Moving to Austria: Relocation Guide

If your company plans to move employees to Austria, it's easy to understand why. Austria is home to more than one million expats from all areas of the world. With stunning scenery like the Austrian Alps and crystal-clear lakes—not to mention best-in-class healthcare, education, and culture—life in Austria can be an idyllic experience.

However, moving to Austria requires careful planning and timely execution. To help your company leaders and HR teams, we've compiled this complete guide to moving to Austria. Here, you will learn about the types of visas the country offers, jobs in Austria for expats, the documents you and your employee will need, and more.

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Moving to Austria: Relocation Guide by Localyze

Which countries are visa/permit exempt for Austria?

Citizens of EU/EEA countries and Switzerland:

Since Austria is part of the Schengen Area, EU, EEA,​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ and Swiss citizens can live and work in Austria without visas or permits.

Citizens of Privileged Countries:

In addition, citizens of many other countries can visit Austria for up to 90 days within a 180-day period without a visa. This includes nationals from the UK, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the UAE, and many more. However, citizens from these countries seeking to migrate to Austria; work in Austria, or have a business trip there, must obtain work permits and visas​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Short-term artistic activity:

Certain types of work-related activities don’t require a visa or permit because they’re exempt. In Austria, you do not require a visa or permit if you’re a musician, performer, or broadcaster and in Austria for up to four weeks. This includes those involved in film, TV or radio, including the technical production team. The organizer needs to notify the local public employment service no later than the first day of work in Austria.

What are the types of work visas in Austria?

Expats in Austria have many options for work visas and permits. The most common type is the Red-White-Red Card, named in honor of the Austrian flag's color scheme. The Red-White-Red Card is granted on a points-based system. Factors like education, experience, and salary determine an applicant's eligibility.

The Red-White-Red Card has several subcategories, each tailored to different workers. The subcategories include the following below:

Moving to Austria: EU Blue Card

EU Blue Card

To be eligible for the EU Blue Card in Austria, employees must meet specific criteria set by Austrian immigration authorities.

Higher education degree or equivalent: employees must possess a higher education degree or equivalent qualification relevant to their field of employment. This can include academic qualifications, professional certifications, or specialized training.

Salary threshold: the salary offered by the employer must meet or exceed a certain threshold set by Austrian authorities. This is typically higher than the average salary in Austria and may vary depending on factors such as occupation, qualifications, and the region of employment.

Labor market priority: the job offer must be in a profession for which there is a shortage of qualified workers in the Austrian labor market. Employers may need to demonstrate efforts to recruit locally before offering the position to a foreign national.

Health insurance: employees must have health insurance coverage that meets Austrian requirements, either through private insurance or participation in the Austrian social insurance system.

Language proficiency: while not a strict requirement, proficiency in the German language may be beneficial for applicants, especially for positions that involve interaction with clients or require communication with colleagues.

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How to get a work visa or permit for Austria

Before you can move employees to Austria, several administrative tasks must be completed.

First, you must evaluate the various visas and find the one that best aligns with the employee's qualifications and the nature of their work in Austria. The Red-White-Red Card covers multiple scenarios, but you must pick the correct subcategory.

Next, prepare a formal job contract for the employee. Include the job title, duties, start date, contract duration, and salary details (since some visas like the Very Highly Qualified Worker has minimum requirements). This contract is an essential component of most visa applications.

To initiate the application process, submit all application paperwork to Austrian authorities. You'll need to provide proof of your company's operations and financial stability. The employee should have all their documents together at this stage. For detailed information, see the section "Preparing the documents" below.

After the application and all required documents are submitted, processing can take several weeks or months. Make sure to factor this wait time into your relocation timeline.

What are the qualification requirements for a work visa or permit in Austria?

The Red-White-Red Card application process operates on a points-based system, which provides a mechanism for evaluating the employee's qualifications. Factors like education, experience, age, and language skills help determine eligibility. Each subcategory of the Red-White-Red card has a minimum threshold of points required for approval.

For the EU Blue Card, a recognized university degree with a minimum of three years of study is mandatory. In most cases, this is the only explicit qualification requirement for the EU Blue Card. However, applicants in certain regulated professions might be subject to further qualification assessments.

Is a formal assessment required?

In general, there is no formal assessment process for the Red-White-Red Card or the EU Blue Card. However, employees working within some regulated professions may need documentation that backs up their qualifications. This includes doctors, attorneys, engineers, and other professions where education and licences are typically required.

If Austrian authorities do call for a formal assessment, collect the employee's relevant documents: diplomas, transcripts, certifications, or work records. In many cases, these documents must be translated into German for consideration (check the Austrian Embassy's translation requirements). If approved, the employee will receive a certificate of equivalence, confirming their ability to work in regulated fields.

Preparing the documents: What do employees need to do to get their documents ready?

So, which documents are required for immigration to Austria? Here are the core documents employees need to prepare before starting the visa application process:

  • A valid passport that is valid for longer than the intended stay
  • Recent passport-style photographs
  • Birth certificate
  • Police clearance certificate
  • Detailed job contract (See the above section, "How to get a work visa or permit for Austria")

For applications that require proof of qualifications, the employee should collect these documents:

  • Diplomas and university transcripts
  • Professional certifications
  • Documentation of work experience, including letters of reference
  • Proof of German language skills, if required for the visa
  • Family documents, such as marriage and birth certificates, if applicable

Documents not in German or English typically require certified translations. Refer to published guidance for each visa type.

