Austria is part of the European Union, so all EU and EEA citizens may live and work in Austria as part of the “free movement of labour” principle at the core of the Schengen Agreement, although there are a number of registration requirements as set out in the Visa section.
German is spoken across the country so all employers will expect applicants to have at least a basic working knowledge of the language. Some positions, particularly those which involve significant interaction with the public or colleagues, will normally require completely fluent German speakers.
Roughly 72% of employees in Austria work in the Services sector, with a further 23% working in Industry and 5% in Agriculture. Austria enjoys below average unemployment rates, though it often increases substantially in the winter months; in January 2017 it stood at 10.6%.
The EURES website – the European Job Mobility Portal – provides lots of relevant information for job seekers about working in a new EU country, and lists tens of thousands of job vacancies in each country at any time. You can also list your CV for potential employers to read.
Those wishing to find work in Austria may also seek employment free of charge on the AMS (“Arbeitsmarktservice” or the Austrian Public Employment Services) eJob-Room, and search the substantial resources available on the site, as well as visit the offices located across Austria.
Vacancies for highly qualified staff are likely to be filled by private HR consulting companies and agencies, although the AMS does liaise frequently with these companies as well as the large and small employers looking to recruit their own staff.
Some companies may welcome unsolicited applications from experienced and qualified staff, but make sure your letter is well written, addressed to the correct person or department, and that your CV reads well; everything should be written in German.
Many young people between the ages of 18 and 28 enjoy a period of employment in Austria as an au pair. The duties will involve childcare and light housework, for a maximum of 20 hours each week. In addition to this, attendance at a language school or similar part time course is mandatory. A clean criminal history, previous experience of childcare and at least one basic certified course of German language lessons are a prerequisite for anyone applying for an au pair position. Placement with a family must be arranged by an authorised agency, and the host family must receive written approval from the AMS to employ an au pair. No one may apply to be an au pair if they have worked in that capacity for more than twelve months during the previous five years. The Housemaid and Domestic Workers Act regulates the terms and conditions of au pairs, and sets the minimum wage levels. Whilst EU/EEA citizens may seek other work in Austria to follow their placement as an au pair, anyone who has arrived from outside the EU/EEA may not seek other work in Austria and must return to their country of origin once the placement has ended.
There are a number of industries which require seasonal workers. These include agriculture, forestry and tourism. Experienced harvesting staff are in demand during the summer, whilst qualified catering staff and competent auxiliary cleaning staff are needed to support the country’s winter skiing season and summer tourism season. Employment laws are applicable to seasonal work so temporary employees are entitled to legally defined minimum standards of pay and conditions.
As soon as you arrive to live in Austria you must register in person at the local government offices, regardless of your employment status at the time.
You may be eligible for unemployment benefits and use of the Careers Advisory Service, which require you to register with the local AMS office.
The Austrian Chamber of Labour and a number of trade unions exist to protect the employment rights of employees. The employment laws in Austria, also determined by EU legislation, provide a lot of protection to employees but help may be needed in particular circumstances. The Chamber of Labour and trade unions are part of the economic and social partnership in the country, helping the government draft legislation, negotiating collective agreements for various industry sectors, and providing individual support and advice to union members and occasionally others in need of their help. Larger companies will have Works Councils, which represent the interests of employees.
Under Austrian law there are several legally identified forms of employment contract:
• An employment contract (“Arbeitsvertrag”) between employer and employee
• Short-term contracts with independent contractors, between a business and a contractor
• Quasi-employment contract (“arbeitnehmerähnliches Beschäftigungsverhältnis”) which includes both the newly self employed and those who take on a contract who require a business license
• Apprenticeship contracts
An employment contract should be in writing, but if not then the employer must draw up a “Dienstzettel” listing the primary terms and conditions of employment as soon as it has commenced. It must also list the name and addresses of both the employee and employer, the date employment commenced, the usual place of work, any probationary period attached to the employment, and a date of termination if the employment is for a fixed term only. It should also specify the salary, normal working hours, holiday leave and any other benefits commensurate with the post, as well as the main duties and responsibilities to be assumed.
