Regulatory framework and trends

Trends and developments

Have there been any notable recent trends or developments regarding business-related immigration in your jurisdiction, including any government policy initiatives?

Since February 2018 the Labour Market Authority has introduced wage and social insurance checks, which are rigorously carried out one month after the beginning of employment of a third-country national who holds:

  • a red-white-red card;
  • an EU blue card; or
  • an intra-corporate transfer (ICT) permit.

In September 2018 EU Directive 2016/801 on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of research, studies and training was transposed into Austrian law. As a result, residence permits for researchers and students have been modified to include:

  • mobility rights within the European Union;
  • shorter processes; and
  • the possibility to extend the stay in Austria for another 12 months after the termination of the research activity.

In 2019 the government issued a new directive applicable to foreign skilled workers who intend to work in Austria in a shortage occupation. From 2019, this list also includes shortage occupations applicable to each region of Austria.

Further, the point-based criteria system for issuing red-white-red cards for key employees has been amended. The minimum threshold is now higher, which means that most applicants must prove their German or English language skills. Only older employees who have not obtained a university degree are in a better position than before.

The authorities have also adopted more restrictive criteria for individuals to qualify for the ICT permit (introduced in October 2017).

As of January 2019, EU workers working in Austria are facing family benefits and family tax reductions in cases where their dependants continue to reside abroad. This is due to the new family benefit indexation rule, which makes those benefits dependent on the costs of living in the EU member state in which the dependants reside.

Domestic law

What legislation and regulations govern immigration in your jurisdiction?

Immigration matters are governed by:

The Temporary Workers Act, as amended (BGBl I Nr 100/2018) applies to all temporary workers, regardless of nationality. 

International agreements

Has your jurisdiction concluded any international agreements affecting immigration (eg, free trade agreements or free movement accords)?

Austria is part of the European Union, the European Economic Area and the Schengen Area.

Regulatory authorities

Which government authorities regulate immigration and what is the extent of their enforcement powers?

Immigration matters regarding the residence of aliens are dealt with by the regional residence authority, located within the district administration. Asylum applications are dealt with by the Federal Department of Immigration and Asylum. Visas are issued by the Austrian Embassy in the applicant’s home country or (in limited circumstances) by the Alien Police. The police are competent to check whether a person is legally resident and – eventually – to enforce return decisions.

Work permit issues are dealt with by the local Labour Market Authority office. Labour inspectors and officers from the local State Health Insurance Authority office or the Tax Authority may visit businesses without notice to check whether all employees are eligible to work in Austria. Wage and social dumping measures are controlled by the Financial Police, which is part of the Ministry of Finance. 

Can the decisions of these authorities be appealed?

Yes. 

Recent case law

Has there been any notable recent case law regarding immigration?

According to the Court of Justice of the European Union’s ruling in Danieli & C Officine Meccaniche SpA, C-18/17, the Austrian High Administrative Court has provided further clarity on whether work permits are necessary for third-country nationals who are first leased to an entity in another EU member state and then seconded to Austria.

The Austrian Constitutional Court deemed the point-based criteria system for the red-white-red card for key employees to be discriminatory against older key employees (who were not university graduates and had only vocational training). Therefore, a new criteria system entered into force in 2019.

Business visitors

Visa requirements

In what circumstances is a visa required for business visitors?

A business visa (hence a work visa) is always required if a visitor is working in Austria on a particular project or assignment or is providing particular services, regardless of the period of stay or the nationality of the applicant. A work permit must also be issued.

In limited circumstances (eg, business meetings, conferences and trade fairs) no visa is necessary, provided that the visitor is a national who is granted visa-free travel to Austria.

Restrictions

What restrictions are imposed on business visitors in terms of the work that they may undertake and their period of stay in your jurisdiction?

A business visitor may only work if a work permit, along with a work visa, (or residence permit with an integrated work permit) has been issued. Work visas are granted for a period of up to six months. For longer stays, a residence permit along with a work permit is necessary. Seasonal workers can receive a visa for up to nine months.

