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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s Handy-Signatur and how does it work?

With the recent roll-out of the Green Pass, the Handy-Signatur has become an essential digital tool. But what is it and how does it work?

EXPLAINED: What is Austria's Handy-Signatur and how does it work?
What is Austria's Handy-Signatur and what does it allow you to do? Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Before the pandemic, many people in Austria didn’t know what the Handy-Signatur (mobile phone signature) was.

But with the introduction of the Covid-19 Green Pass, which requires the Handy-Signatur, and the ongoing roll-out of digital services in Austria, it’s quickly becoming useful.

Here’s what you need to know about the Handy-Signatur and how to get it.

What is a Handy-Signatur?

Austria might have been slow to embrace digital technology, but the gap is now closing with the Handy-Signatur which turns your phone into a virtual ID card. 

The Handy-Signatur is connected to your mobile phone number and allows you to legally sign official documents without having to print them out and sign them by hand.

EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s Covid-19 immunity card and how do I get it?

It operates through the Handy-Signatur app and can be used for accessing and signing digital documents issued by authorities, such as at FinanzOnline.

How to get a Handy-Signatur in Austria

A prerequisite for the Handy-Signatur is an Austrian or German mobile phone number.

The Austrian government website states there are exceptions to this rule, but there are no further details about it. 

This means, in most cases, mobile phone numbers without the +43 or +49 international dialling codes currently can’t access and use the Handy-Signatur.

For those with an accepted phone number, there are three ways to register and activate the Handy-Signatur.

First, registration can take place at a registration authority or tax office anywhere in Austria. A full list of locations can be found here.

Or you can register at FinanzOnline by selecting ‘Bürgerkarte/Handy-Signatur aktivieren’ from the menu. You will need FinanzOnline login details for this.

After registration, a letter with an activation code will be sent out by post, which typically takes a few working days.

Finally, a Handy-Signatur can also be activated at Österreichische Post, but you will have to register for an account first.

For more information, visit handy-signatur.at – although the website is only available in German.

What can I do with a Handy-Signatur?

According to the Federal Ministry Republic of Austria for European and International Affairs (BMEIA), with a Handy-Signatur users can sign official documents and conduct transactions with public authorities. 

Examples of transactions include being added to the voter’s register, applying for an absentee voting ballot, filing a tax return or applying for a pension.

FOR MEMBERS: Five unwritten rules that explain how Austria works

It’s a sign of the digital transformation sweeping through Austrian bureaucracy right now, which is expected to continue in the coming years.

Authorities that are connected to the Handy-Signatur include the Bundesministerium Finanzen (Tax Office) and the electronic health record (ELGA) for the e-medication list used by doctors and pharmacies.

What if I can’t get a Handy-Signatur?

For many people right now, the primary reason for getting a Handy-Signatur is to use the Green Pass.

The Green Pass is Austria’s Covid-19 health pass, similar to the EU-wide digital scheme, and allows access to places like bars and restaurants in accordance with the 3Gs (tested, vaccinated or recovered).

However, for people without an Austrian or German mobile phone number, like some international residents and cross-border workers, getting a Handy-Signatur is tricky.

But there is a solution in Vienna for the Green Pass.

In Vienna, people can now use the city’s Homecare app instead of the Green Pass to show proof of 3G.

READ MORE: How to get Austria’s green pass without a ‘Handysignature’ in Vienna

If you have been tested, vaccinated or received documentary evidence of your recovery in Vienna, you will be able to access the app with your 12-digit pin. 

Recovered and vaccinated persons should be automatically notified by SMS once their vaccination certificate is available.

You can then use the link from the SMS and your 12-digit PIN to call up the vaccination certificate. In selected testing centres, proof of recovery and proof of vaccination can be picked up as printouts.

More information is available at the following link

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

Eight habits that show you’ve embraced life in Austria

Living anywhere as an international resident will have an impact on your life, but if you recognise any of these habits then you have truly embraced the Austrian lifestyle.

