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WHAT CHANGES IN AUSTRIA

EXPLAINED: What will change about life in Austria in 2022?

A new year means new laws, tax changes, various fees being raised or reduced, and new possibilities for domestic and international travel.

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15 of the most important rules, laws and fees that change in Austria in 2022. Photo: Aydin Hassan/Unsplash

Covid-19 rule changes

We can’t tell you exactly what Austria’s Covid-19 restrictions will look like through the next year, but there are a few things we do know.

From January 3rd, a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will no longer be considered as full vaccination for the purposes of entry into Austria or the domestic 2G and 3G rules. 

Night gastronomy (nightclubs and late-night drinking and dining venues, including apres-ski) will start the new year closed, and at the moment this is set to be evaluated on January 9th — though with the uncertainty around the Omicron variant, that’s no guarantee these venues will reopen then.

And the lockdown for people without proof of 2G is currently expected to last into February at least, based on recent comments from Austria’s Health Minister.

As for Austria’s remaining rules including travel regulations, mask mandates, 2G and 3G, these will also change during 2022 based on how the pandemic situation develops. 

Covid-19 vaccination becomes mandatory (probably)

The government is currently preparing legislation for a vaccine mandate to come into force from February 1st, which means fines could be issued to those who opt not to have the vaccine from mid-March. Under the most recently published proposals, those fines would be €600, payable up to four times a year, and rising to €3,600 if the recipient refused to pay the penalty.

Based on what the government has said so far, there’s no reason to think this won’t happen according to the current timescale, but as with everything Covid-related, it’s not guaranteed until it happens. At the moment, the draft of the law is undergoing review.

READ ALSO: What we know so far about Austria’s proposed vaccine mandate 

Carbon tax and climate bonus

A tax will be introduced on carbon dioxide emissions from July 2022, starting at €30 per tonne in 2022, and then set to rise incrementally over the next few years (€35 in 2023, €45 in 2024) before reaching €55 per tonne in 2025.

This means higher fuel prices,  and according to estimates from Austria’s Economic Research Institute, you can expect a litre of diesel to rise by 10.1 cents in 2022, a litre of oil fuel to rise by 10.1 cents, and gas prices to rise by seven cents per kilowatt hour.

Taxpayers will also receive a bonus to help compensate them for the increased costs, which is staggered based on where you live, so that those in rural areas get more. The bonus will range between €100 to €200 per adult per year (and half these amounts for children), based directly on public transport provision in your local area. 

Assisted dying becomes legal

This change comes into effect from the start of the year. Adults who are terminally ill or suffer from a permanent, debilitating condition will be able to access help ending their own lives.

Two doctors will have to assess each case, one of whom must be qualified in palliative medicine. Among their duties will be to determine whether the patient is capable of coming to the decision independently.

In addition, at least 12 weeks will have to pass before access is granted to make sure euthanasia is not being sought due to a temporary crisis. This period will be shortened to two weeks for patients in the terminal phase of an illness.

READ ALSO: How do Austria’s new plans on assisted suicide compare to others in Europe?

Income tax cuts for mid-income earners

From July 2022, the second band of income tax (currently from €18,000 to €31,000) will pay 30 percent tax rather than 35, meaning up to an extra €650 extra in their pockets each year.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about paying tax in Austria

Sickness payment reductions

Those on low and medium incomes will see a reduction in the amount they pay towards their health insurance starting from July 2022, with a 1.7 percentage point drop.

Increase in family bonus

Austria’s annual family bonus will be increased from €1,500 to €2,000, meaning up to €500 per child per year. 

And those who are eligible for Austria’s Kindermehrbetrag, an additional child allowance for low earners (those who do not earn enough to reach the income tax threshold) will also see these payments increase from €250 per year to €450 in 2022.

Salary raises

Several sectors have negotiated higher than usual annual raises in the minimum wages regulated by collective bargaining agreements, often effective from January 1st, 2022.

For retail workers for example, an average 2.8 wage increase was agreed (which rises to 3.51 percent for those in the lowest wage bracket) so that a minimum monthly salary of €1,700 gross now applies. 

Because this applies to the minimum permitted wage, not everyone will benefit, for example if you already negotiated a raise above the minimum, but generally these agreements set a standard. And one thing to note: although these wage increases are higher than usual, that’s because of 2021’s high inflation pushing up the cost of living.

ANALYSIS: What will happen to Austria’s property market in 2022?

Electricity bills on the rise

Several electricity providers have announced price hikes starting from January 1st, 2022, due to rising prices globally. 

