This Central European country is landlocked and shares 2,562 km’s of the border with Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Italy. 62.8% of Austria’s land area is given over to the Alps. With 350 km’s of navigable waters, The Danube River is the chief waterway through northeastern Austria.
Austria has a population exceeding 8.8 million and is a member of both the European Union and Schengen. Ideally geographically situated, it’s an attractive hub for regional trade and a leading foreign investor in Central and Eastern Europe. Economically, Austrian exports of goods and services in 2017 accounted for 54% of Gross Domestic Profit. Their services sector is substantial with tourism being the single leading source of foreign exchange. The country boasts a small forestry and agricultural sector and a comprehensive industrial sector.
While the end of World War II saw significant numbers of Austrians emigrate to Australia, The United States and Canada, emigration trivialised with the subsequent economic recovery. The Austrian social legislation system is among the most advanced in the world. Austria’s public health facilities are available to all Austrians, with the social insurance plan or social welfare program seeing to the costs. Social grants include those to help newlyweds establish households, special birth allowances and tax remissions for unmarried couples setting up a household together. The government cares for the aged and destitute and makes provision for pregnant women, disabled veterans and war victims.
Half of all Austrian communities are considered tourist centres and offer year-round tourism attractions. Austria enjoys a high ranking among European tourist countries with tourism being a major contributor to the Austrian economy. Apart from winter sports and superb ski resorts, Viennese musical events are world-class. Summer offers cultural festivals, especially in Vienna and Salzburg but also sports activities and events and scenery all across the country.
Vienna has 15 state theatres, the Vienna State Opera, incorporating the renowned Vienna Philharmonic, the Vienna Boys’ Choir, St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Schönbrunn and Belvedere palaces. The impressive Lippizaner stallions at the Spanish Riding Academy are a unique experience, and the Vienna Woods invite you to relax in picturesque wine taverns on the outskirts of the city.
Alpine skiing in major resorts in over 40 Austrian towns offers expert and novice skiers many options. Cyclists have scenic mountain and village routes to sample and enjoy, and the more athletic can try out the Tour d’Autriche which is an annual racing event.
Austria is a Schengen member country, and it joined the European Union in 1995, at which time it also signed the Schengen Agreement. Together with EU citizens and nationals from the 61 countries enjoying the visa-waiver agreement, Austrians currently enjoy visa-free travel within the Schengen area for up to 90 days every six months. Only free travel is permitted, however, and visitors may not work or study in any of the Schengen countries without the appropriate authorisation.
Recent terrorism issues and irregular immigration within Europe have caused the EU Commission to somewhat alter the Schengen zone’s migratory system. In an effort to safeguard the European nationals and secure external borders, the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) will be rolled out around 2021. Travellers who may pose a threat to Austrian security or the Austrian people will be identified through this online automated pre-authorisation system.
The ETIAS resembles Australia’s own Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). At present, the visa liberation policy permits Australians and nationals from European Union countries to enter Austria for a short stay with only a valid passport, although a Schengen visa is required for visits exceeding three months. Once ETIAS is implemented, existing Schengen Area regulations will remain as is, but current visa-exempt nationals visiting Austria will have to go online to obtain the ETIAS pre-authorisation before embarking on their travel. ETIAS authorisation will be valid for three years or until the entitled passport expires.
Austria has had links with Australia since it first attracted European settlers, at which time Austrians arrived as members of scientific, diplomatic and religious missions. Immigration to Australia increased after World War II and persisted until 1960. An estimated 42,500 Australians now have Austrian ancestry.
The two countries enjoy a number of bilateral agreements on aviation, double taxation, social security and mutual legal assistance. The recently implemented Work and Holiday Visa arrangement is of great benefit to the youth in both countries.
Australian musicians and artists are attracted to Austria as a cultural hub. The Australian Gondwana Indigenous Children’s Choir (GICC) and the Vienna Boys Choir have performed together in both countries, in concerts in Vienna, Cairns and Sydney. Austria sees performances from many Australian groups, theatre companies and individuals.
For Australians visiting Austria after 2021, ETIAS authorisation will be valid for three consecutive years or until the passport expires. Children under 18 years will not have to apply for the European visa.
Austrians wanting to visit Australia for tourism or business visitor purposes will require an eVisitor authorisation, which is an online pre-authorisation similar to ETIAS. This authorisation is electronically linked to the applicant’s passport and is not a work visa. To work in Australia, Austrians require a relevant visa.