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Germany or Austria: Where is it easier to get an EU Blue Card?

The EU Blue Card is a common way for skilled non-EU workers to come to European countries like Germany and Austria. But where is it easier to get one?

Woman typing on a laptop
The EU Blue Card is a valuable option to move to either Germany or Austria for work. Photo by Christin HUME via Unsplash

Though obvious friends with a deeply linked history, Germany and Austria are competing against each other in the global race for skilled workers. Germany needs as many as 400,000 new skilled workers a year to plug its labour market gap. There are over 100,000 vacancies in Austria – a country of just nine million people.

What eligibility rules for an EU Blue Card are there in each country?

In Germany, nationals from countries that need a visa to enter, which includes most non-EU countries, first need to apply for a visa that will allow them to take up gainful employment – which could include a jobseeker’s visa.

After that, they can make an appointment at their local immigration office to obtain an EU Blue Card. If someone is a national of a country that doesn’t need a visa to enter Germany, such as an EU/EFTA state or a handful of non-EU countries like the USA, Canada, Japan and the UK, they can apply for their EU Blue Card after arriving in Germany.

For many EU Blue Card applicants in Germany, they’ll need to have:

  • A university degree linked to their job
  • A job offer with a proposed salary of at least €56,400 a year

However, the salary requirement drops to €43,992 annually if the applicant is filling a job in a profession experiencing a particular shortage in Germany. These include doctors, engineers, IT specialists, mathematicians and natural scientists.

A key factor here is whether someone looking to get an EU Blue Card is a national of a country that needs a jobseeker visa to enter Germany in the first place. People from these countries (which includes most non-EU countries) may have a slightly tougher time. That’s because, in addition to fulfilling the requirements of an EU Blue Card, they’ll need to have a few extra things to get the German jobseeker visa. These are:

  • proof of German language skills (typically B1 level)
  • proof of ability to pay living costs

Additionally, people older than 45 and coming to Germany for the first time on a work visa need an offer with an annual salary of at least €46,530.

The German city of Munich.

The German city of Munich. Photo by ian kelsall on Unsplash

Another thing to keep in mind is that the German government is currently trying to push through a reform of the immigration laws, which aims to make it easier for skilled workers from abroad to enter the country. As part of this reform, the rules for IT professionals are set to be relaxed so that people with career experience or skills can be accepted for a Blue Card without a university degree. 

READ ALSO: What’s in Germany’s new draft law on skilled immigration?

By contrast, as things stand at the moment, Austria’s EU Blue Card salary requirements are slightly easier, even if other factors remain the same. You can also apply for it at an Austrian mission abroad before arriving. You’re eligible for an EU Blue Card in Austria if:

  • You have a university degree which matches your job OR
  • If applying to the IT industry, you have three years of relevant experience, as long as you’ve earned those in the last seven years.
  • A job offer with a proposed gross salary of at least €45,595 a year

So, Austria’s overall annual salary requirement is more than €10,000 lower than Germany’s – unless the applicant is in a skilled profession the German labour market is particularly short of. In that case, their salary requirement for an EU Blue Card in Germany is around €1,500 less than in Austria – but only for those professions.

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

However, one key factor in Austria is that the company offering the job needs to prove that there are currently no Austrian residents unemployed and registered with the employment agency AMS that could fit that particular position.

According to the Austrian authorities, one of the main requirements is that “the labour market test (Arbeitsmarktprüfung) shows that there is no equally qualified worker registered as a jobseeker with the Public Employment Service (AMS) available for the job.” This could be particularly tricky to prove.

What privileges exist for those are already hold an EU Blue Card?

Other than the obvious right to live and work in the country for at least two years, EU Blue Card holders in Germany are typically eligible for permanent residence much earlier than normal.

While a regular applicant is eligible after at least five years in Germany, EU Blue Card holders can apply for permanent residency after 33 months – or just under three years. Blue Card holders who demonstrate good German language skills – such as by passing a certified language test – can get permanent residence after 21 months, or just under two years in Germany.

