- Postwar country of net immigration, previously low-skilled work and family migrants from non-EU countries
- Increasing numbers of EU free-moving citizens and high-skilled non-EU migrants
- General employment situation held stable during and after the economic crisis at about 75%
- Similar balance of power between far-right parties and the traditional Grand Coalition of centre-right/left parties since 2006
- High level of anti-immigrant sentiment, but slightly decreasing in recent years
- Rank: 20 out of 38
- MIPEX Score: 50
- LABOUR MARKET MOBILITY 64
- FAMILY REUNION 50
- EDUCATION 47
- HEALTH 63
- POLITICAL PARTICIPATION 38
- PERMANENT RESIDENCE 57
- ACCESS TO NATIONALITY 26
- ANTI-DISCRIMINATION 57
Changes in context
Key Common Statistics
|Country of net migration since:||% Non-EU citizens||% Foreign-born||% Non-EU of foreign-born||% Non-EU university-educated||% from low or medium-developed (HDI) country|
|UN 2010 data in 2013||Eurostat 2013||Eurostat 2013||Eurostat 2013||Note: Adults aged 18-64, Eurostat 2013||Eurostat 2013|
Changes in policy
AT integration policy has made significant progress since 2007, rising 8 points on the MIPEX scale. Labour market mobility has been the major political priority for new integration policies, while anti-discrimination laws were created and improved to comply with EU law. The 2010 National Action Plan and Integration Ministry/Fund announced many new initiatives, though mostly limited in time and reach. Today, with a score 50/100, AT's overall integration policies create as many opportunities as obstacles for non-EU immigrants to fully participate in society. Immigrants have equal rights and opportunities in fewer areas in AT than in almost all Western European countries, just above CH and far below DE and other destination countries of its size. Most countries tend to provide better opportunities for immigrants to reunite with their family, participate politically, become citizens and fight discrimination.
Conclusions and recommendations
Non-EU immigrants in AT have similar needs in terms of labour market integration, education and family reunion as they do in other longstanding countries of immigration in Northwest Europe. Labour market integration improves over time in AT as elsewhere, but the employment gaps are greater for high-educated immigrants, while the school system seems to reproduce inequalities over time. Still, they may have a harder time accessing AT's available policies and programmes. New targeted employment, education, health and anti-discrimination policies may be too new, weak or general to affect integration outcomes across the country. A culture of robust evaluations of policy impact is also missing in AT integration policymaking (see Bilgili 2015), making it difficult to know if these policies will fail or succeed.
AT's mostly long-settled non-EU citizens and the growing 2nd generation have greater needs for citizenship and political participation than immigrants in most other countries. AT made no progress on political participation and fell further behind international reform trends as other countries extend citizenship entitlements for the 2nd generation and dual nationality for all. AT's requirements for family reunion, permanent residence and naturalisation, some of the most restrictive in Europe, do not take into account immigrants' real efforts to participate in society to the best of their individual abilities and their local circumstances. This combination of unrealistic expectations and limited support may be setting many applicants up for failure, with disproportionate effects on vulnerable groups. These obstacles have clear impacts on immigrants' active citizenship and other integration outcomes too. AT emerges as one of the most politically exclusive democracies in the developed world, with large numbers of disenfranchised non-EU citizens and one of the most restrictive naturalisation policies and rates.
Policy Recommendations from Beratungszentrum für Migranten und Migrantinnen
- Open equal access to public sector jobs and trade licenses for non-EU citizens
- Increase work placements, bridging courses and effective diversity strategies for both high- and low-educated
- Increase the family reunion rate based on impact evaluation of the high income requirement, 21-year age limit and a review of the best ways to support learning German after reunification in AT
- Allow dual nationality for all citizens
- Guarantee AT citizenship for all 2nd generation at or after birth
- Increase uptake of naturalisation and permanent residence based on impact evaluation of the income and language requirements
POLICIES - SUMMARY
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POLICIES - DETAILS
Labour Market Mobility
Lower employment rates and 'brain waste' for high-educated in AT; New targeted support go in the right direction, but may be too new and small to reach the many non-EU citizen men and women in need, who rarely access any AT training, degrees or public sector jobs
How many immigrants could be employed?
Around 1/3 of working-age non-EU citizens are not in employment, education or training in AT, as is common across the EU. Levels are relatively high for the low-educated and for women, even for high-educated women in AT. Non-EU citizens were just as likely to not be in employment, education or training in DE (though slightly more common among the low-educated there) and much more likely to be in jobs or training in the Nordics, NL and CH.
