Hi, I am Bruno Paulino.
Software is my craft.

Why Austrian visa applications have to suck?

September 18, 2018

In Austria, there are many kinds of visas, but the most common for work in the IT field is called rot-weiß-rot-karte (red-white-red card) and there are a few categories which that one can pick. Mine was Other key workers. This category can be used when a company cannot find a qualified person in the local labor market. That is fairly common in the IT market around the world, where usually there are more jobs available than skilled people around.

I am originally from Brazil, but currently living in Vienna, Austria. in 2016, my wife and I decided to move abroad to have a different experience. It has been an amazing journey so far and we don’t regret of doing that.

Back in 2016, I got a job offer in Vienna and I decided to take it. The company applied for my visa and everything went well. After around 4 months waiting, where 2 months I was working remote from Brazil and 2 months after moving to Austria, I got the letter saying my visa was approved and I should go to the immigration office to grab my documents.

One year and a half has passed, the work was fine and the team was great. But as some of you may know, the mother tong here is German, and none of us spoke it when we decided to come. For developers, that is usually not an issue. Most of the companies here either have English as its main language or the entire team speak English fluently. But if you are working on a different field, like my wife, it is quite tough to fit in the labor market.

As the solo earner at home, things were starting to get a bit tricky. We could afford only one of us to take German classes and my wife was obviously the one that should take it. After almost 2 years, she can speak quite a lot already, but she is still trying to find a job that is willing to take a B2 German level speaker like her.

Around April 2018, I have got a job offer from an awesome company also here in Vienna where the income difference was considerable. It would make things a bit smoother as they also offered to pay German lessons for me. That was a big deal. Even though I really enjoyed my former job, I couldn’t turn down an opportunity like that. But as an immigrant, there was a catch: I could only work for the company that have applied for my first visa, which means if I left my job, I would no longer have a work visa and I should move back to my country.

According to the Austrian immigration office, I should apply again for a new visa with the new company, but theoretically as I was a Red-White-Red card holder already, I wouldn’t have to go through all the technical steps again (Diploma validation, English or German skills validation, etc…). I decided to take the risk and accepted the job.

After that decision, some unexpected things happened. I am writing this so if you are in a similar situation or considering to move abroad, you might want to think twice about what could happen, specially if you have a family to provide for.

It took 5 freaking months to receive the final decision. I was unemployed for this whole period, even though I had a job offer, an working visa, was living in the country for almost 2 years and the company had a letter from the AMS (Austrian labor office) stating they couldn’t find any professional available in the local market. What would have happened if I didn’t have any savings? I cannot even imagine.

Some things you should consider before deciding to move:

  • You cannot work for the new company until the visa is ready. Actually, if you are in the country already, you cannot work at all until you have the visa.
  • If you don’t have a tourist visa, you are f*cked. As a Brazilian, I am lucky enough to have a tourist period of 3 months to stay without having to apply for it. And also as I applied for the new visa before the former company deregistered me, I could stay and wait for the new visa even after the 3 months period expired. Depending on your passport, you might have to leave the country immediately.
  • As soon as I left my former job, I was deregistered from my health insurance. Although I wanted to keep paying for it, they didn’t allow me. Long story short, my wife and I were left alone without insurance. We had to use travel insurance during this period.
  • Although I already provided them proof of my skills on my first visa application, they required me to prove everything again. I had to take the TOEFL test and prove once again that I had a professional level of English.

From the economic standpoint, the state just wasted 5 months of my tax contributions where I could have been paying happily (taxes are quite high in Austria compared to Brazil). The state could also have lost a good contributor, since I could have changed my mind, decided not to continue with the visa application and move back to my country.

I got my new visa 2 weeks ago and I don’t regret accepting the new job, but I don’t think I would do the visa application again. If I have to go through this whole visa process once more, I would rather move back to my country and work remote.

Of course I am talking about my experience in Austria. For other countries it will most probably be different. What I think is important to consider is the potential of attracting skilled workers (which means, good tax payers) that some countries are just ignoring and with remote work on the rise, people don’t even have to think about this whole visa trouble. At the end, everyone loses.