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Job-Seeker Visa for Austria

Who needs a Job-Seeker Visa?

Oliver is an American citizen and one of the best chefs on the West Coast of the United States. Although he does not have a college degree, he has learned his trade in the most distinguished restaurants in New York City. Currently, he is the head chef at a newly opened French restaurant on the Upper East Side.

One of the service staff at this restaurant is Lisa, a tourism student from Tyrol, who is completing her four-month mandatory internship there as part of her degree.

Oliver and Lisa get along very well, meet each other even in their free time, and fall in love. When Lisa has to return to Austria at the end of her internship to continue her studies here, it is clear to Oliver that he will break camp in New York and follow her.

For Oliver, the question now is how he can come to Austria, find a job and an apartment here, and work legally. While researching on the Internet, he comes across the possibility of applying for a job-seeker visa and thinks that this would probably be the right thing for him. So he gathers his documents, goes to the Austrian Consulate General in New York to apply for such a work search visa, and thinks that it should be done in a few days. But it takes longer than expected. After a few weeks of waiting and several urgencies, Oliver finally receives the answer that his application has been rejected. What had happened?

Requirements for a job seeker visa

A job-seeker visa (category D visa) allows third-country nationals to stay in Austria for up to 6 months in order to find employment here. The prerequisite for this is that the applicant fulfils the general requirements for the issuance of a Category D visa. For this purpose, a valid travel document must be presented and comprehensive health insurance coverage, as well as sufficient means of subsistence for the duration of the stay in Austria, must be proven. In addition, the person in question must also not be on notice for refusal of entry, the issuance of the visa must not pose a threat to public safety and order, and the applicant must not have committed any criminal acts that could create grounds for refusal of entry.

In addition, the applicant must also meet the admission criteria for very highly qualified workers. Here, the Austrian Labour Market Service (AMS) assesses whether, based on education, work experience, age, and language skills, 70 out of a possible 100 points are met according to a certain point scheme. In general, this is only possible for persons who have a university degree, have worked in a management position, have German or English language skills, and are not older than 45 years.

After being granted a visa to seek work, the person in question is then allowed to stay in Austria for a period of up to 6 months in order to look for a job here. If a job is then found, however, this visa does not yet entitle the person to take up employment. For this purpose, a separate residence title must be applied for.

What alternatives are there to the job-seeker visa?

Citizens of many countries have the possibility to stay in Austria without a visa for a period of up to 3 months. This time can also be used to find a job in Austria. As long as the person concerned is staying in Austria legally, i.e. during his/her visa-free stay, the application for a residence title can be submitted directly to the immigration authorities in Austria. However, such a domestic application does not entitle the applicant to stay in Austria beyond the period of validity of his/her visa-free stay. Therefore, if the application has not been processed in time before the expiry of the 3 months, the person concerned must leave the country and await the decision of the authority abroad.

What does this mean for Oliver?

Since Oliver does not meet the requirements as a particularly highly qualified worker and a job-seeking visa is therefore out of the question for him, he simply decides to travel to Austria on the off chance to look for a job here. From the very first day of his stay, he applies to restaurants for a job as a chef and actually finds a position in a Tyrolean tourist resort after just one week.

His new employer already has experience in employing foreign workers, so he also applies for a Red-White-Red Card for skilled workers in shortage occupations for Oliver. Fortunately, Oliver’s application is processed relatively quickly and the necessary verification by the Austrian Labour Market Service is also carried out very quickly so that Oliver is issued a Red-White-Red Card as a skilled worker in a shortage occupation during his visa-free stay in Austria.

Oliver is happy to be with his Lisa again and he enjoys both, his new job and the beautiful Tyrolean mountains in his free time.

Checklist Red-White-Red Card

The Red-White-Red Card celebrated its 10th  birthday in July 2021. It is, therefore, time to review whether the goal pursued with it, namely to bring qualified workers to Austria on the basis of objective criteria, has actually been achieved or whether it has merely created an administrative hurdle race for immigrants willing to integrate.

Why Red-White-Red Card?

With the introduction of the Red-White-Red Card in 2011, the Austrian legislator wanted to create a new and more flexible way to bring skilled workers to Austria than it had been possible with the rigid system of key workers until then. A major innovation at that time was that highly qualified workers were also allowed to enter Austria with a job-seeker visa in order to look for a job here.

The issuance of residence permits was to be based on objective criteria such as the impact of the Austrian labour market, the economic performance of the national economy, and the expected integration ability of the immigrants.

Red-White-Red Card for whom?

The aim of the new regulations was to provide access to the Austrian labour market for highly qualified key workers, skilled workers in shortage occupations, and graduates of Austrian universities who originate from third countries, in order to cover areas in which a labour shortage cannot be met by the labour potential available domestically.

How many red-white-red Cards?

Since 2020 was an exceptional year in every respect, the establishment and residence statistics of the Ministry of the Interior for 2019 must be used to answer this question in the most objective way possible.

In 2019, there were almost half a million valid residence titles in Austria, over 60% of which were “EU permanent residence titles”, i.e. the residence title that forms the final stage on the path to integration (after that, there is only the possibility to apply for Austrian citizenship). Another 20% of the residence titles were the Red-White-Red Card Plus and only slightly more than 1% of all residence titles in 2019 were a “simple” Red-White-Red Card.

Of these Red-White-Red Cards, the largest share, more than half, was issued to other key workers, while the smallest share, not even 2%, was issued to self-employed key workers and start-up founders.

Is the Red-White-Red Card a success?

If you look at the bare figures, the answer to this question must clearly be no. Even though the Red-White-Red card aims at the immigration of as many highly skilled workers as possible to Austria, almost 10 years after its introduction it remains only an option for the elite of immigrants and thus for a few who are able to meet the high requirements that applying for a Red-White-Red Card imposes on them. Most of the initial applications for a residence title in 2019 were for a “family member” residence title, i.e., a residence title in which the applicant’s right of residence is granted based on the right of residence of a close relative and not on the applicant’s individual professional qualifications.

Nonetheless, the Red-White-Red card offers a sensibly coordinated model that provides those willing to immigrate and integrate with the opportunity to secure a right of residence in Austria through professional qualifications.

An overview of the possibilities to obtain a Red-White-Red Card can be found here: