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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 either be filed 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) 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 listed shortage occupations (the list is subject to change each year):

  • milling cutters;
  • mechanical engineers;
  • roofers;
  • lathe operators;
  • computing engineers;
  • agricultural engineers;
  • tool manufacturers and die cutters;
  • welders;
  • power engineers;
  • electricians;
  • carpenters;
  • communication engineers;
  • locksmiths and tinsmiths;
  • concrete builders;
  • floor tilers;
  • motor mechanics;
  • pipe installers;
  • other technicians with higher education; or
  • nurses.

There is a point-based criteria system, according to which the applicant gains further 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 2018 this is €2,308.50 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 €2,565 gross – or €3,078 gross if the applicant is older than 30 – 14 times a year (these figures will be increased each year). According to a 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.

‘EU blue card’ Applicants must hold a university degree (minimum duration of three years) and expect a minimum yearly gross salary presently amounting to €59,718 (this figure is valid for 2017 and will be slightly increased in 2018).

Researchers who hold a contract with a research facility and employed artists may also obtain a particular settlement permit. 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 a presence 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 intra-company transfers of third-country managers and specialists for up to 90 days, a visa and a work permit must be issued. In case of intra-company transfers 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 intra-company transfer from a country within the European Economic Area or Switzerland 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 intra-company transfer can receive either:

  • 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 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 foreigner) 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 foreigners for up to a year.

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

Austrian companies employing foreigners 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. 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.

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; 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 on 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 intra-company transferred 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 intra-company transferred 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;
  • roofers;
  • lathe operators;
  • computing engineers;
  • agricultural engineers;
  • tool manufacturers and die cutters;
  • welders;
  • power engineers;
  • electricians;
  • carpenters;
  • communication engineers;
  • locksmiths and tinsmiths;
  • concrete builders;
  • floor tilers;
  • motor mechanics;
  • pipe installers;
  • other technicians with higher education; or
  • nurses.

This list is valid for 2018 and subject to annual changes.

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 five to eight weeks. A settlement permit, or residence permit with an integrated work permit, can be obtained in eight 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 need not employ the contracted personnel, as they continue to be employed by the foreign employer and only perform services for the Austrian entity. 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.

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 usual 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 foreigner 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 and labour 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 foreigners 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 foreigners 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 knowledge (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 knowledge (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.

After five years of qualified residence in Austria a foreigner 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 prior to 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 provinces 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.

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 assigned to Austria on a short-term basis must prove health insurance coverage of at least €30,000 in order to obtain a visa. People assigned 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 insurance providers 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 request background checks from all countries the applicant has been resident 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 (BGBl I Nr 55/2016). 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.

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