Work in Austria: Getting an Austrian work visa


As one of the richest countries in the European Union, Austria is a popular place for expats to live and work. Vienna, in particular, is well connected with a high level of average salary and exceptional opportunities to enjoy culture, nightlife and history. But wherever you're in Austria, you're going to find a vibrant mix of cosmopolitan urban centres, alongside stunning natural resources and countryside to enjoy.

If you’re thinking of moving to Austria for a job, or to start your own business, then you might need to get a permit to do so. In most cases, migration to Austria is regulated by a points based system of visas known as the Red-White-Red Card. The various ways to get a Red-White-Red card can look complex on the face of it but is actually a relatively straightforward system once you grasp the basics.

Read this simple, no nonsense, guide to getting an Austrian work visa.

Do I need an Austrian work visa?

Your first priority should be to figure out if you need a work permit at all. In some cases, depending on your nationality and the role you’re going to take on, a permit might not be necessary.

Most aspects of immigration into Austria are detailed on the government’s migration portal

European passport holders have the right to live and work in Austria, although you'll still need to register your stay with the local authorities if you’re going to be there for over three months. It should also be noted that there are some restrictions to citizens of Croatia as part of the transition of Croatia into the EU. These are changing over time so if you're impacted you’ll need to check the latest guidelines.

If you’re a third country national, you'll probably need a visa or permit to live and work in Austria.

What’s the process to get an Austrian work visa?

Most migration to Austria is done on a flexible system which is known as the Red-White-Red Card and is designed to grant residence based on the skills of potential incoming workers and the shortages in the Austrian labour market.

There are several different ways you can qualify for a Red-White-Red Card depending on your level of skills and qualifications and the sort of work you want to do. It might initially look confusing but the system is set out very clearly online. You can also get details of the scheme in different languages on the Austrian business website.

Regardless of the sort of visa or permit you're looking to get, you'll be asked to prove that you have adequate financial support to pay your way as well as health insurance and a place to live.

To qualify as a very highly qualified worker, you must score more than 70 points on the points based scheme described on the immigration authorities website. Under this system you score different amounts of points for things like your professional qualifications, work experience, language ability and the salary levels you have previously earned.

To be issued the Red-White-Red Card under this type, you must have a job already lined up, although there's a second option known as a Red-White-Red Card Plus. This allows you to get entry to Austria to work without having a specified employer sponsoring you. This card is only issued under certain circumstances and has strict criteria which are set out online. If you have held a Red-White-Red Card already for 10 of the preceding 12 months, you can ‘upgrade’ your card to the ‘Plus’ version and get unlimited labour market access. This means you can work for any employer rather than only the one originally named on your card.

Another option for workers in in-demand occupations is to apply for the Red-White-Red Card under the shortage occupations stream. In this case, you still have to complete the points based test, but you need score only 50 points for your application to be considered.

Unfortunately there are only a limited number of roles which are covered by this method, with 11 job areas detailed at as of March 2017. However, if you’re being considered a key worker, and offered a job which pays above a minimum monthly wage, you may also be able to get the Red-White-Red Card through a separate entry scheme.

The options are set out in full on the immigration authorities’ website and the explanations are fairly clear. However, if you’re not sure which route is best for your circumstances or if your situation doesn't fit neatly into one of those categories described online, it might be worth consulting with a local immigration specialist or agency.

Whichever route you choose to take to get your work permit, you'll have to submit the relevant documents at your local Austrian embassy or if you’re already in Austria under a visa free stay for example, you can submit the application to the local authorities there.

It should be noted that there will be a fee charged for the paperwork you need. If you need a job seeker visa to cover your time in Austria before you’re eligible for your full work permit, this will be charged at €100 and the Red-White-Red card will cost you a further €120.

What documents do I need?

The exact documents you need will vary according to the visa type you choose, as you'll have to prove how you fulfil the points criteria under different categories. However, for all applications you can expect to need the following:

  • Valid travel document
  • Birth certificate
  • Passport photo
  • Evidence of planned accommodation
  • Valid health insurance
  • Proof of adequate financial support

Beyond this, you'll have to provide evidence for any claim you make as part of the points calculation. For example, you'll have to provide degree certificates, tax statements, testimonials of your work experience and proof of your language skills. The documents provided can be chosen from a selection detailed on the website.

