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Residence permits for self-employed

If you first work as a salaried employee and are considering self-employment in the future, this can also be an attractive option. If you have a Red-White-Red – Card, you can usually obtain a Red-White-Red – Card Plus after 2 years. The Red-White-Red – Card Plus enables you to pursue self-employment, among others.

By the way, in addition to their salaried employment, holders of a Red-White-Red Card or an EU Blue Card valid in Austria are entitled to pursue self-employed activities to a lesser extent

Red-White-Red – Card for
Self-Employed Key Workers

The Red-White-Red – Card for Self-Employed Key Workers targets third-country nationals who want to establish a company, which will offer high added value to the Austrian economy, or will provide added impetus, or which will have an outstanding positive effect on Austria’s economic development (“macroeconomic benefits”).

Requirements

This is reflected by the requirements which must be fulfilled when you become involved in the company. There are several options. One option is

  1. 01

    The transfer of financial resources from abroad must have already taken place or there must be a realistic prospect of this taking place in the near future. For this purpose, you must show proof in which you demonstrate that you have a specific amount of financial funds at your disposal at any time. This involves the direct transfer of capital from abroad for the purpose of setting up a company – and building it up. In practice, for example, you have to show that the funds are available on a bank account and present a business plan outlining which purchases or acquisitions are to be carried out with the investment capital. A declaration on your part is not sufficient to show the transfer of capital. The payment of share capital itself does not represent the transfer of investment capital. The Austrian Public Employment Service (“Arbeitsmarktservice”; short: AMS) carefully examines all these details.

  2. 02

    In principle, this means that several full-time jobs must be created. You have to show evidence of this (e.g., relevant details specified in the business plan) which is carefully reviewed by AMS.

  1. 03

    In your business plan, you must explain in detail how know-how will be contributed to the company in connection with your participation, qualifications and position in the company. Qualifications can be shown, for instance, by presenting a university diploma and/or professional experience.

  2. 04

    This means that you must explain in your business plan in which ways the company you will establish or your participation in an existing company will be of great importance to the entire region.

Procedures 

You apply for the Red-White-Red – Card for Self-Employed Key Workers as follows

  • If you are not allowed to enter the country without a visa, you apply to the Austrian representative authority (embassy or consulate) in your country of residence.
  • If you are allowed to enter the country without a visa, you may apply personally to the Immigration and Residence Authority (“Aufenthaltsbehörde”) in Austria

In any case, you must submit the following documents when applying for the Red-White-Red – Card for Self-Employed Key Workers:

  • Application form
  • Passport
  • Passport photo fulfilling EU criteria (not older than six months)
  • Personal documents:
    • Police clearance certificate (“Strafregisterbescheinigung”) which is not older than six months
  • Proof of health insurance covering all risks (compulsory health insurance or an insurance policy)
  • Proof of a secure livelihood or sufficient means of subsistence (e.g., salary slips, wage statements, confirmation of insurance benefits, proof of pension payments, retirement and other benefits, investment capital or a sufficient amount of own assets, proof of covering accommodation expenses)
  • Work- or company-related documents:
    • Documents on implementing a market, competitor and location analysis: description and objectives of the intended corporate activities ("business plan")
    • Proof of the transfer of investment capital or the intend creation and safeguarding of jobs
    • Proof of qualifications required to work on a self-employed basis
    • Articles of association or shareholder agreement, if necessary
    • Required already existing) licenses to pursue a specified trade
  • Fees: € 160

Attention

Before you submit the application, you have to decide where in Austria you want to live. This is important because Austria does not have one single Immigration and Residence Authority branch but many. Which of these branches is actually responsible for you depends on your future place of residence in Austria. Once you have selected a particular place, any change is complicated and not recommended. This means that you will need to look for appropriate housing during your application process. Also, please keep in mind that you will need to register your main residence upon immigrating to Austria and before collecting your permit.

Please note:

  • If necessary, public authorities can demand that you submit other documents as well.
  • The validity of your Red-White-Red Card depends on how long your passport is still valid. If it is valid for at least two years, then your Red-White-Red Card is also valid for a period of two years.
  • You will have to present one or more police clearance certificates depending upon the country in which you live. Here you can see which police clearance certificates you will have to obtain. 
  • Personal documents must be specially verified so that these documents are officially recognised. This depends upon the country in which the documents were issued. Here you can look to see which type of verification is necessary .
  • If personal documents are not available in German or English, as a rule they must be translated by a court-certified translator (“gerichtlich beeidete Übersetzerin/beeideter Übersetzer”).

If you have to show additional personal documents or if you need a Visa D, the fee to be paid may actually be higher than € 160. 

The Immigration and Residence Authority will forward your application and documents to the Austrian Public Employment Service (AMS, short for “Arbeitsmarktservice”). In the first step, AMS will check to see whether or not your work really involves self-employment (“preliminary review” or “Vorprüfung”).