Do immigrants have equal rights and opportunities to access jobs and improve their skills?
Immigrants continue to benefit from new targeted employment services, as AT adopts similar policies to other Western European countries. Over the past decade, AT's MIPEX score has more than doubled, as the public employment service (AMS), Integration Fund (OIF) and 2010 Integration Plan created many new programmes to improve the position of low- and high-skilled immigrants, inspired by ad hoc projects in certain AT states and other reforming countries (DE, PT, Nordics). In 2011, most family migrants were granted full access to the labour market in AT, as in most countries. Amendments (25/2011 and 72/2013) also created 'Red - White - Red' card for highly-skilled workers and the EU Blue Card and Single Permit. Today, Austria's policies provide slightly favourable rights and opportunities for labour market integration. However, AT only ranks 16th on labour market mobility policies, behind DE and Nordics, because the procedures are more complex in AT to recognise their skills & foreign diplomas and their access is more limited to public sector jobs, self-employment and study grants. As a result, the full potential of non-EU workers may be wasted, with many lacking AT professional degrees or qualified jobs.
Dimension 1: Access to labour market
- Some non-EU workers may be tied to one employer and sector, and must pass labour market tests (see instead FI, IT/ES/PT)
- Since 2011, labour market integration for family migrants now begins from their 1st day in the country, as in 23 other countries
- Non-EU citizens cannot equally access jobs in the public sector, unlike in 15 MIPEX countries (see Nordics, NL, UK)
- Access to trade licenses is a potential obstacle for non-EU entrepreneurs, unlike in most countries
Dimension 2: Access to general support
- Better access to training, study grants and the recognition of skills and qualifications is provided in most countries compared to AT, whose policies are only halfway favourable to help immigrants find qualified jobs
- As of 2014, all non-EU citizens in AT do not have the right to a procedure recognising their foreign diplomas or professional skills (see 2012 Act in DE, also NL, SE, UK)
- All non-EU migrant workers do not have the same opportunities for education, training or study grants as Austrian/EU citizens do (see instead NO, SE)
Dimension 3: Targeted support
- AT one of most active in Europe in developing new targeted support. Mentoring for Immigrants with AMS & business since 2008 (see also Nordics, BE, DE, PT)
- Since 2010 Integration Plan, migrant youth and women identified as priority for labour market integration since 2010 Integration Plan
- Public services must also be better trained and more diverse (e.g. Vienna's WAFF obligatory diversity training)
- AMS offers job-specific language courses and limited bridging courses since 2011 and identified migrants as particular target group in 2012 (see bridging & work placement schemes in Nordics, DE, AU/CA,NZ)
- Better information on recognition of academic diplomas since 2012 (see box)
- Welcome Desks opened by 2014 in Vienna, Graz, Linz, Salzburg and Innsbruck (see also DE, JP/KR, NO, PT)
Dimension 4: Workers' rights
- Non-EU citizens generally enjoy the same social safety net as Austrian/EU citizens, except for social assistance and housing limited to only long-term residents
- Trade unions are open to all workers and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry is open to entrepreneurs based on bilateral agreements (AL, AR, CL, MK, ME, RS, CH, TU)
Austria has started to follow European trends on facilitating the recognition of foreign qualifications. The 52/2012 Amendment of the Federal law on Universities shortened the procedure for recognition of academic diplomas from 6-to-3m and reorganised the one-stop-shop and qualification recognition through NARIC, followed by a new information website (www.berufsanerkennung.at), campaign and network of regional competence and advisory centres (www.anlaufstelle-anerkennung.at). But the procedure is based on bileteral agreements and carried out by universities and the Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy.
Are immigrants acquiring new skills?
Working-age non-EU citizens in AT are unlikely to enroll in education & training (only 12%) or acquire a degree in AT, especially when compared to leading Northern European countries (e.g. NL, Nordics). Uptake of education and training was only slightly higher among the high-educated and women, as in most Western European countries. At least most unemployed non-EU citizens in AT could at least count on their unemployment benefits to help them in their search for a new job. This level was similar to CH and could be explained by AT's long-settled non-EU population that meets the general criteria for unemployment support.
What other factors explain whether immigrants find skilled and well-paid jobs?
