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

Every year, thousands of young people connect to families from different countries to work as more than live-in 'nannies' for the au pair program. So how does it work in Austria?

little girl and little boy walking together
Bringing your family to live with you in Switzerland can be a complicated ordeal. (Photo by Kevin Gent on Unsplash)

Typically, an au pair is a young person that helps taking care of the host family’s children while getting to know a different culture. Typically, they will receive accommodation and an allowance in return. 

The main idea is similar for most countries, but they have their specificities. In Austria, for example, citizens that don’t need a visitor visa can come to the country and apply for a residence permit here. 

“This made it so much easier for me to apply. In other countries, I would have to go through the entire process at home; it would be more bureaucratic”, says Rebeca Neves, a 25-year-old Brazilian au pair who arrived in Graz in October 2021.

She is staying with an Austrian family and takes care of their three kids: an eight-month old baby, a five-year old boy, and a two-year old girl. 

By Austrian regulations, au pairs need to be between 18 and 28 years old. However, don’t need to be from a European Union country, meaning that Americans, British, and, in the case of Rebeca, Brazilian citizens can also apply and stay in Austria for up to 12 months. 

EXPLAINED: How to apply for a residency permit in Austria

They are not professional caregivers or cleaners and are entitled to at least €475.86 per month, as per 2021 values (more than that, and they have to pay for social insurance) and free boarding and lodging. 

How can I find an Au Pair or become one?

The “matching” between a family in Austria and an au pair happens online through an au pair agency. 

The candidate and the family post their ads with what they are looking for. Then, the entire matching and selection process takes place online. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can Britons living in EU spend more than 90 days in another Schengen country?

Once family and candidate decide that they are a perfect match, the host family must submit a formal notification of employment to the Austrian Employment office (AMS), including a contract of work, the AuPair Mustervertrag.

The contract is concluded between the host family and the au pair. It determines in writing the most important conditions of work. This includes specific working hours, leisure time, leave, tasks, salary, accommodation, language course, and insurance. 

Since one of the reasons au pairs choose this type of program is to learn and better the local language, in Austria, they need to show proof of A1 or A2 certificate (depending on the Austrian region) and attend a German-language course. In addition, host families must pay at least half the school fees.

“I take the course, and it’s so good to now be able to chat with the 5-year old host kid. He always wanted to talk to me, but I couldn’t hold a conversation in German at first. I had to learn quickly, and he is very patient; he is my personal dictionary”, says Rebeca. 

snow in austria

Rebeca, like many of her au pair friends, saw snow for the first time in Austria (Photo: Rebeca Neves)

For EU/EEA citizens, there is no need to go through AMS. Still, after four months of stay in Austria, they need to register with Austrian authorities showing proof of insurance and the au pair contract.

For non-EU citizens, the au pairs need to take out their health insurance valid in Austria, sign the au pair contract, and receive the AMS notification confirmation. 

After that, they must apply for a residence permit with the Austrian representation authority (depending on the country of citizenship, that will be done in Austria or through an Austrian embassy) and collect the permit after arriving in Austria. 

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

Austrian particularities

Austria is particular in some things but general in others. For example, they make it clear that the au pair must have a separate room in the household of the host family free of charge, and they must be able to lock their room from the outside and the inside. 

At the same time, au pairs are expected to “help with light household chores”, which is not common in other countries. The government doesn’t specify which type of household chores, though it reiterates that the au pair “is not a professional caregiver or cleaner”.

Anmeldebescheinigung: How to get Austria’s crucial residence document

As in other programs, accident insurance is declared and paid for by the host family. Many au pairs are attracted by the high pay (especially those coming from countries with lower-value currencies) and fewer hours as in other countries.

For Rebeca, though, the main appeal was the Austrian culture and its beautiful places. With one in particular.

“I remember seeing a picture of the Austrian National Library years ago and falling in love with the place. So when I heard about the program, I chose to come here and see it, to live here and have this experience with Austrian culture”, she says. 

Useful links and contacts

Arbeitsmarktservice (AMS) – Public Employment Service 

Austrian Chamber of Labour 

phone: +43 1 50165 1201

email: [email protected] (labour law)

email: [email protected] (social security)

Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB) – Trade Union vida 

phone: +43 1 534 44 79

email: [email protected]

Unternehmensservice Portal

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

Divorce in Austria: How the ‘culpability principle’ works and what you need to know about it

Austria is one of the countries where divorce can get extra messy as both parties may dispute in court whose "fault" it is when a marriage crumbles.

Divorce in Austria: How the 'culpability principle' works and what you need to know about it

Nobody gets married thinking about the possibility of divorcing later on, but being prepared for this is still crucial to both parties – especially if the divorce will take place in a foreign country with different laws.

In the majority of cases, if the “habitual residence” of the couple is in Austria, the divorce proceedings and laws will also be here. So that means that even if you are not an Austrian citizen, if you reside in Austria and your social contacts, particularly in terms of family and work, are here, this is where your divorce proceedings will take place.

