Austria’s Conchita pulls out of Edinburgh show over visa row

Austria's bearded drag idol Conchita cancelled her headlining act at the prestigious Edinburgh International Festival because her Syrian musicians were denied British visas.

Austria's Conchita pulls out of Edinburgh show over visa row
Conchita performing at Eurovision 2014. Photo: Nikolai Linares/Scanpix Denmark/AFP

The 2014 Eurovision Song Contest winner had been due to perform with her trio Basalt on Friday evening at an event celebrating multicultural collaborations between European artists and immigrants.

But British authorities refused to grant UK entry to the three Syrians, who have been living in Vienna for more than two years after fleeing the bloody civil war in their homeland.

“Due to the unfortunate fact that my friends Amjad, Noor and Almonther from Basalt were unsuccessful in their visa application to enter the UK. I am not performing at the Edinburgh International Festival tonight,” Conchita, 28, wrote on her Facebook page on Friday.

“We are all very sorry as we were looking forward to being there.”

Conchita and Basalt had been scheduled to perform their song 'Small House' – sung in English and Arabic – as part of the New European Songbook, a Europe-wide initiative of the Edinburgh festival.

The project “is about how different people affect and enrich the cultural geography of the places they come to”, festival director Fergus Linehan told AFP.

“The symbolism (of the visa denial) is awful… It's particularly frustrating because of the whole point of the concert.”

Linehan said he had extended an “open invitation” to Basalt to come and perform at a later stage.

The annual Edinburgh festival, which celebrates its 70th edition this year, is the largest arts festival in the world.

The three-week cultural smorgasbord of opera, dance, music and theatre runs until August 28th.

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EXPLAINED: How to get a working holiday visa in Austria

Working holiday visas are a great way to immerse in a new culture for a longer time while partially funding the trip through work. Austria offers the scheme for citizens of a few countries. Here is what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: How to get a working holiday visa in Austria

Most people wanting to stay for longer than three months in Austria will need some sort of visa. Unfortunately, they are not easy to get and may sometimes be expensive.

For example, a visa to study German will let you live in Austria for six months – as long as you prove you will be able to pay all your expenses, including the course and living expenses while in Austria. 

There are however other options. 

People who want to stay legally in Austria for up to six to twelve months and perhaps spontaneously work or take a course may apply for a Working Holiday Visa.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How does the au pair program work in Austria?

The Austrian government says the working holiday programmes were set up to “meet the relevant demands” and enable young people to finance their holiday stay abroad – at least to some extent – themselves, gather practical vocational experience in another country and benefit from the local educational facilities.

“Under these programmes, young people may gather professional experience abroad and acquire/improve foreign language skills, which are important aspects when starting a career. Another objective is promoting young people’s understanding of other countries and cultures.”

However, there are several restrictions and pre-requisites that you need to be aware of.

Who can apply for a working holiday visa?

There are two main requirements to be able to apply for the visa. First, the Working Holiday Program exists as a dual agreement, so Austria needs to have an agreement with each country so that the citizens can participate in the program.

Currently, only citizens from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, Chile, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea and Taiwan are allowed to apply for the vista.

Additionally, the program aims to facilitate the entry of young people whose primary goal is not study or work. Therefore, only people aged 18 to 30 can apply.

What other requirements are there?

There are other things to be aware of. For example, if you have already completed a working holiday stay, you may only apply for another stay for another country.

Applicants also need a passport valid at least three months after the planned return journey, a return ticket or sufficient funds to purchase one, enough financial resources for the stay, and prove adequate insurance coverage.

READ ALSO: Six official websites to know if you’re planning to work in Austria

They must also meet health and reputational requirements, meaning they must not have been convicted of a criminal offence.

Finally, there is also a visa fee (€150 for most countries) that needs to be paid and is not waived or refunded even if the visa is rejected or cancelled.

Austria is home to internationally-renowned wine growing regions and beautiful wineries – with plenty of seasonal work opportunities. AFP PHOTO/JOE KLAMAR (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

How long can I stay?

Usually from up to six to twelve months, depending on the country of your citizenship. For example, nationals of Argentina are allowed to stay for twelve months but may not work for more than six months for the same employer.

People from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Korea and Taiwan can stay up to twelve months. New Zealanders can stay for up to six months.

The specific requirements may also change depending on your citizenship. You can find more information here.

READ ALSO: IN DETAIL: How to get your Meldezettel in Austria

Austria’s Foreign Ministry also states that using a working holiday visa does not affect the provisions for visa-free residence in Austria and the Schengen area.

“Even if this visa-free stay should occur immediately before and after, no departure is necessary”.

This means that you can stay in Austria for the entire duration of your working holiday visa (be it up to six to twelve months) and then stay in Austria or another Schengen country for another three months – if you are a citizen of a country with Schengen visa-free country.

You can also enter and leave Austria multiple times while holding this visa, so travelling within the EU (and further) is not a problem.

How do I apply for the visa?

The application should be addressed to the respective Austrian representation, meaning the Austrian consulate or embassy in your country.

You should check the websites of the Austrian representatives in your country to find out more.

READ ALSO: Nine things you need to know when relocating to Vienna

For example, citizens of some countries, like Canada and Australia, can book their visa appointment online and apply through the Austrian Embassy or Consulate in Munich, Ljubljana, Bratislava and London during their legal stay in Europe.

You will need to complete an Austrian Visa D application form (available with the Austrian embassy in your country), have a passport-sized photo less than six months old, and bring your proof of income or financial resources.

You can find more information here.

What if I want to stay for longer?

Working holiday visas are usually not extendable, and you cannot stay in Austria working or studying after it expires without changing your permit.

You may apply for other visas to stay for longer, including an employment or job seeker visa.