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Reader question: Will Austria follow Spain in introducing a digital nomad visa?

There is a trend among European countries to introduce visas that permit remote workers to relocate from abroad. However, the question remains whether Austria will also adopt such a visa. Here is an overview of the current situation.

Reader question: Will Austria follow Spain in introducing a digital nomad visa?
Digital nomads can work from anywhere in the world - in theory. (Photo by Windows on Unsplash)

In January, there was positive news for individuals who work remotely and are interested in relocating to southern Europe. 

Spain has recently introduced a ‘digital nomad’ visa, also known as the visa for remote workers, which permits non-EU freelancers and remote workers to enter and reside in the country (for more information, visit our sister site The Local Spain). 

Portugal also offers a digital nomad visa that permits remote workers to reside in the country for up to one year.

With more European countries acknowledging the advantages of permitting remote workers to relocate from other countries, one may wonder if Austria will follow suit.

READ ALSO: Digital nomad visas: How does Austria compare with other countries?

Is Austria looking to implement a digital nomad visa?

There are currently no government plans to implement a digital nomad visa in Austria. Most countries in Europe with such a visa demand digital nomads earn high salaries – in areas that usually have lower average wages. This heats up the local economy and brings money to the country or specific regions, such as the coastal areas of Portugal

It’s perfect for countries such as Croatia, Greece, Malta and Spain. However, Austria has other issues that won’t be addressed through a digital visa. 

Currently, the country is actually trying to attract more workers to its short-staffed full-time workforce. Whereas it is hiring full-time teachers, doctors, or IT professionals, Austria is not looking for temporary workers who won’t contribute to the tax system and pension fund in the ageing country – at least for now.

READ ALSO: How Austria is making it easier for non-EU workers to get residence permits

Instead, the government is looking for ways to bring back retirees to the workforce, attract part-time workers and make it easier for high-skilled immigrants to work in hired positions in Austria.

What are the rules now?

Citizens of EU and European Economic Area (EEA) countries can stay in Austria for up to three months (90 days) without having to register as a resident – and can work during this time.

For stays of more than three months, you’d have to get an Anmeldebescheinigung, which is a registration that shows you have health insurance and means to support yourself (usually through employment). In practice, since EU/EEA citizens have freedom of movement within the bloc, many people only find out about the registration years later – in that case, the fine for the delay is €50 (different provinces might have different fines).

READ MORE: Anmeldebescheinigung: How to get Austria’s crucial residence document

For non-EU citizens, things are more complicated. Some third-country nationals, like those from the US, the UK, Canada and Brazil, can stay in Austria for up to 90 days out of every 180 days as a tourist without the need to apply for a visa beforehand.

For people who want to stay in Austria for longer than 90 days, there is the option to apply for Visa D, which allows third-country nationals to stay in the country for up to six months as a visitor (or up to 12 months in exceptional circumstances). This visa has to be applied for in your country of residence before arriving in Austria.

However, as there is not a dedicated digital nomad visa in Austria, working in Austria remotely as a third-country national with a tourist visa or Visa D is not legal. In practice, it is something digital nomads do, as it is obviously impossible for authorities to check every tourist’s computer for evidence of remote working. Still, working illegally in Austria could lead to extradition, fines and even a re-entry ban.

READ ALSO: Six official websites to know if you’re planning to work in Austria

What about a self-employed visa?

Austria has a long-term visa option for self-employed key workers. This immigration route is essentially an investor visa. It involves a minimum investment of €100,000 into a business, the creation of new jobs and proof that the business will have an impact on the region.

This is financially out of reach for most digital nomads and not in keeping with the digital nomad lifestyle.

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How would a ‘youth mobility scheme’ between the UK and EU really work?

The EU and the UK could enter into a 'youth mobility' scheme allowing young people to move countries to work, study and live. Here's what we know about the proposal.

How would a 'youth mobility scheme' between the UK and EU really work?

Across the 27 countries of the EU, people of all ages can move countries to work, study, spend a long visit or chase the possibility of love – and all this is possible thanks to EU freedom of movement.

That freedom no longer extends to the UK. As a result of Brexit, a UK national who wants to move to an EU country, or an EU citizen who wants to move to the UK, will need a visa in order to do so.

However, a new ‘mobility scheme’ could re-create some elements of freedom of movement – if the EU and UK can come to an agreement. The signs of that are not good, with the current UK government rejecting the proposal before it had even been formally offered, but here’s what we know about the proposal.

Who would benefit?

First things first, it’s only for the youngsters, older people will have to continue with the time-consuming and often expensive process of getting a visa for study, work or visiting.

The Commission’s proposal is for a scheme that covers people aged 18 to 30. 

Their reasoning is: “The withdrawal of the UK from the EU has resulted in decreased mobility between the EU and the UK. This situation has particularly affected the opportunities for young people to experience life on the other side of the Channel and to benefit from youth, cultural, educational, research and training exchanges.

“The proposal seeks to address in an innovative way the main barriers to mobility for young people experienced today and create a right for young people to travel from the EU to the UK and vice-versa more easily and for a longer period of time.”

How would it work?

The proposal is to allow extended stays – for young people to be able to spend up to four years in the EU or UK – under a special type of visa or residency permit. It does not, therefore, replicate the paperwork-free travel of the pre-Brexit era.

The Commission states that travel should not be ‘purpose bound’ to allow young people to undertake a variety of activities while they are abroad.

Under the visa system, people must travel to a country for a specific purpose which has been arranged before they leave – ie in order to study they need a student visa which requires proof of enrolment on a course, or if they intend to work they need a working visa which often requires sponsorship from an employer.

The proposal would allow young people to spend their time in a variety of ways – perhaps some time working, a period of study and then some time travelling or just relaxing.

It would also not be subject to national or Bloc-wide quotas.

It seems that some kind of visa or residency permit would still be required – but it would be issued for up to four years and could be used for a variety of activities.

Fees for this should not be “excessive” – and the UK’s health surcharge would not apply to people travelling under this scheme.

Are there conditions?

Other than the age qualification, the proposal is that young people would have to meet other criteria, including having comprehensive health insurance, plus financial criteria to ensure that they will be able to support themselves while abroad.

The visa/residency permit could be rejected on the ground of threats to public policy, public security or public health.

Will this happen soon?

Slow down – all that has happened so far is that the European Commission has made a recommendation to open negotiations.

This now needs to be discussed in the Council of Europe.

If the Council agrees then, and only then, will the EU open negotiations with the UK on the subject.

The scheme could then only become a reality if the EU and UK come to an agreement on the terms of the scheme, and then refine the fine details – reacting the news reports of the proposal, the UK government appears to have already dismissed the idea out of hand, so agreement at present seems unlikely. However, governments can change and so can the political climate.

But basically we’re talking years if it happens at all – and that would require not only a new government in the UK (which seems likely) but a major change in the whole British political atmosphere.

Don’t start packing just yet.