A contract, signed by all parties including the legal guardians if the apprentice is under 18 years of age, must be in place before an apprenticeship commences. By law the working hours must not exceed 8 hours in a 24 hour period, nor 40 hours in a week, excluding the mandatory unpaid break during the working day.
All employees have a statutory minimum annual holiday entitlement of 30 days a year. If they are employed on a part time basis or temporary basis then the entitlement is accrued pro rata. A number of other statutory benefits are available, such as paid maternity leave and the right to time off for family caring duties.
An employee is entitled to a vacation bonus, known as the 13th month salary, and a Christmas bonus, known as the 14th month salary, if they are set out in the employee’s contract, but this is not a mandatory entitlement. Taxes payable on this portion of income will be at a lower rate than the regular salary.
Employees who work for companies with more than 20 employees, have worked for the company for more than three years without interruption, or who have a child yet to reach their 7th birthday, may request the right to work part time or alter their hours of work.
Independent contractors who work for a company and earn roughly 400 euros and above each month must register with the regional health insurance fund and make the statutory insurance contributions. They have limited rights with the company as an employee, but several important ones including statutory accident insurances do exist.
Strict regulations exist with regard to who may practice certain professions, for which registration of the individual is required including proof of completed training.
Teachers must contact the provincial boards of education (“Landesschulräte”) responsible for primary schools (“Volksschulen”), lower level of a main general secondary schools (“Hauptschulen”), pre-vocational courses (“Polytechnische Schulen”) and special schools (“Sonderschulen”) before being able to work in those institutions. Further information can be found on www.bmukk.gv.at.
Information about practicing as a lawyer and the legal provincial associations can be found on rechtsanwaelte.at.
Information about practicing as an Architect, Construction Engineer or Civil Engineer, and their provincial associations, may be found on arching.at.
Austria has a modern problem with illegal immigrants being trafficked through the country by people smugglers, because of its position between countries where people enter Europe on one side and countries to the other side of Europe that immigrants are keen to reach for access to work. The issue concerns the Austrian government because trafficked migrants frequently meet unnecessary deaths during transit. However, many choose to stay in Austria and claim asylum, now equivalent to 1% of the population, so those domestic political parties to the right will regularly call for the numbers of refugee claims to be capped each year. Austria’s relations with nearby countries are sometimes strained over the migrant numbers; during the summer of 2015 Austria temporarily let refugees travel through the country without valid papers as they rushed to settle in Germany, but the unexpected numbers of arrivals led to social tension in Germany and Austria closed its borders again to all but legally documented travellers. Anyone found to be illegally living and working in Austria will be deported, unless they successfully achieve refugee status.
Citizens of the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland do not need a visa to visit, live or work in Austria. Citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and a number of other countries – those that have a treaty with the Schengen area – do not require a visa for visits of up to 90 days in a 180-day period, whether you are visiting for tourist or business purposes. A full list of the eligible countries can be found on the Schengen Area website. For citizens in these countries who wish to stay for longer, or who are taking up employment in the country, a visa is required.
Citizens of all other countries must have a valid visa to enter Austria for any purpose. If you wish to live in Austria for longer than 90 days, or to work there, and you are not a citizen of the EU, the EEA or Switzerland, you will need a work permit and a residence permit. All documentation must be submitted in German or English, and you must be at least competent in German, whether you are seeking work or residence.
If you come from a country that does not have a treaty with Austria or the Schengen Area, but you already hold a residence permit from another Schengen country, or from the USA, Canada, Japan, or any other country that guarantees you within the Schengen Area, or are the spouse or a child (under 21) of a Schengen Area citizen, you do not need to apply for a visa for a short visit (up to 90 days). If you do not have such a permit, you must apply for a visa before you can enter the country.
There are several different types of visa, depending on the nature of your visit. More details can be found on embassy websites. You must apply at least 15 working days before you intend to travel; at busy times, it is advisable to allow longer – you can apply up to three months in advance. You will need to book an appointment at the Austrian embassy or consulate in your home country, which can usually be done online. You must then complete the application form, which can be downloaded from embassy websites and will ask for your personal information, the reason for your visit and other details relevant to your trip.
