Immigration Law at a glance
If you are a third-country national, but a family member (e.g., wife/husband) is an EU citizen, you enjoy the right of residence under EU law, and can receive a residence card (“Aufenthaltskarte”) in Austria.
When do you need a residence permit or a visa?
Applications must be submitted for residence permits (“Aufenthaltstitel”) if you plan on staying in Austria for more than six months.
The duration of the planned stay in Austria is what the distinguishes the residence permit from a visa. If you plan to live and/or work in Austria for a period of less than six months, a visa is sufficient. There are different categories of visas.
There are certain prerequisites which you have to fulfil for every residence permit (so-called general conditions for residence permits (“allgemeine Erteilungsvoraussetzungen”). These include the following:
- A certain level of financial means (means of subsistence) to ensure a secure livelihood,
- Health insurance coverage, and
- Entitlement to suitable accommodations (e.g., as shown by a rental agreement) – especially if you enter the country with your family.
Furthermore, your stay in Austria must not comprise a threat to the public order or endanger public safety. For this reason, as a rule, authorities will demand a police clearance certificate (“Strafregisterauszug” or “Strafregisterbescheinigung”) when you apply for a residence permit.
There are additional, specific requirements for the individual residence permits, for example proof of your German skills.
Types of stay for third-country nationals in Austria
The choice of the residence permit to apply for depends upon whether you want to live and/or work in Austria on a permanent or temporary basis.
If you plan to live and work in Austria on a permanent basis, you should apply for a residence permit for permanent residence (for example, the Red-White-Red – Card (“Rot-Weiß-Rot – Karte”), the Red-White-Red – Card Plus (“Rot-Weiß-Rot – Karte Plus”) or a settlement permit (“Niederlassungsbewilligung”). You can apply for an extension (“Verlängerung”) of these residence permits if you meet the requirements. As a rule, it is not possible to extend other residence permits, and for this reason you may be obliged to leave the country after a certain time.
Permanent residence (“dauerhafter Aufenthalt”)
If you plan to permanently live and work in Austria, you can choose from the following residence permits:
Red-White-Red – Card
With its Red-White-Red – Card, Austria has created a residence permit for third-country nationals who would like to permanently work and remain in Austria as skilled workers. However, it is important to note that there is not one single Red-White-Red – Card but a total of six subcategories. Each category is oriented to a particular target group.
Of the six Red-White-Red Cards, four are for third-country nationals who have a binding job offer from a company in Austria:
- the Red-White-Red – Card for Skilled Workers in Shortage Occupations (“Rot-Weiß-Rot – Karte für Fachkräfte in Mangelberufen”),
- the Red-White-Red – Card for Graduates of Austrian Universities (“Rot-Weiß-Rot – Karte für StudienabsolventInnen”),
- the Red-White-Red – Card for Very Highly Qualified Workers (“Rot-Weiß-Rot – Karte für Besonders Hochqualifizierte”), and
- the Red-White-Red – Card for Other Key Workers (“Rot-Weiß-Rot – Karte für Sonstige Schlüsselkräfte”).
There are two other Red-White-Red – Cards for third-country nationals who would like to establish a company in Austria, namely the Red-White-Red – Card for Self-Employed Key Workers (“Rot-Weiß-Rot – Karte für Selbstständige Schlüsselkräfte”) and the Red-White-Red – Card for Startup Founders (“Rot-Weiß-Rot – Karte für Start-Up-GründerInnen”).
Red-White-Red – Card Plus
Family members (wife/husband, civil partner (“eingetragene Partnerin/eingetragener Partner”), minor children) of individuals who possess a Red-White-Red – Card or an EU Blue Card can apply for a residence permit called Red-White-Red – Card Plus (“Rot-Weiß-Rot-Karte Plus” which gives them free access to the Austrian labour market. Furthermore, you can receive a Red-White-Red – Card Plus after a period of 2 years if you extend your Red-White-Red – Card (exception: Red-White-Red – Card for Self-Employed Key Workers), EU Blue Card or Settlement Permit – Researcher (“Niederlassungsbewilligung – Forscher”).
EU Blue Card
The EU Blue Card (“Blaue Karte EU”) targets skilled workers who have completed a course of study in a relevant field at university, have received a binding job offer and will earn a comparatively high minimum salary (at least one and half times the average gross annual income of full-time employees in Austria). The EU Blue Card is bound to the employer. The origin of the EU Blue Card lies in EU legislation, and unlike the Red-White-Red – Card, it is not granted on the basis of a points system.
The settlement permit (“Niederlassungsbewilligung”) is a residence permit which only allows you to work independently as a self-employed person. This means you are not allowed to work as a salaried employee for a company in Austria. For example, you can obtain a settlement permit if you extend the Red-White-Red – Card for Self-Employed Key Workers after a period of two years.
In addition, you receive a settlement permit if you are the life partner (“Lebenspartnerin/Lebenspartner”) of an EU national. In order for you to obtain a settlement permit in this case, you have to fulfil the general conditions for the issue of this permit. You also have to prove German skills on an A1 level (beginner skills).