There are several types of divorce in Austria, including consensual and “disputed” divorce. A disputed divorce can be requested due to the fault of one of the partners, dissolution of the household or “for other reasons”.

READ ALSO: Registered partnerships: What are the rules in Austria?

The simplest and quickest way to get divorced is by agreeing with your partner. You have to be separated for at least half a year (that doesn’t mean you need to live separately, but living together as non-spouses) and consider the marriage irreconcilable.

“The concept of household (häusliche Gemeinschaft) should, however, not be taken too literally”, explains the Vienna-based attorney Evert Vastenburg.

“If the parties still live together, but this “living together” has devolved into a pure Zweck-WG where there is very little left in the way of interaction or support, the household could also be qualified as no longer existent. But, of course, this too will depend heavily on the individual circumstances.”

What if there is no consensual divorce?

If the couple can’t agree on a divorce, they will move on to a “disputed divorce”. If there is no guilty behaviour, the party that seeks divorce can sue for it if the “domestic community” has been dissolved for three years (even if they still live together) and it cannot be expected that the marriage will be restored.

READ ALSO: How to become an Austrian citizen through marriage

Things can get extremely ugly in Austria if the divorce is filed on the culpability principle (Verschuldensscheidung), meaning that one partner blames the other for the end of the marriage.

For this divorce to be granted, the party needs to prove that the other has committed an act constituting a ground for divorce (a schwere Eheverfehlung), which has led to an irreparable breakdown of the marriage, Vastenburg explains.

What constitutes a “fault”?

The Austrian law only explicitly mentions two grounds for divorce, adultery and domestic abuse. Still, case law has developed an extensive list of reasons why someone would be granted divorce by blame.

Some examples of violations include mistreatment, prolonged silent treatments, excluding the partner from the bedroom, leaving the household, immoral behaviour, not fulfilling parenting or financial obligations, extreme jealousy, groundless refusal of sexual intercourse, and breaking trust by, for example, checking the other person’s phone and more.

READ ALSO: How Austria is making it easier for non-EU workers to get residence permits

Divorces can get costly and complicated in Austria (Photo by Mathieu Stern on Unsplash)

One case went all the way up to the Austrian Supreme Court, which had to decide whether a very close friendship between a husband and a female work colleague could be grounds for divorce.

In that particular case, the first and second instances ruled in favour of the wife, saying that the friendship generated the appearance of an extramarital affair. The Supreme court disagreed, but the situation could’ve been different if the wife had been able to prove the friends went on a holiday trip together or had been intimate. As it stood, the proof brought to court was not enough.

It goes to show how tricky things can get in Austrian courts, as husbands and wives try to prove each other’s blame.

What difference does it make if you can prove blame?

“In principle, a party found culpable will not be entitled to maintenance”. There are, however, exceptions for complex situations such as when there was a past stay-at-home arrangement, for example”, Vastenburg says.

Still, each case is different, and courts will evaluate how much the person is to blame for the end of the marriage versus how much they’d need alimony.

READ ALSO: Austria’s top court legalises same-sex marriage

It’s worth noting, though, that a party’s responsibility for the end of a marriage in itself does not have any effect on custody, according to Vastenburg.

“For custody and visitation issues, the child´s welfare (Kindeswohl) plays a central role.”, he adds. These rights are only affected if one of the parents could be seen as a threat to the child. “An affair alone would, in principle, not affect this”.

What should people be careful with?

According to expert attorneys, in case it looks like the divorce will head to a “culpability trial”, it is essential that the other party does not react to the partner’s violations with their own. So, for example, a wife who suspects her husband of cheating should not look for proof through illegal or immoral ways – this could be used against her.

Another possible issue is that a spouse suffering abuse could be sued and blamed for the divorce if they run away from their shared home.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to apply for a residency permit in Austria

“That is a possible scenario because abandoning the marital household on your own accord, i.e. against the will of your spouse, may constitute a ground for divorce”, Vastenburg says.

“The law provides some assistance here by allowing people to file for provisional separate domicile (gesonderte Wohnsitznahme). With this procedure, a court can rule that the applicant is allowed to provisionally leave the household”, the attorney adds.

Aside from not incurring violations yourself, it’s worth remembering that fault-based divorces should be filed within six months upon a party’s awareness of the ground of divorce. Additionally, if the party culpable can prove they were forgiven, the divorce is also not granted.

What advice would you give to someone considering getting a divorce based on the partner’s fault?

“This will depend on the lawyer. My personal advice is always to at least attempt a divorce by mutual consent: it saves the parties both money and especially emotional distress. If this is not possible, a fault-based divorce could be filed”.

It’s crucial to get in touch with an attorney or even help services to get the best help and advice concerning your own situation.

READ ALSO: ‘Taboo in Austrian society’: How women still face barriers accessing abortion

In Austria, several associations advise and offer assistance to people, especially women in need. You can search for “Frauenhilfe” and your state to find the one closest to you.

For emergencies, there is a 24-hours Women’s Emergency Helpline that offers free counselling in German, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, English, Farsi, Polish and Spanish: 01 71 71 9. They offer counselling by trained psychologists, social workers and lawyers.

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