Long-term transfers

Categories

What are the main work and business permit categories used by companies to transfer skilled staff?

In Austria, a distinction has to be drawn between people - EU, EEA, Swiss nationals or third-country nationals - who relocate to Austria to be hired locally (settlement permits), who come to Austria while remaining on a foreign payroll (residence permits, secondments) or who are assigned to Austria based on a staffing agreement.

EU, EEA and Swiss nationals

Nationals of the following countries do not need a work and residence permit in the case of local hire: Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

However, if these nationals are assigned (based on either a secondment or a staffing agreement) to Austria, in most circumstances a ZKO declaration has to be filed prior to the commencement of the assignment. Although no residence permit is required, certain registration requirements apply.

Nationals of Croatia need a work permit in the case of local hire. Nationals of Croatia and third-country nationals who are employed with an employer with its seat in the EEA, EU or Switzerland, must file a ZKO declaration if they are assigned to Austria. Subsequently, the local labour authorities will issue a work permit within two weeks. The assignment may start prior to the issuance of the work permit, as long as the ZKO declaration has been filed on time and the EU social security certificate (A1 form) has already been issued. A residence permit is not needed; however, registration requirements apply within certain deadlines.

Third-country nationals

For third-country nationals who are to be locally hired in Austria, the following residence permits apply.

Settlement permit - ‘Red-White-Red Card’

This permit serves as a combined work and residence permit and is issued for an initial period of 24 months. The permit applies to the following four categories of workers:

  • very highly qualified workers;
  • skilled workers in shortage occupations;
  • other key workers; and
  • graduates of universities and colleges of higher education in Austria.

The Red-White-Red Card is extendable and when extended, a settlement permit Red-White-Red Card Plus will be issued. Applicants for a Red-White-Red Card are allowed to bring their family members to Austria, if dependants meet certain German language skill requirements or if they have undertaken a high school education, which issues qualifications to enter university. The essential requirements for getting a Red-White-Red Card are qualification, work experience, age, language skills, job offer according to the pre-qualifications and meeting minimum monthly salary requirements (at least €2,610 for employees under the age of 30 and €3,132 for employees aged 30 and above; these figures apply for 2019 and are subject to an annual review; currently, there are considerations to reduce these minimum salaries to make the Austrian labour market more attractive).

Settlement permit - EU Blue Card

This permit serves as a combined work and residence permit and is issued for an initial period of up to 24 months. The EU Blue Card is also extendable and, in such case, a Red-White-Red Card Plus will be issued. Applicants for an EU Blue Card are allowed to bring their family members to Austria, who have to fulfil certain German language skill requirements only after an initial period of two years of stay in Austria. The essential requirements for getting an EU Blue Card are qualification, job offer according to the pre-qualifications and meeting minimum monthly salary requirements (€4,447; this figure applies for 2019 and is subject to an annual review).

Settlement permit - Red-White-Red Card Plus

This permit is issued to workers holding a Red-White-Red Card or EU Blue Card and for workers holding other long-term settlement permits, after a certain minimum duration of the initial work and residence permit. It is also issued to dependants of workers who qualify for a Red-White-Red Card or EU Blue Card. The Red-White-Red Card Plus grants unlimited labour market access.

Residence permits for third-country nationals also apply to the following:

  • special cases of employment (eg, special executives of internationally active companies whose monthly gross salary amounts to at least €6,264 (this figure applies for 2019 and is subject to an increase in 2020));
  • certain scientists and other employees who do not need a work permit pursuant to the Alien Employment Act;
  • self-employed workers (eg, freelancers and start-up founders); and
  • researchers.

Austria implemented the ICT Directive in late 2017. The Austrian ICT system created two new residence and work permits for managers, specialists and trainees who are employed with a third-country employer and are assigned to an Austrian group company.

The ICT Card

This is a combined residence and work permit and is issued by the Austrian authorities within approximately eight weeks of the filing of the application. It can only be obtained by managers, specialists or trainees who have been employed with a third-country employer for at least six months (for trainees) or nine months (for managers and specialists) and are assigned to an Austrian group company for more than 90 days and up to one year (trainees) or three years (managers and specialists). The assigned candidate is allowed to work for client projects of the Austrian group company.

