US Expat Information for Austria

This is a work in progress

Hello, I'm Kelley

I moved to Austria in 1994 and was a permanent resident for 23 years before becoming a citizen. On this page I share my knowledge and experience with other US expats who would like to live here.

Embassy

There is one US Embassy in Vienna. US citizen services are available at the consular offices located separately from the embassy. Appointments are easily and quickly obtained and the staff are relatively friendly and non-judgmental. The opening hours are few and inconvenient if you are travelling from a remote area of the country to get there and may even necessitate an overnight stay.

Getting Established

If you are looking for answers to your questions on residency permits or attaining Austrian citizenship, be aware that these are two separate circumstances governed by distinct statutes. That is to say, just because you may have qualified to be a resident, it does not translate into citizenship eligibility. You might be shocked to discover that US citizens are categorized as “Third Country Nationals” and subject to German language testing at the A1 level for residency permits and B1 for citizenship, based on standards issued by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

Residency (Niederlassung) is presided over by your local government (Bezirkshauptmannschaft or Magistrat) in the Niederlassungsbehörde. For details go here.

Citizenship (Staatsbürgerschaft) is the responsibilty of the provincial government office (Amt der Landesregierung) located in the capital city of each province. See this link for Austrian citizenship requirements.

Citizenship

Dual citizenship is not an option for naturalized citizens. The only way to have dual citizenship status is if you acquired it at birth.

US passport holders wishing to become naturalized Austrian citizens will therefore need to relinquish (or renounce) their US (and any other) citizenship in order to have Austrian nationality awarded (Staatsbürgerschaftverleihung). Once you meet all the criteria for citizenship and your application is approved, the Austrian authorities will issue an Assurance of Citizenship (Zusicherungsbescheid). This document must be presented to the US consular officer when relinquishing because they are reluctant to accept your relinquishment oath if you will be rendered stateless. The consulate then presents you with a letter stating that you appeared and performed the relinquishing act before the consul. This letter is your proof and must be passed on to the Austrian authorities in order for them to bestow citizenship on you. Be aware that in the time between handing in your US passport and officially becoming an Austrian citizen, you will be quasi-stateless and unable to leave the country for roughly 6-8 weeks. After citizenship has been awarded, it takes several days for the necessary changes in the national databank to be updated, so that you may request a Proof of Citizenship document (Staatsbürgerschaftnachweis) and apply for an Austrian/EU passport.

Be prepared to submit all your documentation to Austrian authorities as originals. Documents in English, such as birth certificates, do not require translations. However, most of your official, US government-issued documents will need to be re-issued, so as not to be older than six months, and include an apostille.

Approximately six weeks after having surrendered your American passport at the consulate, you should receive your cancelled passport in the mail; your official Certificate of Loss of Nationality, or CLN, (consisting of several forms you signed under oath at your relinquishment appointment) will also be included.

Wait times for receiving the CLN can vary greatly. I had mine after only three weeks, depite being told by the consul it could take five to six. It can, however, take much, much longer depending on where you renounce (i.e. there is no obligation to use an embassy in your country of residence). Typically, at the end of the quarter in which you renounced, your name will also appear in the Federal Register „Quarterly Publication of Individuals, Who Have Chosen to Expatriate, as Required by Section 6039G„, although it may take longer for your name to appear. Some names never show up on this „name and shame“ list.

Austrian citizenship currently costs €1399, plus fees for documents issued by either the US or Austria as required for the application process (roughly, an additional €200).

US citizenship is the most expensive nationality in the world to give up, at a whopping $2350 to hand in your blue book and take an oath. (NOTE: This is more than double the cost of renouncing Jamaican citizenship, the second priciest nationality, for $1010; yet there are other citizenships that cost nothing to give up (Sweden, Ireland, Japan) or merely a nominal fee (Germany $28).

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Treaties

Austria has a tax treaty with the United States.

The US Social Security Administration had a Totalization Agreement with Austria which expired on 31 December 2016 and has apparently not been renewed. It contains useful information on the jurisdictional reach of both governments on important topics such as self-employment. Find a summary of it here

Visit Travel.State.Gov for details on further agreements such as Hague Conventions, Diplomatic and Consular Treaties, and as a source for judicial assistance.

FATCA

FATCA stands for „Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act“. This legislation was introduced in 2010 under the Obama administration and is the culprit responsible for record-breaking numbers of expat Americans renouncing their citizenship. FATCA affects your ability as a US person to conduct normal banking while living in a foreign country. Basic things, such as checking and savings; investments, stocks and mutual funds; retirement accounts and mortgages; are often denied by financial institutions simply because the stakes are too high if they fail to report your US indicia to the IRS correctly. The cost of complying with FATCA is also quite steep for the bank, ergo, they turn Americans away, even long-time customers, to avoid any issues with Uncle Sam.

There is a Model 2 IGA in place in Austria for the implementation of FATCA. It consists of four parts:

Convention (the special vocabulary is defined here)
Annex I (stipulates the cooperation)
Annex II (stipulates the exemptions)
Memorandum of Understanding (just signatures)