Relief! Work Permits Not Needed!

After all the fuss and worry at MA35, it turns out you were home free all along – so cash in!

After all the heated discussions about work permits for immigrants, asylum seekers and students, it is interesting to discover that this is all just talk. You do not actually need a work permit to work in Austria!

That’s right! According to Mag. Christoph Kummer, a court-appointed Sachverständiger (assessor in work related issues) in March 2010, “It doesn’t make any difference if a foreigner has a work permit or not, because they don’t check!”

The occasion was a hearing on a petition for alimony by a divorced American woman, a single parent, against an Australian-British husband in relation to a marriage in Austria. The work in question was what the Sachverständiger claimed the woman should have been able to do to support herself and her elementary school aged daughter, teaching English while attending university full time.

She certainly had no claim to support, Kummer said, even though the father made a €140,000.00 one of the years in question, a salary that sharply dropped when approached by Youth Services (Jugendamt) for a lifetime of avoiding child support. Never mind the rigor demanded by a full time masters’ curriculum. Somewhere in there, Kummer assumed the woman would also be able to find 65 teaching hours a week (not to mention the full time job of finding the clients, lets give that another 30+ hours a week), and do this 12 months out of the year (No holidays, no vacations, no sick leave for parent or child. Who has time?), and all while she studied, attended class, cooked, cleaned, shopped, did laundry and satisfied all the boundless and heart-filled needs that make up the loving home of a happy child.

All foreigners have to do is claim to work on a “contract basis,” Kummer said. No need, as generally assumed, that said foreigner fill a “key employee” function in a firm that only a foreigner could fill, thus not taking a job from an Austrian.

So you can imagine how relieved I and every one we know was to learn of this loophole! According to Kummer, especially in the case of anyone who claims to be a language teacher, no work permit is necessary at all.

“Language teachers need not have a work permit, even at well-respected language schools or tutoring institutions,” Kummer declared in the Hearing Protocol. In writing.

Kummer’s suggestion that the woman become “self-employed” to teach said language, without a work permit was confirmed by Consulting Center for Immigrants (Beratungszentrum für Migrantinnen und Migranten), agreeing that one could theoretically have there own language school. But you would have to remain studying to get the Residency Permit (Aufenthaltstitel) in Austria, they said. In addition, staff claimed that while it is true a student may need finances above the €360 limit set on students living in Austria, one can theoretically get around the work permit through self-employment, with the strategic use of limited study and the claim to be a self-employed language teacher.  However they also acknowledged, “it is not easy to be self-employed.” However, no one at the Center was comfortable enough with this advice to give a name for the record. “I might lose my job,” one woman confessed.

Unfortunately, getting around the law as Kummmer suggests is easier said than done. According to the City of Vienna website on Work Permits, a “self-employed” person must “have a contract to fulfill that is longer than six months,” and – an annoying corollary – “the family cannot join.”  So that would presumably have meant shipping the little girl back to the grandparents in far off places, seemingly defeating the purpose of the entire exercise.

Or breaking the law. Which, oddly enough, seems to best describe the advice coming from officer of the court Christoph Kummer. To have fulfilled the work plan of 65 teaching hours plus 30 administrative hours a week, that he laid out, would have meant

1) violating the restrictions on work under a student visa (€360 a month),

2) the stipulation of the Foreigners Police for students requiring a minimum number of courses per year, and

3) the university’s requirement of no grade lower than B- (2-), and

4) the additional requirement of a U.S. student loan that there be no break in the academic sequence.

But hey! If a court appointed expert says it’s ok, it must be ok.  And anyway, presiding Judge Walter Steinschaden agreed, taking the position that being capable of work was equivalent to having the time, energy and legal right to work.

“It is not necessary to have a work permit to work in Austria,” Judge Steinschaden confirmed in August 2010, in response to the woman’s claim for alimony in Interior District Court of Vienna.

So how did Messrs Kummer and Steinschaden get around the law? Dr. Rauch at the Wirtschaftskammer explains: There are only two possibilities: First, under the foreigners employment law (Ausländerbeschäftigungsgesetz) a firm may claim the necessity of hiring someone for a talent not found among available Austrians, or Second, that someone establishes a private practice such as a language school. Then you would only need to apply for a tradesman’s license (Gewerbeschein).  And in this case, everyone can claim to open a language school and stay in Austria.

So with all this happy news, I have been trying to decide whom to tell first. This is certainly good news for students, as the woman was at the time. Now all those people working “schwarz” can come out of the shadows, because even though they may appear to be waiting tables or tending bar, they are probably actually language teachers with profitable training institutes, making sure that all their colleagues can translate the menu into their mother tongue.

Multi-tasking is something we women have been dealing with for years, so I certainly don’t see why my friend couldn’t be teaching any of her several languages by day while hijacking CityBikes with stolen credit cards in her off hours.

And great news too for the many North Africans now seeking to escape repressive regimes, poverty and war. This legal loophole means that millions can now emigrate to Austria to start a new life, teaching Arabic, French or Farsi. No work permit required! Never mind all those restrictions on asylum seekers, the ones that forbid them to take any kind job other than selling newspapers on the street until their application has been processed. They’re in! Kummer said so.

In celebration of this happy news, a press release has been sent to the North African Press Agency inviting all to come share their language skills in Austrian.

Now that you mention it, I think I’ll give Ute Bock a call, as many of her long-suffering clients living on the edge of abject poverty and deportation will surely be glad to know they can now support their families in the style they deserve.

But actually, it’s good news for anybody who may have thought of immigrating to Austria.  And all those fears of too few workers to pay into the pension system will soon be a thing of the past. I feel better already.

As to our original plaintiff, an appeal lodged against this judgment did not succeed.  The appeal judges: Dr. Heinrich Stumvoll, Dr. Britta Wagner, and Dr. Peter Schuch all confirmed in November 2010 that the professional opinion of Mag. Kummer did not break any rules or make any false claims. The plaintiff appealed to the Supreme Court (Oberster Gerichtshof) where her appeal was rejected March 2011.

An effort was also launched to bring Kummer’s inconsistencies to the attention of Mag. Johann Guggenbichler, legal consultant to the Society of the Court Assessor’s Association (Sachverständigen Verband), but he confirmed that the association stood firmly by the quality and the reliability of Kummer’s judgment and that Kummer was a trusted specialist throughout Austria.

The Austrian Consulate in California was not so convinced. A recent inquiry confirmed that, in their judgment, the woman would have to be designated a disable adult before the parents were liable, with the husband bearing the burden of proof. Nonetheless, Judge Steinschaden’s initiatives to deny support to the wife in favor of the husband took seven years, according to court documents, and have saddled the wife with a bill of over €14,000.00.  This included a remarkable additional assessment that before any responsibility fell on the husband, the woman’s (retired) parents should step up to the plate – a bizarre interpretation that led to a lawsuit against these patient souls in far away California.  The wife now reports she is initiating action against Austria in the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg and hoping to get a marital settlement in California Family Court.

So here’s the deal: Kummer advises that one simply claim to be a language teacher, as this is never checked. So if you don’t have a work permit and have problems with the police, then we suggest contact him directly.


Mag. Christoph Kummer

Schwarzspanierstrasse 15/Stiege 7,Tür 1 

1090 Vienna 

or call him at: 01/27 65 234

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