A controversial regulation in the Citizenship Act

For those who want to apply for citizenship in Austria have to overcome many obstacles. Even those people who fulfill all criteria are sometimes rejected. A case in Tyrol shows that this could be due to a controversial regulation of the Citizenship Act.

Hesmat Hashemi has been living in Austria for twelve years. He escaped from Afghanistan without his family when he was only twelve years old. The boy found accommodation in Tyrol, went to school and became an electrical engineer.

Hesmat completed German and citizenship tests and could prove a regular income. Despite all of this, his application for him and his two-year-old son was rejected.

The Citizenship Act demands that applicants can prove ten years of “legal and continuous” residence in Austria.

A radio interview made Hesmat’s adventurous escape public in 2004. The former Interior Minister then offered the refugee humanitarian residence permit. Hesmat’s lawyer Paul Delazer explained that the boy then had to withdraw his application for asylum.

He could thus stay in Austria and received his residence permit a few weeks later. Those few weeks were now classified as a gap in Hesmat’s “legal residence”.

Mr Delazer stated that this legal gap does not only concern asylum seekers. If residence permit is extended only one or two days after the deadline, the ten-year period starts from the very beginning.

A spokesman of the Ministry of the Interior said that the Citizenship Act is now being amended. The paragraph about the legal and continuous residence has, however, not been subject of change in the bill, which the Ministry is assessing at the moment.