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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

Everything that changes about life in Austria in February 2022

From local elections to holidays and changes to Covid restrictions, here's a rundown of what to expect this February in Austria.

TV
It's getting more expensive to watch TV in Austria, and other changes to expect this February. Photo: Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters/Unsplash

Vaccine mandate

Possibly the most major change on this list and one of the most controversial is the introduction of a law making vaccination against Covid-19 mandatory, which comes into effect from February 1st.

From this date, every adult (aged 18 or over) with a registered residence in Austria should have valid proof of vaccination.

But the first fines won’t be issued this month, as the government will begin with an ‘information phase’ letting people know about the law and sharing information about the protective effect of the vaccines. The first fines will be issued from mid-March, and it will be possible to avoid the fee of up to €600 by getting the vaccine within two weeks even after that.

EXPLAINED: How does Austria’s vaccine mandate compare to other countries?

Thousands of vaccine passes lose validity

From February 1st, proof of vaccination will only be considered valid for six months after the second vaccine dose, down from the current nine months.

After that, you need a booster dose to be considered fully vaccinated, and this is valid for nine months. Otherwise, if your second dose was more than six months ago, you won’t be considered to have 2G proof.

If you have recently had a confirmed infection of Covid-19, you may not be able to get the booster dose immediately but a recovery certificate from a doctor will give you 2G proof.

People under 18 are exempt from the shorter validity, and in this age group a second dose is considered valid for 210 days or seven months.

Booster dose possible from 3 months after second dose

Starting from February 1st, it will be possible to get a booster dose from three months (90 days) after the second dose, reduced from four months.

However, the National Vaccination Committee still recommends getting the booster between four and six months after the second.

Some people who received their booster dose before the four-month limit were unable to receive official proof of this, with their vaccine certificates showing they had received only ‘2/2’ doses instead of ‘3/3’. After the change, these people should be able to get their valid vaccine proof.

End to Austria’s lockdown for the unvaccinated

Austria’s lockdown for people without proof of 2G will end on January 31st.

In practice, not a huge amount changes. People without proof of 2G can now leave their homes for any reason and not just for things like exercise and food shopping — but most public venues require 2G proof to enter.

Other changes to Austria’s Covid rules

The curfew for restaurants and bars will be extended from 10pm until midnight starting on February 5th, while the maximum number of guests at an event will be raised to 50 people on the same day, the Health Ministry confirmed.

The following week, on February 12th, the so-called 2G rules for retail will be removed, meaning that people will no longer need to produce proof of vaccination or recovery at the entrance to shops. Customers will still have to wear FFP2 masks.

The 2G rule for restaurants and bars as well as for events will switch to 3G the following week on February 19th

It’s worth noting that Vienna’s mayor has criticised the re-opening plan, and previously Vienna has had harsher measures than the national ones, so it’s possible stricter rules may be announced for the capital region.

READ MORE: How Austria’s Covid restrictions are changing in February

GIS fees increase

Anyone who has a TV and/or radio which is capable of receiving television channels needs to pay the fee, even if you don’t use the device for that purpose and only ever stream Netflix for example. In the latter option, it may pay off to have the tuner removed from your device. If you do not own a device capable of acting as a TV, you can opt out of the contributions.

The fees are highest in Styria at €28.65, while residents of Upper Austria and Vorarlberg enjoy the nation’s lowest fees at €22.45.

EXPLAINED: How to pay Austria’s TV and radio tax, or (legally) avoid it

School holidays

The February holiday (Semesterferien) is staggered across the country, so these are the dates schools in different regions are closed:

Vienna and Lower Austria: February 7th – 13th
Burgenland, Carinthia, Salzburg, Tyrol and Vorarlberg: February 14th – 20th
Upper Austria and Styria: February 21st – 27th

During those weeks, expect the cities to quieten a bit and ski areas to get busier.

Drivers need the 2022 vignette to drive on motorways

If you use Austria’s motorways and haven’t bought the 2022 vignette yet, remember that the 2021 version loses its validity on January 31st.

