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Reform of the red-white-red card – Launch of a new Startup Visa

3 March 2017

On the initiative of Reinhold Mitterlehner, Federal Minister of Science, Research and Economy, and State Secretary Harald Mahrer, the Red-White-Red Card will be reformed to make it more practical. It will also be complemented by a new startup visa.

“We are making the Red-White-Red Card more attractive by reducing bureaucratic obstacles and simplifying access. In particular, innovative startups and university graduates will benefit from the new system”, said Minister Mitterlehner on the occasion of the resolution passed by the Council of Minister today. “Austria should become a startup magnet. We are on the right path thanks to the Land of Founders strategy and our EUR 185 million package of measures. For this reason, we want to lure international innovation-oriented founders to come to Austria and use the Red-White-Red Card as the basis for setting up new firms. This comprises a clear improvement for startup founders from third countries”, added State Secretary Mahrer.

At the present time, it is very difficult for a company founder from a third country (non-EU member state) to establish a foothold in Austria. That is why a separate category for startup founders will be introduced in the future within the context of the Red-White-Red Card. When the specified conditions are fulfilled, a residence and work permit will be possible for a period of two years. An extension will be linked to the creation of jobs, specified annual revenues or further financing. In addition, the startup should, in fact, offer or develop innovative products or services.

In a further step, the Red-White-Red Card is to be extended to apply to university graduates with a bachelor’s or doctoral degree. Up until now it has only encompassed master’s degrees and diploma studies. Moreover, university graduates from third countries will be given twelve months after concluding their studies instead of the current period of six months to find suitable employment. In practice, the actual search time is too short, considering the processing time for applications. “We want to more frequently keep well integrated professionals in the country instead of only educating them at a high cost”, Mitterlehner added. In addition, the number of working hours permitted for bachelor’s and master’s students from third countries will be aligned at 20 hours per week. Up until now, bachelor students were only permitted to work for ten hours compared to 20 for master’s students.

Finally, a points system for specialized personnel in understaffed professions will be changed so that greater importance will be attached to the criteria of language skills and working experience than to age. In this way, older skilled employees with qualified professional and language experience will have the opportunity to receive a Red-White-Red Card. “Our reform benefits Austria as a science and business location. Irrespective of this, we have to improve the qualifications of Austrian employees and carry out labor market reforms to ensure a sufficient supply of qualified employees in the long term”, emphasized Minister Mitterlehner.

The reform of the Red-White-Red Card is scheduled to be approved by the Austrian Parliament in the spring and take effect on July 1, 2017.

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