Moving to Austria: How to relocate to Austria with family

How to relocate to Austria with family

Employees moving to Austria don't have to leave their families behind. Pets are well-loved in Austrian culture; most can enter the country with their owners.

Most Austrian work visas allow employees to bring their spouse and dependent minor children. They typically receive a family member residence permit, but they should start the application process soon after the employee's work visa is approved.

Documentation of family members' relationships is required for the residence permits—marriage licenses, birth certificates, and the like. Unmarried partners usually don't qualify, although exceptions can sometimes be made if the employee can provide documentation of a long-term, stable partnership.

All family members who relocate to Austria must have adequate health insurance coverage.

Can you move your pet to Austria?

Austria has reasonable rules on pet ownership. Common pets like cats and dogs are allowed, but only under some conditions.

This includes:

  • Pets must be at least seven months old.
  • Pets must be microchipped.
  • Rabies vaccinations must be up-to-date.
  • A licensed veterinarian from the employee's home country must provide a health certificate for each pet.

Most airlines allow pets in approved carriers. However, it's rare for airlines to allow pets in the cabin these days. Several companies now provide international pet relocation services as an alternative to commercial air travel.

Moving to Austria: How to move to Austria with pets

Residence permits in Austria

The Red-White-Red Card functions as both a work permit and a residence permit. Employees who are approved for the card are allowed to reside in Austria for the length of their employment contract—as long as their passport is valid for at least the same duration.

Austrian immigration authorities will even add up to three months of Red-White-Card validity to give a small buffer around the dates of an employment contract—if their passport will remain valid for that period.
Here's a couple of examples to illustrate how this works:

  • If your employee's contract is for two years, and their passport is valid for the next three years, their Red-White-Red Card will likely be valid for two years and three months.
  • However, if the employee's contract is for three years but their passport expires in two years, their Red-White-Red will likely only be valid for two years.

Similarly, EU Blue Card, ICT Card, and Mobile ICT Card holders are allowed to reside in Austria for as long as their card is valid.

Spouses, registered partners, and dependent children of visa holders are eligible for family member residence permits.

How to prepare for the registration appointment in Austria

After your employee gets their visa at the Austrian embassy of their home country and arrives in Austria, they must make a registration appointment with Austria's Immigration and Residence Authority. At that appointment, they will have their fingerprints taken and provide documents to immigration authorities.

Here are the documents employees should prepare in advance of their appointment:

  • Passports for the employee and any family members also registering.
  • Birth certificates may be required for all registering individuals.
  • Marriage certificates or licenses, if applicable.
  • Rental agreement or other proof of accommodation.

Documents that aren't in German or English will need a certified translation ahead of time.

Moving to Austria: Tax and social security

Tax and social security in Austria

Once your employees live and work in Austria, they become liable for Austrian income tax on their wages. For example, if the employee is on a long-term assignment or permanent placement, then your company must establish a legal entity in Austria to ensure compliance with tax regulations and fulfill social security contributions.

You may need to explore alternative payroll solutions that are compliant with Austrian law. Remember that even short-term stays can trigger tax withholding and reporting obligations. Depending on the nature of the employee's work (and your company structure), your business may also have corporate tax obligations in Austria.

Both employers and employees must pay contributions to the Austrian social security system. These contributions cover public health insurance, pension insurance, and unemployment programs. The exact rates depend on several factors, but employers typically pay a higher percentage of the contributions.

Health insurance on an Austrian visa

Adequate health insurance coverage is a requirement for expats in Austria. As with the other nations in the Schengen Area agreement, your employee will need a "visa insurance" policy with a minimum coverage amount of €30,000.

Visa insurance policies must cover routine medical treatment, hospitalization, and the costs of transporting your employee back to their home country for medical reasons. The policy must be valid throughout the entire Schengen Area, not just Austria.

Austria has a public health insurance system. If your employees are subject to mandatory social security withholdings, they'll likely be enrolled in this system. The public health system offers comprehensive coverage, typically at a lower cost than private health insurance. However, compared to private health insurance, there might be long wait times and care restrictions.

Moving to Austria: health insurance
Moving to Austria: how to find housing

How to find housing in Austria

Housing is often one of the most complex relocation issues, regardless of the ultimate location. Employees must start the housing search well before their planned arrival date, especially since proof of stable housing is a Red-White-Red Card requirement.

There is significant competition for rental homes and apartments in Austria's more populated areas. This is particularly true in major cities like Vienna, so searching in smaller towns can yield more options. Partnering with a professional relocation company can streamline the process of finding and securing housing. However, you can find rental listings on your own with Facebook Marketplace and Austrian classified ad websites.

The standard for leases in Austria is a three-year term. Security deposits typically equate to one month's rent for each year. Therefore, a three-year lease will require a security deposit equal to three months' rent. Keep in mind that most Austrian lease agreements are in German. Be prepared to employ a translator, if necessary, to help employees understand the terms of their housing contracts.

Your employees may find Austrian rent prices to be high. While the cost of living in Austria is higher than in comparable European nations, the country is also known for its high quality of life, especially in relatively expensive cities like Vienna. Austria also has a well-regarded social housing system, used by approximately 60% of Vienna residents.

FAQs for expat life in Austria

Want to know more about life in Austria? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

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