Austria. Home to Sigmund Freud, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Victor Hess, Franz Schubert, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Christian Doppler, and Hedy Lamarr. Even Ludwig van Beethoven, who was German, couldn’t resist the pull of Vienna and spent much of his career there. It’s a beautiful country, an outdoor fan’s paradise with plenty of mountains, lakes, woodlands, historic cities as well as charming towns and villages. And despite your belief that you don’t know much about the country, you might be surprised. Anyone looking to live and work in central Europe should give Austria some serious consideration.
A Bit of Background
Austria has a long and fascinating history, and often found itself part of events much larger than the country itself. Ruled by the House of Habsburg for just over six hundred years, and part of the Holy Roman Empire for much of that time, the last ruler (Charles I) unofficially stepped down in 1918. This paved the way for Austria in the modern sense, and the Republic of Austria came into existence in 1919.
The country is a federal parliamentary republic based on the constitution of 1920, with a president elected by the people. Austria divides her 84,000 square km (107th largest in the world) into nine separate states. The country is landlocked in central Europe, sharing a border with Germany (and German is its official language), the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Hungary, Italy, Switzerland, and Slovakia. Its largest and most famous city is the storied capital of Vienna. Austria and its 8.5 million citizens joined the European Union in 1995.
Visas and Immigration
Getting the necessary permits and visas to live and work in Austria is a straightforward procedure. To begin with, you’re most likely need to apply for the Red-White-Red Card, which allows you to live and work in country with ONE employer (who basically sponsors your application) for one year. If you change employers during that time, you’ll need to get a new card. In order to qualify, you need to fall under one of the following categories: highly qualified workers, skilled workers in shortage occupations, or other key workers. Each has their specific requirements, and each must reach a minimum total of the Austrian point system that is tied to visa applications (you’re awarded points for each criterion that you meet).
Additionally, there is a Red-White-Red Plus Card that permits you to live and work with unrestricted employers. You may apply for it after successful completion of your first 12 months working in Austria. Finally, there is also a Jobseeker Visa for Highly Qualified Workers. If you score at least 70 out of 100 on the points system, it grants you a 6-month visa for the purpose of job search in country. All of these visas and cards require the completion of the Integration Agreement, which is designed to ensure that everyone living and working in Austria has basic German language skills.
Austrian citizenship can be acquired after ten years of continuous residence, and after meeting various other criteria (including German proficiency).
Finding suitable housing in Austria shouldn’t be too difficult. Rental apartments are most plentiful in urban settings, and the big cities provide plenty of choice. Austria recognises two types of rental agreement – a primary leasehold (between you and the owner), and a sublet. A limited tenancy agreement is for a minimum of three years. Check out the list of Realtors in Austria, an apartment rental website like Apartment Service Vienna, contact an established real estate firm like Engel & Volkers, or consider the classifieds such as those on Craigslist Vienna.
Apartments. Houses. Chalets. Villas. Cabins…Austria has them all. Look around.
Education in Austria is shared by both federal and state governments. Schooling is compulsory up to age 15, with the final year (Gr.9) completed at a polytechnic school in preparation for an apprenticeship (3-4 years of additional training and on-the-job experience) after graduation. There are schools available that continue past the 9th grade, with a culminating “graduation exam” (called the Matura) at the end. Students wishing to attend an Austrian college or university must take and pass the Matura. Additionally, private/international schools (such as the American International School in Vienna and the Salzburg International Preparatory School) make up about 8% of the national total of educational institutions. The state-funded public schools in Austria, though, are widely considered some of the best in Europe.
Austria is best known for its winter scenery and sports, but it does actually have a distinct summer, where temperatures can reach a relatively high mid-20s (and up). Its fabled winters can be very cold (-10’C to 7’C on average) with plenty of snow in the alpine areas, of which there is much. The Alps are well represented here, dominated roughly 75% of the country, so alpine conditions prevail. Daily weather conditions for major cities in Austria are available online.
Travel in country, its neighbours, and Europe as a whole. With so much within driving and train distance, you’ll be spoiled for choice: Prague and Budapest for instance are just a few options to consider. Austria is a winter wonderland, and those of you in love with the cold and snow have a plethora of options available to you. World-class ski resorts are the top draw during the winter months, and even if you don’t particularly love skiing, their environments are simply breathtaking. You can explore the surrounding area, relax in the resort, visit nearby towns and villages. Take a daytrip to the Danube Valley. Visit the Hofburg, the imperial palace of the ruling Habsburg family for over six hundred years. Football (Austrian Football Association) and ice hockey (Austrian Hockey League) enjoy tremendous popularity, and should definitely be on your list. Classical music concerts still take place in some of Europe’s most beautiful and historic concert halls.
Austria has it all. Modern cities and infrastructure, glorious history, proximity to the rest of Europe, top-notch education, stunning natural beauty, culture, cuisine, and ice hockey. There’s nothing more you need…