Scandinavia or Austria

Austria vs. Scandinavia: Should I settle in Austria or Scandinavia?

Austria or Scandinavia? When settling in Europe, you will find several countries with a high standard of living.

The Scandinavian countries are often seen as example societies to follow worldwide, and Austria also has very good living conditions. The Austrian capital, Vienna, regularly ranks close to the top of liveability indexes — as do Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Oslo further north.

Austria and Scandinavia differ in several ways, and it’s important to remember that Scandinavia is not one country. Sweden, Denmark, and Norway all have their own immigration laws, economies, and job opportunities.

Having said that, if you live in one Scandinavian country, you can easily travel between the other two for leisure.

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about settling in Austria and doing the same in Scandinavia. We’ll discuss work permits, job opportunities, culture, and much more.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

Do I need a work visa to work in Austria?

The answer to this question depends on which citizenship you have. If you’re a non-EU, EEA, or Swiss citizen, you will need a work permit before you’re allowed to work in Austria. That includes people from Australia, the US, and Canada.

Until the end of 2020, British citizens were allowed to move to Austria on the same rules as EU citizens. But if you move to the country from 2021 onwards, you will need to go through the same immigration process as other third-country nationals.

Austria has pretty strict immigration laws, and understanding what you need to apply for a work visa in the country is important. Different types of work visas are available for non-EU citizens, many of which focus on attracting highly-skilled foreign workers.

If you’re from outside the EU, EEA, or Switzerland, you can remain in Austria for up to 180 days; after that, you must have a visa. You can see all the details of work visa requirements for Austria here.

Austria or Scandinavia

Do EU citizens need a work permit for Austria?

Austria is one of the 27 EU member states, and as such, EU citizens can benefit from the freedom of movement rules to move to the country. If you have EU citizenship, you do not need a work permit to live in Austria.

You do not need to register as a resident in Austria if you’re only going to be in the country for three months. After that, however, you will.

In addition to moving to Austria to start a job as an employee, EU citizens are also allowed to start a business and become self-employed in the country. If you’re a freelancer and you work remotely, you might find this a particularly tempting proposition.

You can also move to Austria as an EU citizen if you have sufficient funds to support yourself financially. If you adopt this approach, you will also need to own sufficient health insurance.

Although Switzerland is not in the EU, you can move to Austria under the same rules as an EU citizen if you have Swiss citizenship. The same goes for citizens of Iceland, Norway, and Liechtenstein — all of which are not EU members but are part of the EEA.

What documents do I need to work in Austria?

The documents you need to work in Austria will depend on where you’re coming from. You will have much less paperwork if you’re from the EU, EEA, or Switzerland; in these cases, you only need a valid passport or national ID card.

If you’ve received an employment contract from an Austrian company, you’ll need to take a signed copy of that with you when you register as a resident. For self-employment or self-sufficient funds, you should take enough evidence to prove that you qualify for that.

If you’re moving to Austria to study at one of the country’s universities, you should take the necessary paperwork to prove that.

Austria or Scandinavia

When you register at your local immigration office as a citizen of one of the above countries, you will receive an EU residence certificate.

If you’re from a non-EU or EEA country, and you’re not Swiss either, you’ll need to consider several other factors. First and foremost, you’ll need a valid passport. You will also need two passport-size photographs, your visa application form, and proof of health insurance.

You will need several other documents, too, and you can find the full list in the article we linked under the “Do I need a work visa to work in Austria?” section.

For some work visas, non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens will need to show that they have sufficient knowledge of the German language.

Do I need a work visa to work in the Scandinavian countries?

The Scandinavian countries’ immigration laws differ from one another, but again, you will have to go through more hurdles if you’re a non-EU, EEA, or Swiss citizen.

Generally speaking, all of the Scandinavian countries have relatively strict immigration laws. However, moving here is not impossible. In the subsections below, we’ll discuss the work visa requirements for each country — and we’ll focus on non-EU/EEA/Swiss/Nordic citizens for now.

Sweden

If you want to move to Sweden as a non-EU citizen for work, you will need to receive a permit before you can start your job. To do this, you will have to obtain an employment contract from a company based in the country beforehand.

You can also move to Sweden if you’re a self-employed non-EU citizen — and you can stay for up to three months without applying for a residence permit (in most cases; some countries still need a visa).

