The entire process of getting a Visa or Residence Permit is known to be, simply put, difficult. I am not trying to scare anyone or put additional stress on those interested in staying an extended period of time in Austria, but want to help so that your experience can be less stressful than mine was!
I had done significant research about the visa process in order to ensure I had done everything correctly. I also knew that due to Austrian Rules and Regulations, an outside party cannot provide any guidance or help with these sorts of applications during the process. I had asked students who had previously gone to Vienna what they did and this proved extremely helpful. However, I still ran into a few challenges.
I was faced with two options:
A) Apply for a Visa D which is for a stay for longer than 3 months but shorter than 6 months and apply for a residence permit which is for a stay longer than 6 months
B) only apply for the residence permit
I wasn’t quite sure what to do and so I made an appointment with the Austrian Embassy in Ottawa. I also want to point out that this was taking place at the beginning of May and I had to return to Calgary to start my summer employment the day after my appointment. I told the representative prior to my visit that I did not believe I had all of the documents in place in order to file either of the permits.
Some examples of the documents they required were (some are not required for just the visa):
- An acceptance letter from the university
- A residence contract
- Proof of sufficient funds
- Birth certificate (to be authenticated by both the Canadian and Austrian authorities)
- A police record check (no older than three months when entering Austria)
Now, at the beginning of May I still had not received my acceptance letter. In order to find housing, I needed my acceptance letter and getting a police record check done in May would make it too old by the time I left for Vienna. I was also extremely concerned because the only Austrian Embassy is in Ottawa and the Residence Permit application must be filed in person. The other difficult aspect was the authentication by Canadian authorities, which must be done by Global Affairs Canada and the only office is in Ottawa. Not the easiest process for someone who lives across the country! Luckily for me, I was able to get my birth certificate authenticated before I left Ottawa.
My meeting with the Austrian Embassy went well, at least as well as I could have anticipated. The representative told me I didn’t have the sufficient documents to apply (surprise) but she told me she could take my fingerprints the day of, so that they would have them on file and I could complete the rest of the application by mail.
When I went home to Calgary, I was able to get all of my documents in order, find a place to live, get insured and finalize my plans. The police record check probably took the longest because I was worried about it being no older than 3 months. I went into the police station in June. By that time, I had spent at least $60 on postage, not to mention the amount of money spent on authentication of documents, notarizing documents. I asked my aunt in Ottawa to get my police record check authenticated by the Canadian government and it was the middle of July when I finally filed my application.
As my departure approached, I was worried about not having heard anything about my permit. I inquired at the Embassy and was told that normally these applications take at least 3-4 months, while Visa applications take 3-4 weeks. This was information that I must have misunderstood during my initial inquiry at the Embassy. The day before I left for Vienna, I received an email from the Embassy with a letter from the MA 35 in Vienna, stating that the government did not believe I had enough monetary funds to support my stay for the entire year – they asked for updated bank information. I had contacted the Austrian Embassy so many times that minutes after I received the email, I received a phone call from the representative asking me if I had received the email and guiding me through the next steps. She reassured me that as a Canadian citizen, I had 90 days in the country visa-free. I sent my updated bank information and left for Iceland the next day.
Once in Austria, I had been told to wait at least a month before inquiring with the MA 35. I waited a month and … nothing. I sent an email asking about my application. Nothing. I sent another email and filled out a contact form on the website. Nothing. I had also heard that the MA 35 was notorious for taking a long time, but as a student whose whole year depends on legally residing in the country, it was not fun. Finally, on October 10th I decided, after not receiving any response, to simply go to the MA 35 and ask. I’ve found in Austria, most municipal or federal offices are only open 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., maybe four days a week. After hearing that the office was always busy and that some of my friends had waited hours, I went around 8:30 am. I was nervous and this was an important interaction, so I wanted to speak in English. I asked the man if he spoke English, to which he responded “Nein” and so in broken German I tried to explain what exactly I wanted to do. He gave me a wait number and I waited in a different wait room. After about 20 minutes, my number was called and I went into the room. After the embarrassing experience in the reception, I committed to speaking German. I explained to the man that I had received a letter months ago and I was wondering the status of my application. He replied very simply, that my application was fine, they had approved it and I could come back on Thursday to pick up my permit. It was as ‘easy’ as that!
This experience was incredibly frustrating – especially as a person who likes to have everything planned out and organized in advance. I really learned to embrace not knowing and just trust that things would work out. It was an immense relief to learn that I wouldn’t be deported!
This is when I thought all was well but all was not well. I went back to the office on Thursday and they asked for all of my documents, again. However, they looked at my travel insurance and said it was unacceptable and that I needed Austrian Health Insurance. So, I went home and I did everything to get an insurance policy that would be accepted by the authorities. I went back about a week later. The lady said that all of my documents were good and she had my residence card on the table. She then told me I needed the letter of insurance to be dated November 1, 2017 instead of in October. Now to me, this doesn’t make any sense to me, but I wasn’t going to argue with the authorities so I asked if I would be able to send it via email. She replied with a, “No, because you have to pick up your card.” At this point, I was quite frustrated and probably acted extremely dramatically when I exited the building.
I asked the insurance company if they could provide me with a letter dated in November to say I was insured, to which they responded, “Yes, we can send you the exact same letter in November.” On November 7, I went into the MA 35 once again (hoping it would be the last time) and waited for over an hour. Once I saw someone, it happened to be someone I had talked to on my second visit and she asked if I had the letter. I handed her the letter and she handed me my residence permit and that was it!
With 15 days left in my 90 day visa-free stay, I had finally received my card. This experience tested my patience and made me hate bureaucracy, but I am so happy to say that it is over!
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