Application and entry

How are business visitor visas obtained and what is the typical turnaround time?

First, a pre-work permit (a so-called ‘guarantee certificate’) must be obtained from the local Labour Market Authority. A work visa can then be applied for personally and directly at the Austrian Embassy. In some embassies, an appointment must be booked in advance; other embassies use visa application centres, which are spread throughout the country. After travelling to Austria, the final work permit must be applied for and issued. The pre-work permit is not necessary if the assignment in Austria will last only four months (and is carried out with respect to a project lasting six months overall).

The typical turnaround time is five to eight weeks.

Are any visa waiver or fast-track entry programmes available?

All third-country nationals who are working in Austria need a work visa, regardless of whether they are granted visa-free travel. Third-country nationals with a valid residence permit from an EU-Schengen country are advantaged.

Short-term training

What rules and procedures apply for visitors seeking to undertake short-term training in your jurisdiction?

Training is possible in cases of:

  • joint ventures between two entities for no longer than six months;
  • posting of trainees to the headquarters of an international group for no longer than 50 weeks; and
  • internal rotational programmes for young employees, lasting no longer than 24 months per stay.

In all of these cases a training declaration must be applied for at least two weeks before commencement of the training. A visa or a residence permit must be obtained.

There is also intra-company training, for which an intra-company transfer permit is issued.

Transit

In what circumstances is a transit visa required to pass through your jurisdiction? How is it obtained?

According to the EU Visa Code Regulation (810/2009), nationals of the following countries need a transit visa:

  • Afghanistan;
  • Bangladesh;
  • Democratic Republic of Congo;
  • Eritrea;
  • Ethiopia;
  • Ghana;
  • Iran;
  • Iraq;
  • Nigeria;
  • Pakistan;
  • Somalia; and
  • Sri Lanka.

A government regulation may require further nationals to apply for a transit visa (presently, this applies only to Syrian nationals). 

Sponsored immigration

New hires

What sponsored visas or work permits are available to employers seeking to hire foreign nationals in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?

Different settlement permits are available for the employment of third-country nationals in Austria. In general, applications can be filed either directly in Austria through the future employer or at the Austrian Embassy. If the application is approved, the applicant receives an ‘entry and collection’ visa (if necessary) and travels to Austria to collect the permit. Most permits are valid for an initial period of two years and can be renewed thereafter.

The eligibility criteria are as follows.

Red-white-red card for highly skilled employees Applicants must hold a university degree (with a minimum duration of four years), preferably in maths, IT, natural sciences or a technical subject. There is a point-based criteria system, according to which the applicant gains further points for:

  • having a PhD;
  • having been employed in management positions;
  • actively pursuing research activities;
  • having German or English language skills;
  • being young; and
  • having studied in Austria.

No labour market test is necessary.

Red-white-red card for skilled workers in shortage occupations Applicants must be qualified in one of the following listed shortage occupations (the list is subject to change each year):

  • milling cutters;
  • mechanical engineers;
  • sealing operatives;
  • roofers;
  • lathe operators;
  • data processing engineers;
  • agricultural machinery mechanics;
  • tool manufacturers;
  • welders;
  • power engineers;
  • high-voltage current electricians;
  • carpenters;
  • miscellaneous light current and telecoms technicians;
  • locksmiths, fitters and tinsmiths;
  • construction tinsmiths and whitesmiths;
  • concrete builders;
  • miscellaneous mechanical technicians;
  • floor tilers;
  • motor mechanics;
  • painters;
  • pipe installers;
  • pavers;
  • wood machinery workers;
  • farriers, blacksmiths and wagon builders;
  • joiners;
  • other technicians with higher education; or
  • nurses.

Since January 2019 there has been a further list in place for each region of Austria. This list includes shortage occupations such as bakers, butchers or accountants (for the region of Upper Austria) and waiters or hotel personnel (for Tyrol).

