Stephensplatz at night.
Stephensplatz at night.

I recently (finally) collected all documents required to continue staying in Austria as a student legally. Getting the paperwork in order took me months and caused a lot of anxiety, with some sleepless nights in between. Some events unfolded due to my limited foresight, and some were for factors beyond my control. But it feels so good to receive everything finally; I feel a sense of achievement.

Reading this article might overwhelm you, which is okay because it is a lot to deal with. However, I am writing the essay hoping you have it easier than I did. I wished for a similar article when I was going through the process myself, but I could find none or maybe I just did not look for them carefully enough.

For some context, I am in Vienna as a double-degree student from IIM Ahmedabad. I spent the first year of the two-year MBA program at IIMA and am spending my second year here as an MSc student in the SIMC program at WU. Once I meet the academic requirements set out here, I will receive degrees from both IIMA and WU; an MBA from IIMA, and an MSc from WU. I won’t get into why I chose to come here instead of spending my second year at IIMA.

That will be the subject of another essay, perhaps. Since IIMA nominated me to come and study here, I did not have to apply to WU. Thus, this essay does not have information on the application process to various universities in Austria. Nonetheless, once you get accepted to a university, the words in the article may prove useful. Also, I am a citizen of India 🇮🇳, and hence whatever I say here would be most relevant for Indian students. I use the words “Austria” and “Vienna” interchangably. I study in Vienna, hence whatever I say here is about studying in Vienna.

Disclaimer. Please conduct your research, and follow the instructions applicable to your case. In particular, read every email you receive about the process very carefully, and do not expect exceptions. I hope whatever I say here helps you to an extent, but if you follow all of it blindly, it will end up hurting you more than doing good.

So, yes, follow some of what I say but ultimately use your judgment. I made a few errors and would not wish you to repeat them. It just makes life easier for everyone. For the final time, this is not legal advice, and I assume no responsibility if things go wrong. In addition, the regulations change from time to time, so you should follow official sites and channels for the most reliable and authoritative source of information and not an essay by some random boy such as this.

I wrote everything to the best of my recollection and knowledge. Please point out if you notice any errors.

Feel free to jump to the section that you think is relevant. Alternatively, you can read the essay from beginning to end. Either way, I wish you all the best in whatever you set out to do. Let’s begin.

Table of contents

What to do while you are in India

Letter of acceptance. Once the university offers you a place of study, you will get a letter with your student ID number (Matrikelnummer) and other important information, such as registration dates. Getting into a university is one thing, and moving to a new country to study at that university is something else. To continue your studies in Austria (legally), you need to get a residence permit. It is a daunting task (at least I felt so), but hopefully, this essay will ease some of the pain. Read on.

Place of residence/accommodation. You should start looking for a place to stay as soon as you are sure you are coming to Vienna to study. A few options are listed here. Go to the linked websites, and conclude a residence contract of at least three months – follow whatever steps the websites asked, send emails if need be, make some payments, and get the residence contract.

You should have a formal contract by this point. That means you should have a document stating the monthly rent, contract duration, various amenities, etc. I suggest staying at a place commonly preferred by students, such as OeAD, STUWO, etc. The authorities would recognize the contracts more easily. You can always move out after a semester if you find better options. By then, you will also be more acquainted with the place.


Residence permit

Perhaps the residence permit is the most crucial document you need to collect. For stays longer than six months (which is most likely the case if you are pursuing a full-time degree), you must obtain a residence permit to continue your studies. As soon as you receive your university acceptance letter, you should email the Austrian Embassy in New Delhi seeking an appointment to submit your residence permit application.

You can find their email address here. Remember to send an email to the Consular section and not the Embassy.

What is the difference between the Consular section and Embassy? Embassies are the representation of one nation in another, while consulates represent the public administration of the country in some sense. The Austrian Embassy would take up bilateral issues with India, and the consulate would handle processes such as letting people into Austria, for instance.

Once you provide the required documents (they would ask for these in reply to the email you sent), they will inform you about the dates and times you can submit your residence permit application and the required documents. Choose a reasonable slot — so that you don’t delay getting into Austria while also not giving yourself undue stress by trying to get your documents in order within a very short period.

The slot you choose is the deadline before which you must get all the documents in order. Give yourself enough time because several things can go wrong. You and only you will have a lot to lose if things go wrong, and none else loses anything. Please don’t wait until you have all the documents to seek an appointment. You might not get a slot for weeks or even months into the future. I made that mistake, which caused me a lot of stress later.

