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Reader question: How to write an invitation letter for visitors to Austria

While anyone coming from the Schengen area will be exempt from any border controls, visitors entering Austria from outside might have to show some documents, including proof of stay. Here's what you need to know.

Reader question: How to write an invitation letter for visitors to Austria
Having a few documents handy might help during border control checks. Photo: Skitterphoto/Pexels

If you have friends or family visiting you in Austria from outside of the Schengen area, then you might be familiar with the “invitation letter” that a host should write, and the traveller may be asked to present at border control.

The actual documents necessary for entry into Austria will mainly depend on the traveller’s citizenship. If they come from a visa-required country, such as India, South Africa, or Bolivia, for example, they might need to show proof of sufficient travel means, including health insurance, proof of stay, and even a return ticket.

The letter of invitation is what would be accepted as proof of a place to stay for cases when the person is staying with friends and family – and cannot show a hotel reservation.

It will need to be presented to Austrian authorities in the country of residence before the travel to issue a visa.

READ ALSO: One day in Vienna: How to spend 24 hours in the Austrian capital

However, even people coming from visa-free countries, including the United States, Brazil, the UK, and Australia, are advised to travel with documents showing their stay’s purpose and duration.

This is because even if you come with a visa or come from a visa-free country, the border control officer is the person to make a final decision on whether or not you are allowed in. On the European Commission’s website, the recommendation is that even those with an approved visa take supporting documents with them.

“At the border or during other controls, you may, for instance, have to provide information on your means of support, how long you intend to stay in the Schengen States, and why you are visiting the Schengen State.”, the website states.

“In some cases, such checks may result in a refusal for the visa holder to enter the Schengen State or the Schengen area.”

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Which Schengen area countries have border controls in place and why?

Carrying documents such as the invitation letter can help “make the border control procedure easier and avoid delays at the border”.

What is the letter of invitation?

There is no official model from the European Union for the invitation letter. Still, it should be written by the host, dated, and signed.

It should state information such as the host’s name, address, relationship to the traveller, reason and purpose of the invitation, dates and duration of stay, and any financial arrangements, such as if you are funding their trip.

The letter could be written in German or English. It is also helpful to attach copies of documents such as the Austrian resident’s Meldezettel (proof of residence) and passport.

It may be that at the border, nobody asks the visitor to show any documents, and more often than not, this is what happens, especially to citizens of visa-free countries.

READ ALSO: How to explore the Austrian mountains in the summer like a local

However, the border officer is entitled to question any person trying to enter the country – in that case, a document such as a letter of the invitation could save your mom or dad a big headache when they are visiting you in Austria.

Is there a model of a letter?

Officially, no. However, there are several models that can be found online. The important thing is for the letter to have the basic information on who is visiting whom, how long, the purpose of stay, and financial means. For example, your letter could look something like this:

Location and date

Re: Invitation Letter for NAME OF TRAVELLER with Passport No. XXX

Dear Sir/Madam,

I, YOUR NAME, currently residing at YOUR ADDRESS, and a citizen of YOUR CITIZENSHIP with residence in Austria, am writing this letter to support the entry application of my RELATIONSHIP (mother/friend/etc.), NAME.

The purpose of the entry of my NAME is to visit me and spend time with me in Austria. She will be visiting me for DURATION OF STAY and then return to COUNTRY OF RESIDENCE, where she/he resides.

NAME will be visiting during the following dates: DATES.

During the specified trip dates above, we will be staying in LOCATION. In addition, NAME will be staying at my house, YOUR ADDRESS. The trip will be funded through their own means/ I will be paying for her/his trip, and she/he won’t pay for accommodation in my house.

If you require any information, please do not hesitate to contact me at PHONE NUMBER or EMAIL.

Kind regards,

NAME
PASSPORT NUMBER
ADDRESS
PHONE NUMBER
EMAIL

READ ALSO: UPDATED: The latest coronavirus restrictions in Austria

With the letter, it is recommended to carry documents such as travel confirmations, other documents stating the purpose of stay, and even the travel insurance.

Again, none of this is mandatory for those who already have a visa or come from visa-free countries. Still, they can save time and avoid complications in case of questions at the border. Especially if mom and dad don’t speak any German – or English.

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Reader question: Can I get a refund after cancelling my Austria trip due to Covid?

Summer vacations and rising Covid-19 infection numbers are a dangerous combination for travellers. Here is what you need to know about your rights if you get sick and need to cancel your holidays to or from Austria.

