Vienna Integration Council Requests Easier Citizenship Process For Viennese Foreigners

Vienna Integration Council Requests Easier Citizenship Process For Viennese Foreigners

Experts Call for Law Reform, Increased Resources for Vienna Authorities, and Citizenship Campaign

During a panel discussion yesterday, the Vienna Integration Council (W.I.R.) presented its fourth statement on citizenship and naturalization. Over the past 20 years, the number of naturalizations and the naturalization rate in Vienna have significantly declined compared to other European countries, despite immigration leading to substantial population growth. More than one-third of the resident population is excluded from the right to vote, resulting in a significant democracy deficit. Moreover, the restrictive legal framework complicates the integration process, as high legal barriers and lengthy procedures undermine the positive impact.

Rainer Bauböck, sociologist, migration researcher, and member of the Vienna Integration Council. Copyright: PID/Christian Fürthner

Rainer Bauböck, sociologist, migration researcher, and member of the Vienna Integration Council, stated, “Excluding such a large portion of the Viennese population from political participation not only neglects the interests of people with migration backgrounds but also diminishes the representativeness of Austrian democracy. Younger, lower-income, and urban populations lack the political influence proportional to their population share. While Vienna has more residents than Lower Austria, it has fewer seats in parliament due to the seat distribution depending on the number of citizens.”

Deputy Mayor and Integration Councilor Christoph Wiederkehr said, “People from 179 countries live and work in Vienna, yet many are denied political participation. The citizenship law is no longer current and causes unexpected delays in application processing. It is incomprehensible that a young woman born here would be denied citizenship because of a study abroad stay deemed too long. These absurdities must end to dismantle the barriers in the naturalization process gradually. This would also be crucial for promoting more integration and participation.”

Demands for Citizenship Law Reform and Citizenship Campaign

The Vienna Integration Council advocates for the following changes to the citizenship law at the federal level:

  1. Shortening of residency requirements.
  2. Lowering of income barriers.
  3. Acceptance of dual citizenship.
  4. Granting automatic Austrian citizenship to children born in Austria if one parent has resided lawfully in Austria for at least five years.

Additional recommendations are directed toward the city, including allocating more resources to the Vienna Immigration and Citizenship Office (MA 35) to streamline procedures and enhance transparency. The ongoing reform process within the competent authority has already shown some progress, as acknowledged by W.I.R. However, there is a call for further measures to simplify and expedite the procedures. Furthermore, once the backlog of applications in authority has been successfully addressed, the City of Vienna should launch its citizenship campaign. The Vienna Integration Council also urges the city government to advocate for a citizenship law that promotes integration at the federal level and exerts political pressure accordingly.

Copyright: PID/Christian Fürthner

Panel Discussion: Early Naturalization Crucial for the Integration Process

The granting of citizenship is always presented in the political discourse as the final step in integration, criticized Judith Kohlenberger, a migration researcher at WU Vienna. She called for a change in mindset: “According to studies, granting citizenship has an impact when it is given after five to six years—later on, the effect dissipates. Naturalized citizens then develop a stronger identification with the country and democracy. Holding citizenship like a carrot in front of one’s nose is an image that has solidified but goes against empirical evidence.”

Furthermore, many applicants become frustrated during the process due to the high requirements, said Mariam Singh, Director of the Counseling Center for Migrants. “The law is one of the most restrictive compared to international standards, and there are constant changes to the law.” Therefore, MA 35 often faces criticism. (Press Service, Rathaus Correspondence 31.05.23)

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