By emailing very early and choosing a reasonable slot, you are in control – you can get the documents in order. You will also have enough time to get to Austria before your classes start. Now comes to more challenging part – getting your documents in order and submitting an application.

The exact documents required would vary from case to case. Go to this website, and choose the case that applies to you. It will show you the list of documents required. You need to fill out this application form (the form is in German) submit it in person in the Austrian Embassy, New Delhi. You can find the accompanying explanation in English here. As I already said, the exact documents will depend on your case. But, in general, a few required documents are:

Valid travel document — Passport. Double-check your passport’s validity. If it is expiring soon, it might be a good idea to renew the passport first to prevent a hassle later.

Passport-sized photograph. Go to any photo shop, and ask them for a visa photo. The official photo dimensions are 3.5 cm $\times$ 4.5 cm.

Proof of sufficient financial means. This is perhaps the most tricky thing of all. Depending on your situation, you may be required to prove that you have the living expenses for a year or the entire study duration. Refer to the website above because the various amounts keep changing yearly. Proof of sufficient financial means to cover the living costs [as of 2022]:

  • Students under 24 years of age: EUR 569.11/month
  • Students as of the age of 24: EUR 1,030.49/month
  • Couples: EUR 1,625.71/month for both
  • For each child additionally: EUR 159/month

The following example is handy in understanding the amount you need to show to the authorities (as of 2022). You are 23 years old. You are staying (or have a contract for) in a student dorm, with a monthly rent of EUR 605.00. The health insurance costs EUR 65 per month. And you plan to stay here for 12 months. In this case, you need to show proof for

\[(\underbrace{569.11}_\text{min based on age group} + \underbrace{605.00}_\text{monthly rent} - \underbrace{309.92}_\text{min rent} + \underbrace{65.00}_\text{monthly insurance}) \times \overbrace{12}^\text{stay in Vienna, in months} = \text{EUR } 11,150.16\]


It’ll be helpful to hand in the proof for more than EUR 12,000 so that they know you have sufficient means to support your stay here. Also, only the amount above the minimum monthly rent is added to the rent component.

You need to show that amount when submitting your application. You can show your bank statement for the last six months containing the amount in INR and ask the bank to give you a certificate stating the equivalent amount in EUR. Then fill up this form. Write clearly in English where your money comes from.

Declaration of regular expenses. You need to fill this form. In case you do not have any liabilities, you can write 0 in all the fields, and sign the form.

A money note.

This was most tricky part in my experience. Most likely, they would have questions about where you get your living expenses from, and if you have financial obligations such as paying off a loan or mortgage and so on. After you hand in your application, you might receive emails for additional documents or explanations. While disheartening, by that point, you know that they have looked at your application.
Answer all the questions in detail, and provide supporting documents. Even though your bank documents might be clear to you, they might not be to someone else. So, explain in detail whatever documents you sent at this point. For example, they did not understand the document that said when I would start repaying my student loan even after providing the documents from the bank. I wrote a long email explaining each statement, and they accepted it.
Do not lose heart, be patient, and explain things clearly whenever asked.

Proof of accommodation. You must show an accommodation contract for at least three months. If you have a contract with OeaD, you will have received the contract via email. Print that, and take it on the day of application submission.

Proof of health insurance covering all risks. You need to get monthly insurance once you get to Austria. But, for the authorities to even consider your application (so that you can get to Austria), they require that you submit proof of health insurance. You can buy travel insurance from providers such as Feelsafe or Bajaj Allianz. Go to their website, and purchase the insurance that applies to you. You will need some time before taking out insurance after arriving in Vienna, so make sure to buy travel insurance for about two months.

Birth certificate. If you are applying for the first time, you need to provide them a copy of the legalized birth certificate. You can find what it means here. Essentially, you need someone to say that your documents are legitimate. For Indians, the Ministry of External Affairs issues Apostille. But, the catch is that you cannot submit the documents to the ministry directly for Apostille. Instead, you need to submit it via one of the agents. You can find the complete list here.

Another issue is that the officials in your home state would not know what Apostille means. So, you take your birth certificate (which is most likely laminated), remove the lamination and ask the SDM in your sub-division or someone in the state secretariat (you would be lucky if the officials mentioned in the above documents respond), and ask them to sign and stamp on the back of the original birth certificate.

After that, you take the attestation of a notary person, again on the back of the certificate. By this point, you should have two attestations on the back of the certificate (notary + government official). Once that is done, you can send the documents to some lawyer based in New Delhi, who can submit the documents to MEA for them to issue the Apostille (it looks like a sticker, usually pasted on the back of your certificate).

