrian citizenship is whether the country allows dual or multiple citizenships. A common myth is that children who are born to an Austrian and a foreign parent will have to choose between the nationalities once they turn 18.

This misconception comes from the very strict laws Austria has on naturalisation. According to the federal government, “Austrian citizenship law does not permit dual or multiple citizenship”. However, this information is for Austrian citizens who voluntarily acquire foreign citizenship or foreign citizens who naturalise Austrians. 

READ ALSO: The seven common mistakes to avoid when applying for Austrian citizenship

In the first case, the Austrian citizen will generally lose their Austrian citizenship, while in the second case, the foreign citizen is asked to give up their previous nationality in order to become Austria.

The government is clear on an “important exception to this principle”, the acquisition of citizenship by descent. Here’s the specific information from another official government site:

“If, in the case of parents of different nationalities (Austrian and another), the principle of descent also applies in the country of origin of the foreign parent, the child is a dual citizen. According to Austrian law, the child does not have to decide on nationality when they reach the age of majority – however, it may be that the other state requires a decision,” the website states.

The child can keep their nationality acquired at birth as long as the other states allow it. So, for example, if the mother is Austrian and the father is Serbo-Croatian, the child holds three nationalities and can keep all of them throughout their entire life. 

READ ALSO: ‘Citizenship is problem child’: How Vienna’s immigration office MA35 is changing

How can someone lose Austrian citizenship?

Austrian citizenship is not automatically granted for life, and there are circumstances in which an individual may lose it. Here are some situations in which someone may lose Austrian citizenship:

  • Acquisition of foreign nationality: If a person deliberately acquires the nationality of another country without applying for and being granted retention of Austrian citizenship, they may lose their Austrian citizenship.
  • Voluntary military service in a foreign state: Engaging in military service voluntarily for a foreign country can result in the loss of Austrian citizenship.
  • Harming the interests or reputation of the Republic of Austria: If an individual’s actions are deemed detrimental to the interests or reputation of Austria, it may lead to the loss of Austrian citizenship.
  • Failure to renounce previous citizenship: When someone obtains Austrian citizenship but fails to give up their previous one within two years, they may lose their Austrian citizenship.

READ ALSO: Could Austria change the rules around dual citizenship?

It’s important to note that the specific conditions and procedures for losing Austrian citizenship may vary, and individuals should consult the relevant Austrian laws and authorities for precise information in their particular situation.