The business plan must contain the information required which enables AMS to examine the supposed macroeconomic benefit:

  • This business plan should describe the business activities of the company and its objectives and thus serves as the basis for a market, competitor and location analysis.
  • The business plan must specify the company size, the number of people to be employed, capacity utilisation, etc., so that AMS can make a forecast about whether or not the requirements are fulfilled.

AMS also checks to see whether there is a tense competitive situation in the economic environment in which the company is to be founded:

  • If there are too many suppliers/providers in the same market niche on the marketplace, you must show that your concept significantly deviates from that of your competitors. If several providers in this field already have economic difficulties (e.g., are bankrupt), this has a negative impact on the decision relating to the overall macroeconomic benefits of your company.  

The result of this review by AMS is an expert opinion (“Gutachten”) which reports the conclusions about whether or not the company will provide macroeconomic benefits. AMS has three weeks in which to prepare this expert opinion.

If the company and the company founder fulfil the requirements, AMS will provide a positive opinion and forward this report to the Immigration and Residence Authority.  

  • Subsequently, the Immigration and Residence Authority examines all the other requirements and approves your Red-White-Red – Card for Self-Employed Key Workers.  

All further steps depend on whether you are allowed to enter Austria without a visa or not.

  1. 01

    As soon as you have received your approval, you can come to Austria and go directly to the Immigration and Residence Authority in order to have your fingerprints taken. Furthermore, you will have to show your original personal documents (passport, birth certificate, police clearance certificate, etc.). Your permit card will then be printed. You are permitted to begin working as soon as you receive your card!

  1. 02

    In this case, after your application has been approved, you will receive an invitation from the Austrian representative authority (embassy, consulate) in your country of residence. In this invitation, you will be asked to apply for a so-called Visa D within the following three months and to pick up your Red-White-Red Card in Austria within a period of six months. In order to receive a Visa D, you will need the following documents: 

    Application form

    Passport with a copy

    Invitation of the representative authority

    Approval of the Immigration and Residence Authority

    Travel insurance (coverage of at least € 30,000)      

    Flight reservation

     

    Generally, it will take about two weeks until the Visa D is stamped in your passport. During this processing time, the Austrian embassy or consulate will keep your passport. As soon as you have your Visa D, you can travel to Austria and have your fingerprints taken by the Immigration and Residence Authority.  Furthermore, you will also have to show your personal documents (passport, birth certificate, police clearance certificate, etc.). Your permit card will then be printed. You are permitted to begin working as soon as you receive your card! 

    If the company and the company founders do not fulfil the requirements, AMS issues a negative opinion and forwards its report to the Immigration and Residence Authority. In this case, the Immigration and Residence Authority gives you the opportunity to comment on the expert opinion of AMS. If the Immigration and Residence Authority does not issue you a Red-White-Red – Card for Self-Employed Key Workers, you will receive a negative decision by the public authority in the form of an official notification (“Bescheid”). You are allowed to lodge a complaint against this negative decision by the Immigration and Residence Authority.

Validity, extension and family reunification 

The Red-White-Red – Card is issued for a maximum period of 24 months. During this period, you are permitted to stay in Austria and can only work on a self-employed basis.

This means you are not allowed to work as a salaried employee. If you want to work as a salaried employee, you will need a different residence permit, for example a different type of Red-White-Red – Card or a Blue Card.

If you are granted a Red-White-Red – Card for Self-Employed Key Workers, you can apply for a so-called Settlement Permit (“Niederlassungsbewilligung”) after two years if you continue to fulfil the requirements. This Settlement Permit is valid for up to three years. The Settlement Permit allows you to continue working as a self-employed person. You are still not permitted to work as a salaried employee. When the next extension comes around, you may receive the Long-Term Resident EU permit (“Daueraufenthalt EU”) if you fulfil the requirements.

Your close family members (wife/husband, civil partner, children) are entitled to apply for a Red-White-Red- Card Plus, which gives them unrestricted access to the Austrian labour market.  

Please note:

  • If you are a skilled worker who is a third-country national and are married to or are the partner of an EU citizen or your children are EU nationals, you do not need to apply for a Red-White-Red – Card if you want to work on a self-employed basis in Austria. You can apply for a so-called Residence Card (“Aufenthaltskarte”). This gives you unrestricted access to the Austrian labour market. You can work both as a salaried employee or in self-employment.
  • If you are a skilled worker who is a third-country national and you are married to or are the partner of an Austrian citizen, you do not need to apply for a Red-White-Red – Card if you want to work on a self-employed basis in Austria. You can apply for a Residence Permit – Family Member (“Aufenthaltstitel Familienangehöriger”). In this way, you have unrestricted access to the Austrian labour market. You can work both as a salaried employee or in self-employment.
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