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Moving to Austria

A comprehensive guide to moving to Austria

With its lush alpine meadows and picturesque towns, Austria has always attracted vast numbers of tourists and expats. Consistently topping quality of life ranking, our Relocation Guide looks at the benefits of moving to Austria, popular expat destinations, and visa requirements.

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Relocating to Austria

At a Glance:

  • The multicultural flair and thriving international population in many cities makes Austria a popular choice for expats.
  • Home to the headquarters of many international organizations including the UN, OPEC and IAEA, Vienna has lots of employment opportunities for expats,
  • As an EU/EEA citizen you don’t require a visa or permit to live and work in Austria. Non-EU citizens can apply for an EU Blue Card which allows them to live and work in Austria for up to two years.
  • If you are considered a “key worker” or your occupation is in demand, you can apply for the Red-White-Red card. With this card you can live and work in Austria for a period of twelve months.
  • If you want to move to Austria but you don’t have an employment contract, the Jobseeker Visa gives you time to actively look for work up to six months. However, if you found employment after those six months you must still apply for a work permit.

Home to roughly 8.7 million people, Austria is a multicultural country — no surprise given its history. During the reign of the kaiserlich und königlich monarchy, people moved to Austria from all parts of the Habsburg Empire. Even after its collapse, the trend continued. Today, people from former parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire still play a major role in Austrian life and culture.

Expats relocating to Austria benefit from this international melting pot, which is most evident in Vienna. Despite appearing small and somewhat provincial compared to the capital, other Austrian cities often boast a significant international population as well.  Below, we will give you a short overview of some favorite expat destinations around Austria.

Eight Different Neighbors

Austria is conveniently located in Central Europe and shares borders with eight countries: Germany, Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Its central position and very good transport connections make it an excellent base to explore the rest of Europe.

Austria isn’t called the “Alpine Republic” for nothing! Mountain lovers will be pleased to know that the Alps make up 65% of the state’s territory, while 43% is covered in forest. In the alpine regions, the climate is characterized by severe winters.

Generally speaking, expats moving to Austria will experience a mixed climate shaped by both oceanic and continental influences. While the east is known for its cold winters and hot summers with very little rainfall all year round, the climate in the west is much more moderate with mild winters, warm summers and generally more rain.

Vienna: A Dream Destination For Expats

Most expats headed for Austria settle in Vienna. The capital city is home to almost 1.8 million inhabitants, and the Vienna metropolitan region accounts for more than 20% of Austria’s total population. The combined metropolitan region of Vienna and nearby city Bratislava in Slovakia, often referred to as the Twin City, has over 3 million inhabitants.

Moving to Vienna will take you not only to the political, but also to the cultural and economic center of the country. Millions of tourists as well as a significant expat and immigrant population combine with traditional Viennese culture to make Austria’s capital an exciting place.

Many international organizations have chosen Vienna to be their regional headquarters: organizations like the UN, OPEC and IAEA are the reason why many expats relocate to Austria’s capital. Vienna is also among the top five destinations worldwide for international congresses and conventions.

Most newcomers enjoy the benefits that come with living in a city which continually features in the top ten for quality of life in surveys; in the Mercer Quality of Life Survey, Vienna ranked first for three consecutive years.

Graz and Salzburg: Cities of Design and Classical Music

With more than 280,000 inhabitants, Graz is Austria’s second largest city. This university town doesn’t only attract students and academics, it’s also known as the high-tech factory of Austria. It’s also a creative hub, and won the UNESCO Creative City Network’s City of Design award.

Salzburg is widely known as the birth place of Mozart and — just like Vienna — it’s a great place for classical music lovers. With more than 150,000 inhabitants, it is only the fourth largest city in Austria. Located in a picturesque valley on the northern edge of the Alps, Salzburg attracts great numbers of tourists every year and is also an important location for trade fairs and conferences. Expats moving to Austria often find work with one of the international companies based in Salzburg, such as Porsche Holding and SPAR.

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Austria: Visas, Residence & Work Permits

Becoming an Austrian Resident

Moving to Austria is significantly easier for EU/EEA citizens. You don’t need a visa to enter the country, nor do you need a residence or work permit to live, seek, or take up employment. Since the beginning of 2014, citizens of Romania and Bulgaria also enjoy free labor market access. For Croatian nationals, certain restrictions regarding work permits are still in place.

However, all EU/EEA citizens intending to move to Austria for more than three months need to apply for permanent residency within four months of their arrival. This can be done at a competent residence authority like the state governor (Landeshauptmann), or an administrative district authority (Bezirksverwaltungsbehörde). In order to receive a registration certificate, you will have to prove that you are financially independent and able to support yourself.

Moving from outside the EU

If you are not an EU/EEA citizen, you may need a visa to enter Austria. An overview of visa regulations for certain countries can be found on the website of the Austrian Foreign Ministry. Alternatively, you can contact the nearest Austrian Embassy or Consulate in your country of residence (or the diplomatic missions of the Schengen state which represents Austria in your area). This is also the best way to access detailed information on the application cost and processing times, and the documents required to obtain a visa.

Some types of visas merely allow you to enter the country while others are tied to specific work or residence permits. Below, we present a few categories that may be relevant for expats.

The EU Blue Card

This type of residence and work permit allows highly qualified non-EU citizens to live and work in Austria for up to two years. It is tied to a confirmed job offer, and will only be granted if the AMS (the Austrian Labor Market Service) is satisfied that no Austrian or EU citizen is available to do the work specified.

Only applicants who have completed a university degree course of at least three years are eligible for a Blue Card. Their qualifications must match the job profile, and the salary specified in the work contract must be 1.5 times higher than the average yearly income of full-time employees in Austria. The figures are published regularly by Statistik Austria. You can expect the application process to last approximately eight weeks.

The Red-White-Red Card

Non-EU citizens who qualify as “key workers” can apply for a Red-White-Red Card, which allows them to work for a specified employer and live in Austria for a period of 12 months. In order to qualify as a key worker, you must be high qualified, a skilled worker in a shortage occupation, a self-employed key worker, or a graduate of an Austrian university.

The Red-White-Red Card works on a points-based system. Depending on which of the above categories you belong to, you must fulfill certain criteria before you can apply. Please consult the Austrian Migration Portal for more information and a points calculator to help you determine your eligibility.

After ten months of working and living in Austria, Red-White-Red Card holders may apply for a Red-White-Red Card plus, which entitles them to free access to the Austrian labor market. Family members of Red-White-Red or of Blue Card holders are also eligible to apply for a Red-White-Red Card plus.

The Jobseeker Visa

This six-month permit is intended for highly qualified non-EU citizens who are interested in working in Austria but have not yet managed to secure a job offer and thus cannot apply for one of the above permits. Please note that the Jobseeker Visa merely allows you to look for work —you must still apply for a work permit if your job hunt has been successful.

Similar to the Red-White-Red Card, the Jobseeker Visa operates on a points basis. Applicants must meet the required criteria in order to apply for this visa. The issuing of a Jobseeker Visa is managed by the AMS. All application documents must be submitted together with a German or English translation.

Updated on: July 16, 2019

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