High employment rate as in other Northern European countries. Slightly less flexible employment legislation than other developed countries (e.g. DK, NL, SE, CH). Many long-settled immigrants with time to adjust to labour market, but very few newcomers coming with temporary work or study permits. Few German native-speakers among non-EU immigrants
Are immigrants employed in qualified and well-paid jobs?
Long-settled non-EU immigrants with low levels of education have similar employment rates to low-educated Austrians, although they are more often exposed to in-work poverty. This holds for low-educated men and, to large extent, women in AT, as in many other European countries. The gap in employment rates emerges for high-educated women from non-EU countries, which is a similar problem in DE, CH & other Northern European countries. The high-educated, especially women, are also more likely to end up in jobs below their qualifications, leading to 'brain waste'. These outcomes could be related to immigrants' major under-representation in public sector jobs in AT, as in other Northern countries. So far, AT's new targeted support programmes have not yet proven themselves effective as they have not been submitted to robust evaluation (see explanation why in Bilgili 2015 & good examples in DE & Nordics).
One of Europe's most restrictive family reunion policies forces is a major factor keeping apart AT's small number of transnational families
How many immigrants are potentially living in transnational couples?
Transnational couples are one of the main potential beneficiaries for family reunion. According to 2011/2 estimates, around 5% of non-EU citizen adults in AT were not living with their spouse or partner and could be potential sponsors for family reunion. These small numbers varied little country-by-country across Europe.
How easily can immigrants reunite with family?
Austria's family reunion policy still ranks as one of the most restrictive (31st), alongside countries like FR, CH, DK. Non-EU immigrants rarely face such restrictive conditions as in AT, including age limits for spouses since 2009 and pre-entry language tests since 2011 (unless their sponsor is a highly-skilled worker). Transnational families are expected to live up to standards that many national families could not, all without enough support to succeed or exemptions for vulnerable groups.
Dimension 1: Eligibility
- Several types of temporary residents are unable to sponsor their families (unlike in nearly half of MIPEX countries)
- Same-sex registered partners in AT or spouses married abroad are treated the same as opposite-sex spouses for family reunion since 2010 (as in 26 countries)
- But not all adult couples are treated as adults since 2009 amendment requires couples to be 21 to apply to live together (only 7 other countries with such high age limits, recently overturned in BE & UK); 3-year-wait intended to fight arranged and forced marriages, but affects all and delays their integration
- Minor children fully allowed since 2005 (before <15 years), but adult children and parents still excluded (unlike in 25 countries)
Dimension 2: Conditions
- 2011 pre-entry German test courses expensive or inaccessible
- AT & only 7 others with pre-entry language tests for families are mostly unsuccessful at promoting language learning abroad, as courses are often expensive or inaccessible
- Measures in AT would better help families learn German through guaranteed free courses (see BE, DE, IT, Nordics)
- Since 2006, higher income & housing requirements than majority of other countries, though slightly more flexible since 'Chakroun' case (see below)
Dimension 3: Security of status
- Most long and discretionary procedure in Western Europe, alongside DK and IE
- State-administered quotas create excessive waits (only such case in EU)
- Several grounds for rejection and withdrawal 2010
- Administrative court decision requires that authorities look at every individual's case and take into account their specific private and family life, following the 2010 European Court of Justice's 'Chakroun' case.
Dimension 4: Rights associated
- Reunited families enjoy equal social rights and, since 2011, access to labour market
- Their path to autonomous residence is long and complicated in AT, except for certain vulnerable groups (e.g. widowhood, violence and, under certain conditions, divorce)
Are families reuniting?
Just 5916 family members reunited with non-EU sponsors in AT in 2013. Since the introduction of the pre-entry test in 2011, the numbers dropped by 20% from around 7000-8000 between 2008-2011 to under 6000 in 2012 and 2013. AT is an important country of family migration, but not one of the largest in the EU, as more families are welcomed in new countries of immigration such as ES and IT. Newcomer families are very diverse, coming from all over the globe, though large numbers do come from AT's major country of origin, such as RS and TU. Women/girls slightly outnumber among newcomer families. Usually only the nuclear family are able to reunite, with hardly any elderly people (65+) able to join a non-EU sponsor in AT.
What other factors explain whether immigrants reunite with family?
Half are permanent residents eligible to reunite. Sizeable share of humanitarian migrants likely to stay and need family reunion. Those from developed/neighbouring countries potentially less likely to reunite
How often do immigrants reunite with family?