EU Blue Card holders in Austria can apply to stay longer than two years with another special card – the Red-White-Red Card Plus. Germany, by contrast, makes permanent residence available quickly. (Photo by Pixabay / Pexels)

After 21 months of working in Austria under an EU Blue Card, you can apply for a Red-White-Red Card Plus. This card gives you unlimited access to the Austrian labour market and the right to stay with similar conditions to those enjoyed by permanent residency holders in Germany. However, it runs out in Austria after a year.

After two years of legal residence in Austria and completion of an integration module, you can get a Red-White-Red Card Plus that’s valid for three years. It takes people five years of residence in Austria to qualify for permanent residency, so a Blue Card and then a Red-White-Red Card Plus can potentially give someone a path to permanent residency in Austria. However, the path requires more bureaucratic steps than in Germany.

The eligibility versus rewards trade-off

Ultimately, an EU Blue Card is a bit harder to get in Germany than in Austria for non-EU skilled workers in most professions, when it comes to the minimum salary requirement being higher. However, Austrian companies need to prove that a candidate offers something no other unemployed person in Austria can offer.

That said, those who do get the EU Blue Card in Germany have an easier, more guaranteed path to permanent residence in Germany, much sooner than in Austria.

We should note though, that both countries have other types of work visas for people who don’t qualify for the EU Blue Card.

READ ALSO: How to apply for Germany’s new ‘opportunity card’ and other visas for job seekers

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What is Austria doing to keep track of the worker shortage?

Austria's labour shortage, particularly of skilled workers, affects almost every sector of the market. Now, the government wants to know exactly how bad the situation is.

What is Austria doing to keep track of the worker shortage?

The Austrian Ministry of Labour and Economic Affairs, in collaboration with the Labour Market Service (AMS), has unveiled the “BMAW AMS Skilled Workers Barometer” to improve the monitoring of labour shortages.

This quarterly index will provide timely information on the scarcity of skilled workers at the professional level in Austria and, in the future, for each individual province. Furthermore, it will be made public to allow the population to identify industries with a high number of vacancies.

What exactly is the ‘barometer’

The barometer is an index number calculated based on three sub-indicators: job placement (calculated by dividing the number of unemployed by the number of vacancies), access to vacancies (measuring the number of accesses and the relative change in access to vacancies), and the overall job market (counting the number and relative change of accesses to job advertisements).

​​READ ALSO: The ‘easiest’ entry jobs in Austria to get if you don’t speak German

During a press conference on Tuesday, June 6th, Martin Kocher, the Minister of Labour and Economic Affairs from the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), expressed confidence that the skilled worker barometer would help recognise labour market developments earlier and enable faster reactions to these changes. 

“The advantage of the new skilled worker barometer is not only to take as a basis those positions that are reported to the AMS, but also to be able to react more quickly to changes in demand,” said Johannes Kopf, the head of AMS.

However, he didn’t specify which reactions the government would take. 

Where is there a lack of workers?

According to domestic companies, there were 228,300 job openings in the first quarter of 2023, which is practically the same number as the previous year when there were 227,700 unfilled positions.

Of the current job vacancies, 134,700 can be attributed to the service sector, 61,100 to the manufacturing sector, and 32,500 to the public sector. Only 118,100 of these vacancies were reported to AMS by companies, as stated by Statistics Austria.

READ ALSO: Why job sectors in Austria are short of workers

One of the worst-affected sectors is construction, where 76 percent of companies report a shortage of skilled labour, as The Local has reported.

Both tourism and engineering also report a particularly acute shortage of workers, although nearly all sectors are struggling.

Regionally, the shortage is most pronounced in Carinthia, where 73 percent of companies report needing staff. This compares with about 67 percent in Upper Austria and only 20 percent in Vorarlberg.