In instances where you’re going to stick around for longer, you will need to have a right to remain in the country.

Self-employed non-EU citizens moving to Sweden will need to show that they have considerable industry knowledge, along with experience running a business.

You will also need to show that you have created a network or customer contacts, along with proving that you can support yourself and any family members joining you.

Depending on the market you serve, you will also need to prove your Swedish or English skills. And if you’re planning to operate in the Swedish market, you must have sufficient knowledge of the Swedish language.

Sweden has several excellent universities, and non-EU citizens can also move to the country to study. In those cases, you’ll need to prove that you’ve been accepted on a course at a Swedish institution.

Are you aged between 18 and 30 and from either Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, or Australia? If so, you can apply for a working holiday visa in Sweden. You can find more information here.

Denmark

Denmark’s immigration laws are pretty strict for non-EU citizens; like Austria, the rules primarily focus on attracting skilled foreign nationals. However, they are set to become somewhat more lenient from the end of 2022.

Before applying for a work visa in Denmark, you will need to have an employment contract. If your salary is above a certain amount (this changes annually), you can get your permit fast-tracked.

Regarding the above pay limit scheme, Denmark is planning to lower the requirement from 448,000 DKK (c.$60,200) to 375,000 DKK (c.$50,417) from December 2022. This will be tried for the next three years, and its main aim is to address the country’s current labor shortage.

You can also get a work visa for Denmark if you specialize in a field that is experiencing a shortage of skilled workers. The positive list is regularly updated; you can view it here.

If you run a business, you can apply for a visa in Denmark as a non-EU citizen. However, the process is much more complicated than if you have EU citizenship. You will typically need to go through the Startup Denmark scheme, which will analyze your plan against several parameters.

One of the more common ways for non-EU citizens to move to Denmark is through a university course. You will need to show that you’ve been accepted at a Danish institution before doing so, however.

Many English-language courses have been cut back in Denmark, so it’s now trickier to get into a university here without knowing Danish beforehand.

In 2021, Denmark introduced a quota that allows up to 150 Chilean citizens per year to apply for a working holiday visa.

Norway

Although Norway is not in the EU, it is in the EEA and adopts the same freedom of movement rules as EU member states. For non-EU, EEA, Nordic, and Swiss citizens, the country has a selection of visas available — though depending on your profession, it can be tricky to obtain one.

If you have an employment contract from a Norwegian company, you can apply for a work permit. The country also has a visa available for jobseekers, which allows you to stay and search for work for up to six months.

You will, for the jobseekers’ visa, need to show that you can financially support yourself; in November 2022, the requirement was at least 23,224 NOK (c.$2,259) per month. Considering that the cost of living in Norway is high, however, we recommend that you take more than that.

The money will also need to be in a Norwegian bank account.

If you don’t find a job in Norway within those six months, you will need to leave the country. However, you can reapply after being out of the country for a year. Note that when searching for a job, you will need to find one within certain requirements.

Visas are also available for seasonal work in certain industries. For these permits, the employer has to prioritize EU and EEA nationals first — and show that nobody from these countries was a viable candidate. 

It’s also important to note that although Greenland and the Faroe Islands are part of the Kingdom of Denmark, they are not in the EU. So, unless you’re a Danish or another Nordic citizen, you will need to go through the Danish immigration process for third-country nationals to move to either territory.

Norway also has a digital nomad visa, but you will need to have a contract with a Norwegian client to apply for this. You will also need to meet the minimum income requirements.

If you want to move to Svalbard, you do not need a visa — regardless of where you come from. However, you will need to support yourself financially and have accommodation on the island.

Do EU citizens need a work permit for Scandinavia?

All of the Scandinavian countries adopt the EU’s freedom of movement rules; as such, you do not need to get a permit before moving to any of them before starting a job. You can also stay for up to three months without registering.

If you plan to stay for longer than three months, you’ll need to register your residence at an immigration office in the country you’re moving to. You will also need to show documents to prove your reasons for being there.

You can also start a business in any of the Scandinavian countries as an EU, EEA, or Swiss citizen. In Norway, however, you’ll need to be a sole proprietor — which can be a little irritating if you’ve got bigger ambitions.

Denmark, Sweden, and Norway all form part of the Nordic Passport Union. Citizens from these countries can live in each other’s nations without needing a residence permit, and the same goes for Icelandic and Finnish citizens as well.