Your application must be supported by:
• A valid passport – this must not expire for at least three months after your intended arrival date, should have at least two blank pages and should be no more than 10 years old
• Two identical colour, full-face passport-size photographs of yourself
• Copies of any previous Shengen visas, if relevant
• A cover letter explaining the purpose of your visit and your itinerary
• Proof of Schengen Area health insurance
• Details of your flights, with dates and flight numbers
• Proof of accomodation in Austria
• Proof of your status (birth certificate, marriage certificate or similar)
• Proof that you have the means to support yourself while in Austria
If you are accompanied by a minor child, you must also supply their birth certificates, an application form signed by both parents, certified copies of both parents’ passports or I.D. and, if you are divorced and have full custody of your child, a family court order.
For business trips, you must also supply:
• An invitation from the Austrian company you intend to visit, with their full address and the dates of your visit
• A certificate from your employer, stating the reason for your trip
• A recent business bank statement
• Memorandum and Article of Association, in the form of an original certified copy
• Trade insurance
• Proof of finance for the trip
Once your application is submitted, you must attend an interview, which usually lasts around 15 minutes. You will be asked about your personal circumstances, the reasons for your trip, your financial situation during the trip, your employment, your itinerary and accommodation, and, for some types of visa, your qualifications. A non-refundable fee must be paid, which, at the time of writing, is €60 per person ($67/£50). This is reduced or suspended for children, depending on their circumstances. Applications take about 15 days in most circumstances, but can take up to 30 days.
If you intend to work in Austria, you may apply for a job seeker visa, a Red-White-Red Card or a European Blue Card.
Job Seeker Visa
Job seeker visas are offered to very highly qualified workers who score a minimum of 70 points on the Austrian Government Migration website criteria. You will have at least a competent level of fluency in German or English; a qualification taken over a minimum of four years from an institute of higher education; and appropriate experience. You will also need to be under 45 years old. Extra points are awarded for qualifications in maths, natural sciences, technology and informatics. At the time of writing, qualified graduates in mechanics, power, telecommunications, specialist engineering, business administration, economics, and medicine are particularly sought. Once you have determined you have enough points, you must apply for the job seeker visa at the Austrian embassy or consulate in your home country. In support of your application, you must supply:
• Your passport or other valid travel document
• Your birth certificate or equivalent
• A recent passport-size photograph of yourself
• Proof of your local accommodation
• Proof of health insurance
• Proof of financial means to support yourself while seeking work
• Certificates and documents proving your academic qualifications and the status of the awarding institution
• Testimonials and any certificates relating to your work experience
• Proof of your language skills
• Proof of any other qualification, experience, status or award that you have claimed in your points’ total (prizes, patents, publications, experience at a senior position etc.)
A fee of €150 ($166/£127) is payable.
You may apply for a Red-White-Red Card if you are a skilled worker in a shortage occupation, a key worker, a self-employed key worker, a start-up founder, or if you have received a job offer in Austria.
You can apply either via the Austrian embassy or consulate in your own country, or at the appropriate residence authority in Austria. If you already have a job offer, your future employer may also submit the application with the residence authority on your behalf. An Employer’s Declaration (Arbeitgebererklärung), containing the specific details about the employer and your potential employment with them, must accompany the application. Skilled workers and key workers must score a minimum of 33 points on the migration website criteria; start-up founders must score at least 50. There is no point system for self-employed key workers, but they must be able to prove that they will bring a macro-economic benefit to Austria. A list of the skills and professions currently sought is maintained on the Austrian Government Migration website. In support of your application, you must supply:
• A valid passport or other travel document
• Your birth certificate or equivalent
• A recent passport-size photograph
• Proof of local accommodation
• Proof of health insurance
• Proof of means of subsistence
• Proof of language skills
• Proof of your qualifications, vocational education or training, skills and experience
• Documents showing the potential economic and other benefits of your work or proposed business to Austria
• A business plan
• Evidence of transfer of capital and of the intended jobs to be created
• Any necessary craft authorisations, as is appropriate to your particular area of employment
A fee of €120 ($133/£101) must accompany the application, with a further €20 ($22/£17) payable when it is granted. A Red-White-Red Card is usually issued for a period of three years. Your spouse or civil partner, and any minor children, may accompany you to live in Austria.