Settlement Permit – Artist / Settlement Permit – Researcher/ Settlement Permit – Special Cases of Gainful Employment
If you work as an artist (self-employed or as a salaried employee) or in another line of work which is exempted from the Austrian Aliens Employment Act (“Ausländerbeschäftigungsgesetz“) (for example a minister in a recognised church or a teacher in a foreign school), you can apply for your own settlement permit in each case, namely the Settlement Permit – Artist (“Niederlassungsbewilligung – Künstler“), the Settlement Permit – Researcher (“Niederlassungsbewilligung – Forscher“) or the Settlement Permit – Special Cases of Gainful Employment (“Niederlassungsbewilligung - Sonderfälle unselbstständiger Erwerbstätigkeit“).
Settlement Permit – Relative
The residence permit called Settlement Permit – Relative (“Niederlassungsbewillung - Angehöriger”) targets third-country nationals who are the life partners of Austrians who are in turn not considered to be EU nationals because they have not yet claimed their right of residence under EU law. Simply put, this means that they have not lived or worked for three months or more in another EU member state.
The residence permit Family Member (“Aufenthaltstitel Familienangehöriger”) is for people who are family members (wife/husband, civil partner, underage children) of Austrians who are in turn not considered to be EU nationals because they have not yet claimed their right of residence under EU law. Simply put, this means that they have not lived or worked for three months or more in another EU member state.
Long-Term Resident EU
After five years of uninterrupted stay in Austria, third-country nationals can apply for the Long-Term Resident EU permit (“Daueraufenthalt EU”). It is issued for a period of five years but is in principle valid indefinitely as long as this person continues to stay in Austria on a permanent basis. In addition to staying in Austria for five years, the underlying prerequisite is the fulfilment of Module 2 of the Integration Agreement (“Integrationsvereinbarung”), which includes having to present proof of an integration certificate B1 by ÖIF.
Temporary immigration (with residence permits)
If you plan to work and live in Austria for a limited period of time and for a specific purpose, the following residence permits, sometimes known as “stay permits” (“Aufenthaltsbewilligungen”) may be the right option for you:
ICT is the abbreviation for Intra-Corporate Transfer. The Residence Permit – ICT (“Aufenthaltsbewilligung ICT”) is relevant as a short-time resident permit if you are a third-country national who comes to Austria for a period of one to three years within a multinational company or corporate group in order to work as a specialist, executive or trainee. In the case, your payroll usually stays abroad. What is important is the contractually stipulated guarantee that you will be able to return to a company branch office in a third country after the residence permit expires.
The special case “Mobile ICT” applies if you hold the Residence Permit – ICT of another EU member state and you will work in Austria for more than 90 days within this context. In this case, you will be granted a “Residence Permit – Mobile ICT” (“Aufenthaltsbewilligung Mobile ICT”).
A seconded employee (“Betriebsentsandte”) exists if:
- an employer from a third country without a branch office in Austria
- sends employees who area third-country nationals to an Austrian employer
- in order to fulfil contractual obligations,
- or if employees of an international corporate group
- are sent to the headquarters of the corporate group in Austria
- within the context of an internal training or professional development programme,
- or if employees obliged to work as managers are sent to the Austrian branch office or subsidiary within the context of a rotation.
If you work as a seconded employee in Austria for more than six months, you require a Residence Permit – Seconded Employee (“Arbeitsbewilligung Betriebsentsandte”). If your stay is shorter than six months, a visa the basis for your stay in Austria.
In contrast to the Red-White-Red – Card for Self-Employed Key Workers (“Rot-Weiß-Rot – Karte für Selbstständige Schlüsselkräfte”) and the Red-White-Red – Card for Startup Founders (“Rot-Weiß-Rot – Karte für Start-Up-GründerInnen”), the Residence Permit for Self-Employed Persons (“Aufenthaltsbewilligung für Selbstständige”) is relevant for third-country nationals who only want to stay in Austria temporarily. In order to obtain a Residence Permit for Self-Employed Persons, you must prove that you have a contractual obligation to carry out a specified self-employed activity for an employer in Austria for a period of more than six months. However, you may not plan to stay in Austria for a period longer than the duration of this obligation.
The Residence Permit – Researcher Mobility (“Aufenthaltsbewilligung Forscher – Mobilität”) targets third-country nationals who already have a valid “Researcher” residence permit in another EU member state and who will work in a research facility in Austria. This residence permit is granted for at least the duration of your research in Austria but at the longest for the period of validity of the “Researcher” residence permit of the other EU member state. The Residence Permit – Researcher Mobility can be extended for a total of two years in Austria.
Special cases of gainful employment
The Residence Permit – Special Cases of Gainful Employment (“Aufenthaltsbewilligung Sonderfälle unselbstständiger Erwerbstätigkeit”) is granted if you pursue gainful employment in Austria which is not covered by the Aliens Employment Act (“Ausländerbeschäftigungsgesetz” (e.g., au pairs, participants in exchange programmes, or language assistants).
The Residence Permit – Pupil (“Aufenthaltsbewilligung Schüler”) is granted, for example, to enable third-country nationals who are pupils to attend public schools and private schools with public-law status.
