Moving to Vienna
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What to know if you're moving to Vienna
Moving to Vienna is a big step — and a wise one, too. As Austria’s capital offers various cultural and economic incentives for expats, moving there has long been a popular choice. In this article, we’ll provide you with important facts on neighborhoods, visas, housing, and more.
All about Austria
Relocating to Vienna
At a Glance:
- The boroughs in Vienna are arranged counter-clockwise around the center and if you move to a one-digit borough it means that your commutes to work will be relatively short.
- Vienna is a popular place for migrants so that’s why you will find different cultural influences all over the city, spread evenly across the districts.
- It depends on your situation which visa you require, but it’s suggested that you apply for a residence permit before you plan to move to Austria.
- Finding accommodation in Vienna that meets your needs can come at a high price; if you intend to stay for a long time, buying property is recommended.
A Key to the Neighborhoods in Vienna
Vienna consists of 23 boroughs (Bezirke) and numerous suburbs within the metropolitan area. You will typically encounter street signs indicating the number of the borough you are in. This gives you a rough idea of where you are in relation to borough 1, the city center: numbers 2 through 9 — the former city limits of 1850 — are arranged counter-clockwise around the center, with number 2 starting in the east.
Typically, the Viennese will call their borough by either its proper name or its number. Anyone moving to the city should familiarize themselves with the names in order to make getting around town easier. Choosing a one-digit borough as your new home will usually ensure short commutes to work as most businesses are located in the center.
Chances are you will first arrive in Vienna at either the airport, located in nearby Schwechat, or at the Westbahnhof. We have listed public transportation options to and from these locations in our article on living in Vienna.
A Diverse Population
Vienna has always been a popular choice for migrants both from Austria and abroad. The most popular reasons for relocating to Vienna are, of course, academic study, work, and the overall quality of life.
For both historical as well as current reasons, there are residents of virtually every ethnicity and culture in Vienna — the capital accounted for 44% of all immigrants in Austria in 2015. The different cultural influences have helped shape everyday life in Vienna into a multicultural experience.
In contrast to other cities of comparable size, immigrants moving to Vienna usually settle evenly across all districts. It is very rare that a district will gain a reputation as an immigrant neighborhood, or Ausländerviertel. Terms like these are most often used by right-wing populists for inflammatory public debates, but they are not necessarily rooted in reality.
Similarly, the difference between the ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ parts of town is a lot less pronounced than in other cities of roughly the same size. Therefore you shouldn’t worry about avoiding specific districts; your choice should rather be based on factors such as your commute and general infrastructure.
Visa Requirements for Vienna
Which Permit Applies to You?
Austria deals with immigrants’ affairs based on two acts of law. The Aliens Police Act refers to short-term stays of up to six months. Expats planning to move to Vienna for a longer period are subject to the Settlement and Residence Act.
Before moving to Vienna, please familiarize yourself with the different residency and work permits of Austria. A simple visa will not enable you to move to Vienna or start working there. Depending on your line of work or the duration of your stay, there may be a different permit for your particular case.
The Process of Getting a Residence Permit
You have to apply for certain permits from your country of origin before moving to Vienna. If you are an EU citizen or are permanently settled within the EU, you enjoy freedom of movement and do not have to apply for a residency permit. Please keep in mind, however, that you are still required to register locally with the municipal district office after moving to Vienna (see below).
When it comes to long-term residency, permits are closely tied to employment and passing a language test as part of the “Integration Agreement”. The most important permits are the Red-White-Red Card, which is valid for twelve months and requires you to pass language module 1, the EU Blue Card, which is valid for 24 months and requires no language test, and finally the long-term work permit, which is valid for five years and requires you to pass language module 2. A settlement permit is issued e.g. for “dependents” (relatives) of Red-White-Red Card holders or for self-employed key workers which have already had the Red-White-Red Card for one year. After two years living in Austria, the settlement permit can be extended for another three years. For further information on work permits, please see our articles on working in Vienna and working in Austria.
The Austrian Federal Government offers information on the many different types of work and residency permits. Information is offered in both German and English. Please visit the site before you plan to move to Vienna. The Austrian diplomatic mission in your home country can also provide you with valuable information on living in and moving to Vienna. For a list of embassies and consulates, please refer to this list offered by the Austrian Foreign Ministry.
Register Your New Austrian Address
You are required to register with your municipal district office within three days of moving to Vienna. This also applies if you change your address within the city. This is generally a very easy task and should not take a lot of time, you just need to state your new address.
After you have decided to which borough you are going to move to, you can find out the address and opening hours of your district office (Meldeservice) quite easily on the official website of the municipal administration.
Accommodation in Vienna
Finding the Right Place for the Right Budget
As is the case for most booming cities in Europe, moving to Vienna often comes at a high price. Paying more than 22 EUR per m² for apartments in a popular residential area near the city center is not uncommon, so you might want to consider moving to one of the less prestigious, but equally attractive, boroughs outside the center.
Colorful and vibrant districts such as Ottakring, popular with working-class residents and home to people of various ethnicities, offer a great glimpse into the cultural diversity of everyday life in Vienna. If you like to escape the hustle and bustle of a large city, you might want to consider moving to the suburbs — most are less than 40 minutes away from the city center.
Searching For Accommodation: How and Where
Housing can be found in the local newspapers, such as Der Standard or Der Kurier. They often provide extra pages for real estate listings on the weekend. As moving to Vienna has become more popular in the past few years, internet portals such as Immodirekt are an equally important source.
In any case, make sure you budget for additional costs such as the security deposit and the commission for the real estate agent, although some houses and apartments are offered without commission, directly from the owner. If you plan to do short- to midterm business in Vienna, there are housing agencies that offer a variety of different apartments that are fully furnished. You only pay the rent and the deposit, so no unexpected commission. They often have a central location to ensure a short commute to wherever you need to go and are ready to move-in at any time.
Tips for Tenants
Tenants’ rights are important in Austria. There are several associations you can consult should any problems arise, or if a legal matter needs to be clarified. The Arbritration Board for Legal Housing Matters, or the Wiener Schlichtungsstelle, should be your first contact point for any questions concerning your rights as a tenant. Another useful institution is the Austrian Tenants’ Association. For a comprehensive list of locations, please see the pages of the HELP website of the Austrian Government.
Buying Real Estate as an Expat
If you intend to stay in Vienna for a longer period of time (e.g. ten years or more), you might want to consider buying a house or apartment. Real estate in the prestigious districts has accumulated in value for many years, and this trend could continue for years to come. Renting your place to other expats might be a nice source of additional income after your stay in the city. Please keep in mind that the usual commission of a realtor is 3% of the purchase price plus legal VAT.
Purchasing real estate involves quite a bit of red tape for foreigners. For a small fee, the Vienna City Administration offers an overview of the different steps involved and documents required.