EU Blue Card
You may apply for an EU Blue Card in the following circumstances:
• You have completed a degree or other qualification at a university, or equivalent organisation, over at least three years
• You have a binding job offer in Austria that is relevant to your education and qualifications
• Your salary will be at least 1.5 times the gross national income of full-time employees in Austria
• Your employer can show no equally qualified worker is registered as seeking work and available with the Public Employment Service
You can apply by yourself, at the Austrian embassy or consulate in your home country, or through your potential employer, at the relevant migration authority within Austria. The application must be supported by:
• An Employer’s Declaration (Arbeitgebererklärung), containing specific details about the employer and your potential employment with them
• Your passport or other valid travel document
• Your birth certificate or equivalent
• A recent passport-size photograph
• Evidence of health insurance
• Evidence of your completion of your course of study and the status of the awarding body
• Your marriage certificate, or certificate of civil partnership; your certificate of adoption; proof of divorce or dissolution of partnership; or proof of death of spouse/partner (as appropriate and applicable)
You may also be asked to supply proof that you have no criminal record.
The fees are the same as for the Red-White-Red Card, but you will need to pay an additional fee of €20 ($22/£17) for biometric data. The Blue Card lasts for two years, and your spouse or civil partner, as well as any minor children, may accompany you.
Most residence permits for Austria relate to employment or study. However, if you wish to retire to Austria, you may be granted a permit if you can meet the conditions listed below. Please note that only a limited number of such permits are available each year. You need to demonstrate that you have:
• A fixed and permanent regular income, which will cover your subsistence without need of local welfare assistance – this must be equal to at least twice the standard rates of the Austrian General Social Insurance Act. At the time of writing, this means a monthly income of at least €1933($2136/£1629) for single people and €2944 ($2353/£2482) for couples. If you have dependent children, you must have an additional €298 ($329/£251) per child.
• Healthcare insurance which covers you for all risks
• Proof that you have legal accommodation of sufficient size for you and your family in Austria
• No criminal record, and are no threat to public order or national security
• Proof of German language skills to at least a basic level
You must pay a non-refundable fee of €120 ($133/£101) when you apply, with a further €20 ($22/£17) payable if the visa is granted, as well as an additional fee of €20 ($22/£17) for biometric data.
Similar visas are available for artists and researchers. Details can be found on the Austrian Government Migration website.
Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.
When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.
Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.
Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.
Important questions to ask the insurance provider:
1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?
2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?
3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.
4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?
5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.
6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.
7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.
8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?
9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.
Compare quotes from leading international health insurance providers
The process of renting a property in Austria is relatively straightforward, as the majority of the rental market is processed through real estate agents. The cost for using estate agents can be between one and two months’ rent, but they make the property searching process much easier, as they are familiar with locations and prices. You could also use property websites, or read local newspaper advertisements. However, unless you speak fluent German, these may be difficult to navigate.
It is important to know that, in Austria, it is better to search for property in some seasons than others. For example, the beginning of the academic year (September) is a terrible time to look, as an influx of foreign students heightens competition, making certain types of properties harder to find.
When it comes to your rental paperwork, you will want to ensure that you have a translator with you, or a reliable translation service available, so that you can read the lease carefully before signing anything.
The typical length for a tenancy lease is three years, with a month’s rent charged for each year, to be held as a security deposit. For tenancies of this duration, a three-month notice period is also common. This can be waived in certain circumstances at the discretion of your landlord or letting agent.
Utility bills are often paid separately to rent. However, in some cases, you can request to pay the estate agent a flat fee to cover your monthly bills.
Rental prices in Austria vary, most noticeably between inner and outer city dwellings. Examples of the change in property prices are as follows:
• One-bedroom apartment in the city centre: €700-€1,200 per month
• One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre: €500-€825 per month
• Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre: €1,200-€2,500
• Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre: €1,200-€1,500
There are no buying restrictions on foreign nationals purchasing property in Austria if you come from an EU/EEC member state. If you are not from one of these countries, then you must obtain permission from the local authority office in the area you are looking to buy property in. This is an easy process and can be accomplished very quickly.