For years, non-EU families have been less likely to reunite in AT than in most other European countries. AT has one of the lowest non-EU family reunion rates in Western Europe, alongside DE and with only IE far below. On average, only 1 family member arrives every year for every 100 non-EU residents in AT. These low rates apply for most major non-EU nationalities. Austria's restrictive policies are perhaps the major factor keeping these families apart, as family reunion is much more common in countries with inclusive policies and less common in countries such as AT, CY, DE, GR, IE, MT. While a family's choice to reunite is also driven by other individual and contextual factors, making policies more restrictive, selective or discretionary can significantly delay or deter both family's reunion and integration, with disproportionate effects on the most vulnerable groups.
AT's new targeted education policies may not be enough to reach the growing number of immigrant pupils and boost their academic attainment
How many pupils have immigrant parents?
An estimated 5.5% of 15-year-olds were foreign-born and another 10.8% were second-generation born in AT, according to the 2012 OECD PISA study. Pupils with immigrant background now even make up half of the primary school pupils in Vienna. These numbers are similar to other Western European countries and major cities.
Is the education system responsive to the needs of the children of immigrants?
As in DE & CH, AT provinces have been slow to adopt strong targeted policies to respond to their relatively large number of 1st and 2nd generation pupils. Instead, immigrant pupils face as many opportunities and obstacles in the education system in AT, as in the average Western European country. AT states and schools retain wide discretion about whether or how to train teachers, teach mother tongues and cultures and implement intercultural education. The realities faced in diverse classrooms are better addressed in Nordic countries with an individualised needs-based approach and in traditional countries of immigration through high academic standards and greater acceptance of diversity. Since 2011, the leading 'Together Austria' campaign is now showing pupils and the public how to live and learn together in a diverse society. In addition to plans for general education reform, schools and teachers could be better required and supported to provide an intercultural education and to address the specific needs and opportunities brought by immigration.
Dimension 1: Access
- All migrant children benefit from compulsory education and general measures for disadvantaged pupils
- 2013 decree opened apprenticeships to asylum-seekers under age 25 under certain conditions
- Children arriving as undocumented can only access compulsory education
- Experts could play greater role to help schools assess the needs of newcomer children (see model in FR, LU)
- AT states adopt new language and support schemes to help immigrant pupils access kindergarten, vocational and university education (see also Nordics & traditional countries immigration)
Dimension 2: Targeting needs
- Targeted support focuses on all pupils with limited German (e.g. extra funding and quality German courses), but weaker than in most Western European countries
- Common high standards not set for curriculum and teachers of German-as-a-2nd-language
- All teachers not required to be trained (in- or pre-service) to work in a multilingual diverse classroom, while schools receive additional financial but often not professional support to implement these programmes (see Nordics, traditional countries of immigration, QUIMS in Zurich).
Dimension 3: New opportunities
- Weakness in AT and most Western European countries, as schools and states retain wide discretion on teaching mother tongues/cultures and reaching out to immigrant teachers/parents
- Wide range of mother tongues/cultures can be taught in various ways, including to interested non-immigrant pupils
- No specific solutions to remedy 'white flight' from immigrant schools
- School partnerships and parents' associations missing outreach policies to immigrant parents & many existing community initiatives
- Campaign discussed but not implemented to reach out to encourage immigrants to study & qualify as new teachers (see bridging courses/networks in AU/CA/NZ, DE, Nordics)
Dimension 4: Intercultural education
- Without a stand-alone subject on intercultural education, schools can decide how to incorporate it into the curriculum and school's daily life (see instead BE, CA, NL, SE, UK)
- Schools could benefit from closer monitoring, more guidance and better trained teachers
- Since 2011, Together Austria campaign (www.zusammen-oesterreich.at) has support initiatives and 300 integration ambassadors to present successful integration stories at schools and recreational/social organisations
Are pupils with limited literacy getting remedial courses?
Many pupils may be taking these extra German and mother tongue courses, but one comparable indicator from the OECD PISA study raises questions about the scale of these new initiatives in AT. Most 15-year-olds with limited German literacy in AT were not enrolled in extra out-of-school literacy courses, according to the 2012 PISA data. Enrollment stood at around 18% for 2nd generation and non-immigrant pupils with limited German literacy, rising to around 1/3 for the 1st generation, which is the second lowest enrolment rate among OECD countries, on par with ES and above only SI. For comparison, enrolment rates in DE and CH stood at around 30% for non-immigrants with limited literacy skills and around 50% for first generation pupils with the same problems.
What other factors explain whether the children of immigrants excel at school?