The Mobile ICT Card

This is also a combined residence and work permit that is issued by the Austrian authorities. It can only be obtained by managers, specialists or trainees who have been assigned by a third-country employer to a group company in the EU under the ICT regime and, therefore, already hold an ICT Card that was issued by another EU member state. Holders of ICT Cards of another EU member state who are subsequently assigned to an Austrian group company for more than 90 days can obtain this permit. As the candidate already went through the application process in another EU member state, the process in Austria is accelerated: the assignee will receive the Mobile ICT residence and work permit within eight weeks of filing the application according to the Austrian rules. However, he or she is allowed to start to work in Austria 20 days after the complete application is filed. Like the ICT Card, the Mobile ICT Card also entitles the assignee to work for client projects of the Austrian group company.

Further, there is a separate process for holders of an ICT card of another EU member state who are assigned to Austria for a period of up to 90 days within a 180-day period: in this case, a ZKO declaration has to be filed with the Austrian authorities prior to the arrival of the candidate in Austria. The Labour Authority will then issue an EU-Secondment Declaration provided that all requirements for the assignment are fulfilled. In this case, no additional Austrian work visa is required.

For third-country nationals who are assigned or leased to Austria (secondment) and do not fall under the ICT regime, the residence permit - assignee applies: this permit is available for third-country nationals who intend to stay temporarily for more than six months on an assignment in Austria. These candidates will not be allowed to bring their family members to Austria under the family reunion category for a period exceeding six months. A family reunion permit is not available for family members of employees on assignment if they do not fall under the ICT categories or are students, pupils, social workers or self-employed persons.

For third-country nationals who are assigned to Austria based on a staffing agreement (leased employees), a special staffing permit has to be obtained from the local trade authority in addition to the residence and work permits. This scenario may also apply to intra-company transfers under certain circumstances.

Special rules apply to Turkish nationals under the EU Accession Treaty.

Procedures

What are the procedures for obtaining these permissions? At what stage can work begin?

All kinds of residence permits (settlement permits or residence permits), valid for a period of stay longer than six months, have to be applied for by individuals in their respective home country at the consular office after they have received the respective binding job offer from the Austrian employer (local hire) or the respective ‘guarantee certificate’ - a precondition to receiving a work permit (assignment). Most consulates require an appointment booked via a service provider or the embassy prior to filing. Such an appointment for the filing may not be immediately available. Red-White-Red Cards can also be applied for by the Austrian employer at the respective competent immigration authority. Further, this simplified application procedure is also possible for the application of an EU Blue Card. Regarding intra-company transfer (ICT) permits, the application can either be filed by the assignee in his or her home country or by the Austrian group company on behalf of the assignee in Austria. The benefit of the employer being able to file the application has not been extended to the filing of residence permit applications for dependants.

The consular office forwards the documents to the Austrian immigration authority in the region of the intended place of residence of the individual after arrival. Subsequently, the documents are forwarded to the local labour office for the execution of a labour market test. Where there is a positive result, the Austrian immigration authority approves the permit and notifies the employee accordingly. Visa-exempted nationals are entitled to travel directly to Austria and will receive the combined work and residence permit after fingerprints have been taken. Third-country nationals who have applied for a residence permit will receive an ‘entry and collection visa’ to enter Austria.

Only settlement permits (including ICT permits) serve as combined work and residence permissions. If a residence permit has been filed, the assignee has to apply for a work permit after collection of the residence permit before he or she can start working. Issuance of the work permit may take five to eight days.

During the application process, neither assigned nor locally hired persons are allowed to work as long as no other work permit or work visa/residence permit has been issued for this time period. The applicants can begin working as soon as all requested permits are issued and handed over to the applicant.

Period of stay

What are the general maximum (and minimum) periods of stay granted under the main categories for company transfers?

