I’m an Austrian Who Can’t Live in Austria

With a life both in New York and Vienna, Gabriel Foguel wants dual citizenship, but the Austrian government won’t allow it.

I’m an Austrian who can’t live in Austria. I grew up in Vienna’s 23rd district, went to the Kollegium Kalksburg, and feasted on chicken Schnitzel. In the winter, I went to the thermal baths in Baden, in the summer, to my grandma’s lake house on Donau-Oder-Kanal in Lower Austria. I was a normal Austrian living in the country of my birth.

Then during university, I fell in love with an American from Alabama. After many visits back and forth and three years of long distance, we met half way in New York City. Two years later we got married, in the same park as Miranda and Steve in Sex and the City.

Every city has its traditions and its greetings. In Vienna, we say Servas. In New York, we say, “Where are you from?” This question is complicated for me. I am Austrian, born and raised. But I cannot go back.

It’s about family: My wife is the sole sibling to a brother with autism, Daniel. He’s loving and mischievous, but it took him a while to share that with me. It takes a long time for Daniel to feel comfortable with anyone new and devote the time it takes to remember them – for months he didn’t know my name. He called me “coach” – his catch-all name for the anonymous men in his life.

Daniel lives with my in-laws and requires their care 24-hours a day. My wife and I come most weekends to help, and, after many runs upstairs to his room to put on Elf or Bee Movie, and countless trips to 7-Eleven to buy slurpees, I finally became “Gabriel”.

We’ve been married for five years now, and, like most couples who have made it this far without having kids, people often ask about our future and where we want to live. We want kids, and we want them to be Austrian and American. We want them to speak German and English and to experience living in both countries. 

But as things stand, they won’t have that chance. My wife and I are the sole guardians for Daniel should her parents no longer be able to care for him. So if we live in Austria, we would have to be able to move to the US on a moment’s notice. And this is where it gets complicated: If I we’re out of the U.S. for more than six months, I would lose my green card and therefore my permanent residence in the US. But I can’t become a U.S. citizen, because Austria does not allow dual citizenship.

There are exceptions. One is through achievement (“service to the Republic”) – often academics, musicians, artists and sports figures –, another is through large investments, a third is for immigrants whose home countries do not recognize renunciation of citizenship (authorian regimes in Iran and Syria), and a fourth is for extenuating circumstances in private and family life. 

I first read about these exceptions as we began mapping out when we’d live in Austria. I wasn’t a professor; I could never sing at the Staatsoper; and I didn’t have the means to make a large investment. I naively thought the exentuating family clause was made for a case like mine.

But it wasn’t: My application was denied. One official suggested my wife could go back to the US to take care of Daniel without me or, presumably, our children. Another told me Daniel could live in an institution. I was ashamed to tell my wife.

I have never before been disappointed in my country. At dinner parties, I praise our food and culture, our universal healthcare, our lakes, and our mountains. But now I feel betrayed. I’m caught between my country and my family. 

I’m an Austrian who can’t live in Austria.

Gabriel Foguelhttp://www.doppelstaatsbuerger.at
Gabriel Foguel is a co-initiator of the initiative "Dual Citizenship for Austria." He is a Vienna native and lives in New York City with his wife.

Help us help you

“Strong media and independent journalism are built on the shoulders of subscribers. Your support means the world to us.

Benjamin Wolf
COO & Managing Editor

The coronavirus outbreak affects and challenges your life in big and small ways. Metropole is here for you and we are proud to be your news source during this crisis.

But just as the coronavirus has increased the need for independent journalism, it has also undercut a major revenue source of media companies, ours included – advertising.

We need your support to keep it up – donate or subscribe and #helpushelpyou!

Support Metropole!


RECENT Articles

Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna | New Record – 132 People Died in the...

COVID-19 is shaping our daily lives. Here’s all you need to know about current measures, including where to get help, information and tips – updated regularly.

5 Places to Stroll During Lockdown

Walls closing in? These places offer blessed respite and relaxation.

How Vienna Plants to Mass Test the Population for COVID-19

The city plans to test 1.2 million people from December 2-13 with rapid antigen tests. Here’s how it is supposed to work

Fucking, Austria, Wants Now to Be Called Fugging

The Upper Austrian village has had people steal their name sign and Pornhub giving them premium access due to its peculiar name. Now, the city council voted to change it once and for all.

The Wave Is Breaking in Europe But Rising Elsewhere, Amid Good News on Vaccine

Every Sunday, Metropole brings you a COVID-19 update from Prof. Dr. Florian Krammer, an Austrian-born virologist who works and teaches at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City.

How Austria Plans to Roll Out the CoV Vaccine

The first people in Austria may get vaccinated against the coronavirus already at the beginning of 2021. Until then, the logistics and timetable have to be worked out


Join over 5,000 Metropolitans, who already get monthly news updates and event invitations.