If I had to make my move to Europe all over again, I’d seriously consider the Austrian blue card. I’ve been there several times. It’s a lovely country, the people are amiable, and it’s fantastic despite the occasional gay neo-Nazis running around. Thanks to the Austrian Blue Card, you can go there, too.

The need for a Austrian Blue Card

The requirements of the Austrian Blue Card are relatively straightforward. You must have:

  1. completed a university course of three years minimum duration
  2. a binding employment offer with 150% of the average yearly gross salary for a full-time employee (in 2011: gross annual wage of at least 52 417.50 €, that is about 3 745 € gross per month)
  3. And no equally qualified unemployed person registered with the Austrian Public Employment Service was available to be recruited by the potential employer.

Clarifying The Matter

There are a few things worth pointing out here. Firstly the minimum “three years” degree might sound odd to Americans. Unlike many countries that offer a bachelor’s degree after only three years of university education, here in Europe is unlike the four years you usually need in the US. The degrees themselves tend to be more focused than the US bachelor’s degrees. On the other hand, they lack some of the breadths that US university students get in their first two years. The argument is that you get this “breadth” in your mandatory schooling, though I’ve heard anecdotal claims that some EU university graduates (particularly from the UK) aren’t as well-rounded as some of their foreign counterparts.

The salary threshold is high, but the idea behind the Blue Card was to bring highly skilled workers to the European Union, so it makes sense and shouldn’t be too much of a problem if you’re really the worker that the EU seeks.

Point 3, however, is interesting. Though Austria had originally agreed to the EU Blue Card proposal (only the UK, Ireland, and Denmark rejected it), they didn’t seem terribly keen on implementing it and eventually, the EU issued a “Reasoned Opinion” against Austria (amongst others) for failing to implement the law they said they would implement. Had Austria failed to comply, eventually, they would have been dragged to court (yes, countries go to court over here), but they eventually passed the law. However, unlike some other EU countries, they apparently imposed a labour market test requiring those Austrian companies first verify that they couldn’t find a qualified unemployed person to take the job. Many people appreciate said protectionism while others decry the extra layer of bureaucracy.

What Are The Benefits?

  • proof of German language skills before coming to Austria is not required
  • the card is good for 24 months 
  • free labor market access in case of extension 
  • permanent leave to remain can is obtained more quickly, with ease of movement in the EU
  • quota-free family reunification

In short, with a two-year work and residence visa, you don’t need to speak German. You can bring your family and if you get extended, access to the entire EU labor market (minus countries who don’t support the Blue Card).

The EU started the Blue Card program to compete with the US Green Card directly. Given how broken US immigration law is, it appears to me that the EU has a solid long-term strategy here. Of course, I think it’s being undercut by how they’re handling the Euro crisis, but that’s a short-term thing. If they can solve that issue (and I mean, really solve that issue), then the future belongs to Europe and China.

Read a bit more about Austria. They’re doing well economically. You can get your university education there virtually for free (that’s even available to non-EU students), and, as I said, it’s a beautiful country.