You can find properties for sale on the following websites:
Alternatively, you can search by enlisting a local estate agent to help you find the type of property you are looking for. We always recommend working with local estate agents, especially if you are new to the country and are not sure where you want to live, as they have an abundance of knowledge regarding public transportation, schools and neighbourhoods.
The most popular place for expats to live in Austria is Vienna. Property prices there vary greatly, with apartment prices ranging from €600,000 to €3,000,000. Outside of this area, property prices are lower, and apartments and houses can be found for €300,000 upwards.
If you need to secure funds for the property by way of a mortgage, financing can be obtained regardless of your citizenship status. Loan durations are flexible, and interest rates typically sit between 2.5% and 3.5%. An example of a mortgage offered in Austria is a loan of 70% of a property’s value, with a repayment term of 20 to 30 years.
Once you have found the property you want to buy, you will need to make an offer in writing through your real estate agent. When you make an offer, a Kostenaufstellung will be attached. A Kostenaufstellung is a breakdown of the associated costs and fees, which will be applicable when purchasing the property. The price of these fees varies depending upon the price of the property you are purchasing, but the following breakdown will give you a rough idea of what the financial implications may look like:
• Legal fees: 1% to 3% of the property price + 20% VAT
• Property transfer tax: 3.5%
• Registration duty: circa €400
• Notary fee: up to €120 per person + 20% VAT
• Real estate agent’s fee: 3% to 4% of the property value
Once your offer has been accepted, a Sale of Agreement will be drawn up by an Austrian notary, and, once signed, you will be required to place a 10% deposit in order to secure the property. This will then be put into escrow until the property sale has completed.
It takes, on average, between 10 and 35 days for a property purchase to complete in Austria, and during this time you should ensure that all relevant checks have been carried out on the property. This includes professionals evaluating the condition of the property, its structure and whether it has any damp problems.
Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.
Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.
If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.
The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).
Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.
Compare quotes from leading international moving companies
QUICK LINK: Austria health insurance
Residents pay ‘social insurance,’ comprised of health, pension and accident insurance, which is governed by over 20 statuary bodies, all members of a single professional association: the Main Association of Austrian Social Security Institutions (Hauptverband der österreichischen Sozialversicherungsträger). This decentralization is part of risk pooling, and generally you are not allowed to choose which body you are signed up to.
Health records are digitised and once you sign up, you will be issued with an e-card, proving that you are covered and allowing any claims to be processed quickly and efficiently.
If you go to a ‘panel’ doctor — one who is employed by the state — your e-card will act as a voucher and you will not have to pay directly: it will already be covered by the state insurance. You will be free to choose your own doctor. Doctors and dentists usually display a sign saying “Kassenarzt” (contracted doctor) or “Alle Kassen”, which means they fall under the state system.
Everyone is eligible for state healthcare, with the exception of some international students. Medical insurance is mandatory in Austria.
If you are working in Austria, you will need to pay into the system in order to be eligible for cover for yourself and your family. The amount you will have to pay depends on your salary, but your employer might contribute to some of the costs.
Your workplace will automatically enroll you and deduct the premiums from your salary, but if you are self-employed, you can sign yourself up. If you are staying in Austria longer than six months, and are self employed, you will need to sign up with a local insurance institution (Sozialversicherungsträger) and they will then send you your e-card.
If you come from a country which has a reciprocal social insurance pact with Austria, make sure you bring the right documents with you: an A3 form for stays shorter than three months or an A4 (Hauptwohnsitz) if you are staying longer.
Austria is a member of the Economic and Currency Union, so its legal tender is the Euro. There are 100 cents in €1. Banknotes with face values of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500 and coins of €1 and €2 denominations as well as 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents may be used in Austria and across the Eurozone.
There are approximately 3,000 ATMs throughout Austria, which will dispense cash around the clock – often in return for a small fee which varies but should be displayed on screen for each transaction, and be clearly identified on your bank statement. Each machine will display the card types accepted.
For several years before the 2008 global financial crisis, Austrian banks had been expanding internationally, particularly into Eastern Europe. The financial crisis impacted the Austrian banking industry enormously and the banks contracted. Slow growth rates, tightened banking regulations, a banking levy and the ongoing fallout from rescue packages within Austria, combined with difficult trading conditions in Eastern Europe, means the industry continues to be challenged. The “bad bank” Heta (which has an estimated £11bn of bad debt) in 2016 became the first test case under new European laws making state funded rescue of bank illegal; this threatened the beautiful and mountainous South Austrian region of Carinthia with bankruptcy over its status as a guarantor for the bank. However, the political and economic situation in Austria overall is stable, with the country maintaining an AA sovereign debt rating.
