Only Austria and Germany kept citizens from new EU Member States from equally accessing the labour market, creating much undeclared work (e.g. care giving). In recent years, Austria saw fewer new non-EU immigrants of all types and fewer naturalised citizens, partly due to 2005 restrictions in law.

In 2010, the government committed to a National Action Plan for Integration, after years of NGO consultations, an integration platform, expert reports and panels, statistics and new indicators. This process of policy change has produced much paper and discussion, but few improvements so far.

Since the Plan started translating well evaluated projects into commitments (e.g. labour market), Austria gained 3 points on MIPEX. Most initiatives to promote integration are still local and regional projects, limited in time and reach. These ‘best practices’ cannot overcome all the obstacles to integration in the national legal framework, scoring 42 and ranking 24th, behind CH. Long-term residence, where Austria does best, is just average for most European countries. Other established immigration countries tend to provide better opportunities for immigrants to participate politically, become citizens, and fight discrimination.

Timeline - What's Changed

0 January 2008
Amendment to Art. 20.2 of federal constitution statementon independence of equality bodies.
0 July 2008
Supreme Court rules burden of proof mustbe interpreted in linewith EU Directive
-2 April 2009
Family reunion
Amendment to Settlement and Residence Act imposes age limits, raises already high income requirements for family reunion.
+4 April 2009
Long-term residence
Amendment to Settlement and Residence Act allows students count some years of study.
0 October 2009
Access to nationality
Reform of nationality law raises already high requirements.
0 January 2010
Labour Market Mobility
Negotiations started on Rot Weiss Rot card for ‘key workers’.
+12 January 2010
Labour market mobility
National Action Plan forintegration commits totargeted labour marketmeasures.
0 January 2010
Family reunion
Action Plan proposes pre-departuremeasures for family reunion.

Key Findings

  • Greatest new commitment to targeted labour market measures: from absent to average. 
  • Some of the most restrictive eligibility and conditions for family reunion: now age limits, soon tests abroad. 
  • Migrant education policies weak in Europe, Austria. 
  • Few opportunities in democratic life, unlike other established immigration countries. 
  • Becoming long-term resident best promotes integration in Austria, now also for international students. 
  • Naturalisation one of the riskiest and most expensive gambles in EU. 
  • Austria falling behind citizenship trends in other immigration countries: dual nationality, jus soli
  • All residents enjoy weaker discrimination protections than in most countries because of weak fields, equality policies. 

Score Changes

Areas of Integration

  • Show Labour Market Mobility

    Add to MyPdf

    Areas for improvement

    Austria scores below countries with similar migration histories (Nordics, DE, DK, NL), traditional settlement (CA, US) and recent labour migration (ES, IT, PT). Ending EU citizens’ transitional measures in 2011 (2013 for BG and RO) are opportunities to provide all Austrian residents equal access to private and self-employment. Non-EU reunited families immediately work in 22 of the 30 other MIPEX countries. 19 facilitate conditions for all entrepreneurs. Procedures for recognising foreign qualifications are equal and smoother in 9 (recently CA, PT, and proposed in DE).


    Non-EU temporary residents may enjoy national measures to improvetheir position on the labour market, but without the equal access tojobs and training guaranteed in most other established immigration countries. Between 2007 and 2010, Austria made the most progresson labour market mobility (after PT). National targeted measures wentfrom absent (0) to average (50) like most established immigration countries (e.g. CA, FR, ES).

    The objectives in the 2010 Action Plan drew inspiration from ad hoc projects and policies in the länder. Accordingly, immigrant residents may be included in the country’s labour market objectives. Combined language and vocational training may help them learn the technical vocabulary of their sector. Migrant youth may get better jobs through career coaching and mentoring, while migrant women may benefit from special programmes on language, health, sports and domestic violence. In the future, government wants more migrants in the public sector, including the police, schools, justice, health and so on. The public employment services that migrants access (as in 18 other MIPEX countries) will also be better trained to serve a diverse public in the various länder. For example, Vienna city administration and employment services are starting to get staff better trained and more diverse. These programmes may expand and improve in the future.

    Still, newcomers may find targeted measures ineffective because overall labour market mobility policies (56) waste their full potential. Non-EU temporary residents cannot access jobs or general support like Austrians can. Most non-EU workers are tied to one employer and sector, and must always pass labour market tests. Family members’ careers are interrupted for a year before they can access the job market. For entrepreneurs, one major obstacle to starting a business in the regulated trades is obtaining ‘certificates of competence.’ One obstacle for all immigrants to find a job matching their skills are the procedures to recognise foreign qualifications. Furthermore, all non-EU residents do not have immediate and equal access to vocational training and study grants. So far, Austria does not promote labour market mobility as well as most established immigration countries in North America or Western Europe (see box).

  • Show Family Reunion

    Add to MyPdf

    New restriction: age limits

    Länder-administered quotas create excessive waits. Since 2006, sponsors can only live with families if passing high-income requirements (only 5 other MIPEX countries) and ‘integration agreements’ (only 6). 2009’s 21-year age limits may further discourage sponsors and delay spouses’ integration. Waiting another 3 years abroad is supposed to fight arranged and forced marriages, even if the measure affects all marriages. Just 7 others impose age limits over 18, presented as ‘inline’ with options in EU law. Their effectiveness is hard to measure and evaluate (see UK).

