Since 2011 Austria has introduced the Red White Red Card which allows workers who meet certain criteria from non-EU countries, to live and work in Austria with the intention of permanently settling here.
This is the journey of my good friend’s Lou from Australia. Lou was one of the lucky ones to apply for the Red-White-Red Card successfully – however, this was not without the usual Austrian bureaucratic adversity.
Often known around town as “Tattoo Lou” as her entire arm is covered with a tattoo of the indigenous-to-Australia Eucalyptus tree. I found it intriguing that someone with this type of obvious patriotism would go through all the trouble of applying for the rights to live and work in Austria permanently. If Lou came from any EU country she would be able to live and work freely in Austria.
It all began when she decided to move to Austria for a winter season and become a ski bum, where she quickly falling in love with the place. Coming from a farm, the mountains and fields felt like home to her as well as the fact that she fell in love with a local Austrian nicknamed “Sexy Gunter – The Mountain Man”. Visitors from non-EU countries can stay in Europe up to 90 days without a visa but are unable to accept employment here.
As her 90-day limit was fast approaching, Lou moved around to European Countries that have more relaxed foreign worker rules but was constantly exploring ways to return to Austria to work and to be with her “Mountain Man”.
Lou found out about the Red-White-Red Card online, where the process seemed simple enough even though there were stringent requirements set in place to be accepted.
Firstly you use the points calculator, if you qualify then you need to find an employer who would make you an offer of employment for a certain amount of hours per week as well as offer you a salary grade according to the job market you are applying for.
They then considered the experience she had and whether this type of position was in shortage in the country as well as in high demand. Another factor was whether she could understand the foreign language.
So Lou set off firstly to learn German by taking numerous online courses and putting together her CV that she had translated into German. She sent it off to about 30+ employers within the area, which she found on the Public Employment Service (AMS) website. The website has limited English information so it is advisable to go and see them in their offices for assistance.
She managed to secure 4 interviews that she conducted mainly in German with prospective employers, finally one of them agreed to hire her. Once she received her offer of employment she optimistically went off to the District Commission/Administration of Austria (Bezirkshauptmannschaft), filled out her application form and paid the fee of €120 for the visa process to begin.
Lou says the application process for the Red White Red Card took her 3 months, which is quite ironic as the cut off point of someone with a non-EU passport to stay in the country without a visa is 3 months.
Regrettably it came back as “rejected” as apparently the hours stated on the contract were not specific enough. Lou was told that she could appeal the decision which would take a longer time taking her into dangerously overstaying her welcome in the country, or to re apply with the correct updated amount of hours and of course was told she needed to pay the fee again. A few weeks later she received a letter to say her Red White Red Card visa application was accepted!
Lou is contentedly working in Austria, in a restaurant as Chef de Partie. After one year of working with the same employer she can extend the visa for another year, consequently a further 3 years can be applied for and only then can she become a permanent resident.
I remember a time a few years ago when Lou was very despondent about her dreams to come back to Austria but with sheer determination, researching the right information and persistence, she got her Red White Red Card and did it!
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