Employment Assignments
Jump to
Employment Assignments
Employment Assignments

Neither a visa nor temporary residence permit allows the foreign national to work in Austria. Any non-EEA citizen generally has to obtain a work permit (however, please refer to the exceptions in “Exemptions from the Austrian Act on the Employment of Foreign Nationals”) in addition to a residence permit. If the employee matches the relevant criteria, they should obtain a Red-White-Red Card (see further below), as this option includes a settlement permit as well as a work permit. No further requirements (apart from relevant qualifications) must be met.

Skilled Workers
The Red-White-Red Card

The criteria-based immigration model called the Red-White-Red Card (Rot-Weiß-Rot Karte, “RWR Card”) offers highly qualified employees an easier way to work and live in Austria. The RWR Card combines the legal privileges of a residence permit with a work permit (i.e., no separate work permit has to be obtained). At the beginning of 2019, the RWR Card system was expanded to better meet the needs of the Austrian labor market for the immigration of qualified workers.

To determine whether a person is qualified, a specific credit system has been established that measures qualification based on objective criteria (e.g., prior education, professional qualification and experience, language skills or age). Since 2019, it is possible to reduce the number of points required for certain highly qualified persons that have a university degree, as determined by the Austrian Ministry for Employment, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection. Therefore, a person seeking to work in Austria can relatively easily determine whether or not they qualify by checking off the criteria. In 2020, the points required for certain highly qualified persons has again been reduced in order to facilitate the admission of such persons in professions that are in particularly high demand and to strengthen Austria as a business location.

There are six kinds of foreign nationals who may obtain a RWR Card:

  • a very highly qualified individual is allowed to enter Austria for a period of six months to search for employment that matches their credentials. If the individual succeeds in finding adequate employment or has already found employment, they may obtain a RWR Card. In practice, however, this option is also used if a foreign company sets up an Austrian branch office and transfers its respectively qualified employees to that branch office.
  • a skilled worker in shortage occupations may obtain a RWR Card if they are specifically educated in a shortage occupation (Mangelberuf), as determined by the Austrian Ministry for Employment, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection and have an adequate employment offer. Since 2019, the federal states Bundesländer) can also determine local shortage occupations within their territory. A RWR Card issued due to such a shortage occupation generally only entitles the foreign national to work in the employer’s operation within respective federal state.
  • a foreign university graduate may extend their stay for six months after finishing studies in Austria to find employment that matches their qualifications. A certain minimum salary must be paid.
  • an independent key worker may obtain a RWR Card if there is an overall benefit for the economy (i.e., if they: transfer capital of at least EUR 100,000, new technologies or knowhow to Austria, create new jobs for the Austrian labor market or if their business is of major significance for a whole region).
  • a start-up founder may obtain an RWR card if they fulfill certain criteria: qualification, professional experience, language skills, age, additional capital or support/subsidies of a start-up organization. In addition, the start-up founder must: (i) develop innovative products, services, procedures or technologies or introduce such on the market (ii) provide a sound business plan for funding and operating the start-up business (iii) have significant influence on the start-up and (iv) show evidence of a start capital of at least EUR 50,000 with an equity ratio of at least 50%.
  • other key workers may obtain a RWR Card if they fulfill certain criteria: qualification, adequate professional experience, language skills, age and have an adequate employment offer with a defined minimum salary. In 2021, the annual minimum salary is EUR 38,850 gross for employees under 30 years old and EUR 46,620 gross for any other employees. Additionally, there must be no equally qualified Austrian employee available in the job market.

Individuals already in possession of a RWR Card can also obtain the Red-White-Red Card Plus (RWR Card Plus) if they have fulfilled the admission requirements (as described above) during 21 out of the last 24 months prior to applying. However, individuals holding a RWR Card for start-up founders must fulfill additional criteria before being issued a RWR Card Plus (e.g., the start-up must employ at least two full-time employees). After the issuance of the RWR Card Plus, a foreign national will have unrestricted access to the Austrian labor market and will be entitled to work in Austria.

Family members of highly qualified employees may also obtain a RWR Card Plus. Generally, they must prove basic German-language skills before coming to Austria (exceptions exists for family members of very highly qualified employees). If they want to extend their RWR Cards plus, all family member must prove advanced basic German-language knowledge within two years of immigrating to Austria.

The European Union Blue Card (EU Blue Card)

The EU Blue Card offers highly qualified employees the opportunity to obtain a combined residence and work permit.