The minimum period of stay is six months. The maximum period for the Red-White-Red Card and the EU Blue Card is 24 months and upon expiry can be extended accordingly. After a stay of two years (for local hires only), the permit can be issued for a period of three years where the employee has fulfilled the language requirement at an A2 level or is exempted from the language requirement, provided his or her passport has an appropriate duration. After a period of five years, a long-term residence permit can be issued under certain circumstances:

  • permanent residence - EU settlement permit and settlement permit permanent residence - family member, which have a validity of five years; and
  • residence card, which has a validity of five years.

The ICT permits have a minimum validity of three months and maximum validity of three years for intra-company transferred managers and specialists. For intra-company transferred trainees, the ICT permits have a maximum validity of up to one year. After this maximum period of stay, the assignee must leave the EU for at least four months before applying for a new ICT permit.

Special rules apply to Turkish nationals under the EU Accession Treaty.

Processing time

How long does it typically take to process the main categories?

The processing time varies from immigration office to immigration office. In general, issuance of a settlement permit or residence permit in combination with a work permit requires a period of eight to 16 weeks calculated from the day the respective application is filed either at the Austrian immigration authority or at the respective consular office abroad. This timeline does not include the time required to prepare the application up to the point of submission. There is no priority service available.

Staff benefits

Is it necessary to obtain any benefits or facilities for staff to secure a work permit?

Assigned employees must have suitable health insurance cover of at least €30,000 during the immigration process. There is a risk that social insurance also has to be activated in Austria where there is no social insurance waiver agreement between Austria and the home country (social insurance waiver agreements are in place with the following countries: EEA member states, Albania, Australia, Bosnia, Canada, Chile, India, Israel, Korea, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Moldova, the Philippines, Serbia, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Uruguay and the United States). In addition, the assigned workers must receive a monthly salary that is in accordance with the minimum salary requirements provided under the Austrian collective bargaining agreement. Further, assigned employees have to provide evidence of suitable accommodation.

In the event of local hires, no health insurance has to be submitted since the compulsory health insurance has to be activated only prior to the commencement of work, but employees have to submit a suitable entitlement for accommodation, valid for the entire period of stay. In the case of issuance of an EU Blue Card only, no suitable entitlement for accommodation has to be submitted as it is sufficient to indicate the intended residence address.

Assessment criteria

Do the immigration authorities follow objective criteria, or do they exercise discretion according to subjective criteria?

For the most commonly used immigration categories, Red-White-Red Card, EU Blue Card and ICT Card, the authority follows objective criteria since all applications are evaluated based on a transparent and objective evaluation system and no discretion is permitted.

However, there is room for flexibility for some applications, such as permits for self-employed workers and special cases of employment. Those require special survey reports, which make a respective application complex in nature.

High net worth individuals and investors

Is there a special route for high net worth individuals or investors?

Investors can apply for a Red-White-Red Card as self-employed persons or as start-up founders. The investor category is designed for high net worth individuals intending to make a substantial financial investment in Austria. The minimum threshold for such substantial financial investments or valuable contributions to the economy amounts to €100,000. The Red-White-Red Card for start-up founders requires, among other things, the transfer of share capital of at least €50,000.

Is there a special route (including fast track) for high net worth individuals for a residence permission route into your jurisdiction?

See question 16. Individuals undertaking a notable investment may also receive Austrian citizenship (citizenship by investment programme). However, this route is entirely dependent on the discretion of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and is evaluated and only granted after a deep analysis of the effected - not only the planned - investment.

These types of permits can be obtained only after an exhaustive process and in-depth analysis of the investments into the Austrian economy and the benefits of such investments for the Austrian economy.

Highly skilled individuals

Is there a special route for highly skilled individuals?

There is a special route for highly skilled individuals. They can apply for a job-seeker visa (with a validity of 180 days) in their country of residence. They have to submit all their diplomas and qualifications, which are scrutinised according to a points system. A job-seeker visa enables them to travel to Austria and to search for a job. As soon as they find a job they can exchange the visa for a Red-White-Red Card. If the candidate reaches the respective amount of credits (points), the authorities will grant the permit. Candidates who have already found a job while still residing in their home country can directly apply for a Red-White-Red Card.

