One of the great things about the developer’s skillset is that you can take it around the world. From Europe to Asia to the US, developers can apply their expertise and enjoy work and life across the globe, making it easier than ever to try new things, experience new cultures and leave your hometown for a taste of something fresh.

But while many companies from different countries seek similar skills and points on your CV, the visa requirements to work and live somewhere frequently differ. In this guide, we’ll break down how to get the work visa you’ll need to work in Austria.

Do you want to get a peek into the Austrian developer scene? Then watch our DevCities Vienna episode.

In short: Developers who want to work in Austria usually apply for the Red-White-Red Card, but you can also aim for an EU Blue Card or even a short-term visa for shorter stays.

If you can’t get enough of Austria, there’s even a path to permanent residency once you’ve spent five years living and working legally in the country. Read on to find out the ins and outs of each work visa, the documents you’ll need for your visa application and the application process itself.

Do I need an Austrian work visa?

If you are an EEA or Swiss citizen, you can work and live in Austria without a visa. But if you’re a non-EU citizen - commonly called a ‘third-country national’ - and you want to work in Austria or simply visit for more than 180 days, you’ll be required to obtain a work visa.

Austria has many different kinds of work visas - including ones specific to artists, PhD researchers and au pairs! - but in this article we’ll discuss the most common ones useful for developers (or companies who want to hire foreign developers). Let’s go through them one by one.

The EU Blue Card

The Blue Card is a working visa that is valid in all European Union member states except Denmark and Ireland - that means Austria accepts it! It allows skilled third-country nationals to live and work in the EU and is typically issued for the duration of your employment contract plus three months, with a cap at four years. Though it is valid for most EU members, it’s important to note that it doesn’t necessarily mean you can move freely across the EU - usually, your Blue Card will only be valid in the country where you applied for it. So if you want to work in Austria, you’ll need to apply for a Blue Card at an Austrian Embassy, Austrian Consulate or an accredited Visa Application Centre for Austria.

The advantage of a Blue Card in Austria is that you don’t have to meet the points system other work visas require. However, your salary needs to be higher as a result. The Blue Card is a popular choice throughout the EU.

You can find out more about the Blue Card in our comprehensive guide! Head there for more information about eligibility, requirements and the documentation you’ll need to apply for a Blue Card.

Short Term Working Visas

If you want to spend at least two years in Austria, or you’re not sure how long you want to be in Austria, the best option is applying for a Red-White-Red Card (we’ll go into more detail about below).

But if you want to spend less time in Austria, whether it’s for a short contract, temporary position or even an internship, there are two visas for short-term employment. The two visas are:

  • the C Visa (or Visum V-Erwerb in German), which allows a stay of up to 90 days
  • the D Visa (Visum D-Erwerb in German), which allows a stay between 91 and 180 days.

To apply for either a C Visa or a D Visa, you’ll need the following documents for your application:

  • Visa C or Visa D application form

  • Valid travel document

  • Passport-sized photo (colour photograph, size 3.5 x 4.5 cm)

  • Copy of your contract or preliminary contract with an Austrian employer

  • Proof of accommodation

  • Sufficient travel health insurance

  • Proof of ties to your home country, such as university enrollment or family at home

Note that both of these visas require that you are already the recipient of a job offer. You cannot claim a C Visa or D Visa, enter the country and then find a job: you must have the job offer first.

The Red-White-Red Card

The Red-White-Red Card is one of the most popular and practical visas in Austria. It provides both work authorisation and residency, and while its length depends on your particular situation it is usually valid for 24 months with the possibility of renewal.

Red-White-Red Cards are issued on a points system, which means that you have to meet a certain number of points (for example 70) to qualify for the visa. You gain points based on your professional history and suitability, but also on other factors, including age, previous study or work experience in Austria, German language ability, English language ability and more.

There are different kinds of Red-White-Red Cards depending upon your history, qualifications and professional situation. Some Red-White-Red Cards are for third-country nationals who have completed graduate studies in Austria. There’s even a Red-White-Red Card for applicable startup founders!