For example, EnergieAllianz, which represents Wien Energie, EVN and Energie Burgenland, has said an average household with annual electricity consumption of 3,500 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year can expect to pay €12-13 more per month (including VAT) for their electricity.

Whether you’ll be affected depends on your electricity provider and your tariff, while the exact amount you’ll pay will also depend on your electricity consumption.

Some providers already raised their rates in late 2022, with Energie Steiermark and Energie Graz announcing price increases of 7.9 percent each earlier this winter, meaning around €5 extra per month for their average customer. If your tariff is increasing in early 2022, your provider should have already contacted you.

And rent costs could go up too

There are two reasons for this. If you live in an old building, your rent is likely regulated by Austria’s tenancy laws, and these base figures are typically adjusted every two years to account for inflation. Last year, this change was postponed due to the Covid-19 crisis, but because inflation was especially high, that could mean an increase of around six percent if it goes ahead this spring as planned.

Newer buildings are less tightly regulated, but many landlords have a clause in the contract saying rent can be increased if the consumer price index changes by more than a certain percentage (usually between 2 and 5 percent). Again, because of high inflation, this could be the case this year, but we won’t know until the index is released in January 2022.

More international trains from Vienna

Here’s a positive change. Starting from June 2022, the Vienna-Berlin Nightjet will be extended so that it starts out in Graz, and Graz will also get overnight links to Warsaw with the EuroNight train. Two overnight routes to Romania are planned, one from Vienna to Cluj-Napoca and one linking Vienna with Bucharest, via Timişoara.

International daytime journeys are also being expanded. The Railjet route that currently links Vienna, Innsbruck and Bregenz will be extended to Frankfurt. And new daytime trains linking Graz with Budapest are also in the works, according to ÖBB. The timetables for the routes starting in 2022 are not yet completed, so it’s not yet possible to say when departures will be.

TV licence fees rise

TV licence fees are set to increase in Austria, with the future fee to cost between €22 and €28 per month depending on where you live in the country. The new prices are set to come into effect from March 1st, 2022 at the earliest.

In Vienna and Lower Austria, the current monthly fee is €26.33, made up of €7.40 fees and VAT plus the €18.59 programming fee. That’s going to rise to €27.85, the second highest figure nationwide.

In Styria, total monthly fees will rise from €26.73 to €28.11; in Salzburg, from €25.63 to €27.01; in Burgenland from €23.73 to €25.11; in Upper Austria from €20.93 to €22.31; in Carinthia from €26.03 to €27.41; in Tyrol from €24.63 to €26.01; and in Voralberg from €20.93 to €22.31.

New SMS emergency alert system

Austria’s authorities will be able to update you via text message in the event of emergencies or crises. This is set to come into effect during 2022, although the exact timing and details are currently unclear.

What we know so far: text alerts will be free for recipients and will be sent by relevant national authorities in the event of an unfolding crisis or disaster; residents won’t need to download an app or complete any registration to receive the alerts; and any mobile phone connected to a network will be sufficient, with no need for a smartphone. 

Similar systems are already in place in Greece, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Romania, as well as further afield in Japan, Israel and the USA.

Travel in and out of the EU changes for non-EU citizens

There’s a change coming up for travel in and out of the European Union that non-EU citizens need to be aware of. It affects people who do not live permanently in an EU country or have a visa for an EU country, for example tourists, second-home owners, those on family visits or doing short-term work.

Citizens of many non-EU countries can currently spend up to 90 days in every 180 in the EU or Schengen zone without needing a visa – the so-called ’90 day rule’. From 2022 this will change – people are still entitled to spend up to 90 days in every 180, but travellers will have to fill out an online application before they travel. O

Once issued, the authorisation lasts for three years, so frequent travellers do not need to complete a new application every time but it must be renewed every three years. Each application costs €7, but is free for under 18s and over 70s. It is expected to be introduced at some point in 2022.

Some Britons lose right to remain in Austria under EU law

British citizens who were resident in Austria before December 31st, 2020 under EU freedom of movement will not be able to continue living in the country after December 31st, 2021 if they have not secured right of residence.

In most cases, this means applying for an Article 50 card (post-Brexit residence permit) before the end of 2021, or otherwise securing the right to reside in Austria. Brits who hold another EU citizenship do not need the Article 50 card for example, but may wish to apply as the exact rights granted are slightly different.

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WHAT CHANGES IN AUSTRIA

Everything that changes in Austria in May 2022

From the return of the oral Matura exam to pool season, here are some of the most important changes you need to be aware of in Austria in May.

Everything that changes in Austria in May 2022

May Day

Austria will celebrate International Workers’ Day on May 1st.