Eight habits that show you’ve embraced life in Austria

Life in Austria can be similar to many other European countries, but there are some aspects that are distinctly Austrian.

Here are eight habits that show you’ve integrated into the Austrian way of life.

FOR MEMBERS: 23 essential articles to help you navigate life in Austria

Indulging in coffee and cake

Coffee and cake is almost as integral to the food culture in Austria as the Wiener Schnitzel.

So say goodbye to the diet, ignore any thoughts of guilt and get stuck into a slice of Sachertorte, Punschkrapfen or Linzer Torte

Preferably with a delicious coffee on the side.

READ MORE: Caffeine, war and Freud: A history of Vienna’s iconic coffee houses

Participating in winter sports

Austria, especially the west of the country, is a winter sports enthusiasts dream.

The Alps offer an almost endless choice in ski resorts, gondolas and mountain huts, with winter sports options ranging from skiing and snowboarding to snowshoeing and Langlaufen (cross-country skiing).

Needless to say, if you live in the Alps, winter sports quickly become a central part of the lifestyle during the cold months. After all, it’s healthy, fun and even a bit dangerous (if that’s your thing).

It’s also a great way to explore the landscape of Austria and get a deeper understanding of the central role of winter sports in Austrian culture.

Downing tools for lunch

Lunch in some other countries (especially places like the UK) is often a sad sandwich while sitting at a desk. 

In Austria however, lunch is an important part of the day and many people sit down at midday with their colleagues or families to enjoy a proper cooked meal.

This is a prime example of the healthy work-life balance that residents in Austria enjoy, and is a much-better habit to embrace than working through a lunch break.

Wearing house shoes

In most Austrian households, people do not wear outdoor shoes inside. Instead, they opt for house shoes, otherwise known as slippers in English or Schlapfen in some Austrian dialects.

Also, many Austrian homes do not have carpet on the floor, which means walking around with bare feet or just socks in the winter can get cold – fast.

So if you’ve invested in a pair of house shoes or, even better, you have a backup supply for guests, then you have fully embraced life in Austria. 

READ ALSO: ‘I’ll probably return to the UK’: Moving to Austria as a Brit post-Brexit

Being punctual

Typically, Austrians are punctual people and don’t appreciate lateness.

For this reason, many international residents make an extra effort to be on time (or early), and it’s not uncommon to become stressed if you know you will be five minutes late.

As frustrating as this can be, it’s actually incredibly polite to be early for a meeting and not a bad habit to pick up.

sparkling water

(Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash)

Drinking sparkling water

People like to drink sparkling mineral water in Austria.

In fact, sparkling water is so popular that if you order a Mineralwasser (mineral water) in a cafe or restaurant, the sparkling variety is often served unless stilles Wasser (still water) is specified.

Want to be more Austrian? Then simply switch from still to sparkling water.

Stripping off

Countries in Central Europe are much more comfortable with nudity than other nations, and it’s no different in Austria.

The main place to expect an encounter with naked people in Austria is at the sauna. There are even some saunas that have a naked-only admission policy and won’t let people in if they are wearing swimming gear.

People also like to get naked at lakes – especially at the more remote or quieter locations – or at least go topless (for the women). 

The reality is, no one bats an eyelid. So put your prudish instincts aside and don’t be afraid to strip off.

READ ALSO: What are the rules on working overtime in Austria?

Taking sick leave

Employees in Austria are entitled to six weeks of paid sick leave (the number of weeks increases the longer the worker has been employed in the same company).

This means workers are more likely to take sick leave if they are unwell, rather than dragging themselves into the workplace and infecting their colleagues.

The downside though is that Austria has strict rules when it comes to taking sick leave with explicit orders to stay at home. Workers can even expect to be monitored by private detectives to make sure they really are resting at home, as reported by The Local.

For international residents in Austria, this can be hard to tolerate. But the upside is that you’re not expected to show your face in the office when sick, simply to comply with a culture of presenteeism.

And that’s a habit worth embracing.

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