Regional elections in Tyrol

Tyrol will elect municipal councillors and mayors on February 27th. If you are an EU citizen resident in Tyrol and are aged over 16, you are eligible to vote; the region has information in simplified German on its website.

Candlemas and carnival season

It might be one of the gloomier months of the year and some of the changes on this list bring price hikes and bureaucracy, so we’ll end on a lively and colourful note: February is carnival time!

February 2nd is Candlemas, and in rural Lower Austria in particular this is the time when groups of singers go house to house similar to Christmas carol singers in the US or UK.

Usually, carnival season is inaugurated with a series of balls throughout January but this year many of the events have been called off due to Covid restrictions. Depending on the development of the pandemic, there’s hope that some of the other carnival events will still go ahead.

Carnival is a particularly big deal over in the west of the country, with the Tiroler Fasnacht and Fasching in the Salzkammergut region attracting a lot of visitors. Expect parades, costumes and a lot of music.

Even if you’re not attending any of the festivities in person, don’t miss out on the excuse to eat plenty of seasonal Faschingskrapfen, apricot jam-filled doughnuts.

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For members

LIVING IN AUSTRIA

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about retiring in Austria

Retiring to Austria to spend time in fresh alpine air is a dream for many people, but who is actually eligible to retire to the Alpine Republic? Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about retiring in Austria

People from all over the world can retire to Austria, but unlike some other European countries, Austria does not have a residence permit tailored to retirees.

This means anyone wanting to retire to Austria has to go through the standard immigration channels, with different rules for EU and non-EU citizens.

Here’s what you need to know about retirement in Austria and who is eligible to retire in the Alpine Republic.

FOR MEMBERS: How can British second home owners spend more than 90 days in Austria?

What are the rules for retiring to Austria as an EU citizen?

The process for citizens from EU and EEA countries to retire in Austria is relatively simple due to freedom of movement across the bloc.

There are a few rules though.

To stay in the Austria for longer than three months, retirees will need to be able to support themselves financially (e.g. through a pension) and have sufficient health insurance.

When it comes to accessing a pension from another EU member state, this is typically taken care of by an insurance provider in Austria who will deal with the approval process between the states. Access to public healthcare in Austria is also available to all EU/EEA citizens.

Currently the pension age in Austria is 60 for women and 65 for men. More information about pensions in Austria can be found on the European Commission website.

FOR MEMBERS: Five reasons to retire in Austria

What are the rules for retiring to Austria as a non-EU citizen?

The most popular visa route for non-EU retirees hoping to live out their golden years in the Austrian Alps or the grandeur of Vienna is to apply for a settlement permit

This is issued to people that do not intend to work in Austria and is referred to as “except gainful employment” (Niederlassungsbewilligung – ausgenommen Erwerbstätigkeit) by Austrian immigration.

To qualify for the settlement permit, applicants must prove they have sufficient funds, comprehensive health insurance and a place to live.

Proof of sufficient funds means applicants must have a regular monthly income from a pension, profits from enterprises abroad, income from assets, savings or company shares. 

The minimum amount is €1,030.49 for a single person, or €1,625.71 for married couples or those in a partnership. 

READ ALSO: Baking away solitude: Vienna cafe hopes to unite world’s grandmas

Third-country nationals also have to provide evidence of basic German language skills at Level A1, in line with the Common European Framework of References for Languages. The diploma must be no older than one year when submitted with the application.

However, the application process will be entirely in German so for people that don’t have advanced German language skills, it’s best to hire an English-speaking immigration lawyer.

Additionally, Austria has a social security agreement with several non-EU states, including the UK, Canada and the USA. This allows some people to access their pension directly from Austria, depending on the agreement.

Again, it can be useful to find an English-speaking advisor to help with the bureaucratic part of accessing a pension in Austria if you don’t have strong German language skills.

After five years of living in Austria with a settlement permit, visa holders can then apply for permanent residence.

Want information on pensions? Then check out the following link. 

EXPLAINED: How does the Austrian pension system work?

Useful vocabulary

Retirement – Ruhestand

Pension – Rente

Social insurance – Sozialversicherung

Health insurance – Krankenkasse

Settlement permit – Niederlassungsbewilligung

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