As part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, British people that were living in Austria before the end of the transition period on 31st December 2020 can apply for the Article 50 Card to retain their residency rights.
The deadline is New Year’s Eve but some people in Vienna are still waiting for their cards – despite starting the application process several months ago.
Emails and calls to MA35 (the City of Vienna immigration department) by concerned applicants are also reportedly being ignored, according to the British in Austria group which represents the rights of Britons living in Austria. The group confirmed to The Local that the issue of delays appears to be a problem specific to the capital city.
Representative of British in Austria Mike Bailey told The Local the group is being contacted by worried British citizens who are still waiting for their applications to be processed.
Mike said: “The most recent cases are unemployed people who haven’t received a card and the wait is causing them further stress.
“Their status is covered until the conclusion of the process, but if they were to be rejected there is little time to reapply with new information if an appeal fails.”
The Local approached the City of Vienna about the issues, and a spokesperson for Vienna Vice Mayor Christoph Wiederkehr told The Local: “We are endeavouring to process the applications as quickly as possible and ask all British [citizens] who have not yet submitted an application to do so immediately.”
The spokesperson added that as long as applications are submitted by the New Year’s Eve deadline, they can still be processed.
“If there have been delays in processing, we apologise for the inconvenience,” she added.
The British Embassy in Vienna told The Local that delays to Article 50 Card applications is their number one priority right now.
As for whether the delays will have a concrete impact on Brits’ access to rights in Austria, an embassy spokesperson said: “We have raised the issue of delays in processing applications with the Austrian authorities, who have assured us that the Bestätigung über die Antragstellung certificate you receive when making your application will continue to be accepted as evidence of Withdrawal Agreement rights until a new residency card is granted.
“The rights assigned under the Withdrawal Agreement are assumed to apply until a final decision is taken on granting or not granting an Article 50 card. Again, the most important thing you can do is apply well before the deadline.”
Applying for the Article 50 Card is mandatory for British people that want to retain their right to live and work in Austria post-Brexit and do not have another form of right of residence (such as another EU citizenship). It replaces all previous residency permits held by British people in Austria.
The latest figures show 7,922 people applied for the card in the first nine months of 2021, but approximately 3,600 Britons in Austria have not applied.
The application process for the Article 50 Card opened on January 4th, 2021 and there have been reports of problems since the beginning of the year.
In the first couple of months many people across the country experienced delays as a result of Covid-19 restrictions and closed offices, although these issues have since been resolved.
In February, there were also reports of some British citizens in Austria wrongly having their benefits payments suspended due to misunderstandings of the new post-Brexit rules, as reported by The Local.
The suspension of benefits went against the Withdrawal Agreement and resulted in former British Ambassador to Austria Leigh Turner asking the Austrian Federal Government to intervene.
The Local also recently reported on concerns from British in Austria that some long-term British residents and spouses in Austria might not be fully aware that applying for the new card is mandatory.
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How does the Article 50 Card application process work?
For people that live outside of Vienna, Article 50 applications take place at the local Bezirkshauptmannschaft or Magistrat where a person lives (Hauptwohnsitz).
In Vienna, applications are processed at MA35 in Arndtstrasse in the 12th district.
In most cases, an appointment has to be made in advance and proof of status will have to be provided, such as a job contract, proof of self-employment, proof of address and ID.
In some cases, additional checks will be made to determine the eligibility of an applicant. Applicants also have to pay a fee (see below for more information), provide fingerprints and a passport photo.
After applying, each applicant should be issued with an official confirmation of application. If the confirmation is not provided, British in Austria advises people to request it.
The British in Austria website has an updated list of offices across the country where an application for the Article 50 Card can be made. You can find the page here.
Typically, the process takes a couple of weeks from lodging the application to receiving the Article 50 Card, but it can take longer in Vienna as there are more British people living in the capital than elsewhere in Austria.
The first Article 50 Cards were issued to British citizens in a special ceremony in January attended by Ambassador Turner and Vice Mayor Wiederkehr.
Turner retired from the post of British Ambassador in September but will continue to live in Vienna and recently applied for the Article 50 Card.
How much does the application cost?
The costs of applying for the Article 50 Card ranges from €0 to around €75.
The difference will depend on how long someone has lived in Austria and whether further documentation is required.
The standard fee is €61.50 but this is waived if a person already has a permanent residency status in Austria that was obtained pre-Brexit.
Permanent residency is gained after living in Austria for five years and meeting the conditions for a residency permit under EU law.