A General Guide to Austria Immigration/Visa

 A General Guide to Austria Immigration/Visa

Thanks to its high standard of living and great work-life balance, Austria is a popular destination for expats looking to move abroad. Because Austria is part of the Schengen Agreement, which allows other Europeans to enter and work in the country, many expats are European, with British citizens forming 10% of the expat population in 2018. For non-European expats, also called third-country nationals, immigrating will likely depend on finding an employer in Austria to serve as a sponsor. If you are planning to immigrate to Austria, you will have to begin the process at the Austrian consulate in your home country.

Like in many countries, the type of visa you will need to live and work in Austria will depend on your country of origin, as outlined below.

EU/EFTA nationals

Citizens of the EU do not need a visa to travel to or stay in Austria for up to three months. To stay longer, you will need to register with your municipality. If you plan to stay longer, you need to show one of the following:

  • proof of employment or self-employment
  • evidence that you can support yourself financially and that you have adequate health insurance
  • proof of attendance at an Austrian school and sufficient financial means and adequate health insurance

Non-EU/EFTA nationals

Visa options became much more complicated when it comes to non-EU citizens. Citizens of some countries, such as Canada or the USA, do not need an entry visa for stays up to three months. Citizens of other countries, however, do need an entry visa, so be sure to do your research to find out the application and entry requirements based on your nationality.

The general types of visa for Austria Includes:

  • Short-term visas: These visas allow you to stay in Austria for six months or less and do not automatically include authorisation to work    
  • Temporary residence permits: These longer-term visas are designed for those planning to stay longer than six months or those planning to be in Austria for a specific time or purpose, such as study or research
  • Permanent residence permits: These long-term visas are ideal for people who plan to stay in Austria for an indefinite period and for those who want to work. This includes people with employment contracts as well as those hoping to bring their family over through the family visa.

Short-term Austrian visas includes:

1. A Visa or Transit Visa

This type of visa allow travelers to travel through an Austrian airport, for example, as a stop-over on their journey. Austria only requires this visa from certain nationalities, so be sure to do your homework and find out if this applies to you.

2. C Visa or Tourist Visa

This type of visa can be issued for up to 90 days within a 180-day period. This would apply to third-country nationals that do not already have visa-free entry to Austria. Holding a C Visa entitles you to travel freely within the Schengen area for the duration of your visa.

3. D Visa

The D Visa allows you to stay in Austria for anywhere between 91 and 180 days. In some special circumstances, this can be extended to 12 months. This visa does not allow you to work, so it can be a useful option, for example, for students spending a semester abroad in Austria. For both the C and D Visa, you can apply up to six months before the date of travel.

4. C Visa and D Visa for “gainful employment”

In some rarer cases, you may be able to get a visa allowing you to stay in Austria for up to six months and work. These short-term work authorization visas are handy and can allow you to have an internship, which is considered gainful employment even if it’s unpaid. They can also be used to invite scientists or lecturers to the country on a short-term basis.

Temporary residence permits in Austria

1. Student

If you have been accepted as a student at an Austrian university, you will need to apply for a study permit at your local Austrian consulate. This permit will last as long as your studies and entitles you to live and study in Austria. However, it does not entitle you to work in Austria. If you are a third-country national who needs an Austrian visa to enter the country, you will need to apply for a Visa D in order to initially enter Austria to get your study visa.

2. Researcher

If you plan to pursue scientific research and teach at a high academic level in Austria, you will need a relevant permit to do so. Researchers with a Ph.D. who have a Hosting Agreement with a certified research institution should apply for a Settlement Permit – Researcher. This permit is usually good for two years, or three months longer than the duration of your hosting agreement. If you are a researcher planning to teach and conduct research in Austria, but you do not have a hosting agreement, you may apply for a Settlement Permit – Special Cases of Gainful Employment. This permit is valid for 12 months and is renewable.

3. Au pair

If you are interested in living with an Austrian family and receiving a small weekly allowance in exchange for taking care of their children, you might consider being an au pair. In fact, this is so common that there is even a special residence permit for it, called Special Cases of Paid Employment. The au pair visa must be applied for in your home country once you have found a host family. The permit can last up to 12 months.

Permanent residence permits in Austria

Third-party nationals who would like to stay and work in Austria indefinitely will need a permanent residence permit. Keep in mind, though, that in Austria, permanent doesn’t mean that you are entitled to stay forever; rather that there may not be a specific time limit on your visa, and that you are able to work. Conveniently, for this category of visa, everything is funneled through one residence permit.

1. Red-White-Red Card

For third-party nationals, the Red-White-Red Card serves as both a residence permit and work authorization. Most people who have one received it on the basis of their employment. Its length is usually tied to the purpose of the visa, such as an employment contract, but is usually 24 months and is renewable. With this card, you can travel freely throughout the Schengen area. Those who can apply for one include the following:

  • Very highly skilled workers
  • Self-employed key workers
  • Start-up founders
  • Skilled workers in occupations experiencing a shortage of staff
  • Graduates of Austrian universities and higher education colleges
  • Other key workers

2. Red-White-Red Plus Card

Third-party nationals who wish to bring their families to Austria will need to apply for the family visa, also called a Red-White-Red Plus Card. This permit allows certain family members to stay in Austria as long as the initial sponsor has their own residence permit. The initial permit lasts for one year but can be renewed, and you can travel throughout the Schengen with it.

To become a permanent resident, for the past five years you must have:

  • Lived in Austria for the past five years, uninterrupted
  • Supported yourself financially, whether through a job, self-employment, or independent means
  • Maintained health insurance
  • Maintained adequate, registered accommodation
  • Completed Module 2 of the Integration Agreement, including reaching a B1 level of German
  • Not be a threat to public security or order

To become a citizen of Austria, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You have lived in Austria for at least 10 years continuously, five of which you were a permanent resident
  • Have supported yourself financially
  • Have sufficient knowledge of German
  • Hold no criminal record
  • Have a positive attitude towards Austria


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