All about Marriage without Borders


  • The Initiative Marriage without Borders
  • Activities of the Initiative Marriage without Borders
  • Why Marriage without Borders?
    • Challenges and discrimination before the family reunification
    • Challenges and discrimination after the family reunification
  • Claims of the Initiative Marriage without Borders

In short: What is the status quo?
Marriage without Borders was established in response to the Alien Rights Bill of 2006 („Fremdenrechtspaket“). The Alien Rights Bill has massively infringed upon the quality of life of bi-national couples. Since the enactment marriage no longer warrants the right to residence or the right to a joint family life. Furthermore marriage no longer provides access to the job market. At the same time bi-national couples are confronted with a range of stereotypes and prejudices.

In short: Hisotry of Marriage without Borders

  • started with regular meetings of affected couples
  • à self empowerment
  • weekly demonstrations in front of the ministry of interior for almost 2 years
  • activities to change the law, show the government their mistake
  • 12 years later: We are still trying to change the laws, or at least help and support binational couples and families, raise awareness

Activites and the initiative Marriage without Borders
The initiative Marriage without Borders is fighting against regulations which inhibit a joint family life. The initiative’s main objective is equal rights for bi-national couples – married or living in a joint household.

Our initiative offers more than consulting service. We also consider ourselves as an exchange platform for bi-national families and partnerships and an initiative to raise awareness about the situation of binational families in Austria. People from all ways of life are making visible to the general public that their desire and capability to live in Austria as an integral part of Austrian society is very real.

Most of the members of the initiative Marriage without Borders are themselves affected by the complex Alien Rights Bill and therefore have become experts in the area and as well are establishing a set of ‘best practice’ strategies in dealing with the discrimination on behalf of authorities.

The initiative initiates and develops events and information for the general public. These activities have a two-fold goal: voicing demands and addressing stereotypes and prejudice. The aim is to allow for the public to witness that bi-national relationships are no exotic deviation but rather very ordinary partnerships.

The initiative offers counselling service for binational families
(by telephone, E-Mail, in personal consultations and flexible timewise in the form of “open counselling afternoons” once a month)

Our counselling work in numbers:
In 2018: 1080 e-mails
In 2017: 110 telephone calls
In 2018: 281 personal counselling interviews

EOG provides information for the public, for stakeholders and for related organizations, and carries out various public relations and activist work.

Political engagement: We write and distribute political statements and press releases. For example topics in 2018 were: The inhuman changes in the needs-oriented guaranteed minimum resources, changes in the Alien Rights Bill, solidarity in Austria, the budget cuts for family and women’s organizations, various contributions under the slogan >>human rights first: human rights before aliens law and children’s rights and the right of children to live with both parents etc.

Activist Work: We organize and attend demonstrations. For example: Loving day celebration, we are a member of the platform for human asylum policy, signatories of the solidarity pact, etc.

Project work: For example: The Background Report, Family “Borderless” – a photo series, portraits of binational couples etc.

Various events to present the initiative and its claims: Infotables, Loving Day Celebration, Press conferences, being part of demonstrations etc.

Articles and interviews for magazines

Almost all the work of the initiative is voluntary work: 8 people work regularly for the initiative and are supported by one part time employed person and other supporters who help with translation work, advice or donations.

Right from the start Marriage without Borders established alliances and started networking with various NGOs and human rights organizations. Marriage without Borders is a member of the European Network of Binational/Bicultural Relationships. The network regroups organisations which defend the rights of binational-bicultural families and raises awareness on their enrichment to society. Therefore Marriage without Borders has partners in Switzerland, Germany, Spain, France, Denmark, Belgium and Italy.

Why Marriage without Borders?
Now we want to raise the question „Why Marriage without Borders“? Why is the initiative necessary? We think the best way to answer this question is with numbers.

In numbers: In the year 2017 there have been 13 606 binational marriages – that are 30% of all marriages in Austria. Registered binational partnerships: 220 (42%);

The initiative Marriage without Borders is fighting against regulations which inhibit a joint family life. We will introduce some of those regulations and official requirements to you, but first of all we want to clarify that in the following we will be talking about the residence permit “family member”. The Alien Right Bill in Austria is a very complex system of legislation, different residence permits, rules and exceptions, bureaucratic requirements and so forth.

Challenges and discrimination before the family reunification: Residence Permit “Family Member”

In legal terms it is important to distinguish between Austrian citizens who want to become married to a European citizen – they have a right of residence according to Union law – and Austrian citizens who want to become married to a non-EU/EEA national – they need the residence permit “familiy member”. Furthermore, it makes a difference if the Austrian citizen used his or her European right of residence. Here we are talking about the Act on General Freedom of Movement for EU Citizens. If this is the case the requirements for family unification are less restrictive. European and national settlement conditions differ tremendously in the sense that European regulations are less restrictive.

