Austrian Residency: Trials and Tribulations

Ah… government bureaucracy. You never cease to frustrate the hell out of me. After a long afternoon of running through the Immigration and Citizenship office, we did not get the worst news (you’re being deported) but not the best news either (come back another day with more paperwork).

The whole process of getting a residency permit in Austria is time consuming and expensive. No surprises there but we expected my application to go more smoothly because 1) E already has his residency permit which was filed through his Fulbright program and 2) We spent all summer/our money getting all of our paperwork ready in Pennsylvania only to find out that my health insurance is not accepted by the Austrian government. After what felt like a hostage negotiation for information when I called the Austrian embassy in NYC this past August, I felt pretty confident that my application was solid. However, government bureaucracies tend to surprise you.

If you are curious or trying to apply for residency in Vienna as a U.S. citizen, here is your list of necessary paperwork:

  1. Your original birth certificate with apostille*
  2. A color copy of your birth certificate for your file
  3. Your passport with Austrian entry stamp
  4. A color copy of your passport and entry stamp for your file
  5. Your original marriage certificate (if you are married) with notarization and an apostille*
  6. A color copy of your marriage certificate for your file
  7. An original proof of health insurance that confirms full coverage in Austria of anything that could possibly happen to you from getting pregnant to being eaten by a tiger at the zoo to getting the Zika virus to breaking your leg skiing to choking on a Viennese pastry with notarization and an apostille*
  8. An original letter with proof of your income (the Austrian government requires that you make at least 15,000 Euros a year after paying your rent) with notarization and an apostille*
  9. A copy of your proof of income for your file
  10. An original of your Austrian lease
  11. A copy of your Austrian lease for your file
  12. An original copy of your Bestätigung der Meldung which is proof that you registered your residence with the local district office (to get this, you need your landlord to complete your application so you can apply for registration, which is another blog post entirely)
  13. Probably safe to bring a copy of that too
  14. An original copy of your clean FBI background check (I completed mine through the U.S. Department of Education) with notarization and an apostille*
  15. A color copy of that too- see the trend here….
  16. An original letter from your local U.S. township police department confirming your clean record… if you didn’t guess yet, that needs to be notarized with an apostille*
  17. A copy of that too
  18. A passport picture to attach to your application which must be 3.5cm by 4.5 cm. It’s important to note that it is difficult to get a photo of this size in the U.S. so you can go to a photo booth in the Austrian subway to get your photo taken for 6 Euros. That’s what I did and I look like an extremely jet-lagged convict. No smiling, no hats, no glasses, no bangs in your face.
  19. A completed copy of Antrag auf Erteilung einer Aufenthaltsbewilligung (application for residence permit)

Are you exhausted yet?

*You’re probably wondering WTF an apostille is. We were too! An apostille is an internationally recognized notarization which confirms that you didn’t just doctor up all your documents at home. In order to apostille a document, you must first notarize it (I know…) which is going to run you $10 per document.

Once you have the notarization, you can mail your documents to your state capital to be apostilled or go through the State Department. For the sake of time and worry that our originals would be lost in the mail, we took not one, not two, but three trips out to Harrisburg to have our documents apostilled. Each document is going to cost you $15.

Now, you have probably started to do the disheartening math of what it costs to get all this together. I would tell you what you should put aside for this costly endeavor but it would only depress me to see the amount I’m already into this process for (thank sweet baby Jesus for credit cards). You can grab a calculator and DIY.

Final suggestions:

  • A good rule of thumb to follow is if the document you’re bringing is from anywhere in the world outside of Austria, it will need to be notarized and apostilled.
  • Our situation is a bit unique because E is a Fulbright fellow which is a program sponsored by the Austrian government so, as his wife, I will have an easier time being approved than most because he already has his residency permit.
  • Start early! I, in my true procrastinating fashion, waited until late in the summer to get my paperwork together so it was a mad dash even up to the day before we left to get my apostilles done.
  • Call the Austrian embassy! There are three in the U.S. (New York City, Washington DC, and Los Angeles) and the one you should call for information depends on the state you live in. There are also honorary consulates listed here. Learn from my experience and don’t let them hurry you off the call before they have given you specific details about what you need.

On a completely unrelated note, congratulations to the Cubbies for their World Series win! I’m jealous we are missing the party after living in Chicago for four years but happy for our Chicago friends. Prost!

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