- >60% of immigrant pupils with low-educated mothers are concentrated in disadvantaged schools
- Only 1/4 speak German at home (compared to 58% in DE)
- Few foreign-born pupils arrive after age 12
- High share of GDP spent on education
- Student-teacher ratios favourably low in AT
How well are the children of immigrants achieving at school?
All pupils with low-educated mothers are more likely to become low math-achievers in AT than in most other Western European countries. Low math achievers make up around 30% of non-immigrant pupils with low-educated mothers (14% in CH, 16% in NL, 18% in DE) and 47-49% of the 1st & 2nd generation (lower in DE for 1st generation and in NL & CH for both). Given the high numbers for all pupils, the gap between immigrant and non-immigrant pupils is not so large but also not progressing from one generation to the next. Large gaps remain in AT, as in DE, CH and several Western European countries. AT's new targeted education policies may be too new, too weak, too late or too general for most migrant pupils to benefit from them all across the country and education system. Moreover, the structures and inequalities within the AT education system may have a greater impact on the outcomes of migrant and other disadvantaged pupils.
Regional best practices have not yet come together into a coherent migrant health policy
Is the health system responsive to immigrants' needs?
Austria’s recent progress on integration policy is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the health sector. Vienna and Salzburg, two cities with large immigrant populations, score higher than most MIPEX countries on all dimensions. As in most ‘Bismarckian’ (insurance-based) health systems, the Federal government makes recommendations rather than imposing obligations. This flexibility may have allowed Vienna and Salzburg to excel, but all regions have not yet followed their example.
Dimension 1: Entitlements
- Legal migrants, asylum-seekers and undocumented migrants have similar basic entitlements to healthcare in Austria as in most Western European countries
- Legal migrants are treated the same as Austrian citizens under the conditions of the insurance-based healthcare system
- Asylum-seekers are guaranteed equal entitlements provided they remain within their designated area of residence
- Undocumented migrants are only granted coverage for emergency care, TB treatments and pre/peri-natal care (known as 'anonymous delivery') and face problems with documentation and clinical discretion (see for better entitlements CH, IT, SE, LU, NL, CY and FR.).
Dimension 2: Access policies
- Healthcare services are rather accessible for migrants in the selected Austrian states (see also BE, FR, IT, NZ, CH and several Nordic countries)
- Legal migrants and asylum-seekers can obtain information on health issues in several languages through websites, brochures, campaigns and individual services, although intercultural mediators are still rare (e.g. cultural transfer and Translation by TU native speakers in Vienna)
Dimension 3: Responsive services
- Services are also rather responsive to migrants’ health needs, as part of local integration strategies in these areas
- Healthcare and interpretation services take part in local ' fairversities' and 'diversity-sensitivity' standards, which makes their staff more trained, multilingual, diverse and open to feedback from migrant patients and their specific health needs (see well-established examples from English-speaking countries)
Dimension 4: Mechanisms for change
- Health policies in these areas are slightly more responsive than on average, although these basic measures rely on a few ad hoc programmes and organisations
- The design and implementation of new migrant health services have emerged on an ad hoc basis from specific programmes (e.g. women's health) and leading specialists (e.g. in Vienna, 'migrant-friendly hospital' Kaiser-Franz-Josef and the Ambulance for Trans-Cultural Psychiatry at the General Hospital/Medical University)
- A more structured approach to developing good migrant health poilicies tends to be found in tax-based health systems, rather than insurance-based ones such as in Austria.
Non-EU immigrants more likely to be disenfranchised and politically disengaged in AT, one of the most politically exclusive democracies in Europe
Who are disenfranchised from voting?
An estimated 450000 non-EU adults (aged 15+) are disenfranchised in AT, according to 2014 data. 6.4% of the adult population in AT is disenfranchised, a larger proportion than in other EU countries, on par with only CY. Vienna's Integration and Diversity Monitor records that, in 2014, 353756 of its voting-age foreign residents were excluded from the right to vote. That's 24% of the Viennese population, reaching around 30% in 7 of its 23 districts.
Do immigrants have comparable rights and opportunities to participate in political life?
Newcomers in most immigration countries in Europe can better contribute to democratic life than in AT. The country is rather unlikely to boost immigrants' political participation with no voting rights, a few local consultative bodies and weak support for immigrant organisations. Nothing has really changed since 2007, as immigrants' political participation is not a priority for AT politicians, who prefer using expert advice over democratic participation to develop their new integration policies in other areas, such as employment, education and health. Changing this approach will require greater leadership from the responsible ministries, local/regional authorities and/or immigrant communities (see such attempts in DK, FR, DE, IE, LU, US).