There is a point-based criteria system, according to which the applicant gains points for:

  • having a university degree;
  • having German or English language skills;
  • having previous job experience; and
  • being young.

No labour market test is necessary.

Red-white-red card for graduate students Applicants must hold a university degree from an Austrian university or college and intend to be employed in a sector relevant to his or her studies, with an expected monthly minimum wage (for 2019 this is €2,349 gross, 14 times a year). No labour market test is necessary.

Red-white-red card for key employees Applicants must expect a monthly minimum wage presently amounting to €2,610 gross – or €3,132 gross if the applicant is older than 30 – 14 times a year (these figures will be increased each year). According to the point-based criteria system, the applicant gains further points for:

  • having a university degree;
  • having German or English language skills;
  • being a professional sports athlete;
  • having previous job experience; and
  • being young.

It should be noted that in 2019 the minimum threshold was increased by five points, which is why most applicants need to submit German or English language certificates in order to reach the minimum points to be eligible.

EU blue card Applicants must hold a university degree (minimum duration of three years) and expect a minimum yearly gross salary of €62,258 (this figure is valid for 2019 and will be slightly increased each year).

Researchers who hold a contract with a research facility and employed artists may also obtain a particular settlement permit. Since the transposal of EU Directive 2016/801 on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of research, studies, training, voluntary service, pupil exchange schemes or educational projects and au pair programmes:

  • mobility rights in the European Union regarding researchers have improved;
  • final authority decision must be reached:
    • within eight weeks for researchers; and
    • within 90 days for students; and
  • extensions are possible even after the termination of the research activity.

Additionally, there are different residence and settlement permits for specific activities which do not require a work permit. These are valid for an initial one-year period and can be renewed thereafter.

Intra-company transfers

What sponsored visas or work permits are available to multinational employers seeking to transfer foreign employees to your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?

Intra-company transfers (ICTs) are for third-country nationals employed with a third-country multinational company that has an entity in Austria. An ICT permit is a combined residence and work permit for stays of 91 days to one year (for trainees) or three years (for managers and specialists). The ICT employee must have been working with his or her home entity for at least six months (for trainees) or nine months (for managers and specialists).

The application can be filed directly in Austria through the Austrian host entity. If the immigration authority approves the application, the ICT employee receives an ‘entry and collection’ visa at the Austrian Embassy and travels to Austria to collect the permit, if necessary. The permit is valid for an initial one-year period, but can be renewed until the maximum stay is reached.

For ICTs of third-country managers and specialists for up to 90 days, a visa and a work permit must be issued (including permission for so-called ‘international staffing’). In case of ICTs of third-country trainees who are not eligible for an ICT permit, a different training permit in combination with a visa may be obtained.

In case of an ICT from an EU country  to Austria, a declaration must be filed with the Financial Police, detailing the period of the assignment in Austria and the salary.

Do any special rules govern secondments?

Secondments of third-country nationals which do not fall under an ICT can receive:

  • a visa in combination with a work permit (for secondments of up to six months); or
  • a residence permit for seconded employees in combination with a work permit (for secondments of up to one year).

If the secondment of a third-country employee who is employed by a third-country employer qualifies as temporary employment (ie, staffing) under Austrian labour laws, an additional permission for international staffing must be obtained.

If the secondment is from an entity within the European Economic Area or Switzerland, a declaration must be filed with the Financial Police detailing the period of the secondment to Austria and the salary. EU, EEA and Swiss nationals do not need a visa or work permit. Third-country nationals working for an EU, EEA or Swiss employer and seconded to Austria are advantaged and do not need a work permit (provided that the Labour Authority issues the so-called ‘EU secondment confirmation’); however, they may require a residence permit (or a visa) under specific circumstances.

Sponsor requirements and considerations

What are the eligibility and procedural requirements for employers to sponsor foreign employees?

