For members


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
A woman works on a laptop in an office. 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

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Why German immigration offices are ‘permanently in crisis mode’

Endless waits for appointments and unanswered emails are becoming the norm at immigration offices all around Germany. Unions say the staffing crisis is driving Ausländerbehörden to breaking point.

Why German immigration offices are 'permanently in crisis mode'

Whether Berlin or Bielefeld, the story is the same: in most German cities, securing a timely appointment at the Ausländerbehörde is next to impossible. 

As The Local reported recently, foreigners in Stuttgart were forced to queue overnight for several hours in order to try and secure same-day appointments to renew their visas.

Despite the authority bringing in an emergency appointment system, the situation has got so bad that many are considering leaving the country for good, or find themselves unable to travel, even when emergencies strike back home. 

In other cities with high foreign populations like Berlin and Düsseldorf, readers have reported similar situations. 

This week there was a complaint that Berlin immigration services had made it even harder for people to find contact information and get in touch with their staff. 

According to services union Verdi, the current crisis in immigration offices around Germany is due to skeletal staffing.

READ ALSO: ‘No job, no money’: How German immigration office delays hurt lives of foreign workers

In cities with a population of 500,000 people or more, 30 percent of positions are vacant and unlikely to be filled anytime soon the union said. However, the real levels of understaffing are actual much higher.

The empty vacancies often include vital management positions that keep operations running smoothly, Verdi said. 

In medium-sized and small cities, the picture is similar.

Staff at breaking point

According to Verdi, the severe labour shortages in immigration offices aren’t just having an impact on foreigners, but are also affecting the staff who are already there.

“The workload for employees in all local authority immigration offices is extremely high because there is a lack of staff,” the union explained.

“Many employees are unable to cope with the immense work pressure and suffer from the fact that they are often unable to fulfil their tasks as they should.”

A sign for the immigration office in Frankfurt am Main.

A sign for the immigration office in Frankfurt am Main. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

This is leading to stress and burn-out among existing staff, with workers in immigration offices taking a higher number of sick days than staff in other public offices. 

In smaller municipalities where staff have to deal with both residence permits and citizenship applications, reports of work-related stress are even higher. 

According to Verdi, the poor working conditions mean that many workers in immigration offices are now looking for other jobs, leaving those who remain with an even higher workload.

Summing the situation up, the union said employees at the Ausländerbehörden were “permanently working in crisis mode”. 

READ ALSO: Are Germany’s immigration offices making international residents feel unwelcome?

Could better pay be the answer?

To solve the current issues, Verdi is calling for a reassessment of salaries in immigration offices. 

“In order to retain employees, improvements in the pay grading system are necessary,” said deputy chairwoman Christine Behle. “The current problems can only be solved with sufficient staff.”

Behle points to the fact that the work expected of employees involves applying complex legal principles in asylum, immigration and naturalisation law and that knowledge needs to be continuously updated.

However, according to the Verdi union, employees’ pay doesn’t reflect this level of skill, and more money is needed from the state and federal governments to cover these costs. 

“To protect our welfare state and constitutional state, we need strong public services with well-qualified staff,” Behle said. “It is the task of politicians to create the financial basis for this.”