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HEALTH

EXPLAINED: How and when to change your Austrian e-card for a photocard

Since 2020, Austria has been swapping residents' e-cards - which give access to social security and health benefits - for one that includes a photo. So what do you need to do to get yours?

A doctor assesses a patient's lungs at a primary care centre in Stockholm.
E-cards are used at every doctor's visit in Austria. (Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT)

The Austrian e-card is linked to the electronic administration system of Austria’s social insurance system, which includes health, accident, pension and unemployment insurance.

The e-card does not contain software functions but holds identification data.

The cardholder’s administrative data is stored on the e-card. It should show your name, academic title, insurance number, card serial number, sex and user group identification.

READ ALSO: What is Austria’s e-card and what do you need to know about it?

It is most often used when people want to access doctors or fill prescriptions using their insurance in Austria. The Alpine country has compulsory health and pension insurance administered by different companies. Who you are insured with will depend on your employment status. Most people are insured with the ÖGK company, but self-employed workers, for example, need to be insured by SVS.

Regardless of your insurer, you will have an e-card in Austria. So even changing companies (if you go from self-employed to a hired employee, for example) won’t mean you need to change your e-card.

READ ALSO: Everything foreigners need to know about the Austrian healthcare system

So what is changing?

In 2020, Austria announced it would start issuing a “new generation” of e-cards, which would have a photo of the insured person as an extra security measure. 

Around 85 percent of all cardholders automatically receive a new e-card with a photo without having to do anything because the social security system gets the pictures from existing registers.

If the government has an official photo of you from a passport, identity card, driver’s license or through the foreign office (from a visa application, for example), then you won’t need to do anything, and before your e-card expires, you will receive a new one with your photo.

Austria’s e-card – the national insurance card – is needed for almost all medical procedures. Ecard image: Wikicommons

However, if the government does not have your picture – which can happen if you don’t need a visa to stay in the country and have no Austrian driver’s license (a common situation among EU residents and pre-Brexit Brits), you will need to submit a photograph. 

You can quickly check if there is a photo currently available for you HERE

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How freelancers in Austria can pay four times less in social insurance

The only legal exceptions to the photo requirements are people younger than 14 or older than 70 or people classified as care levels 4, 5, 6 or 7.

What type of photograph can I bring?

The photo must meet the criteria of a passport photograph

“The photo must be 35 mm wide and 45 mm high. The head must take up about 2/3 of the picture and the distance between the eyes must be at least 8 mm. The photo must not be older than six months and the person must be recognisable without any doubt. The photograph must be in colour”, according to the official requirements.

There are several shops and booths in Austria that can help you take and print photographs in compliance with all the requirements.

How do I submit my photograph?

If Austria does not have your picture, you need to submit it. 

This being Austria, things are not as easy as just sending an email of your photo, but the good news is that you can at least make an appointment online. You can find all the registration offices for insured persons without Austrian citizenship HERE.

And you can schedule an appointment to send your e-card photo HERE.

You need to hand over the photo in person and have your e-card or social security number with you. If you do not have Austrian citizenship, you will also need your passport.

READ ALSO: How do I get a European Health Insurance Card in Austria?

When should I bring a photo?

You don’t need to submit a photo immediately, but before your expiration date (which you can check on the back of your e-card). The government recommends you bring a passport photo to the office responsible three to four months before the expiration date.

If your card doesn’t have an expiration date or the date is after December 31st 2023, you need to submit a photo before 2024. The main issue to keep in mind is that a new e-card will only be issued once they have your image. So, if you lose your e-card, you will also need to send in a picture before getting a new one.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Am I liable for ambulance costs in Austria?

Don’t worry, though: if you miss any deadline or lose your e-card, you can still access services. At your next contact with the social security company or your next doctor’s visit, you will be informed of the need to submit a photograph. 

You can submit a photograph earlier than recommended, but that doesn’t mean you will get a new e-card before yours expires. It could, however, avoid any hurry in the future when you realise your card is about to expire.

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For members

LIVING IN AUSTRIA

How much do you need to earn for a good life in Austria?

Austria is known as a country with a high standard of living, but it also comes with a high cost of living. Here’s an overview of what you can expect to earn in Austria.

How much do you need to earn for a good life in Austria?

As with most things in Austria, the question of ‘what is a good salary?’ is difficult to answer as the cost of living (and wages) can vary between states and cities.

For example, the east of Austria is typically much cheaper than the west for housing (with the exception of Vienna). And those living in cities often have easier – and cheaper – access to public transport when compared with people living in rural areas. 

READ ALSO: ‘Bad-tempered locals’: Vienna ranked the world’s ‘unfriendliest city’

Childcare is also something to consider with huge differences between Vienna, where there is access to heavily subsidised services, and places like Tyrol where childcare costs more.

To delve a bit deeper, we looked at the data to find out the average salary in Austria and how it differs between professions and locations.

What is the average salary in Austria?

In 2021, the average gross annual salary in Austria was €44,395, according to the latest data from Statistics Austria

However, in the latest survey by online job platform Step Stone, the average gross annual salary in Austria is €49,609.

The Step Stone survey then broke it down further by industry with those working in pharma earning the most at €60,504. This was followed by energy at €60,345, medical technology at €59,106 and banking at €58,711.

The industry with the lowest average annual salary is hotels/gastronomy at €37,546, followed by agriculture at €39,779 and tourism at €43,965.

FOR MEMBERS: REVEALED: The best and worst districts to live in Vienna (as voted for by you)

Occupation also plays a part with people working in management earning the most – on average €66,768. Consulting came second at €53,721.

And like many other European countries, the gender pay gap in Austria prevails. The average annual salary for a man is €52,633 and for a woman it is €44,330.

Furthermore, the top earning city in Austria is Bregenz in Vorarlberg with an average annual salary of €54,620. When comparing the west of Austria with the east, the median salary in Vorarlberg is €46,450, whereas in Burgenland it is just €39,100.

What is the average cost of living in Austria?

Many international residents will find everyday living costs in Austria to be expensive, especially for those that come from countries with a much lower cost of living.

Inflation has also been rising steadily in Austria throughout 2022, leading to some steep rises in prices for groceries, housing costs and energy.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: 10 ways to save money on your groceries in Austria

However, the average cost of living varies across the country, depending on the location. For example, Vienna and Innsbruck in Tyrol are two of Austria’s most expensive cities, but more affordable places to live are Graz in Styria and Klagenfurt in Carinthia.

In Vienna, the average price for a one bedroom apartment in the city centre is €915, going up to €2,000 for a three bedroom apartment, according to Expat Arrivals.

Whereas in Graz, the average cost of a one bedroom city centre apartment is around €609, and a three bedroom apartment is €1,170.

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