But Tag der Arbeit or Der Erste Mai, as the day is known in German, won’t result in a day off work for most people because it falls on a Sunday this year. Schade. 

Oral exams return for the Matura

The spoken part of Austria’s Matura exam will return for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Matura, officially called Reifeprufung, is a compulsory exam for secondary school leavers in Austria. It is a prerequisite for higher education such as universities, academies, technical universities and colleges.

The exam consists of written and oral exams (Mündliche Prüfungen), but in 2020 and 2021, the oral part was cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions.

However, the return of the spoken exams is causing protests among Austrian students who say their high school years were hurt by the pandemic and they shouldn’t have to take oral examinations.

READ ALSO: What is Austria’s Matura exam, and why do some want it abolished?

The outdoor pool season is back

Austria’s public outdoor pools are back in business, and residents will be able to enjoy the sun and swim around as of May 2nd. In addition, for the first time in two years, the Bäder visitors won’t have to follow any coronavirus restrictions.

In other years, access to the pools has been restricted, with the vaccination requirements, people had to wear masks, and some Austrian public pools were even closed during the worst pandemic months.

In the capital Vienna, people will have the opportunity to visit some new and improved areas in some of the city’s public pools. So, time to bring the swimming gear up from the Keller.

READ ALSO: Six of the best things to do in spring in Vienna

Austria to reevaluate the Covid-19 vaccination mandate

The country’s vaccination committee is meeting again this May to report back to the government on the mandatory vaccination law.

The controversial regulation mandating a Covid-19 vaccine to all adult residents was suspended in March, just days before a new state was set to start, one that would have unvaccinated people receive fines at random checks.

The suspension came just as support for the law dwindled; other countries failed to institute similar measures. The official reason for halting the action was that the “burden on fundamental rights” was no longer necessary as the omicron wave of the coronavirus resulted in fewer severe cases.

That will be discussed again as the country faces the possibility of a new Covid wave in autumn, just as the immunisation brought by vaccines or infection goes down.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are Austria’s plans to bring back the vaccine mandate?

Two holidays await Austrians… sort of

While there may be no May Day holiday, there are a couple of breaks coming up. 

On Thursday, May 26th, the country will have an official holiday that celebrates Jesus’ ascent into heaven, the aptly named Christi Himmelfahrt.

Of course, not every Christian holiday is an official day off in Austria (i.e. Good Friday), but prepare to do your grocery shopping ahead because most stores and supermarkets will be closed on May 26th.

READ ALSO: Why everything in Austria is closed on Sundays and holidays – and what to do instead

Final days to apply for some hardship funds, and more money for pensioners

Although most pandemic support for art and culture finished at the end of March 2022, it is still possible for people to make applications for hardship funds for artists until May 2nd.

The State Secretary announced that 155.9 million euros had been paid out through the bridging fund for artists alone, enabling 10,005 people to be supported. Only 3.6 per cent of the applications made were rejected, broadcaster ORF reports.

After payroll and income tax changes, pensioners should receive more money from May, Heute reported.

In May, it is also expected that the federal government will introduce several measures to ease the increasing cost of living, including one-off bonuses and tax breaks.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why are fuel prices increasing faster in Austria than elsewhere in the EU?

Grande news for Tyroleans as first Starbucks opens in the state

After 20 years in Austria, the major US coffee chain Starbucks is opening up a store in the country’s West, more precisely in Tirol, by the end of May.

As a country with a strong coffee-drinking tradition and great pride in its old and classic coffee houses, Austria does not have many large chain stores.

The history of Starbucks in Austria is particularly controversial: the first shop that the mammoth brand opened, in the prestigious Kärtnerstrasse in Vienna, closed on short notice in 2015.

The Seattle-based company is only present in Vienna and Salzburg. It will now brew up in Innsbruck, where its 19th Austrian store will be inaugurated. When it first came to Austria in 2001, it had promised 60 coffee houses would be set up in the country within five years.

READ ALSO: Caffeine, war and Freud: A history of Vienna’s iconic coffee houses

ÖVP party congress to take place

The ÖVP-tag, when chancellor Karl Nehammer will be officially appointed as the party leader, will take place on May 14th.

The event this year is particularly relevant as it will be the first public political appearance of former chancellor Sebastian Kurz since his resignation and retirement from politics after allegations of corruption in 2021.

On his social media, Kurz thanked the party for the invitation and confirmed his presence at the event but denied all speculation that he was considering a return to public life. “I can rule this out 100 per cent. My future is in the private sector”, he said.

READ ALSO: What’s going on with Austrian politics?

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