Recently by Mark Nestmann: Passport Denials Long a Feature of U.S. Foreign Policy
I’ve spent the last three days in Vienna, Austria. Even in January’s freezing cold, this city sparkles. And it functions almost flawlessly. Perhaps that’s why Mercer’s, a human resources consultancy, rates Vienna the world’s most livable city.
I arrived on an overnight flight from the Caribbean. My connecting flight from Frankfort was almost three hours late, due to a nearly a foot of snow falling at the Vienna airport. Yet, by the time I emerged from the “City Airport Train” station into Vienna’s center, the streets were already cleared and the city’s extensive public transit system was functioning normally.
It’s been three years since my last visit to Vienna. I lived here from 2003 to 2005, while completing my studies at the Vienna University School of Economics and Business Administration (the “Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien”), where I earned a LL.M. in international tax law. Winter is hardly my favorite time to visit, but with fewer tourists, both flight connections and hotel are far more affordable.
The purpose of my visit was to meet with Nestmann Group partner banks and business associates. I had two days of meetings with my old friends at Vienna’s Valartis Bank, the only Austrian private bank that still accepts U.S. clients. I also met with Dr. Gabriella Kleeber, who heads up The Nestmann Group’s Vienna representative office.
Because of its central location, EU membership, and outstanding amenities, Austria has become an increasingly attractive residence option for high-net-worth families worldwide. EU citizens, along with citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, don’t need a residence permit to settle in Austria. Citizens of other countries who wish to reside in Austria must obtain a residence permit, unless they have a right of residence according to EU law.
Due to the high demand, residence permits aren’t easy to acquire. For many types of residence, quotas apply. Unless you qualify under several narrow exemptions, it’s almost impossible to obtain a residence permit giving you the right to work in Austria. In addition, many categories of residence permits require you to demonstrate proof of fluency in German.
Recently, Austria changed its regulations in regard to residence permits for individuals and families with no access to the local labor market (“Niederlassungsbewilligung–ausgenommen Erwerbstätigkeit”). While these permits continue to be subject to quotas in most cases, you no longer have to demonstrate fluency in German as a condition for maintaining Austrian residence. You must be able to prove that you earn a sufficient income to support yourself in Austria; approximately EUR 1,700 monthly income for a single applicant, or EUR 2,500 monthly for you and your spouse or domestic partner.
Once you acquire Austrian residence, you will have a “Schengen visa” that allows you to travel throughout the EU. This is a particularly valuable document for citizens of countries that don’t have visa-free access to the EU; e.g., Russia. Unfortunately, an Austrian passport is not easy to acquire through residence. You must reside in Austria for at least 10 years, demonstrate good conduct, along with with fluency in German.
Since Austria is a relatively high-tax country, one popular strategy for residents is to reside in Austria for less than six months annually. For instance, you could buy a flat in Vienna and live there from May-September, when the weather is relatively warm. You could then spend a few months in another EU country, or leave the EU altogether for warmer climes in Asia or South America during the chilly European winter.
The application process for Austrian residence is relatively complex, and negotiating the quota system can easily result in years-long delays in having your application approved. If you’re interested in living in Austria as a legal resident, I recommend that you retain Dr. Gabriella Kleeber, who heads up our representative office in Vienna, for assistance. She has put together a comprehensive residence package for Austria resulting in a “Niederlassungsbewilligung–ausgenommen Erwerbstätigkeit” residence permit. Again, this permit doesn’t give you the right to work in the local labor market, but you also don’t need to learn German to maintain your residence.
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Mark Nestmann [send him mail] is a journalist with more than 20 years of investigative experience and is a charter member of The Sovereign Society's Council of Experts. He has authored over a dozen books and many additional reports on wealth preservation, privacy and offshore investing. Mark serves as president of his own international consulting firm, The Nestmann Group, Ltd. The Nestmann Group provides international wealth preservation services for high-net worth individuals. Mark is an Associate Member of the American Bar Association (member of subcommittee on Foreign Activities of U.S. Taxpayers, Committee on Taxation) and member of the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2005, he was awarded a Masters of Laws (LL.M) degree in international tax law at the Vienna (Austria) University of Economics and Business Administration.