Reader question: Can I get a refund after cancelling my Austria trip due to Covid?

You are all set for your long-awaited vacations, but just before you leave, the coronavirus test comes back positive. What to do and what are your rights? Is it possible to get a refund on your trip to or from Austria?

Will the airline let you move your flight to a different date, or will the hotel reschedule your reservation?

As summer vacations arrive, with most European countries having no or almost no coronavirus restrictions, travelling is back – and with a vengeance, it appears. Austrian Airlines boss Annette Mann said that “people [now] have an insane desire to travel”.

READ ALSO: Will Austria see travel chaos in airports this summer?

At the same time, Austria has been facing rising Covid-19 infection numbers for weeks, and there is a fear of an intense summer wave.

On Thursday, June 30th, the country reported 12,506 new cases in 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry.

What to do if you have symptoms?

If you have any symptoms of Covid-19, including mild flu-like symptoms like coughing or sneezing, you should get tested. In Austria, there are many alternatives for those looking for the test, from free PCR at home to antigen tests.

If you test positive with an antigen test, you should confirm the result with a PCR test. Once you are a suspected case, you should quarantine until your result is confirmed. If the PCR test is positive, you need to self-isolate for at least five days.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in Austria

Self-isolation after a positive test is mandatory in Austria and most countries worldwide. That means that, by regulation, you are not allowed to leave your home for non-medical purposes during those days – or even longer,, depending on the course of the disease.

If you have a trip scheduled during your isolation period, that could be a problem.

What happens to my flight tickets?

Airline companies are not required to refund you or allow you to make changes to your flight for free – unless the ticket you purchased entitled you to these rights.

Most companies sell tickets for the same journey with different fares. Not only prices can change depending on the classic “economic, business, first class” divisions, but they can also increase dramatically depending on the type of ticket.

For example, an Austrian Airlines flight from Vienna to Rome in economy starts at €59.92. There are then three options: economy light, economy classic, and economy flex.

An empty Austrian Airlines check-in counter. Photo: ALEX HALADA / AFP

READ ALSO: Austria sees scores of flight cancellations after airline staff contract Covid

The first, with the lowest tariff, does not entitle you to a refund and will charge you €70 for rebooking plus a possible tariff difference.

A “economy classic” ticket costs €89.92, and will allow you to rebook without a charge (you only need to pay the difference in prices). It will not give you a refund.

Finally, the “economy flex” costs €129.92, allows for a refund (minus a €70 fee), and lets you rebook without a charge (you only have to cover the price changes).

READ ALSO: Airport chaos in Europe: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

The tickets have other differences, including allowing you to carry more luggage or reserve your seat, for example. Depending on which one you purchased, you may or may not be entitled to a refund.

What about my hotel reservations?

The same is valid for hotel reservations. Most of them, especially if you have used an online booking platform, will have different fees and travellers have different rights. It is essential to understand each tariff and what they entitle you to.

For example, a twin room in a hotel in downtown Vienna could cost you €92, but it is non-refundable and you need to pay in advance.

READ ALSO: EU extends Covid travel certificates until 2023

The same twin room can be found for €108, but with free cancellation – read the fine lines and you will see that even the free cancellation is only valid until three days before the booking date in some cases.

Just like airlines, hotels are not mandated to refund you if you can’t make it to your reservation because you or a travel companion got Covid-19. Unless you paid for the more flexible (and more expensive) rate.

Photo by Jorgen Hendriksen on Unsplash

What can I do, then?

It is worth mentioning that there are a few things you could try. For example, if you purchased travel insurance, or if your debit or credit card has it automatically, you might be able to get a refund. So, check those insurance documents.

Additionally, it may be possible to negotiate directly with a hotel. While airlines are major corporations and it might seem next to impossible to find a human being able to perhaps negotiate, this is not the case with a hotel.

READ ALSO: Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

It may be that you are able to swap your reservation dates, depending on occupancy and how much wiggle room the hotel manager has. It won’t solve all your problems, but if it’s a trip to a nearby place, sometimes accommodation is more expensive than flights.

You also need to always be careful and double check the policies of tickets and hotel (or private accommodations) you buy and reserve. If you have booked through a travel agent or online platform, it is also worth looking if they have different cancellation or rescheduling policies.

Finally, if you have not made it to your hotel reservation because of a flight problem, if your flight was cancelled or delayed, for example, you have rights under the EU law.

*Prices for this story were checked on June 30th.

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