Yesterday saw T-100 days until the UK Referendum. For many in the UK, the issue has been getting saturation coverage since the Prime Minister announced the date of the referendum, only just over 3 weeks ago. With the Presidential Election in the US still rumbling on and with nearly another 8 months until the vote there, even the prospect of a referendum a mere three months away seems to be too much for some citizens in the UK. In Austria we have the Presidential election coming up too, however despite not being able to vote in either the referendum in the country of my birth and upbringing, and the country whose citizenship I hold, the whole UK Referendum still captivates me more than the position of President of Austria – a widely ceremonial position.
As I registered the birth of my son with the Bezirksamt last Wednesday, the issue of citizenship was a big and important one – he has British citizenship by descent, meaning that while he is entitled to British citizenship, his children are not automatically. Maybe in 30-40 years he might also have children, who theoretically could be citizenship-less. My son may also hold a non-EU citizenship through his mother, but of course that is less attractive that his British citizenship in terms of his freedom of movement (without the thought of military service – I do not oppose it in some shape and form but the thought of my son conscripted and seeing active service makes me very uneasy).
I will soon be applying for a British passport for him (Austria does not convey citizenship purely by virtue of someone being born here) – and provided that the entire of the UK doesn’t do so at the same time, am confident that the passport with be despatched prior to the Referendum date and with “European Union” on the passport. Interestingly, under Austrian law, I have the right to permanent residence, having arrived in Austria and been here since 2000, but in the case of my son, he will have to go through the (hopefully mere) formality of extending his residence, by dint of the fact that he did not settle here before 1 January 2006.
Many expats don’t bother with the MA35 extension – and for many it makes little to no difference, given that they are only here short-term and for a specific job. However, others have had issues with claiming benefits due to not having done this necessary step when they have been between jobs, and it has come back to haunt them in the event that they do not have an uninterrupted record of insurance contributions. While my son is more concerned with the timing of his next feed at the moment, unless he naturalises (there being no option to hold a double citizenship into adulthood) he might also grow up as electorally disadvantaged as his father.