The eligibility requirements depend on the permit. In general, it is necessary to pass a labour market test; hence a foreign employee can be hired only if there is no other presently unemployed Austrian national (or another already integrated foreign employee) eligible for the job.

However, if a sponsor has been fined for recurrent violations of the Austrian Alien Employment Act, it may be banned from hiring further foreign employees for up to a year.

What ongoing reporting and record-keeping requirements apply to sponsors?

Austrian companies employing foreign employees must verify whether the correct work permit has been issued for each employee and keep a copy of it (or the combined residence and work permit) in its records. The company must also abide by the same minimum salary rules (as per the applicable collective bargaining agreement) applicable to similar employees in Austria. Further, the commencement date of the employment of a third-country national must be notified to the local Labour Market Authority office within three days. It must be verified that the social insurance of the foreign national is covered in Austria or abroad (depending on the type of permit and the home country).

Austrian enterprises may be required to report the number and names of all foreign employees to the Labour Market Authority, the local State Health Insurance Authority office or the Tax Authority. They may also be required to submit requested information to these authorities as well as the Federal Administrative Court.

In case of secondments and staffing from the European Union, the European Economic Area or Switzerland to an Austrian company, a declaration must be filed with the Financial Police before the start of the assignment. The EU, EEA or Swiss employer must keep a copy of the filed declaration and documents regarding the social insurance document registration (minimum salary thresholds must also be met).

Further, any entity seconding employees to Austria – regardless of the country of origin – must keep German-language salary documents, including:

  • records of the precise working hours;
  • payslips;
  • salary records in general;
  • social insurance confirmations; and
  • proof that wages have been paid.

In what circumstances (if any) must the employer submit to resident labour market testing before hiring or transferring foreign employees? Do any exemptions apply?

If a labour market test is required by law, the Labour Market Authority carries it out automatically upon receiving the application for a work permit (or combined residence and work permit). A labour market test applies for the settlement permits known as the ‘red-white-red card for key employees’ and the ‘EU blue card’ and permits for ICT employees.

No labour market test is required for the following settlement permits:

  • the ‘red-white-red card for highly skilled employees’;
  • the ‘red-white-red card for skilled workers in shortage occupations’; and
  • the ‘red-white-red card for graduated students’.

Are there any annual quota limits or restrictions on certain positions that can be filled by foreign nationals?

A quota applies for specific settlement permits, including:

  • the settlement permit without employment;
  • some permits for dependants who are joining the foreign principal;
  • permits for seasonal workers; and
  • permits for third-country nationals who are holders of a permanent residence permit from another EU member state.

Quotas may be introduced for ICT employees in the future.

Are there any immigration exemptions or other special schemes for shortage occupations in your jurisdiction?

Yes, a specific settlement permit called the ‘red-white-red card for skilled persons in shortage occupations’. The applicant must be qualified in one of the following shortage occupations:

  • milling cutters;
  • mechanical engineers;
  • sealing operatives;
  • roofers;
  • lathe operators;
  • data processing engineers;
  • agricultural machinery mechanics;
  • tool makers;
  • welders;
  • power engineers;
  • high-voltage current electricians;
  • carpenters;
  • miscellaneous light current and telecoms technicians;
  • locksmiths, fitters and tinsmiths;
  • construction tinsmiths and whitesmiths;
  • concrete builders;
  • miscellaneous mechanical technicians;
  • floor tilers;
  • motor mechanics;
  • painters;
  • pipe installers;
  • pavers;
  • wood machinery workers;
  • farriers, blacksmiths and wagon builders;
  • joiners;
  • other technicians with higher education; or
  • nurses.

This list is valid for 2019 and subject to annual changes.

In 2019 additional lists of shortage occupations were introduced for the first time in each region of Austria. As such, applicants who qualify in the relevant occupations must settle in the respective region of Austria.

How long does it typically take to obtain a sponsored visa? Is expedited visa processing available?