If you have Nordic citizenship, you can also live in the Faroes or Greenland.

How do Austria and Scandinavia compare to one another?

Okay, so we’ve got into quite a lot of depth about how Austria vs. Scandinavia immigration laws differ. Now, let’s look at how the countries compare to one another.

Language

In Austria, the official language is German. Austrians tend to speak excellent English, though, so you shouldn’t have issues getting around without knowing German. However, knowing the local language is important for both job opportunities and integrating fully with Austrian society if you plan to settle.

The Scandinavian countries have different languages, but all of them are very similar; Swedish and Norwegian are often mutually intelligible, and Danes can read Norwegian with minimal issues (vice versa also applies).

Like Austria, people in all of the Scandinavian countries usually speak very good English.

Cost of living

Those high living standards come at a cost. Scandinavia is notoriously expensive; Copenhagen and Oslo regularly rank as some of the world’s priciest cities. And while Sweden is typically less expensive, it’s still higher than the global average.

If it was to go in order, we’d say that Norway is the most expensive country — with Denmark coming second and Sweden third. The only caveat is that alcohol and electronics are often pricier in Sweden than in Denmark.

Austria is not as pricey as the Scandinavian countries, but it is still relatively expensive. Nonetheless, living in Vienna doesn’t require anywhere near as much money compared to Copenhagen or Oslo; prices are probably on-par with Stockholm and lower in some instances.

Geographical location

Austria is located in Central Europe and is landlocked.

Despite being relatively small, it shares a land border with eight countries:

  • Germany
  • Switzerland
  • Italy
  • Czech Republic
  • Liechtenstein
  • Slovakia
  • Hungary
  • Slovenia

The Scandinavian countries are much further north. Denmark is tiny compared to Sweden and Norway in terms of land, but all of them have significant coastlines. Denmark shares a land border with Germany and is connected to Sweden by the Øresund Bridge.

Sweden borders Norway and Finland, while Norway borders Sweden, Finland, and Russia.

While all of these countries have cold winters, you will get a little more daylight in the winter if you live in Austria — compared to Scandinavia.

Austria or Scandinavia

Culture

If you love the outdoors, you’ll feel at home in both Scandinavia and Austria. People from these regions tend to be sporty and spend a lot of time outside — even during the winter. Hiking is popular in all of them, though Denmark is significantly flatter in terms of terrain.

Skiing is also popular, but Danes tend to head to Sweden or Norway — or Austria(!) — to get their fix each winter.

The cuisine in Scandinavia is more focused on seafood, while in Austria, you’ll have more sausage and other meats. The countries do, however, share a love for baked goods and coffee.

Permanent residence requirements

If you’re an EU, EEA, or Swiss citizen, obtaining permanent residence is easy in Austria and Scandinavia. All you need to do is live in your country of choice for a certain number of years and continue to meet your requirements.

You don’t need knowledge of the local language.

For citizens outside the EU, EEA, or Switzerland, things are much trickier. You will typically need a good grasp of the local language, regardless of which country you choose. You might also need to live wherever you pick for longer than would otherwise be the case.

Is it easier to make friends in Austria or Scandinavia?

Scandinavia has a reputation for being a very difficult place to make friends, and the same is true for Austria. However, the reality is a lot more nuanced.

Getting to know the locals on a deeper level will often require that you know the local language. You can also look for internationally-minded people, such as those who have lived, studied, or traveled abroad.

Similarly, people from other parts of the country you’re living in might also be more open to meeting new people.

Regardless of where you live, focus on your hobbies in your spare time — and you’ll naturally meet people that way. Starting with other expats is also a good idea.

Austria vs. Scandinavia: The choice is ultimately yours

Should you settle in Austria or Scandinavia? That depends on your personal preferences, and it’ll also depend on whether you meet the requirements to live in these countries.

However, plenty of foreigners have moved to Scandinavia and Austria before; if you have a dream of settling in one of these nations, remain persistent, and you’ll eventually succeed.

Regardless of whether you choose Scandinavia or Austria, you’ll enjoy high living standards, low crime rates, and plenty of exciting experiences.

We didn’t speak about Finland and Iceland too much in this article. However, we do have articles about living in both. Check out the Finland one here and the Iceland pros and cons for living guide here.

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