Now, your document is legalized. You might need to translate the documents to English if the original is in another Indian language. I did not need to translate the English document into German. But it might be required in your case. Hence, you should apply quite early to sort things out when things go wrong.

Police clearance certificate. As far as I am aware, there are two ways of getting a Police clearance certificate – by applying online and visiting a PSK (Passport Seva Kendra) or by applying to a police station near you. The PSK website has instructions on how one can apply for a PCC. If you choose to get it from a police station, you make an application on a plain sheet and fill out the form.

The concerned police station would go to your residence, ask a few questions and verify that you have no cases pending against you in a court of law. Once you get the stamped and signed letter, you get the attestations (notary + government official), send it to New Delhi, and get the Apostille. You might need to translate the document if the PCC is not in English. If you got your PCC from PSK, getting the Apostille is not necessary. Make sure the PCC is not older than three months – that means get the PCC no earlier than three months from when you submit your residence permit application.

Once you have collected all the documents and filled out the application form, you are ready to hand in the application. You must go to the Austrian Embassy in New Delhi and hand in the documents. If you go on time, the submission process usually takes about 20-30 minutes, depending on how much you need to wait. Carry cash of about INR 12,000/- (this might vary from year to year) to pay the application fees. They waived my Visa D fees because I paid the fees during the residence permit application.

The person at the reception will collect the documents from you and hand you a payment/acknowledgment receipt. Please keep the receipt safe; it will come in handy later.

Once you have made the residence permit application, you wait. The authority (called MA35) aims to decide on your application within 90 days. And it might take them 90 days if you are unlucky, you messed up your application, or they need additional information/documents from you.

Once the authority (MA35) decides positively on your application, that is, they approve your residence permit application, the Austrian Embassy in New Delhi will reach out to you inviting you to make an application for Visa D. It allows you to fly to Austria, and collect your residence permit card. You have to collect the residence permit card (it looks like a credit card) in person in Vienna.

Next, I’ll tell you how to get a Visa D.


Visa D

The Embassy will inform you about the application procedure and the required documents. You fill out the application form, book an appointment with VFS, go to a VFS center, submit your application, and wait.

Application form. The Embassy will email you the blank application form you can print out. You can also find the application form for Visa D here. The email sent to you will also have the documents you are required to submit.

VFS. After receiving the Austrian Embassy email inviting you to make an application, go to the VFS website, create an account, and book an appointment. It is pretty simple: sign up by providing your details, log in to the portal, choose the available slots based on your case, make the payment, and wait for the appointment confirmation. Now, to get to Vienna – you fly, of course, duh. So, you book your tickets. I usually use Skyscanner to search for flights.

Book the ticket such that the Embassy has at least 15 working days (excluding weekends and Indian and Austrian holidays) to process your application. That means, from the day of your VFS appointment to when you go to the airport to fly to Vienna, you should ensure at least 15 working days. You can use a calculator such as this or actually call VFS and ask which date after your appointment would count as 15th working day. Book your ticket to Vienna for that date or later.

In practice, it means about three weeks or, in some cases, even a month. Getting your VFS appointment about a month before your departure date is safer. It does not mean the embassy would necessarily take 15 days to decide on your visa application. Mine was decided in about 3 working days. But you cannot just fly to Vienna as soon as you get your visa. Read on to find out why.

Some additional documents might be required in addition to what the email asked for. You can find the complete list here. The VFS center usually has the forms mentioned on the website, but you might want to print and take them just in case.

On your appointment day, go to the center before the scheduled time. Follow the staff’s instructions at the center, and ask if you have the slightest doubts. They are pretty nice and help you fill out forms in case you are confused. A pro tip is to leave fields blank if you are unsure what to write. You can always ask the person assisting you at the counter. Keep the receipt from when you submitted the residence permit application. Show it to the VFS person, and you would not need to pay the Visa application fees.

You would still end up paying them money – such as the ridiculous SMS charges and money for the wrongly formatted, non-HTTPS emails that just says they sent your application (I mean I would hope they sent it, lol), and for the courier person to come to your house and return your passport. You just tell yourself, it won’t matter much when you get employed – so you sign on the forms, pay a hefty amount for an SMS that you might or might not receive and move on.

Assuming you submitted the required documents, and they lodge your application successfully. You wait again.

