By Uglobal Staff
Famous for its musical composers like Haydn and Mozart, its architecture and Alpine ski resorts, Austria is a country with many attributes situated in the heart of Europe. For investors, the country is ranked among the top residence and citizenship-by-investment programs in the world. And since the UK voted to leave the EU, Austria has seen a 50 percent increase in passport enquiries.
“Investors choose Austria because it is a very stable and wealthy member of the European Union,” said Jörg Winkler, attorney at law, for Vienna-based Hasberger Seitz & Partner Rechtsanwälte GmbH. “Jurisdiction is reliable. No corruption. Taxes are average and there are very attractive double tax treaties with other states.”
Austria, a nation of 8 million, is the fourth richest country in the European Union and ranks 19th out of 190 countries in the World Bank's 2017 Doing Business ranking.
Austria is ranked in third place among citizenship-by-investment programs worldwide, according to Henley & Partners 3rd edition of the Global Residence and Citizenship Programs. The citizenship programs were evaluated according to 10 indicators ranging from quality of life to physical visit requirements. When it comes to residence-by-investment programs, Austria was ranked in second place in H&P’s Global Residence Program Index.
Austria offers residency in the EU with few requirements. These include having sufficient funds, a recognized university degree or German language proficiency at A1 level, accommodation in Austria and full coverage health insurance. An Austrian residence permit allows holders to travel to all Schengen states without a visa. After a minimum of six years of residence, one can apply for citizenship and application processing time takes between 24-36 months.
“In Austria, immigration law with regard to a right to stay and reside is rather clear and structured compared to other jurisdictions, “Winkler said. “In simple words: If you are either young and well qualified or you invest a certain amount of money, you are welcome.”
When it comes to citizenship, section 10 (6) of the Austrian Citizenship Act dictates that the government can give foreigners citizenship in cases of extraordinary merit, which can include investment in Austria. But the foreign investor must make an extraordinary contribution with their investment and it must be significant. Real estate investments or investments into government bonds, for example, do not meet requirements.
“The Austrian Citizenship Act however doesn’t say precisely, in what field of activity these extraordinary merits have to be achieved,” said attorney Balazs Esztegar of Vienna-based Esztegar Law Office. “Typically, sports, art or science can be fitting, but also economic achievements can be taken into consideration, such as big investments or other economic benefit brought to Austria.”
Esztegar says a “golden investment” itself will not be sufficient and that the applicant will need to provide proof of their extraordinary contribution to the Austrian society alongside their investment, such as creating a substantial number of new jobs, for example in a rural area, or transferring know-how or new technologies to Austria.
“Sportsman, artists and investors receive this kind of citizenship under this constitutional law. These people acquire dual nationality. For investors this possibility is very attractive because it is possible to ’do something special’ with a manageable amount of money,” said Winkler.
In 2016, some 27 people were granted Austrian citizenship according to the Austrian Statistics Institute. Winkler says Austria attracts a good mixture of nationalities investing in a variety of industries.
“I personally work mainly for Eastern European investors and Chinese,” he said. “They like to invest into real estate because yields are stable and attractive.”
The reasons investors choose to invest in Austria include strong economics, a fairly stable political situation and low crime and corruption rate, Esztegar said.
Winkler agreed. For foreign investors, Austria can prove to be a world-class destination, he said.