Today we will talk about the – concerning our clientele – most common and most sensitive cases of Austrian citizens who want to become married to a non-EU/EEA national and have not used their European right of residence. In this case the non-EU/EEA national needs to fulfil the requirements for the residence permit “family member”. Details

Required minimum wage:
1.398,97 € net per couple (2019)
+ rental costs (you are permitted to deduct 294,65 € from your rental costs)
+ 143,97 € per child who lives in a common household with the couple
What are the consequences? Why is this problematic?
For most families this is the most difficult requirement, especially concerning our clientele. Of course, everybody needs to fulfil the requirements and all binational families must find their way to the complex alien right labyrinth if they want to live together but, generally speaking, if you have enough money you have fewer problems. As you will see all the formal requirements are also connected with expenses for the families.
Without residence permit the non-EU/EEA national is not allowed to work in Austria therefore this requirement must be fulfilled by the Austrian partner alone. People with low income – especially single women with children who are the group with the lowest household income – are excluded from family reunification. As a result children have to grow up with just one parent and in most cases women are forced to act as single parents, also when the father would like to play an active parenting role. The right to private and family life – according to the European Convention on Human Right – is not respected.

Non-EU/EEA nationals must apply and wait for their residence permit in their country of origin.
What are the consequences? Why is this problematic?
Families are separated for an unknown period of time.
This is very dangerous for asylum seekers!
Expenses for two households
Travel costs
It is possible to marry in Austria with a tourist visa, but even then the government agencies have a six month deadline to process the application (tourist visa= 3 month, willingness to return as a condition for the tourist visa).

Proof of A1 German level
Third country citizens must proof the knowledge of at least A1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages at the time he or she is applying for the residence permit (so-called „German before immigration clause“). The exam must be taken in a certified German school (ÖSD, Goethe Institute, ÖIF or telc-gmbh).
What are the consequences? Why is this problematic?
This regulation presupposes conditions which are taken for granted in rich and privileged countries like Austria but which do not exist in all countries all over the world. There are not certified German institutes or partner organizations in all countries around the world: Worldwide the ÖSD has partners in just 50 different countries, the Goethe institute in 120. This means that one third of the countries worldwide are not covered. For example: There is no Goethe-Institut in Mali, Liberia, Gambia, Guinea or Sierra Leone. People would have to travel or even move to Senegal or Nigeria for the German courses and/or the exam. Those people are de facto excluded from a joint family life in Austria. This again costs money. To learn the German language in the country of origin of the non-EU/EEA family member is more difficult and has to take place without the support of the German speaking partner.
For Illiterates or people with educational disadvantages the requirement is almost impossible to fulfil.

Bureaucratic challenges
Required documents (application, passport photograph, valid travel document, birth certificate, certificate of the family relationship, evidence of proper housing, evidence of social insurance, evidence of secured means of subsistence, statement of the credit protection association, certificate of Austrian citizenship, excerpt of criminal record of the third country citizens‘ residence state, evidence of German skills at level A 1);
Translation and Legalisation of foreign documents
Foreign documents need to be legalised and then translated in German by a certified translator; that means a certified translation is needed because the authorities do not accept any other form of translation.
What are the consequences? Why is this problematic?
A missing piece of paper can delay or even prevent family reunification. Some countries simply do not have the same documents as in Austria and as it is required for the residence permit. Binational couples have to make their private family life transparent for the Austrian public authorities. Again, money plays and important role: The translation and legalisation of documents cost money. Some documents must be legalised various times. All these circumstances influence private family life itself.

Challenges and discrimination after the family reunification

Binational Families face official arbitrariness as well as discrimination, sexism and racism on the authority level/administration level (officials in the MA35, police, ethnic profiling, prejudice, stereotypes)

General suspicion of “paper-marriage”
If an Austrian citizen marries a person from a non-EU/EEA country the register office is obliged to inform the immigration authorities (Aliens Police) automatically. This sometimes prolongs the issuance of a residence permit even more. After the marriage binational couples may face controls by the immigration authorities who want proof if the marriage is “real” in the sense that it is not a fake marriage for reasons of residency. The couple is asked questions like: What’s the name of your neighbour? Do you have a washing machine? Who is doing the laundry? Where have you met for the first time? How tall are you? How tall is your wife? What is the shoe size of your husband? What does your wife like to drink at breakfast? What colour is your husband’s toothbrush? How many pieces of underwear does your wife own?
What are the consequences? Why is this problematic?
As the small number of convictions show the inspections are not justifiable. Binationale families face general suspicion which are based on or generates prejudices and a picture from binational families which has nothing to do with the reality.
Furthermore, the inspections are an infringement of privacy and personal liberty.

Discrimination of Austrian citizens
Austrian citizens who did not use their right of Freedom of Movement for EU Citizens can not refer to the less restrictive European law. Austrian citizens therefore face discrimination. They are disadvantaged compared to EU citizens living in Austria.

Integration Agreement / Integrationsvereinbarung
Non-EU/EEA nationals have to fulfil the requirements of the “Integration Agreement”, which means that their (German language) performance is assessed on a regular basis (language skills A2-B1).

What are the consequences? Why is this problematic?
Compared to ordinary families binational families face a bunch of requirements which produce pressure on these families. Regardless to individual problems, personal capacities, private wishes and goals the requirements must be fulfilled.

Claims of Marriage without Borders
Marriage without Borders fights for the implementation of the right to family life. We say “Yes” to equal rights for bi-national and Austrian couples. For the children we demand a life with both parents and shared responsibilities of both parents for their children. We support the Geneva Convention on Refugees. We call for reduced bureaucratic requirements and no more official arbitrariness. We demand humane immigration conditions as well as family-friendly settlement and residence rights and a less restrictive labour market. We claim an end of the general suspicion of “paper-marriage” and we say “Yes” to transnational family life and the freedom of movement. Therefore we demand the alteration of the Alien Rights Bill and a life in dignity for all couples regardless of their nationality.