After the Embassy decides on your Visa D application, the courier person will come and deliver your passport to you. You would not know whether they granted you a Visa or not until you open the packet, and check your passport pages. You are ready to fly to Vienna if you got a Visa (good thing you already booked your ticket).

Do not show up to the airport before the entry date mentioned on your Visa sticker. It is the same date as on your flight ticket to Vienna. You should not re-book another ticket and try to fly-in early. They would not let you board the plane. If they let you board the plane by some stroke of misfortune, the officials in Vienna airport won’t let you into the EU. Check that the every detail (name, date of entry etc.) on the Visa sticker/stamp and on your flight ticket match. I saw a girl getting denied boarding because she showed up a month earlier – her flight ticket is valid, but her visa doesn’t allow her to enter the EU until after a month.


What to do after you get to Vienna

Ask a friend to pick you up from the airport. Most universities have a buddy program where you can ask very helpful souls for all kinds of help. If they are free on the day you arrive in Vienna, you can ask someone to pick you up from the airport. It would be much easier for you to get to your place of residence. My buddy even picked up the keys to my room, and I am so grateful to him. Once you get to your accommodation, you should register your place of residence within three days. Since you would not have the Semester pass or other passes before you get the Meldezettel done, you might have to buy single-journey tickets a few times.

SIM card. You should get a local SIM card as soon as you are in Vienna. It will help you stay connected to the internet, which would prove invaluable in getting around the place and finding out about various required documents. Get a SIM from any provider at a reasonable rate. I use an educom SIM card.

Meldezettel. Find the form given here. If you have an accommodation agreement with OeaD student housing they would give you the printed form when you move in. You can use Google Translate or ask a friend who knows German and fill out the form. Once filled out, go to one of these offices and submit the form. You might also need to submit a copy of your passport and the letter of acceptance from the university.

You would get a document called “Meldebest,” which is the confirmation of registration of your place of residence.

Get yourself enrolled in the university. Once you register your residence and get a SIM card to connect to the internet, you should enroll at the university. That means paying the fees, and completing other documentation so that you are officially registered as a student. The international office (or whoever reached out to you) can help you with this.

You should receive your student ID card after this. You should also receive an “Enrolment Confirmation” and “Enrolment Information Sheet.” Get printouts of these documents; they will come in handy later on.

As soon as you receive your Meldebest (the confirmation of residence registration) and the Enrolment Confirmation, please reply to the email stating that your residence permit application has been approved and ask them about the next steps. They will mention the exact required documents in that email.

Once I emailed them the documents, they gave me an appointment to pick up my residence permit card (it looks like a credit card) and a few more documents to take to the appointment. Please read every email carefully and arrange to take the required documentation.

Get a transport pass. At this point, you should also buy a pass for getting around the city. It is more economical to purchase periodic tickets than pay for each trip. You can find them here. I purchased the Semester ticket. It is possible to buy it online, which is the better option since you can’t lose it. But if you are unlucky like me and can’t buy it online, don’t worry.

Just go to the Praterstern U station (on U1 & U2), and walk into the Wiener Linien shop, and tell them you want to buy the Semester ticket. They asked for Meldezettel and Enrolment Confirmation if I remember correctly. That’s it, you can pay in cash or using a card. Keep the pass carefully because it would cost you to get a duplicate pass. You need not necessarily go to Praterstern to buy the Semester ticket, I believe any Wiener Linien shop sells it. Just look out for their shop in major stations.

The Semester ticket is advantageous for getting around the city since you might have to visit multiple offices in the beginning. It would cost you a lot if you buy a ticket for every trip, and random ticket checks happen. I don’t know what happens if you get caught traveling without a ticket because I did not travel without a ticket.

Bank account. Walk into any bank and ask them to make a “student account” for you. The receptionists speak English, so you should not have any communication barriers. I opened an account with Erste Bank, and some of my friends use Bank Austria. You can do your research to find out which bank has better offers. But, if you are like me (23 years old and need an account to just pay for his coffee and health insurance), then any “free student account” should be fine.

Depending on your case, you would need to provide your passport, your student ID card, the Meldezettel, and a few more documents. Once they make an account for you, you will receive the debit card within a few weeks or instantly depending on the bank. You can deposit some money in your new account to set up auto-debit of your health insurance premium.

Health Insurance. Once you register your residence, enroll at the university, and have a bank account, you should enroll for Austrian Health insurance. Go to this website and find out how you can register yourself. Or you can also go to their main office and ask them how you might enroll.