But if you’re a developer looking to work at an Austrian company – or an Austrian company looking to hire foreign developers – it’s likely that you’ll be looking at one of the following cards.

  • Red-White-Red Card for Skilled Workers in Shortage Occupations</span> (“Fachkräfte in Mangelberufen”). This card is for third-country nationals who already have a job offer and training or education in a shortage occupation. Shortage occupations can be found in a list which is updated annually and there are occupations which might be relevant for developers depending upon your professional background and interests, including data processing engineers and more. This is the most common type of Red-White-Red Card issued to developers.

  • Red-White-Red Card for Very Highly Qualified Workers</span> (“Besonders Hochqualifizierte”). This is for third-country nationals who have special qualifications, for example in graduate education or senior management positions. This would also be a good fit for anyone who has research and innovation history to their name.

  • Red-White-Red Card for Other Key Workers</span> (“Sonstige Schlüsselkräfte”). This card is for employees who are not encompassed in the other two categories but have still received an offer of employment as a skilled worker. The most important thing to note here is that your employment offer has to meet a minimum salary requirement, which is dependent upon your age. In 2022 those requirements are: for those under 30 years of age €2,835 gross monthly pay plus special payments (holiday and Christmas pay); for those over 30 years of age €3,402 gross monthly pay plus special payments (holiday and Christmas pay).

It’s important to note that the Red-White-Red card is always tied to a specific employer. That means you can’t change or lose your job during the validity period of your Red-White-Red card, unless you want to start the application from scratch. If you want to change your employer, you’ll have to apply for a new Red-White-Red Card and the Public Employment Service (AMS) will examine whether you meet the criteria in your new employment. If you’re thinking about changing employers, make sure you have calculated the time it will take for your new application and whether you are able to stay legally in Austria during that time. The standard application time for a Red-White-Red Card is eight to twelve weeks, starting the moment that you hand in your application. Remember that gathering the documents required for the application can itself be a time-consuming process, so you’ll need to allow adequate time to accomplish this. Sometimes the Austrian authorities will also request more supporting documents, which can further extend the application time.

Once you have held the Red-White-Red Card for two years, you’ll be eligible to apply for a Red-White-Red Card plus, as long as you were employed within the eligibility requirements for a minimum of 21 months during the previous 24 months. The Red-White-Red Card plus is valid for from one to three years, depending upon how long you have already been lawfully settled in Austria. With the Red-White-Red Card plus, you are permitted to change your employer at any time without applying for a new permit. The Red-White-Red Card plus is also generally considered the standard path to permanent residency in Austria.

The Red-White-Red Card plus is also eligible for family members of Red-White-Red Card holders or EU Blue Card holders. So, for example, if you want to move to Austria with your husband, and you have a Red-White-Red Card, your husband can apply for the Red-White-Red Card plus once your application has been approved.

How do I apply for a Red-White-Red Card?

The checklist for applying for a Red-White-Red Card depends a little based on which particular card you’re applying for, so make sure you check out all the requirements for your particular case on the Austrian government’s migration website.

Below is an example checklist for The Red-White-Red Card for Other Key Workers.

To apply for this visa, you’ll need:

  • A job offer for a skilled position from a company offering the required minimum wage (see above). Note that the position has to be confirmed as one where the Public Employment Service (AMS) were unable to find equally qualified people registered as employed (a labour market check)

  • A minimum score of at least 55 points by the Red-White-Red Card criteria for other key workers
  • A filled out and signed application form
  • A valid travel document

  • Passport-sized photograph in colour, not older than six months

  • Proof of accommodation in Austria, for example a rental or subtenancy contract or accommodation agreement (“Wohnrechtsvereinbarung”)

  • Proof of completed professional education and training (a certificate or diploma: most important is proof that you have studied for at least three years)

If you’re arguing that you have special knowledge and skills, you need to provide proof (i.e. recommendation, certificate confirming the completion of specific education or training, employment verification):

  • A school leaving certificate, such as a high school diploma

  • Proof of completed degree program with a minimum duration of three years at a tertiary education institution

  • Proof of professional experience (recommendations, employment verification etc)

  • Proof of German or English language skills (internationally-recognised language diploma or course certificate; find a list of approved course certificates here)

  • Employer statement according to the Act Governing Employment of Foreign Nationals (AuslBG)

First-time applicants will sometimes additionally need to provide a copy of their passport, birth certificate or equivalent document and a police clearance certificate from your country of residence not older than three months at the time of your application.