Austria boasts more than 800 commercial banks, including many major foreign banks with operations in Austria, in different sectors; these include the mortgage providers, savings and loans associations, building societies, co-operative banks, incorporated banks, provident banks, and private banks. However, only a small percentage of these banks provide personal banking services to individuals. At the present time there are over 5000 bank branches throughout the country, though cities have the best access to branches. The retail banking sector is working to reduce branches and staff numbers in an ongoing attempt to reduce overheads but this will take some time.
Banking hours will vary between branches, but they are not normally open at weekends. Monday to Friday they will be open in the morning 8am until 12.20pm, close for an hour at lunchtime, then close afternoon business each day at 3pm. On Thursdays branches may be open until 5.30pm.
To open a bank account in Austria, you must provide documentation to confirm your identity and residence. This will normally include a passport, a Residence Registration form, utility bills and proof of employment. The welcome pack which sets out the terms and conditions of the account will normally be given on the day, with the debit card (“bankomatkarte”) arriving in the post a few days later.
Current accounts (“Girokonto”) will offer most expected services. Internet banking is normal, especially useful given the limited banking hours. Standing orders (“Daueraufträge”) and direct debits can be used to pay regular bills, and requested bank transfers can take place within hours if both the bank accounts involved are held with the same bank. Statements will be posted to the home address once a month, or will be available online.
Current accounts are not offered free of charge. There may be charges to open an account, monthly charges, or fees for specific services.
Each current account has an account number (“Kontonummer”) and every bank branch has a unique sort code (“bankleitzahl”). All accounts in the EU are allocated an IBAN number and BIC code, which are used for international payments.
Cheques, however, do not form part of normal Austrian banking. Travellers’ cheques can be issued at a bank branch after payment of the appropriate administrative charges but their use is rare.
If your account becomes overdrawn, you will face high penalty fees and interest charges. You can reduce these by arranging an overdraft facility (“dispokredit”) in advance of the overdraft occurring.
Savings accounts (“Sparkonto”) are also available. Rates will vary between banks and will depend on the length of time that funds are tied up for. If it is a savings account with instant access (which pay the lowest rates of interest) then a card will normally be issued so that funds can be withdrawn from the ATM.
Credit cards are widely accepted at most payment points; it is likely to be only very small businesses which do not accept them. Some businesses will display logos showing the types of card payment accepted, but this practice is dying out as it has become the primary means of payment. American Express and Diners Club cards are less likely to be accepted as a payment method because of the higher transaction fees charged to the retailer. Card payment terminals in Austria, in line with most European countries, will often only accept a Chip and Pin card, which may cause problems for those trying to use cards issued in the US.
If you wish to apply for a credit card when you move to Austria, you may find it difficult to be accepted by any bank until you have been resident and employed in Austria for a minimum of three months.
A taxation agreement between Austria and the UK aims to avoid double taxation and prevent tax evasion by allowing UK nationals resident in Austria to pay their taxes in Austria alone. This means tax on all income, earned in Austria or abroad, will be payable in Austria at rates set by the Austrian government. Austria operates a progressive tax system, whereby those who earn more will pay a higher rate of tax. UK residents are advised to contact their local HMRC office before leaving the UK, and then contacting the nearest tax office in Austria (known as the “Finanzamt”) as soon as possible once resident in the country. The website for the Austrian Ministry of Finance has lots of useful advice about the Austrian tax system and how to find your local tax office. The website is available in a number of languages including English. It is user friendly and includes a lot of information many foreign visitors will be surprised to see, such as a page about the Minister of Finance and the contact details of senior ministry staff.
If you need the services of a professional tax advisor, known as a “steuerberater”, they can be found on the website Kammer der Wirtschaftstreuhander which is for the professional organisation for tax advisers and accountants. Alternatively, look up the entries for Wirtschaftstreuhänder / Steuerberater in the online telephone directories.
