For Austrians, the fear remains that they will become nobody on the British Isles Many who once left Austria for Great Britain want easier access to dual citizenship
Just last week, the particularly restrictive Austrian citizenship law caused a stir. The core of the debate: The SPÖ suggested simplifications for those wishing to become naturalized, while the ruling ÖVP identified a left-wing master plan that should generate a “new electorate” in the country. A group that has long been in favor of easing the issue of citizenship saw itself ignored in the discussion: people who once left Austria for the UK and now, after Brexit, find themselves trapped in a jumble of bureaucracy and insecurity.
The solution for most of them would be quite simple: Easier access to dual citizenship, they say, would solve many problems with which they now had to struggle at one stroke – be it because they now have a British passport and because they are in Austria are considered third-country nationals, be it because they have always remained Austrians and now have to grapple with new requirements on the island. Gudrun Stummer belongs to the first category. The 49-year-old lives in Manchester, is married to an Englishman, accepted British citizenship in 2012 and lost Austrian citizenship as a result.
There are exceptions, but as a rule, if you apply for and receive a foreign passport, you will lose your Austrian one. This can sometimes lead to tricky constellations. Stummer’s husband, for example, has a grandmother who was born in Dublin. After Brexit, like many other Britons, he seized the opportunity to get an Irish passport and thus remain an EU citizen. “With his EU passport he now has more rights than I do in Austria,” says Stummer. Her own, over 70-year-old mother lives in her old homeland: “If she needs care in the future, my husband and I could look after her. However, I am now only allowed to stay in Austria for a long time as the wife of an EU citizen.”
Exactly the opposite is the case with Lisi Wagstaffe, who has lived near Cambridge with her British husband for many years. The 52-year-old never gave up her Austrian citizenship. After Brexit, a bureaucratic hurdle race began for her. “First I applied for a permanent residence permit,” explains Wagstaffe. “It wasn’t that easy, because there is no registration system here. So you need other documents to prove that you’ve been in the country for a long time: gas bills, bank statements, that sort of thing.” For her two children from her first marriage, who were still born in Vienna and who had no contracts of their own from previous years, they were certificates or dental bills:
I sent two kilos of paperwork to the Ministry of the Interior for the children alone.” System prone to errors The joy about the finally granted residence permit lasted only a short time. A different regime has been introduced for EU citizens: the “settled status”. Everyone has to apply for it by June 30th. Those affected who already have it complain of disadvantages here too. For example, you do not receive a document with which you can prove your residence permit at various offices, but only an electronic registration. Proofing them repeatedly turns out to be complicated and error-prone.
Many now see themselves at a disadvantage compared to non-EU citizens from third countries. A Facebook group is full of experience reports and calls for help in the fight against the Brexit windmills.
For example because of computers at authorities or universities, for which one does not exist, although the data is correct. In addition, the “settled status” is linked to the passport. When it has expired, you have to send the new one to the British Home Office so that everything can be linked again, explains Lisi Wagstaffe. And if the system fails, which has already happened, then you have no proof that you are legally in the country: “Then you are written off with landlords, you cannot conduct an interview, you cannot take out a loan. Then you are nobody.”
Source: Der Standard