Guide - English Quick and Simple Guide to Immigrating to Austria

A few years ago, Tamara was just like you. Considering to make a huge change in her life by moving to Austria and exploring the opportunities there but confronted with a cloud of information, requirements and legal technicalities. Read on to hear first hand more about how she succeeded to navigate each hurdle, what resources she used and how she came to live in Graz.

After deciding on my education and ideal career path, I had to start searching for information on how to immigrate to Austria. As I was born outside of the European Union this meant following the path of immigration. Looking back the process of understanding the process, getting the right forms, entering correct information and collecting all the necessary documents to support my application was quite an outstanding accomplishment – if I may say so myself. If had existed when I applied it would have been my guiding light through the sometimes murky jungle of Austrian bureaucracy.

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Third-country nationals and an Austrian visa

Austria is a part of the European Union and unless you are a citizen of any of the EU-Countries, you will probably require a residence permit or a visa, depending on your length of stay.

For some third-country nationals (i.e. citizens outside EU, EEA countries, and Switzerland), a visa is necessary for stays up to three months. You can check what the visa requirements are for your country online. If you’re not sure how many days you’ve spent in the Schengen Zone there’s a short stay visa calculator online.

Important: A visa is not to be confused with a residence or work permit. In most cases you will not be allowed to work or stay in Austria long term on a visa if you are a third-country national.

What kinds of residency permits are there for Austria?

There are couple of ways to get a residency permit that are based on what your goal is (e.g. education or work). I’ll explain some of the more common ones, but if you want to go even deeper into the subject and find out what’s available and which one’s you might be eligible for (including all the requirements), go and visit the official Austrian Government Website for Immigration.

Educational residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel für Studenten/Schüler)

Austria has an internationally accredited school system and a variety of educational programs that you can choose from. Its main universities are highly recognized internationally, both in the capital Vienna but also major cities around Vienna like Graz and Linz.

The process is fairly simple – decide on where your interests lie and apply for one of the Bachelor/Master programs. By getting your application approved, you will also be eligible for an educational residence permit.

Residence permit for qualified workers (Rot-Weiß-Rot Karte)

The famous Rot-Weiß-Rot Card – any foreigner that has settled in Austria has heard about it. To apply for one, you need to have a finalized work contract with a company that fulfils certain requirements (depending on the type of the card).

Fun fact: the card is called Red-White-Red because of the Austrian flag, although in reality the card is printed in pink and blue.

These different types of the Red-White-Red card vary based on your job qualifications. These can range from owning a university diploma or having a job that Is on the shortage occupation list in Austria to being a highly-qualified worker.

After two years, there is the possibility to upgrade to a Red-White-Red Card Plus. The difference is that this upgrade allows you to have unrestricted access to the labor market as a third-country national in Austria. This card can be issued to holders’ spouses, too.

Blue Card (Blaue Karte EU)

The Blue Card is a residence permit for highly qualified academics. It is required to have a diploma from a recognized university and a job offer in the same field.

What are the general requirements for residency permits to Austria?

Each specific residency permit has it’s own requirement that you can check on the links provided above, but there is some overlap which we’ll take a look at now.

German Skills

After moving to Austria, I was very glad that I had paid attention in German class back in high school. It can seem complicated with the long words and its charismatic grammar rules. Even impossible at times.

Dust off your old German books and dive into the beauty of the language, because for most residency permits you require at least a level A1 or higher knowledge of German language.

Important: You will need to prove your language level with an accredited test/certification provider. That certificate must not be older than 6 months on the day you submit your application.

Health insurance (Krankenversicherung)

If you start working for an Austrian company you will be enrolled in the mandatory Austrian health insurance. But for the duration between arriving in Austria and starting your employment (this can be a couple of weeks) you will need to get a health insurance (e.g. travel insurance) that covers your for this period of time.


In the past you had to have a rental contract to even apply for residency. This has thankfully been changed in recent years and you simply must present your rental contract on the day you go to pick up your permit.

Important: Short term rentals (e.g. AirBnB) do not qualify for this requirement. You will need a full rental contract (or deed if you are buying) that covers you for at least 1 year.

Means and Livelihood

The final big hurdle is proving that you have the necessary means to finance your stay in Austria. If you’re coming for a job, then you should be covered. But take note if you are bringing your family, have high monthly expenses (which you must declare) or other factors, then the authorities may take a good look at this part of your application.

Students can usually refer to a livelihood provider that will be paying your rent and food during your stay.

We hope Tamara’s insights help you along in your journey towards an Austrian residency permit. If you’d like some help our platform guides you through all the necessary steps and documents to submit your Rot-Weiß-Rot application.