Typically, a visa (combined with a separate work permit) can be obtained in six to 10 weeks. A settlement permit, or residence permit with an integrated work permit, can be obtained in nine to 16 weeks, calculated from the day the application is filed. The processing time usually varies according to which regional immigration authority is competent.

There are no expedited immigration routes, but some permits can be applied for directly in Austria, in which case approval may be granted more quickly.

What rules govern the hiring of foreign third-party contractors?

Usually, the Austrian enterprise which is the project partner acts as a sponsor, and work permits are issued in its name. In this case the Austrian entity does not need to employ the contracted personnel, as they continue to be employed by the foreign employer and perform services for the Austrian entity only. Otherwise, the foreign contractor that employs the seconded employees can apply for the permits to be issued in its name as a foreign company.

In the case of a self-employed contractor, the individual must apply for a combined work and residence permit as a freelancer. Other types of permit may also be applicable depending on the volume of services carried out in Austria.

Importantly, the authorities will verify whether a foreign employer really holds a service agreement with the Austrian contractor for which the contracted employees are carrying out work. Where the employees are merely staffed to the Austrian entity for the benefit of the Austrian company, the rules on staffing apply.

What are the penalties for sponsor non-compliance with the relevant immigration laws and regulations?

Fines for illegally employing a foreign national range from €1,000 to €10,000 per case (€2,000 to €20,000 for repeat offenders). Where more than three persons are illegally employed, fines range from €2,000 to €20,000 per case (€4,000 to €50,000 for repeat offenders).

Fines for violations of wage and salary record-keeping obligations range from €1,000 to €10,000 per case (€2,000 to €20,000 for repeat offenders). For the same violations where more than three persons are concerned, fines range from €2,000 to €20,000 per case (€4,000 to €50,000 for repeat offenders). The managing directors can be held liable.

The employment of a group of people or a minor without valid residence permits is considered a criminal offence, subject to:

  • a custodial sentence of up to six months; or
  • a financial penalty of up to 360 daily rates.

Further, a custodial sentence of up to two years applies where:

  • a group of people without valid residence permits is employed for more than a month; or
  • a foreign national is a victim of human trafficking or has been employed under exploitative conditions. 

Are there any other special considerations for sponsors in your jurisdiction?

All entities must admit labour inspectors onto their premises and may receive fines for resisting inspections.

In case of potential violations of certain immigration, labour and record keeping laws, authorities may impose the payment of security deposits or restrict foreign suppliers from supplying orders to the Austrian customer.

Certain violations are registered in a central register; if an Austrian entity is fined three times in two years for illegal employment of foreign nationals, the employment of further foreign nationals may be prohibited for up to one year. Such offences can be made available in case of public procurement procedures.

If an entity repeatedly hires foreign employees without a valid work permit, the tax authorities can request revocation of its trade licence.

General employee requirements

Must sponsored employees meet any language requirements?

Proof of German language skills is a general requirement for the long-term employment of foreign nationals in Austria. However, sponsored employees applying for a ‘red-white-red card’ or an ‘EU blue card’ are exempt from this requirement on their first application. Nevertheless, they must comply with the integration agreement by proving German language skills (at Level A2) within two years of the first permit’s issuance. This requirement is considered to be fulfilled if the applicant has graduated from a high school and can be admitted to university or is a university degree holder.

Dependants of sponsored employees (except ‘EU blue card’ applicants) must generally prove German language skills (at Level A1) on their first application. Again, the requirement is considered to be fulfilled in the case of high school graduates and university degree holders. Further circumstances can justify German language skill requirement waivers – for example, where the dependents are under 14 years old.

All settlement permits that are predicated on a points system award points for German (or English) language skills, based on proficiency. Since the points to qualify under the ‘red-white-red card for skilled employees’ have been increased, most applicants will also need proof of German or English language skills to qualify. This is assessed on a case-by-case basis.

After five years of qualified residence in Austria a foreign national is eligible for a permanent residence permit (valid for another five years), if he or she can prove advanced German language skills (ie, Level B1).