The people at the counters are very helpful and would give you a list of documents you need to take as applicable in your case. On your next visit, you take those documents and then fill out the form they give you. And that is it. You should be done in about 30 minutes on your second visit. Since you already have a bank account, tell them also to set up auto-debit of the monthly premium so that you don’t miss out on paying the premium and lose health coverage.

Travel health insurance is the insurance you get while applying for Visa D and a residence permit. You need to get local insurance to pick up your residence permit card.

Depending on whether or not they have your photo on their database, you might need to provide them with a passport-sized photograph. That photo is printed on the health card. The person at the reception would tell you how you can submit the photograph, if it is needed in your case.

By then, or at least a few weeks after that, you will have heard back from the authorities – when you have to go to the office to pick up your residence permit card. Just take all the documents with you, and the required cash. They will give you your residence permit card if everything is in order. That is it. At least for now. The paperwork would not end here, unfortunately. But, you can celebrate the small victory. Enjoy your stay in Vienna!


Tips & Tricks

  • Please start the process very early. When they say they would decide within $N$ days, they actually might take $N$ days. You might need to delay the start of your studies if the worst happens.
  • If you have doubts while filling out forms, leave them blank! You can ask them right before you submit it. I am not saying that you go in with a blank form; fill out whatever you know and leave the doubtful ones untouched.
  • Take a lot of printouts before leaving India. Make multiple copies of the front and back of your passport. Get multiple copies of the passport-sized photo. Print the Letter of acceptance and other documents the university sent to you. Make photocopies of all original documents, and keep scanned copies too. Most modern smartphones can scan documents at a reasonable resolution.
  • Carry a few hundred EUR in cash. Not much, but not too little either.
  • If you live in one of the Northeast states, your SIM card will not work after you leave India. Please make sure your port it to circles outside the NE. You can recharge using the basic plan to receive essential SMS like OTPs. I don’t know the reason behind the TRAI guideline of disabling NE SIM cards for international roaming. Maybe I’ll ask someone when I become an IFS or IAS or something. I am from Tripura, hello!
  • Do not staple your documents. It is not required.
  • You are not required to bribe anyone to get through the entire thing.
  • Write everything legibly, preferably in BLOCK LETTERS.
  • Go on LinkedIn and find Indians studying in the same university. They would prove invaluable and would make your life easier. If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, sign up for one right now! If you have an account but do not know how to find such people, you should Google about it and learn. It’s a valuable skill to have.
  • Read emails very carefully. When sending emails, schedule them instead of sending them right after you finish drafting them – schedule for the emails to arrive sometime around 10:30 or 11:00 in the morning on a working day in the relevant timezone. The odds of someone reading your email at 11:00 on a Tuesday are much better than at 17:00 on a Saturday. By Monday morning (when they are actually at their desks working), your email would have drowned among hundreds of similar emails. You should read this essay to know how to draft effective emails.
  • Smile wherever you are not required to keep your masks on. Saying hello with a broad smile and thanking people with a wide smile after they helped you out goes a long way. Even if there is a mask mandate, you should smile through it. Trust me; people are happier to help a happy person.
  • Be kind. Often, during the process, you might feel like people are not responding to your queries, and the temptation of writing a strongly-worded email would come to you. Don’t give in to such temptations. Understand that people might be having a bad day at work; most people are trying to do their best despite everything, just like you are. If in doubt, refer to the above tip.
  • Your effort will be worth it once you get here. The city is beautiful, the air is clean, the people are lovely, and they serve good coffee. The public transportation is fantastic too. Good luck, my friend!

FAQs

I’ll add answers to questions as and when I receive them.

Acknowledgements

So many people helped me out on my way here. From strangers to family members to my friends, I troubled almost everyone. My girlfriend kept telling me “it’s going to be okay,” when things got delayed, and I lost all hope of ever making it to Vienna. It actually turned out okay. My cousin helped me with the notary work and encouraged me to go and talk to the SDM to get the required signatures. He’s a significant reason why I got to where I am. A couple of strangers (and then friends) listened to all my questions and answered everything patiently. It felt daunting, and things worked out when I was about to leave it all; I am so happy to be here. Thank you so much, everyone! And thanks, Gary, for picking me up from the airport and buying me a cup of coffee. I shall not forget your kindness.

If my essay helped you in any way, please leave a comment or write to me. It means a lot to me. If you still have questions, leave a comment here. I’ll try my best to answer them (if I have one), or maybe the others can help you. Most importantly, if you notice any errors, please point it out. Thank you! I’ll be over the moon if you buy me a coffee. To know more about me, feel free to browse this website. I wish you a good life!


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