Dimension 1: Electoral rights
- Constitutional changes are need to enfranchise non-EU citizens at the local level (as in DE, IT, ES, PT)
- Supporters still put forward proposals for reform, with a draft October 2014 bill to grant passive voting rights for non-EU students to the National Student Union
- Local voting rights have been extended in the majority of MIPEX countries (21), including AU, NZ, KR, Nordics, Benelux, several CH cantons and even a few Central European countries (e.g. HU, SI, SK)
Dimension 2: Political liberties
- Non-EU citizens do enjoy the same basic political liberties as national citizens in AT and elsewhere except in TU and 11 Central European countries
Dimension 3: Consultative bodies
- Foreign residents have traditionally been encouraged to participate politically through strong local Foreigners' Advisory Boards (e.g. in Graz & Linz)
- Immigrant-led consultative body missing at national level (see DE, DK, ES, PT, CH) and in Vienna (to replace Viennese Integration Conference)
Dimension 4: Implementation policies
- Only ad hoc funding for immigrant-run organisations in some regions & cities, but not at national level (a weakness in the National Action Plan)
- No information campaigns on immigrants' political participation. More funding and information in AU/CA/NZ, DE, IE, Nordics, PT
How many non-EU immigrants are eligible to vote?
With no voting rights and comparative low naturalisation rates for non-EU citizens, AT emerges as one of the most politically exclusive countries of immigration, alongside countries such as DE, IT, CH and Southeast Europe.
What other factors explain whether immigrants become politically active?
- Many from highly developed countries
- Generally high levels of civic engagement
- Most long-settled
- Sizeable number of humanitarian migrants likely to become politically active over long-term
Are immigrants participating in political life?
Long-settled non-EU-born adults seem half as likely to participate politically in AT, which is one of the widest gaps in Europe (similar to EE & DE). Data collected over the 2000s suggests that 37% of long-settled residents (10+ years' stay) take part in a political party, association, petition, demonstration or contacting a politician, compared to 43% for non-immigrants. This gap remains even when comparing only high-educated immigrants and non-immigrants. The gap between low-educated immigrants and non-immigrants in AT is also one of the widest in Europe.
Some of the most restrictive requirements in Western Europe likely keep many long-settled residents from applying. Permanent residence provides better opportunities for integration, but a more insecure status and restrictive path to citizenship than in most countries
Who can become long-term residents?
Most non-EU men and women (87.5%) have lived in AT the 5+ years required to become permanent residents, according to 2011/2 estimates. This level is even higher than in most European countries, where an estimated 75% may be eligible.
How easily can immigrants become long-term residents?
Due to EU law, non-EU immigrants in AT can obtain the security of permanent residence and equal socio-economic rights as Austrian citizens. However, the path to permanent residence is more complicated than in most Western European countries (similar to NL, above CH, UK, IE, FR) and ranking 22nd out of all 38 MIPEX countries. Their access was further restricted in 2011 as applicants are now expected to reach an even higher level of German and have to prove a higher income.
Dimension 1: Eligibility
- 5 years' flexible residence required in AT as required by EU law
- A clearer path for beneficiaries of international protection since 68/2013 law and inclusion of 50% of time as a student since 2009
- Still, several types of temporary residents and workers are kept ineligible (more categories than in most MIPEX countries)
Dimension 2: Conditions
- Those eligible face some of the most restrictive conditions to become permanent residents
- Restrictive income requirement (as in only 13 other MIPEX countries) & integration course required (as in only 15)
- Since 2011, AT is one of only 6 countries demanding high-level B1 fluency, which is unrealistic to expect of all applicants learning German, especially without enough guaranteed free/low-cost courses (see instead DK, DE, IT, PT)
Dimension 3: Security of status
- Permanent residents are more insecure about their future in AT than in other established immigration countries (e.g. BE, FR, DE, NL, SE)
- Renewal required every 5 years (none required in 27 other countries)
- Applicants be rejected on several other grounds and the status withdrawn with limited protections and options for judicial review
Dimension 4: Rights Associated
- Permanent residents can work, study and live in AT as in most countries, with the same rights as citizens in most areas, except for democratic life.
How many immigrants are long-term residents?