Are sponsored employees subject to any medical checks?

A medical examination before travel to Austria can be required for applicants from particular countries, if a relevant regulation has been issued. Further, Austrian immigration authorities in most Austrian regions may request a medical examination before issuing a long-term residence permit. In this case, the medical examination is typically requested at the end of the immigration process. In day-to-day practice, these requests are rarely issued.

Must sponsored employees meet any medical or other insurance requirements?

Yes, all employees who are locally hired in Austria must be registered with the Austrian health and social insurance scheme.

People seconded to Austria on a short-term basis must prove health insurance coverage of at least €30,000 in order to obtain a visa. People seconded to Austria on a long-term basis who need to apply for a residence permit must prove health insurance coverage that essentially covers all risks, as equivalent to the Austrian state health insurance scheme; many international insurers do not fulfil this criterion and are not accepted by the authorities.

Where no social insurance waiver agreement is in place between the country of origin and Austria, social insurance contributions may apply.

Are sponsored employees subject to any security or background checks?

All employees applying for either a residence permit or a settlement permit must provide a legalised security background check, which may not be older than three months at the time of application. Recently, authorities will request background checks from any other country in which the applicant is resident at the time of application, in case he or she has been living there for more than six months.

Are sponsored employees subject to any restrictions on studying or working second or volunteer jobs?

Most sponsored settlement permits contain a work permission only for the specific sponsor. Only the settlement permit known as the ‘red-white-red card plus’ grants unlimited access to the labour market. In any case, contractual limitations on taking on second jobs must be considered.

Special residence permits allow students to carry out work for a limited number of hours during the week.

Are there any rules or standards governing the equivalence of sponsored employees’ foreign qualifications?

Yes, there are certain rules governing the recognition of third-country qualifications and diplomas (the Recognition and Evaluation Act, as amended (BGBI I Nr 37/2018). EU and EEA nationals wishing to pursue a regulated profession in a member state other than that in which they obtained their professional qualifications are governed by the EU Directive on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications (2013/55/EU), which is implemented by several different acts in Austria.

What are the penalties for employee non-compliance with the relevant immigration laws and regulations?

If a third-country national resides in Austria without a valid visa, residence permit or settlement permit or after termination of a visa-free stay, the Federal Department of Immigration and Asylum may issue a return decision which can lead to deportation. Additionally, that individual may be prohibited from re-entering for a limited or unlimited period. EU, EEA and Swiss nationals may face expulsion or a prohibition of stay if they violate the conditions of their settlement freedom.

Unsponsored immigration

Highly skilled individuals

What unsponsored immigration routes are available for highly skilled foreign nationals to seek employment in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?

Highly skilled individuals can apply for a job-seeker visa that is valid for up to six months. This visa is available for people who hold a university degree with a minimum duration of four years, preferably in mathematics, IT, natural sciences or a technical subject. The visa is issued according to a points-based system; further points are gained if the applicant:

  • holds a PhD;
  • has work experience in a management position and has received a certain minimum annual salary;
  • is pursuing research activities;
  • has German or English language skills;
  • is young; or
  • has completed his or her studies in Austria.

If an employer is found within the validity of the job-seeker visa, the individual may upgrade the visa to a ‘red-white-red card for highly skilled employees’.

Dependents of certain sponsored employees can apply for a ‘red-white-red card plus’, which grants unlimited access to the labour market.

Entrepreneurs

What unsponsored immigration routes are available for entrepreneurs seeking to establish a business in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?

Entrepreneurs may apply for a ‘red-white-red card’ as a self-employed key worker (ie, freelancer) or a start-up founder. Both options require proof of a certain investment capital dedicated to the business on application of the permit. The processing times for an application are approximately 14 to 20 weeks. In both cases the labour market authority must issue a report on the activities of the entrepreneur. The ‘red-white-red card’ is issued for an initial two-year period, renewable thereafter.

