The Red-White-Red Card was created in 2011 to serve as a “central instrument for qualified migration to Austria”. However, in practice up until now, the Red-White-Red card enabling non-EU citizens (non-Swiss citizens) to gain a permanent work permit has presented a number of difficulties. For example, applicants have to show proof of residence in Austria without knowing when and if they will get the card. This and other obstacles should be eliminated by the reform of the Red-White-Red Card which was recently approved by the Council of Ministers.
Schramböck on the previous rules: “simply absurd”
“In the past the recruiting of specialists from abroad was bureaucratic, tedious and impractical. The fact that applicants had to show proof of accommodations in the country before confirmation of a Red-White-Red Card was simply absurd and did not correspond to the real lives of the applicants”, says Margarete Schramböck, Federal Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs. The issue of attracting skilled employees is a major problem for domestic companies. “In particular startups and digitally-oriented professions increasingly need experts. There is not only a lack of specialists in Austria but throughout Europe”, Minister Schramböck adds.
Initial steps already at the beginning of the year
Initial steps were already taken in advance. For example, a regionalization of the list of understaffed professions (shortage occupations) and an expanded national list (45 instead of 27 occupations) was introduced. Further measures were taken such as the adjustment of the rating scheme for so-called “other key employees”. By the way, this is the most frequent category for applications in practice. On balance, about 2000 Red-White-Red Cards were issued annually in recent years.
Reform of the Red-White-Red Card approved
The resolution passed by the Council of Ministers, confirming the decision of the Austrian Parliament, relates to the Federal Act Governing the Employment of Foreign Nationals (Ausländerbeschäftigungsgesetz), the Ordinance for Skilled Workers (Fachkräfteverordnung) as well as the Settlement and Residence Act (Niederlassungs- und Aufenthaltsgesetz). Three different ministries are responsible. The following changes were agreed upon:
Elimination of showing “local accommodations” in submitting applications
Up until now an individual already had to show proof of accommodation in applying for a Red-White-Red Card, for example at an Austrian embassy. In practice, many companies organized accommodations for the applicant or selected “other constructs”, according to the office of Minister Schramböck. This necessity has now been eliminated.
Adjustment of salary levels for “other key employees”
Experience has shown that the current minimum wage for “other employees” was too high, according to the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs. Up until now the limit for employees under the age of 30 was 50 percent of the maximum contribution basis pursuant to the General Social Security Act (ASVG), or a gross salary of EUR 2,565 per month. The threshold has now been reduced to 40 percent or EUR 2,088 per month. For employees over 30, the threshold was 60 percent of ASVG maximum contribution basis, comprising gross earnings of EUR 3,078 per month, which has now been reduced to 50 percent or EUR 2,610 each month.
Process optimization and acceleration thanks to digitalization
The underlying objective is to reduce red tape in gaining access to the Red-White-Red Card and continually streamline application processes, according to the office of Minister Schrmböck. For example, postal services are used from Austrian diplomatic representatations abroad in conveying applications to Austria. Subsequently the application is delivered to the responsible immigration offices in the federal provinces. The information is actually delivered by mail and thus takes a specified period of time. According to the ministry, there is considerable potential to simplify procedures here.
More specifically, final preparations are underway for “Project AnNA”, in which the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the Foreign Ministry are jointly working on a solution. The focus is on a shared IT application to administer all applications pursuant to the Settlement and Residence Act. Applications submitted at an embassy, for example, would be digitally sent to the responsible domestic authorities “at the push of a button”. Testing of the new solution is planned to take place in 2019 and is scheduled to be fully implemented at the beginning of 2020.