In 2013, AT was home to 278,779 permanent residents, a comparative large number for its size in Europe. 70% (or 196,549) were EU long-term residents, which gives non-EU citizens some rights to move and reside in other EU countries. The other 30% (82,230) held an AT national permanent residence permit.
What other factors explain whether immigrants become long-term residents?
- Mostly long-settled in AT and relatively few temporary residents
- Mostly humanitarian or family migrants likely to stay
- Main option to secure residence for long-settled residents and 2nd generation given AT's restrictive naturalisation policies
How often do immigrants become long-term residents?
Even though an estimated 87.5% of non-EU citizens have lived in AT the required 5+ years, only 48% were permanent residents by 2013. A large number of the permanent residents in AT likely acquired their status long ago, before the new restrictions. Most nationalities are represented among the permanent resident population. The share of permanent residents in AT is similar to DE (52%) and the EU average (45%) but lower than other similar countries with long-settled immigrant populations (e.g. FR, SE, CH, UK). The number of permanent residents strongly reflects countries' path to permanent residence. Many long-settled residents do not receive all the support they need to pass the requirements. And without the security and rights of permanent residence, they do not have the same opportunities to invest in their labour market integration, local skills and settlement. Moreover, longstanding destinations that restrict residence and naturalisation, such as AT & CH, eventually end up with high numbers of permanently resident foreigners, including their children born in the country.
Access to Nationality
Most restrictive citizenship policies lead to lowest naturalisation rates in Western Europe
Who can become a citizen?
In Europe, Austria has one of the highest shares of non-EU citizens eligible to naturalise. An estimated two out of every three meet the residence requirement. A comparatively high share (around 20%) are second generation who are not yet Austrian citizens.
How easily can immigrants become long-term residents?
The path to citizenship in Austria is one of the longest and most burdensome, discretionary and expensive. Austria's policies are the most restrictive in Western Europe, alongside only HU, SK, BG and the Baltics. While immigrants are increasingly benefiting from liberalisations across Europe, most changes in Austria over the past decade have further restricted naturalisation and improvements have been minor.
Dimension 1: Eligibility
- Immigrants' eligibility for Austrian citizenship is unfavourable
- They face one of the longest residence requirements (10 years), unless they are exceptionally well-integrated (6 years, see box)
- Their Austrian-born children and even grandchildren do not have an entitlement to citizenship, unlike in the majority of MIPEX countries (e.g. DE, most recently CZ and DK)
Dimension 2: Conditions
- The conditions for becoming Austrian are the most restrictive in Europe, alongside only CH, SK and RO
- The requirements for language, good character, income and costs are among the most difficult in Europe
- Immigrants must pass a citizenship test since 2006 and prove B1-level German since passage of the 38/2011 law, all without guaranteed access to sufficient state-funded German and citizenship courses (see instead DE and Nordics)
- The overall costs and fees can climb to over 1000€, making the procedure the most expensive of all MIPEX countries besides CH
Dimension 3: Security of status
- Citizenship entitlements are stronger in most other Northwestern European countries, including DE
- Grounds for withdrawing citizenship from naturalised Austrians are wider and the protections weaker than in most European countries
Dimension 4: Dual nationality
- The renunciation requirement acts as a major deterrent lowering naturalisation rates
- Austria is one of the last MIPEX countries resisting the trend towards full acceptance of dual nationality (see recent reforms CZ, DK, PL)
- Dual nationality is facilitated for the second generation in DE since 2014 and accepted for all naturalising immigrants in Austria's other neighbouring countries.
The Nationality Law 188/2013 made minor improvements to the ordinary procedure and introduced a shorter procedure for the exceptionally well-integrated. Normal applicants cannot have used social benefits for at least 36 months in the past 6 years (lowered from 3 years in 2013). Exemptions will also be made for applicants with permanent serious health problems. Exceptionally, immigrants can apply after 6 years if they can prove B2-level fluency or 3 years of active volunteering, two requirements that are not required by any other MIPEX country. For comparison, the most common residence requirement for naturalisation across countries is 5 years and the average is 7.
How many immigrants are becoming citizens?
Over the past decade, the number of naturalisations has plummeted from around 40000 in 2003/4 to between 6000-8000 since 2009. For example, according to the latest comparable data, only 6277 non-EU citizens naturalised in 2012.
What other factors explain why non-EU immigrants become citizens?
- Most long-settled and growing 2nd generation
- Most from low-to-medium developed countries
- Many family or humanitarian migrants likely to settle permanently
How often do immigrants become citizens?