When you enter Austria to live there, all your household goods and personal belongings can be imported without any VAT or import duty charges. This includes your personal vehicle, as long as it is not going to be sold. The section under Zoll / Wissenswertes / Fahrzeugimport on the Ministry of Finance website includes further information about importing vehicles.
You must register your vehicle for travel within Austria, at which point you will be asked to pay a tax called the Normverbrauchsabgabe or NoVA. There are some exceptions to this; organisations ÖAMTC or ARBÖ should be able to help with this. The section under Ämter & Behörden of the Ministry of Finance website includes further information about the NoVA.
Anyone entering or leaving any EU state carrying any sum equal to or exceeding €10,000, or its equivalent in other currencies or easily convertible assets, must declare this to the customs authorities. If you do not, you and your baggage may be detained, and the assets may be seized for further investigation.
There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.
International Bank Transfers
For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.
Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.
You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.
When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.
As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.
As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.
Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals
Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.
You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.
Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.
Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.
A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:
1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.
2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.
3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.
Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.
Compare quotes from leading foreign exchange currency brokers
If you are moving to Austria to work or perhaps retire, or indeed explore the fantastic scenery and the rich history and culture, you will need to consider the ease with which you are able to communicate. Learning at least some of the local language is one of the best ways for an expat to integrate and begin to feel more at home. Even a few words will make your hosts feel that you are making an effort, which can often bring about a smile of acceptance.
Austria is a totally land-locked Alpine country, with a fascinating and complex history, bordering with eight other countries, of which several have very different languages of their own.
Standard Austrian German is the official language of Austria. This is used in education and general publications. Standard German speakers would find it almost identical, with the exception of some vocabulary. However, it is important to appreciate that the spoken language in Austria is generally Austro-Bavarian, which then has several regional dialects. Some significant minority languages, including Turkish, Slovene and Serbian, are also spoken, especially near the borders. One or two of these minority language have been officially recognised.
Austria has a population of roughly nine million, of whom some 1.2 million were born elsewhere. There is thus a sizeable multi-national expat community, especially around the capital, Vienna, which has several English-speaking expat groups, who may be able to offer advice relevant to the area you settle in.
Austria has a very high standard of living, due in part to increasing trade partnerships and acquisitions with eastern European nations keen to gain access to the EU trading bloc. It is also a great tourist destination, especially for winter sports and spectacular mountain scenery. Tourism accounts for 9% of GDP.
Most Austrians are taught at least two other languages in school and university. In common with many European nations, Austrian schools teach English to a very high standard, and many Austrians are only too happy to practice it in the workplace or the cafes, to the point where it can sometimes be quite difficult for you to practice your German.
However, if not just for the sake of politeness and integration, and especially for ease of communication away from the main conurbations, it is still highly advisable to learn at least some basic German vocabulary to get by.
Linguistic experts generally recommend an immersive learning experience as the quickest way to attain fluency in any language. If you are planning to go out as a couple, it is a good plan to make a pact to speak in German together as often as possible. Immersing yourself in German language television and newspapers is also highly productive. You are also likely to find locals who will help with conversation in the workplace, or over a coffee or a beer.
For self-teaching the German language, there are a large number of courses available on the internet – many free. It is better that you try to gain at least some knowledge before you go, but these courses can still be very useful for your continued linguistic development on arrival.
There are many international language schools throughout Austria which offer a wide range of courses in German. These can be found on the internet.
In Austria it is wise to rely on your own knowledge and a good phrasebook, rather than digital translation, which tends to be heavily dominated by Standard German. Also, whilst internet connection throughout the country is excellent, it is very mountainous, and there are consequent wifi black spots. Furthermore, in some of the more sparsely populated regions, the locals are less likely to be able to communicate well in English.
You may find English being used, or at least spoken to Anglophones, in the workplace in some international companies, especially banking, airlines and tourism, but this cannot be counted upon.
There are jobs available in Austria, many of which require fluency in English. IT, engineering, finance and tourism are all areas to consider if seeking work in Austria.
Another very popular sector of employment in Austria is teaching English. Several international schools offer language teaching posts on yearly contracts. These are available to anyone with a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree and a TEFL certificate.
