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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) 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 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.

Where an entrepreneur holds less than 25% of the shares in the subject company, he or she 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 of 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.

The 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 settlement, 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 May 9 1945 due to Nazi persecution may regain Austrian citizenship.

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 the applicant proves an income of presently €1,779.68 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 in the cases of intra-company transfer assignees and seasonal workers. 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. Visa extensions beyond six months are possible only in case of international obligations. In general, a residence permit or settlement permit ought to be obtained for stays of 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 knowledge (ie, Level B1). The residence permit will be issued for a further five years and may be renewable.

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 and a clean police record and they 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.

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