Freelancers must:

  • provide an investment capital amounting to €100,000; or
  • prove the creation of new or further jobs of economic value for a specific region.

Start-up founders must provide investment capital amounting to €50,000, but must also fulfil further criteria, such as the market launch of innovative products or services. Additionally, these applicants must gain further points according to a criteria catalogue, in which the following skills can be advantageous:

  • German or English language skills;
  • previous work experience;
  • a strong educational background; and
  • receiving Austrian funding intended for start-ups.

Entrepreneurs holding less than 25% of the shares in the subject company may be eligible to apply for another type of ‘red-white-red card’ for employed persons.

A self-employed artist may apply for a settlement permit for artists, if his or her income satisfies his or her maintenance costs.

Investors

What unsponsored immigration routes are available for foreign investors seeking to invest in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?

Foreign investors may apply for a ‘red-white-red card’ as a self-employed key worker (ie, freelancer) or a start-up founder. Both options require proof a certain investment capital dedicated to the business on application of the permit. The processing times for an application are approximately 14 to 20 weeks. In both cases the labour market authority must issue a report on the activities of the investor. The ‘red-white-red card’ is issued for an initial period of two years, renewable thereafter.

Freelancers must either:

  • provide an investment capital amounting to €100,000; or
  • prove the creation of new or further jobs of economic value for a specific region.

Start-up founders must provide investment capital amounting to €50,000, but must also fulfil further criteria, such as the market launch of innovative products or services. Additionally, these applicants must gain further points according to a criteria catalogue, in which the following skills can be advantageous:

  • German or English language skills;
  • previous work experience;
  • a strong educational background; and
  • receiving Austrian funding intended for start-ups.

Further, a ‘without employment’ settlement permit can be obtained according to a quota system; this allows business to be carried out in Austria but does not grant access to the labour market. Sufficient funds and a certain minimum income must be proven.

Theoretically, it is possible to obtain citizenship through investment, but in practical terms this is entirely dependent on the discretion of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and applications are evaluated and granted based on a detailed analysis of the effected – not only the planned – investments.

Ancestry

Are any immigration routes open to foreign nationals based on ancestry or descent?

Generally, different immigration routes are available to descendants of:

  • Austrian citizens;
  • EU, EEA and Swiss citizens; and
  • third-country nationals.

The following dependents may join an Austrian citizen in Austria:

  • minor and unmarried children of Austrian citizens, including adoptive and step children;
  • adult children, if they were financially dependent on an Austrian citizen in the country of origin; and
  • dependent ancestors (ie, parents or grandparents).

Other descendants or ancestors may be eligible under specific circumstances.

Dependent children (below the age of 21) of EU, EEA and Swiss nationals and Austrian citizens who have previously made use of their freedom of movement, as well as their dependent ancestors (ie, parents or grandparents), may join the principal in Austria, provided that the principal is residing lawfully in Austria.

Children (including adoptive and step children) of third-country nationals who are sponsored employees can apply for particular settlement or residence permits, provided that they are a minor and unmarried. Turkish nationals may have a privileged immigration route.

Other dependents may join in exceptional circumstances.

Citizenship can be obtained in case of direct ancestry of an Austrian citizen. People who were Austrian citizens and who left the country before 9 May 1945 due to Nazi persecution may regain Austrian citizenship. In 2018 the government discussed options on granting (double) citizenship to German and Ladin-speaking people from South Tyrol, Italy. The Italian government has opposed this proposal and at present it is unlikely to enter into force anytime soon.

Other routes

Are there any other unsponsored immigration routes?

Yes, there are settlement permits which do not allow for employment in Austria and can be obtained based on a quota system, provided that the applicant proves an income of €1,866.12 per month (or more, in the case of married couples or registered partners with children); this figure is subject to change each year. 

Extensions, permanent residence and citizenship

Extensions and status changes

Can short-term visa or work permit holders switch to long-term visas? If so, what conditions and procedures apply?