The Residence Permit – Student (“Aufenthaltsbewilligung Student”) is granted, for example, to enable third-country nationals to study at a university, university of applied sciences, accredited private university as well as a public or private teacher training college. The Residence Permit – Student is normally granted for a period of one year, but there are exceptions.
Third-country nationals are granted the Residence Permit – Social Worker (“Aufenthaltsbewilligung Sozialdienstleistender”) if they work for a non-partisan and non-profit organisation which does not pursue any profit-making purposes itself. Moreover, the specific work for the organisation must be of an educational or training nature and may also not be for profit. The Residence Permit – Social Worker is granted for a maximum of twelve months. In principle, it is not possible to extend this residence permit or to change the purpose.
The Residence Permit – Volunteer (“Aufenthaltsbewilligung Freiwilliger”) is granted in order to allow a person to work within the framework of the European Solidarity Corps (“Europäische Solidaritätskorps”), formerly known as the European Voluntary Service. For this reason, if you apply for this residence permit, you will need to show an agreement concluded with a host organisation which includes information about the voluntary service to be rendered.
The Residence Permit – Family Reunification (“Aufenthaltsbewilligung Familiengemeinschaft") can be issued to third-country nationals who are wives/husbands, civil partners or minor children of individuals who possess the following residence permits: Residence Permit – Researcher Mobility, Residence Permit –ICT, Residence Permit – Mobile ICT, Residence Permit – Special Cases of Gainful Employment and the Residence Permit – Student.
In contrast to the temporary immigration of people with residence permits, people with temporary employment can only stay in Austria for up to three months (Visa C - “Visum C”) or for up to six months (Visa D - “Visum D”).
A certain contingent of work permits for seasonal workers is defined on a yearly basis. The amount depends on how much the need for such workers can be covered within Austria. Seasonal workers and harvest helpers either enter Austria with a Visa C (for a stay of up to 90 days) or with a Visa D (for a stay of up to 180 days).
Posting of employees
A seconded employee exists if foreign companies without a branch office in Austria send their employees to Austria in order to fulfil a particular work assignment. As a rule, the foreign company performs this service on the basis of a contractual obligation (e.g., a contract for work and labour). Posted employees must possess a visa, even if they would not normally require a visa as tourists due to their nationality. Different steps must be taken depending upon whether employees are posted to Austria from companies from third countries or from the EEA.
Cross-border hiring out of employees
The cross-border hiring out of workers (“grenzüberschreitende Überlassung”) exists if the employee is hired out to another company but is integrated into the Austrian company and subject to its supervision. The result is that the Austrian company is considered to be the employer. Different steps must be taken depending upon whether the hiring out if undertaken by companies from third countries or from the EEA and Switzerland.
- Red-White-Red – Cards:
- Red-White-Red – Card for Very Highly Qualified Workers: § 41 Austrian Settlement and Residence Act (“Niederlassungs- und Aufenthaltsgesetz” - NAG), Sect 12 Aliens Employment Act (“Ausländerbeschäftigungsgesetz” - AuslBG)
- Red-White-Red – Card for Skilled Workers in Shortage Occupations: Sect 41 NAG, Sect 12a AuslBG
- Red-White-Red – Card for Other Key Workers: Sect 41 NAG, Sect 12b (1) AuslBG
- Red-White-Red – Card for Graduates of Austrian Universities: Sect 41 NAG, Sect 12b (2) AuslBG
- Red-White-Red – Card for Self-Employed Key Workers: Sect 41 NAG, Sect 24 AuslBG
- Red-White-Red – Card for Startup Founders: Sect 41 NAG, Sect 24 AuslBG
- Red-White-Red – Card Plus: Sect 41a NAG
- EU Blue Card: Sect 42 NAG, Sect 12c AuslBG
- Settlement permit: Sect 43 NAG
- Settlement Permit – Artist: Sect 43a NAG
- Settlement Permit – Researcher: Sect 43c NAG
- Settlement Permit - Special Cases of Gainful Employment: Sect 43b NAG
- Settlement Permit – Relative: § 47 NAG
- Relative: § 47 NAG
- Residence Permit – ICT: Sect 58 NAG, Sect 18a AuslBG
- Residence Permit – Mobile ICT: Sect 58a NAG, Sect 18a AuslBG
- Residence Permit – Seconded Employee: Sect 59 NAG, Sect 18 AuslBG
- Residence Permit for Self-Employed Persons: Sect 60 NAG
- Residence Permit – Researcher Mobility: Sect 61 NAG
- Residence Permit – Special Cases of Gainful Employment: Sect 62 NAG
- Residence Permit – Pupil: Sect 63 NAG
- Residence Permit – Student: Sect 64 NAG
- Residence Permit – Social Worker: Sect 66 NAG
- Residence Permit – Volunteer: Sect 67 NAG
- Residence Permit – Family Reunification: Sect 69 NAG
- Seasonal Workers: Sect 5 AuslBG
- Posting of employees: Sect 18 AuslBG
- Cross-border hiring out of employees: Sect 18 AuslBG