An individual qualifies for an EU Blue Card if they (i) have completed university education with a minimum study duration of three years (ii) will be employed in a position adequate for such education and (iii) will receive a minimum annual salary of EUR 65,579 gross (2021). Additionally, the Austrian authorities will only issue an EU Blue Card if there is no equally qualified and currently unemployed Austrian citizen registered with the AMS when the application for the EU Blue Card is completed.

Individuals already in possession of an EU Blue Card may also obtain a RWR Card Plus if they have fulfilled the admission requirements (as described above) during 21 out of the last 24 months before the application. After the issuance of the RWR Card Plus, a foreign national will have unrestricted access to the Austrian labor market and will be entitled to take up employment within Austria.

Family members of holders of an EU Blue Card may also obtain a RWR Card Plus. Generally, they must prove basic German-language skills within two years of immigrating to Austria if they want to extend their RWR Cards Plus.

Work Permits

If an employee does not meet the criteria for a RWR Card or an EU Blue Card, they may only work in Austria if their employer has either obtained a work permit (Beschäftigungsbewilligung) or if the employee is a Turkish citizen and has been granted a certificate of dispensation (Befreiungsschein).

If there are no other important public or economic reasons to preclude the employment of a foreign national, a work permit can be issued. One public reason is that the job in question could be filled with an Austrian employee. Therefore, no equally qualified and currently unemployed Austrian citizen may be registered with the AMS when applying for a work permit. There are special work permits available to seasonal workers and university students.

The competent authorities will not issue a work permit if these requirements are not met. However, a work permit is required to legally employ a non-EEA worker (for the exceptions please see below) and the work permit must be obtained before the employee starts working. Severe fines and the rejection future work permit applications can result if employers employ someone without a valid work permit. Further, severe penalties can apply.

Exemptions from the Austrian Act on the Employment of Foreign Nationals

Generally, where a foreign national intends to take up employment in Austria, they must obtain a RWR Card, a work permit or a posting permit. However, certain groups are legally excluded from this obligation. The most important exceptions are:

Citizens from the EEA and Switzerland

Citizens from the EEA and Switzerland do not have to obtain a work permit before taking up employment in Austria.

Scientists (Wissenschaftler)

Special rules apply for the employment of foreign scientists. Austrian law does not require any private or public scientific scientist to obtain a work permit because highly qualified scientists are in great demand. Further, it is easier for foreign researchers to obtain a temporary residence permit.

In most cases scientific researchers will also qualify for a RWR Card. It is usually recommended that foreign researchers apply for a RWR Card because they can also use the RWR card for a long term stay in Austria.

Senior Managers and internationally recognized researchers (Besondere Führungskräfte und international anerkannte Forscher)

Senior managers, in the sense of this statutory exception, are individuals that hold executive positions at board or management level at internationally active corporations and groups of companies. Internationally recognized researchers are researchers who are known through their work and publications from an international perspective or have outstanding significance meaning in concrete research circles. Their duties must comprise of (a) building or maintaining sustainable business relationships or (b) creating or securing qualified workplaces in Austria. They must receive a minimum salary (at least EUR 6,660 gross monthly salary plus special payments as of 2021).

Senior managers, international recognized researchers, their spouses, children, their support staff and household staff (i.e., secretaries, assistants if they have been employed by the senior manager/international recognized researcher for at least one year) are also exempt. There are no quota limits in force for senior managers. However in most cases senior managers also qualify for the RWR Card.

Intra-company Transfer
Posting of Employees to Austria

Whereas opportunities to work in Austria as an employee are limited, providing services in general is not. However, restrictions may apply due to trade law.

Generally, companies may perform projects in Austria. When employees are sent to Austria to perform services within projects, a posting permit (Entsendebewilligung) by the local AMS office must be obtained. In this case, two conditions must be met: the project cannot exceed six months and the employee must not work in Austria for more than four months during the entirety of the project’s duration. If these periods are to be exceeded, a work permit or Red-White-Red Card must be obtained.

It is important to emphasize that the work permit requirement cannot be avoided by claiming a chain of four-month projects to attempt continuous use of the posting permit. Austrian authorities consider this an inadmissible circumvention of mandatory provisions.

Alternatively, a foreign national who is employed as an (i) executive (ii) specialist or (iii) trainee, and sent to Austria intra-group to work in a relevant position, may be eligible for both a temporary residence and work permit for company-internally transferred employees (ICT permit).