Depending on the type of work you're planning on doing, it might be possible to apply for an EU Blue Card.

Similar to the US Green Card, the Blue Card document gives you the right to work across most EU member states (excluding Denmark, Ireland and the UK). To be eligible for a Blue Card, you must be from a country outside the EU, be highly skilled (typically meaning you have completed a bachelor's level university degree, or have five years of senior professional experience), and have a binding job offer or active work contract.

In the case of Austria, if you’ve already got an EU Blue Card, or fulfil the criteria, you could be issued a Red-White-Red Plus Card which has more favourable terms than a regular work visa. This means you might be eligible to come to Austria for the purposes of looking for work and without having defined employer sponsorship.

The Blue Card application process is fast tracked by member states, meaning it's typically quicker than other forms of work visa application. However, it may still take up to three months. Although you start the application process online and through a single point of contact, the process may vary depending on your personal circumstances. The Blue Card network has a good website and offers support to applicants to help them understand the process.

Austrian work visas for part time, fixed term and seasonal workers

Austria offers a specific visa for seasonal workers coming to work in tourism, agriculture and forestry. The quotas set for seasonal worker visas are reviewed regularly, and a visa will only be issued if the authorities are satisfied the work can’t be done by a local person. Visas for people coming specifically to help with the agricultural harvest are issued for a maximum of six weeks, with other seasonal workers offered visas for up to six months.

For some other types of short term work, a temporary residence visa might be more appropriate.

If you're in Austria as a student under a student via, you're not entitled to work, although you can apply for a specific employment permit if you do decide you want to get a job. This allows you to work ten or twenty hours a week dependant on the course you're taking.

Depending on your age and nationality, you might be able to apply for a working holiday visa, which allows you to work and study in Austria. The details can change from time to time, but at present it covers people from Hong Kong, Israel, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan. Canada also has a different agreement with Austria which allows some restricted, working holiday visas.

How do I get an Austrian work visa as an entrepreneur?

To get a visa to come to Austria as an entrepreneur, you need to apply for a Red-White-Red card under the self employed key worker route.

The criteria required for this visa is that you bring sustained economic benefit to the area in which you're working and are making a large investment or are creating employment. Your application might also be considered if you can prove you're bringing a certain level of expertise into the region which can not be found locally. You will  also be asked to prove your intentions with a robust business plan, and evidence of agreements already made with local businesses if relevant, as well as all of the regular pack of documents needed for every visa application.

How might my Austrian work visa affect my spouse and family members?

If you have a Red-White-Red card, or an EU Blue card, you can apply for a visa for your family to join you in Austria. For the purposes of this application, spouses, registered same sex partners, and children under the age of 18 (including those who are adopted or stepchildren) are covered. It’s possible to get a Red-White-Red Plus Card for your spouse or partner, giving them the right to find a job and work once they arrive in Austria, but without needing advance employer sponsorship.

Depending on the visa route by which you got your Red-White-Red card, you might find that there are requirements placed on family members, such as having a basic grasp of the German language.

I have my Austrian work visa - what next?

The migration authorities’ website has a lot helpful information about how to settle into your new life in Austria.

In some cases, you might have to take an integration course, completing either one or two modules intended to improve your German language skills and give a basic introduction to life in Austria. The exact requirements depend on the type of visa you have, and there are some exemptions, for younger family members for example.

How can I move money to Austria from my bank account abroad?

To get the most of your money in Austria, you'll want to open a bank account in Austria, which you can do before you arrive.

Once you send money either to or from Austria, consider using a money conversion service like Wise to avoid unfair exchange rates. There's a small transparent fee, and when your money is converted from one currency to another you’ll get the real exchange rate - the same one you can find on Google. Not only that, but Wise receives and sends money via local bank transfers instead of internationally, further saving you money by cutting out hefty international transfer fees.

If your trip is short or opening a bank account in Austria isn't an option, you can always withdraw money from your foreign account using an ATM there. Just keep in mind it'll be more favorable to agree to be charged in the local currency, not your home currency.

Regardless of when you start your new job abroad, it should be fairly straightforward to get yourself a visa if you follow the right steps. The most important part is just to make sure to enjoy your new adventure.

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