    Austrian policies fall further below the European average because non-EU couples are now kept apart longer than Austrian couples (see box). Immigrants in only CH and DK (out of 30) face as restrictive definitions of the family and conditions. The 2010 Action Plan proposes pre-departure measures, which are rarely required (4) or even slightly effective (see FR). Austria’s may promote integration through free and accessible tests and courses. Reunited families in most other countries enjoy a more secure status and equal rights than in Austria, such as working and general vocational training (see earlier). Current language and introduction measures in Austria would better help families participate if also free, as in DK and FR.

  • Show Education

    Add to MyPdf


    In all länder but Carinthia, school councils have integration and intercultural education departments and inspectors. Still, staffing and support varies significantly. To advise newcomer parents, ‘Start Vienna’, for example, offers education information seminars in most mother tongues. To support mother tongue teachers, Austria provides for new languages and teachers (360 for all Austria in 2008/09). Only 20 per cent of pupils with a mother tongue other than German are taking these courses. Immigrant cultures may or may not be integrated into ‘intercultural education’. For other federal/decentralised countries, see Nordics, US.

    Migrant pupils may face as many challenges in Austrian schools as in the average European country, similar to DE and CH. All migrant children benefit from compulsory education and general measures for disadvantaged pupils. Targeted programmes focus on all pupils with limited German (e.g. extra funding and quality German courses). These participants are supposed to achieve and participate more at different school levels, from kindergarten to higher education or vocational training (e.g. Vienna’s Jugendberatungs- und Bildungszentrum). Schools and länder retain wide discretion about whether or how to train teachers, teach mother tongues and cultures, and implement intercultural education (see box). DE, Nordics and UK are piloting some policies to diversify schools, teachers and parent associations.

  • Show Political Participation

    Add to MyPdf

    Newcomers in most immigration countries in Europe can better contribute to democratic life than in Austria. They do enjoy basic political liberties as in 19 other MIPEX countries (with most problems in Central Europe and the Baltics). In Switzerland, they can vote in several cantons (and in 18 other MIPEX countries) and are structurally consulted in all (also 14, including DE). To vote in Austria, constitutional change is needed (as in DE, IT, ES, PT). Austria’s foreign residents have been encouraged to participate politically through ad hoc funding and consultations (e.g. in Graz, Vienna, Styria). That these projects have been overlooked for national policy is a major weakness in Austria’s National Action Plan for Integration.

  • Show Long Term Residence

    Add to MyPdf

    Becoming a permanent resident slightly improves a non-EU resident’s integration in Austria and most other European countries, due to EU law. Comparatively few are eligible: international students have a clearer path since 2009, but not temporary workers. Those than can meet the slightly unfavourable conditions (see also family reunion) acquire just average residence security and rights in most areas, except for democratic life. They are more uncertain about their future in Austria than in other established immigration countries (e.g. BE, FR, DE, NL, SE). They are doubly punished for a long but not exhaustive list of ‘threats.’ They can be deported to countries they barely know, after living in Austria for decades or since childhood.

  • Show Access to Nationality

    Add to MyPdf

    Recent changes in law, impact

    2009 Nationality Law reforms added the same income requirement for naturalisation as for family reunion. The thinking was simply that the Settlement and Residence Act had changed. Applicants need to prove an income at the minimum pension level, plus funds for rent, loan repayments, garnishments and alimony. Immigrants and Austrian-born descendants must document this for the last 3 years. Austria recently published statistics that showed fewer people are naturalising, partly because fewer have access since the 2005 law (i.e. less flexible residence, language/integration test).

     Becoming an Austrian is one of the riskiest gambles, because the path to citizenship is long, burdensome, discretionary and expensive. Since 2009, applicants need even higher incomes and pay the highest national/länder fees across the EU. More established immigration countries are finding it simpler to grant dual nationality (now 18, recently LU) and jus soli after one or 2 generations (now 15, since 1999, DE, SE, FI, PT, LU, GR). Countries introducing conditions like Austria’s usually let immigrants apply much sooner. Since the 1999 German reform, immigrants are entitled if they meet agreed legal conditions. Compared to Austria, only the Baltics made less progress to encourage common citizenship among nationals and long-settled residents. 

  • Show Anti-discrimination

    Add to MyPdf

     All residents, regardless of their background, have to live with more discrimination than in almost all European countries because they have weaker access to justice in Austria. Only EE, LV, MT, PL took such a minimalist approach to comply with EU law; CH does not need to. 9 MIPEX countries outlaw religious or nationality discrimination in more areas of society, while 15 do both. Potential victims can rely on average discrimination definitions and equality policies. Still, they have few options to enforce their rights other than courts. Judges apply more limited sanctions and equality NGOs can do very little compared to 18. Victims only receive half the help from Austrian equality bodies that they could in 16.