Please note that it is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).
Most language teaching jobs would be in the capital, Vienna. Rates of pay vary considerably, and if you are intending to stay long-term you need to factor in the cost of living, and your own desired lifestyle.
If you intend to teach English in Austria, it is preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA.
You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality or medical English. You are most likely, however, to find work in either public schools or private international institutions. You should be paid more in the private educational sector.
There may also be some demand for translation or interpretation services between German and English, for instance in translating newspaper articles into English, if you have a high level of proficiency in both.
Education in Austria is well developed and well administered, with easily available English language information for all levels.
Austrian literacy rates are amongst the highest in the world, at around 99%. Furthermore, Austria ranks highly amongst OECD reporting countries on the percentage of GDP spent on education, at over 5%. Under the Work Program of the Austrian Government, consolidation and modernization of education provision is ongoing, with a remit to strengthen elementary schooling, promote the German language, and organize strong and stable schools, with modern learning tools and equipment.
In Austria, schooling is free and compulsory for all children, to undergraduate level. Primary schooling starts at age six and continues through secondary (Hauptschule) to 15 years of age, when children face one of three compulsory choices. They must either elect to continue in school for a further three years, or go to a Lehre (vocational college), while some may choose to take an apprenticeship in any one of up to 250 professions. Vocational training can be from one to three years’ duration depending on the profession or occupation chosen.
All pupils then take the matura, which is a pre-condition for higher education. For those attending the vocational colleges or taking apprenticeships, there is also the chance of further advancement through technical universities, and there are many institutions for professions such as teaching.
There are a number of private schools, mostly denominational. Their curriculum will be closely aligned to the state system, with additional classes and activities depending on the philosophy of the individual school. There are also international schools catering for expat children of all ages.
Day care for infants, and pre-school kindergarten (ages 3 – 6) needs to be arranged with your local municipality.
Primary and secondary education is provided for via more than 6,000 schools, over 90% of which are public schools. For those in rural areas, where the population may be declining, primary education is still generally local, but secondary schools are becoming more centralized, necessitating longer journeys.
Whilst the teaching in state schools is provided for free, parents may be asked to contribute to special projects, supplies and school trips.
University undergraduate level education in Austria is also provided free for all EU and EAA citizens. Other foreign nationals may have to pay fees, but these are generally waived for students from developing countries, as part of the education department’s commitment to equal opportunity.
As a potential alternative to the state or private systems, homeschooling is recognised in Austrian law, and regulated by education authorities at the local level. Numbers are comparatively low, there being approximately 2,000 children in Austria educated at home. If you choose this avenue for your child, you must apply to the local education authorities for permission to home school, in the year before school starts in September. Your education plan must then be ‘the equivalent’ of state provision – i.e. it must adhere to the Austrian national curriculum as closely as possible. The system of checking progress will vary regionally, but regular reporting and home visits from the authorities will help to ensure the best possible result for the individual child.
There are approximately 600 privately funded educational institutions in Austria, which cater for around 10% of all students. Some of these are partially funded by the state, and many are denominational – Catholic, Lutheran, etc. This figure also includes international schools, to be found in all major cities, which specifically cater for expats and their children.
There are 16 international schools in Austria, all of which teach in English, and offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP). Graduates will receive an IB certificate, which is a recognized standard for those seeking further education in many countries. The curriculum and extra-curricular activities of each school will vary – see the individual prospectus of the school for the choice which best fits your child.
In general, tuition fees at denominational schools can be relatively low, whilst private non-aligned schools and international schools will charge much more. Fees must always be established with the school itself.
Further education opportunities are held to be of excellent quality in Austria, with a number of vocational/technical colleges and universities. There are large numbers of foreign students at all Austrian universities. Vienna boasts two of the world’s top universities – the University of Vienna is one of the largest in Europe, with over 90,000 enrolled, and the Vienna University of Technology is also world-renowned. There are also significant campuses in other cities including Graz and Innsbruck. There are also private specialist universities.
Austria hosts a very high number of foreign students, and given the quality and depth of education in this relatively small country, anyone choosing to educate their children here can be assured that the system is well set to give them the best opportunity to excel, and enable them to fit in wherever they go in the world.