Even though the pandemic is still not giving us a break and there is also news to report with this regard (such as the workplace-related effects of the suspension of the compulsory vaccination law), this newsletter does not serve as a COVID-19 update. The reason is that we are unfortunately confronted with new challenges in our private as well as professional everyday life.
The war in Ukraine, which is causing great concern for all of us, is forcing millions of people to flee their homeland and build a life – at least temporarily – in a new country. The issue of meaningful, but especially permitted employment is an enormously important one. For this reason, we have been receiving an increasing number of inquiries in recent days about the regulations governing the residence and employment of Ukrainian refugees in Austria and to what extent the procedure for obtaining the necessary titles – as announced by the EU – has been facilitated.
We therefore take this opportunity to provide you with an overview of the most important information regarding the residence and employment of Ukrainian refugees in Austria according to the current state of knowledge:
Right of residence
In order to quickly and effectively grant temporary protection in the EU to people fleeing the war in Ukraine, the EU decided on March 4, 2022 to apply the provisions standardized in the so-called “Mass Influx Directive” (EU Directive 2001/55/EC) to refugees from Ukraine. This Directive regulates, among other things, the immediate granting of protection and rights. These include residence rights, access to the labor market, access to housing, social assistance, medical or other support, and means of subsistence.
Since Austria also wants to support the EU’s efforts, the EU Mass Influx Directive was implemented in the Main Committee on March 11, 2022, with the so-called “Displaced Persons Ordinance” as well as an amendment to the Ordinance of the Federal Minister of Social Administration on the Implementation of Health Insurance for Persons Included in Health Insurance Pursuant to Section 9 of the ASVG, which now also includes people who have fled Ukraine in health insurance.
Specifically, the regulation grants a temporary limited right of residence in Austria to persons who had to flee Ukraine as of February 24, 2022, due to the war. This includes Ukrainian citizens and third-country nationals or stateless persons who had a protection status in Ukraine before February 24, 2022. Family members, e. spouses, minor children and other close relatives, are also covered by the right of residence.
Ukrainian nationals who were already in Austria before February 24, 2022 and cannot return to Ukraine because of the war also have a temporary right of residence. This also applies if their title has not actually been extended or their visa has expired.
Therefore, in the case of a Ukrainian nationals who were legally residing in Austria on February 24, 2022, and who cannot return to Ukraine or to the state of their residence due to the armed conflict in Ukraine, the duration of stay permitted by the visa must, in principle, be “used up” first. Ukrainian citizens holding a biometric passport may enter Austria without a visa for short stays of up to 90 days within 180 days for tourist purposes. After that, they are granted a temporary right of residence in Austria in accordance with the Displaced Persons Ordinance.
The temporary right of residence is valid until March 3, 2023, and is automatically extended for six months at a time, but no longer than one year.
The Federal Office for Immigration and Asylum (Bundesamt für Fremdenwesen und Asyl (BFA)) is responsible for issuing the “blue residence card” for displaced persons. For this purpose, it is necessary for the Ukrainian citizens to register at the registration offices of the police. During the registration process, their data is recorded, as well as the data of their passport or other documents. For persons over 14 years of age, fingerprints are taken.
As soon as all personal data are registered, the ID card for displaced persons will be sent to the applicant by post to their registration address or to the delivery address indicated during registration or to the delivery agent. This will take a few days, but at the longest a few weeks (according to information from Labor Minister Kocher).
Persons who are excluded from temporary protection under the Regulation on Displaced Persons may apply for asylum in Austria.
On the other hand, people who do not apply for asylum and who would have to be turned away at the border without an appropriate visa, are also allowed to enter Austria. In this case, the Austrian Republic grants “entry on humanitarian grounds” with the option to “assist the persons concerned in continuing their journey to their home country” – or to grant them residence “within the framework of the legal possibility under the Settlement and Residence Act in individual cases”.
After receiving “blue residence card” for displaced persons, it is possible to start working, but first the AMS must issue an employment permit. This permit is issued – according to information from Labor Minister Kocher – without a labor market check. In addition, the applicant (the refugee him/herself) should not incur any costs because the employment permit is to be issued ex officio (according to Labor Minister Kocher).
Applicants can pre-register in advance at the AMS after receiving the “blue card”. During the registration process, data such as education, professional experience, skills and other information about the person are collected.
If the Ukrainian refugee already has a concrete job in prospect, the employer can also submit the application.
In this context, the AMS also offers qualification checks in order to quickly find a job for the displaced persons in Austria. In addition, there will be more German courses and further training opportunities to enable the displaced persons to integrate into the Austrian workplace.
The aim is to give Ukrainian refugees full temporary access to the Austrian labor market in this way.
Another regulation of the Minister of Social Affairs, also approved by the Committee, ensures that people who have fled Ukraine will be included in the health insurance scheme for a limited period of time (until December 31, 2023 for the time being). Specifically, it covers Ukrainian nationals and other persons who are temporarily admitted to Austria as of February 24, 2022, due to the warlike events in Ukraine.