In general, it is possible to combine short-term stays (ie, up to six months) with long-term stays, but this depends on the specific immigration routes. The authorities have developed a strict approach when it comes to intra-company transfer (ICT) assignees, as these applicants must stay outside Austria for a minimum period before filing an ICT application. More flexible routes are available for seasonal workers or seconded foreign contractors, whose stay has to be extended. Under specific circumstances, other seconded employees may apply for a residence permit after an initial stay based on a visa.

Visa extensions beyond six months are possible if required due to international obligations.

Under what conditions can long-term visas be extended?

There are no visas granted for longer than twelve months. Visas are usually granted for a maximum of six months (or nine months in the case of seasonal workers). Visa extensions beyond six months are possible only in case of international obligations. In general, a residence permit or settlement permit should be obtained for stays longer than six months; this can then be extended, if all conditions are met. 

Permanent residence

Can long-term visa holders apply for permanent residence? If so, what conditions and procedures apply?

After five consecutive years of a qualified stay (ie, if the applicant is a holder of specific settlement permits), individuals can apply for permanent residence, provided that they have obtained sufficient German language skills (ie, Level B1). The residence permit will be issued for a further five years and may be renewed.

Citizenship

Can long-term visa holders or permanent residents apply for citizenship? If so, what conditions and procedures apply?

Generally, individuals may apply for Austrian citizenship if they have been residing in Austria for 10 years and they meet certain general requirements (eg, they have a secure means of support, have a clean police record and have passed the citizenship exams).

If an individual can prove established personal and professional integration into Austrian society and provide sufficient German language skills (ie, Level B2), he or she may apply after a legal stay in Austria of six years. Equally, the following individuals may apply after six years of permanent residence:

  • the spouses of Austrian citizens (if married for five years);
  • EEA citizens;
  • individuals who were born in Austria; and
  • other individuals under specific circumstances.

Persons who have achieved or are expected to achieve extraordinary cultural, scientific, economic, artistic or athletic accomplishments in the interests of Austria may apply for citizenship without prior residence in Austria. Such individuals can also obtain double citizenship.

Dependants

Eligibility

Who qualifies as a dependant for immigration purposes?

A dependant for immigration purposes is:

  • a spouse or registered partner (of at least 21 years old) – in the case of a polygamous marriage, only one of the spouses is eligible to join the principal; or
  • a minor unmarried child, including adoptive and step children.

Other persons – such as ancestors or adult children – may qualify as dependants under specific circumstances.

Conditions and restrictions

What conditions and restrictions apply to bringing dependants to your jurisdiction (including with respect to access to labour markets, education and public benefits)?

Generally, dependents of skilled third-country nationals who hold a settlement permit such as an ‘EU blue card’ or ‘red-white-red card’ receive a ‘red-white-red-card plus’, which grants unlimited access to the labour market. Children of five years old must attend kindergarten and from the age of six to 15 they must enrol in school. University access can be granted afterwards. Dependants of sponsored ‘red-white-red card’ holders must generally prove German language skills (at Level A1) in the first application. The requirement is considered to be fulfilled where the applicant is a high school graduate or university degree holder. Minor dependants under 14 years old are exempt from the German language skill requirement.

Dependents of third-country nationals who are assigned to Austria on a temporary basis receive a residence permit in limited circumstances only. Dependants of employees of an intra-company transfer are entitled to a residence permit and can work on an independent basis without prior notice; they may receive the right to work for a specific employer, if mentioned in the application documents. They do not need to prove any language skills.

Turkish dependents with intentions to work in Austria may receive privileged access.

Privileged conditions apply to dependants of Austrian citizens and for EU, EEA and Swiss nationals. Differences are made between the dependants of Austrian citizens who have previously made use of their freedom of movement and other Austrian citizens who have resided only in Austria. Dependants of Austrian citizens and of EU, EEA and Swiss nationals receive free access to the labour market.