Different application procedures and permits depending on (i) whether the employees are directly deployed from an EU or non-EU Member State and (ii) the duration of the assignment to Austria apply.

If non-EEA employees working for a company situated within the EEA are sent to Austria to perform services, they are only required to register beforehand with the ZKO. If the posting is lawful, an EU-posting certification will be issued (EU-Entsendebestätigung).

There are several duties for employers who post employees to Austria (e.g., provisioning of certain documents like employment contract, pay slips, time records and the registration of employees with the ZKO). The duties differ slightly depending on whether the employer is located within or outside the EEA.

It is not considered a posting of an employee and therefore the rules do not apply and a registration with the ZKO it is not necessary if employees are sent to Austria to perform minor short-term jobs in connection with:

  • business meetings or seminars (without any further performance of services)
  • fairs and similar events (except preparatory and final works)
  • attendance and participation at congresses and certain cultural events
  • specified international sports events

Additionally, the rules do not apply to intra-group assignments of (i) special-skilled employees for specific purposes (e.g., research and development, project planning, controlling) for up to two months within a calendar year and (ii) employees with a minimum monthly gross salary of at least EUR 6,937.5 (2021).

Non-compliance may lead to severe monetary penalties. Repeat offenders may be prohibited from performing services in Austria for up to five years.

The authorities may also instruct the service recipient to stop payments to the service provider but only in cases where the prosecution is complicated.

Several provisions also apply to personnel leasing from abroad.

Alternatively, non-EEA employees that are transferred intra-group and already have an ICT permit from another EU Member State may be eligible for an ICT mobile permit in Austria if their stay exceeds 90 days.

Austrian law stipulates that if an applicable collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for the business of the sending company exists in Austria, the employer must pay at least the minimum salary stipulated by the CBA. If no applicable CBA exists, the employer must pay the average salary of a comparable peer group of Austrian employees.

Lease of Employees

Employers situated in a non-EEA country may lease their employees to Austria to work under the direction of an Austrian company, but only if the employee disposes of a work permit according to the Austrian Act on the Employment of Foreign Nationals as well as according to the Austrian Act on the Lease of Employees. A permit under the latter is only issued if the competent trade authority approves the lease of employees and confirms that:

  • the employees are significantly well-qualified for the proposed tasks (i.e., the employee has already held a specific position for a long period of time and therefore is “significantly well-qualified”) and the assignment of such employees is required due to labor market and economic reasons
  • employment is only possible by leasing employees from foreign countries (e.g., no equally qualified Austrian employees would be available on the Austrian labor market)
  • employment of those employees does not jeopardize payment and working conditions of comparable Austrian employees

Austrian law stipulates that the employees are entitled to adequate payment and working conditions. Likewise, the assigned employees are entitled to the same minimum wage as comparable Austrian workers, as specified by the respective CBA.

Applications for the assignment of employees are strictly scrutinized by the Austrian authorities and permits are seldom issued.

However, leasing non-EEA employees from employers situated in the EEA does not require prior permission from Austrian authorities. However, notification of the posting to the ZKO is required. If the posting is lawful, an EU-leasing certification will be issued (EU-Überlassungsbestätigung).

Any lease of employees requires the advanced consent of the employee being sent to another company or corporation member, even if the employment is only for a short-term period.

Post-Entry Procedures

Each person staying in Austria must register with the competent authority (usually, this is the local mayor). However, if the person stays in a hotel, the obligation is fulfilled as soon as registration at the hotel is completed. Persons staying in private accommodations do not need to register as long as the stay lasts no longer than three days. As such, registration is usually an administrative formality.

Employers must retain certain documents (e.g., contract of employment, pay slip, work permit) ready at the place of employment when employing foreign workers and posting or lease workers. The employer may face severe administrative penalties for non-compliance.

Entry Based on International Agreements - Citizens from the European Economic Area

For citizens of the EEA, Switzerland and Croatia (since July 2020), gaining employment in Austria can be easily done. If they are employed or self-employed in Austria or earn a secure living and have sufficient health insurance coverage, they do not need special residence or work permits to reside and work in Austria.

However, EEA citizens must notify the Austrian registry authority within three days of their arrival into Austria. Additionally, EEA citizens and their family members must register their permanent residence with the local immigration authorities within four months if they intend to reside in Austria for more than three months. Generally these registration obligations are merely an administrative formality.

Additionally, the quota-free “Settlement Permit for Family Members” (Niederlassungsbewilligung Angehöriger) is also available to family members of EEA citizens under certain circumstances.