Newsroom / News / Media / Info Magazine LGP NEWS 01/2022 / More than just immigration

More than just immigration

More than just immigration

Our world is shaped by the progressive globalisation and the increasing standardisation of everyday culture. The choice of living or working in any given country seems almost boundless. In Austria, as everywhere else, certain conditions apply to residence and investment. 

Gone are the days when people worked for a single company in just one country for 30 to 40 years and holidayed at home. In our modern digitalised world the country you want to live, work or relax in is a conscious choice. At an individual level, the decision is based on the sum of factors such as standard of living, education, tax system, ecology and climate, cultural capital, attitude towards foreign citizens, distance from home, etc. Even the lack of foreign language skills has long ceased to be an obstacle: there is a wide range of technology available for translation, and the destination country will often host many compatriots who speak your native language perfectly. 

All in all, the prospects for migration are rosy: a physicist applies for a job in the US, an opera singer goes to Italy or Austria, a top manager settles in sunny Spain, and a student enrols at a Czech university. But the devil, as always, is in the detail: although many countries are attempting to protect their own labour markets, prevent property prices skyrocketing, or avoid oversubscribed universities, they also have an interest in attracting skilled foreign professionals, talented scientists or top athletes. This is often achieved through budgetary support for migration programmes. This measure falls under migration law and, in addition to labour law, includes citizenship laws and the regulation of property acquisition by foreigners. In contrast, the granting of political asylum is based on human rights and is not regulated by migration processes. 

Migration law, including that of EU Member States, is clearly national in character, despite some common elements. For example, Spanish law grants residence permits on preferential terms to persons who have acquired property and whose value exceeds a certain amount (e.g. 500,000 euros), whereas Austrian law does not provide immigration benefits for real estate owners. Moreover, in order to protect its property market at the regional level, property acquisition by foreign nationals is only permitted in Austria under certain conditions (valid residence title, personal residence, employment in the region, etc.) and following an approval procedure. Furthermore, Austrian immigration law limits the number of residence titles issued to wealthy (financially independent) citizens. 

As a social state, Austria requires not only a financial investment from investors, starting at 100,000 euros, but also “the preservation or creation of jobs, new technology and know-how, as well as significant importance for the entire region”. In considering the impact of investment on migration processes and citizenship, some parallels should be drawn between the partially suspended citizenship programmes of certain EU countries such as Malta and Cyprus for investors and Article 10(6) of the Citizenship Act of the Republic of Austria. The latter regulates the conferral of citizenship for extraordinary achievements in the interest of the Republic in the fields of science, culture, sports and economy. However, Austrian law provides for the conferral of citizenship for extraordinary achievements in the field of economics only in absolutely exceptional cases, following a decision of the Cabinet of Ministers, which is by no means a “standard decision” or a “programme”. 

In response to a strong labour market demand for key workers and skilled workers in shortage occupations, Austrian migration law lists corresponding residence permits. The “Red-White-Red Card” is thus an umbrella term comprising residence permits for generally qualified skilled workers, for highly qualified skilled workers, for young skilled workers with an Austrian university degree, and for skilled workers in shortage occupations as well as for business investors. The “EU Blue Card” residence permit, introduced as an implementation of an EU Directive, offers separate advantages for the applicant in establishing eligibility. It was hoped that applicants with this permit would not be subject to the requirement to prove the unavailability of comparably skilled workers in the domestic labour market, but this has not been the case. This conservative mechanism is now administered by the Labour Office and is not the responsibility of migration authorities. With few exceptions, this applies to all residence permits for qualified dependent professionals and is usually coupled with a time-consuming procedure to prove the uniqueness of a foreign applicant and candidate for employment in Austria. 

It is not just graduate professions that are in demand; the Immigration Act also offers employment opportunities in shortage occupations such as roofers, carpenters, lathe operators/turners or technicians for low-voltage systems. Similarly, special consideration is given to artists, to whom a residence permit may be granted on preferential terms regarding the required minimum income. The artists must prove, amongst other things, that they have appropriate training and practice and in some cases, they may be required to explain why they cannot pursue their activities outside the Austrian Republic. 

This brief excursion into the multi-layered ecosystem of migration law proves that the path to Austria is open to everyone who is confident in their future.


Dipl. jur. Alexey Nenashev, Senior Legal Consultant at LGP

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