Austria’s citizenship policies are the major factor deterring immigrants from becoming citizens. Non-EU immigrant men and women are much less likely to naturalise in countries with restrictive policies, such as Austria, CH and the Baltic states. Overall, only 40% of non-EU-born adults in Austria have naturalised, one of lowest levels in Northwestern Europe. In 2012, Austria had the lowest naturalisation rate for non-EU citizens in Western Europe: 1.1 naturalisations for every 100 non-EU citizens, compared to 2.0 in DE and 3.4 in the EU on average. The naturalisation rates are also slightly below-average in Austria for non-EU citizens over 65 and from certain countries than in other European countries.
People in AT have the poorest knowledge of their rights as victims of discrimination and some of the weakest mechanisms to enforce the law
Who said they experienced racial/ethnic or religious discrimination last year?
According to 2012 Eurobarometer, around 6% of people in AT felt they had been discriminated against or harassed in the previous year based on their race/ethnic origin (4.3%) and/or religion/beliefs (3.4%). This number of potential victims of racial/religious discrimination in AT was similar to other European countries (e.g. FR, HU, IT, RO, UK).
Is everyone effectively protected from racial/ethnic, religious, and nationality discrimination in all areas of life?
Due to EU law, AT created an Equal Treatment Act, Commission and Office (66/2004, amended by 107/2013) and made significant progress on anti-discrimination law, rising +19 MIPEX points from 2007-2014. Still the choices made by AT lawmakers led to weaker laws and policies than in most countries (ranked only 23 out of 38). All residents, regardless of their background, are more exposed to discrimination than in most countries because of AT's weaker legal definitions, enforcement mechanisms and bodies.
Dimension 1: Definitions
- Wide range of actors cannot discriminate against a person on the grounds of race, ethnicity or religion, as in most countries
- Specific protections against multiple discrimination since 2008
- Foreign residents have weak protections against discrimination based on their nationality (unlike in 16 other MIPEX countries, e.g. BE, FI, FR, DE, SE)
- Weak protections against racial profiling by police (see instead e.g. FR, IE, UK, US, recently DE)
Dimension 2: Fields of application
- Over the past decade, discrimination in AT has been prohibited in most areas of life on the grounds of race/ethnicity, religion/belief and, to a limited extent, nationality
- 7/2011 Law strengthens prohibition of religious discrimination in access to goods & services & discrimination by association AT takes a 'horizontal' approach in all areas of life, though nationality protections remain weaker than in most countries ('minimum' approach in AT and 9 other countries)
Dimension 3: Enforcement mechanisms
- Potential victims have fewer options to enforce their rights in AT compared to most other countries
- 2013 Amendment clarifies definition of burden of proof, suggested by European Commission
- Judges apply weaker sanctions than in most countries and equality NGOs can do very little compared to their role in around half the MIPEX countries
- No options for class actions or actio popularis for victims of racial/ethnic or religious discrimination, unlike in 21 other countries
Dimension 4: Equality policies
- Equality bodies only halfway favourable for helping victims, with weak quasi-judicial powers and no legal standing to start proceedings on victims' behalf (see instead BE, FI, FR IE, NL, NO, SE)
- 107/2013 makes minor changes to equality bodies
- National and local governments are making commitments on equality & diversity (see equality duties & positive actions in FI, FR, NO, SE, UK)
- Government departments could take greater role to inform potential victims of their rights, also with social partners & NGOs (e.g. 2012 Salzburg centres)
How many racial/ethnic and religious discrimination complaints were made to equality bodies?
In 2013, the AT Ombud for Equal Treatment handled 415 requests & advice on racial/ethnic discrimination and 88 on religious discrimination. These partial numbers seem rather small in international comparison.
What other factors explain whether potential victims report discrimination cases
- Austrians least likely in Europe to know their rights as victims of discrimination (only 21% reported they did in 2012)
- Relatively high general trust in police and justice system
- Few newcomers who are less likely to report
- Most not naturalised and thus less likely to report
How many complaints were made last year for every person who said they experienced racial/ethnic and religious discrimination?
Whether potential victims can access justice is unknown because no one counts and reports the number of discrimination cases brought to justice. Across Europe, few complaints are made compared to the large number of people reportly experiencing incidents of racial/ethnic or religious discrimination. Most countries have not even taken the first steps to properly enforce and resource their anti-discrimination laws in order to guarantee the same access to justice for potential discrimination victims as they do for victims of other crimes and illegal acts.
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