Ancestry and descent

Is there a special route for foreign nationals based on ancestry or descent?

Ancestry or descent can be relevant for Austrian citizenship proceedings (Austrian citizenship by descent).

Minimum salary

Is there a minimum salary requirement for the main categories for company transfers?

Employees, whether locally hired or on assignment, must earn at least the minimum salary according to the applicable collective bargaining agreement, including (pro rata) holiday and Christmas remuneration (13th and 14th salary). Therefore, the minimum salary requirement cannot be provided in general as it depends on the scope of business of the company involved. The minimum salaries are fixed by collective bargaining agreements and depend on two factors: the job or duty to be performed and length of service.

Resident labour market test

Is there a quota system or resident labour market test?

In Austria, there is a labour market test carried out regarding the application of specific permits for locally hired people, such as the Red-White-Red Card for key employees or the EU Blue Card. The same applies to ICT Cards. Employers must demonstrate that they have been unable to fill the vacancy with a suitable settled worker. To prove this, the labour market authority advertises the role for a period of 14 days.

The quota system is applicable for the settlement permit without employment, assignment permits, permits for dependants joining the principal during the stay in Austria and permits to work as a seasonal worker.

Shortage occupations

Is there a special route for shortage occupations?

Professionals who want to work in certain industries with shortages in Austria can apply for a Red-White-Red Card for skilled workers in scarce occupations. The Labour Ministry publishes a list that defines the current shortage occupations on an annual basis. These include, for example, welders, electricity engineers and qualified nurses. The benefit of this Red-White-Red Card is that there is no labour market test and that the minimum salary is calculated only on the basis of the applicable collective bargaining agreement and is not related to the figures described in question 10.

Applicants must achieve at least 55 out of 90 points to receive the Red-White-Red Card for scarce occupations. Points are granted for professional qualifications, work experience, age and language skills. Applicants must prove their qualifications for a shortage occupation and have a binding job offer in Austria to apply successfully for a Red-White-Red Card.

Other eligibility requirements

Are there any other main eligibility requirements to qualify for work permission in your jurisdiction?

In the case of the Red-White-Red Card settlement permit, the candidate must reach the respective amount of credits (points) as required by Austrian immigration law, which are based on his or her specific job qualification and education, previous work experience, knowledge of the German or English language, age and whether he or she has completed any university studies in Austria.

Third-party contractors

What is the process for third-party contractors to obtain work permission?

Third-party contractors can obtain the respective permits in two ways. The general way is where the Austrian business or project partner acts as sponsor and, in this case, the permits are issued in its name. The business partner and employer of the employee can also apply for the permits to be issued in its name as a foreign company.

There is no need to enter into a local employment agreement with an Austrian sponsor, where there is one, as the employee continues to be employed by the foreign contractor.

In the case of a self-employed contractor, the individual must apply for a combined work and residence permit as a freelancer.

It must be taken into consideration that the authorities verify in detail whether the foreign employer is the holder of the contract or whether the employees seconded by the foreign employer to Austria qualify as leasing of personnel for the benefit of an Austrian company.

Recognition of foreign qualifications

Is an equivalency assessment or recognition of skills and qualifications required to obtain immigration permission?

In all processes, regardless of whether it is an assignment or a local hire process, the individuals must show that they have suitable qualifications and skills. Academic qualifications are requested for almost all categories of permits. Further, it is necessary that the applicant’s diplomas were achieved at academic institutions that are recognised as such in Austria. At present, these qualification assessments are based on the information obtained from a university assessment website (http://anabin.kmk.org/) and in some cases (especially for residence permits of dependants), a special European Network of Information Centres in the European Region - National Academic Recognition Information Centres in the European Union (ENIC-NARIC) confirmation is required. However, it has not been ruled out that the immigration authority may require confirmation issued by the Ministry of Education. Medical requirements are only necessary in regard to visa applications of nationals of specific countries. Self-employed persons who want to start a business in Austria have to additionally prove they have sufficient funds to establish a successful business.