Please note that all application material needs to be submitted in German or English. That means foreign documents (like a birth certificate or police clearance certificate) need to be translated and verified. Since the coronavirus pandemic, it has been more common for Austrian authorities to accept copies of official documents during the application process, and you only need to bring the original documents with you to finalise the process once everything is approved. However, some smaller cities or particular authorities still require original documents, so it’s a good idea to prepare for both scenarios.

The cost of the application comes to €160: €120 when you submit the application, €20 when the permit is granted and €20 for the collection of police identification data.

Which documents take the most time to procure?

As we mentioned above, the process of collecting documents can be just as time-consuming (if not even more so!) than the time it takes the Austrian authorities to process your application. It’s a good idea to make sure that you allocate enough time to get these documents together ahead of time.

For example, in many countries and companies, it is no longer common practice to provide reference letters to employees. In Austria, this is not only common practice, it’s also a visa requirement in order to prove your work experience. For this requirement, you’ll need to plan to both request the document and wait for previous employers to create them.

Another time-consuming process is legalising your documents. In most cases, personal documents need to be legalised or you will require an Apostille. If you don’t live in a city close to an embassy or if your local Apostille-granting office is booked up, you’ll need to factor in the time it takes to get an appointment and have these documents officially authorised.

What if I don’t have a job offer yet?

If you’re determined to live in Austria but haven’t found your dream job yet, you can try to apply for a jobseeker’s visa. However, it’s crucial to note that, like the Red-White-Red Card, the jobseeker’s visa works under a points system. You need to score a minimum 70 points out of a maximum 100. (You can find the full list of criteria here.)

Generally, only highly qualified candidates are able to score 70 points on this scale. Sometimes even candidates with very good profiles will only just score 60! For this type of visa, it’s necessary to have a high level of education such as a PhD, research activities or work experience in a senior management position and more.

If you enter Austria with the jobseeker’s visa, you have six months to stay in the country and look for a job legally. But it’s not a work permit: once you are offered a role, you have to apply for the Red-White-Red Card or another applicable work visa.

What if I want permanent residency?

Visa red tape is a headache, especially when you have to do it on an annual basis! Austria does offer a path towards permanent residency, but it does take time. First of all, you’ll most likely apply for a Red-White-Red Card plus, which offers more freedom in terms of changing employers. And then you can continue to pursue permanent residency.

The requirements for permanent residency in Austria include:

  • Living uninterrupted and legally in Austria for the past five years

  • Proof of having supported yourself financially

  • Proof of having maintained health insurance

  • Proof of having maintained adequate, registered accommodation

  • Completion of Module 2 of the Integration Agreement, including reaching a B1 level of German

Once you have met these requirements, you may apply for the “Long-term resident - EU” visa (in German, Aufenthaltstitel “Daueraufenthalt EU”), which gives you permanent right of residence.

Happy applying!

Visas can be complicated. But the good news is, particularly if you have a job offer already in the bag, the Austrian process is clear and easy to follow.

Still looking for your next job in Austria? Let Honeypot look for you: we help companies in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands find experienced developers just like you. Sign up here and if you’re accepted on our platform, you’ll start receiving interview invites. We can even help you with that tricky visa process!

Good luck, and we hope you’ll be enjoying schnitzel and strudel in no time!

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Hannah Augur

Hannah Augur

Hannah is a writer, tea aficionado and geek based in Berlin.