OST's Awareness and Information Campaign for the Retention of Austrian Citizenship

by Jutta Kern


Background

Foreign scientists and scholars pursuing a career in the United States sometimes have their careers impeded due to their foreign nationality. A requirement for a higher-level security clearance, or a disadvantageous tax situation, calls for an application for U.S. citizenship. In the cases where mother countries do not allow dual citizenship, researchers find themselves in a difficult, double-bind situation caught between career and patriotism.


{access view=guest}Access to the full article is free, but requires you to register. Registration is simple and quick - all we need is your name and a valid e-mail address. We appreciate your interest in bridges.{/access} {access view=!guest}Legal Situation

Austria does not allow dual citizenship automatically. However, in 1998, an amendment to the Austrian citizenship law recognized a legal claim for retention if a "considerable reason" justifies the application:

 

§ 28 Abs. 2 StbG:
„Dasselbe gilt für Staatsbürger, die die Voraussetzungen des Abs. 1 Z 2 und 3 erfüllen, wenn sie die Staatsbürgerschaft durch Abstammung erworben haben und in ihrem Privat- und Familienleben ein für die Beibehaltung besonders berücksichtigungswürdiger Grund vorliegt."

 

In Austria, matters of citizenship are subject to the authority of the provincial governments. As a result of this legal situation, the handling of applications can differ considerably from province to province. Researchers who already have undergone the application procedure claim a lack of information, consistency and transparency in the process.


OST's Awareness Campaign

In 2003, the OST therefore launched a project to determine the current situation for Austrian researchers in the United States and Canada with regard to their citizenship. A questionnaire sent out to some 500 Austrian scientists brought tremendous feedback—a sign that the matter of citizenship was very important to the scientific community. While career-related and financial matters were claimed as the main reasons to apply for the foreign citizenship, patriotism and family ties dominated as motives to retain Austrian citizenship.

 

At the same time, the OST started to lobby the Austrian institutions to raise awareness of the difficulties involved in the application process. The prospect of losing scientists forever as Austrian citizens because of a lack of information was one of the striking arguments to support a project to inform the Austrian scientific community in North America about the situation. Vienna's ministries were extremely supportive: The Ministry for Foreign Affairs was appreciative of the effort to increase knowledge about citizenship regulations, and Federal Minister Elisabeth Gehrer of the Federal Ministry for Science, Education and Culture (BMBWK) addressed all nine provincial governors in order to raise awareness of the level of implementation.


Comprehensive Information Sheet

Finalizing the effort to help standardize the process of application for retention of Austrian citizenship, OST assembled a comprehensive information document. This document was distributed via e-mail among the Austrian scientific community in North America in May 2004.


Download Information Sheet (pdf, German)
URL: http://www.ostina.org/downloads/Stbg_Infoblatt.pdf{/access}