I repeatedly got questions regarding how the Covid 19-related restrictions of public life affected the situation for expats and people planning on moving to Austria. Here is an FAQ (based on information available as of 6 May 2020 but updated regularly); the focus lies on the situation in Vienna):
Question 1: Is MA 35 (the immigration authority of Vienna) operating?
Answer: Yes, they are deaing with cases. However, due to public health and safety concerns, they do not take in person appointments at the moment. You also cannot go there to file your residence permit applications/renewals with a case worker. Instead, they ask that any queries should be logged with them via telephone +43 1 4000-35021, postal services or email (email@example.com).
Once operations are restored to normal (rumored to slowly start from 15 May 2020), MA 35 can be expected to give out appointments to applicants to follow up on their pending cases, or even for new applicants to submit their documents.
For those who plan on filing new applications with the MA 35 branch in 1200 Vienna, Dresdnerstraße 93 (competent for 3rd country nationals) please find their appointment booking system here.
For those who plan on filing new applications with the MA 35 branch in 1120 Vienna, Arndtstraße 67, Stiege 1, 1. Stock (competent for EU/EEA citizens) please find their appointment booking system here.
Question 2: I have filed an application for a permit and it was granted. Shall I go and pick it up in person?
Answer: No, as MA 35 does not allow in person visits at the moment, your permit will be sent to you via postal services. You could try and reach out to the case worker handling your application to change the shipping address, in case you are staying at a place other than the address stated in your application package.
Question 3: If I cannot go to MA 35 myself, do they still expect me to submit original documents in my application?
Answer: No, MA 35 has explained that for the time being , it will be sufficient to submit copies of your personal documents when you file your application/renewal. It may however be necessary that you will be invited to come by and present the originals at a later date once MA 35 resumes normal operations. If you cannot obtain original documents (eg you cannot go back to your home country and obtain an original of your birth certificate), you must inform MA 35 of this circumstance and prove you did everything possible to get them.
Question 4: Will this situation affect the processing time of my application?
Answer: Yes, MA 35 explains that – while they are doing everything they can – the current situation may lead to longer processing and waiting periods.
Question 5: I have entered Austria on a visa on arrival/Schengen visa and filed my application for residence permit/student visa, etc. Now my visa is about to expire and my permit application is still pending (eg with MA 35). What can I do?
Answer: In this case, please reach out to the Austrian interior ministry (“Innenministerium”), (Tel +43 1 53126; further information on visa in German can be found here; please use Google Translate or DeepL if your German proficiency does not allow you to grasp the content). There are legal provisions that allow for an extension of your visa in case of extraordinary circumstances. Please take the steps on time to avoid further complications.
Question 6: I have entered Austria on a visa on arrival/Schengen visa and filed my application for residence permit/student visa, etc. Now my visa has run out, I was not able to leave Austria on time due to travel restrictions and my permit application is still pending with MA 35. What can I do?
Answer: In this case, MA 35 advises that you contact them as soon as possible. You will have to explain the reasons why were not able to leave Austria/the Schengen area on time. Please note that if you did not leave on time and a) did not contact MA 35 to explain yourself or b) you contacted MA 35 but your reasons were found unsatisfactory, your residence permit application may be denied.
Also, please note that sanctions may be imposed on foreigners for being in Austria without valid visa/residence permit. Again, there may be avenues to take where you can argue extraordinary circumstances that prevented you from leaving the country/Schengen area on time (e.g. not being able to travel due to Covid 19-related restrictions).
Question 7: I am already holding a residence permit for Austria but my renewal is due. How shall I proceed?
Answer: File for your renewal via postal services or email. You will be invited at a later date to bring by any original documents. Make sure that you file it before your “old” residence permit runs out. Otherwise you risk that your application is no longer treated as a “renewal” but a “first” application. While filing a timely renewal will extend your right to stay, work etc until the date of the decision, a “first” application will not give you this right and you should leave Austria, unless you can stay based eg on a Schengen visa.
Question 8: Is there official information on this issued by the Vienna authorities that I could refer to for updates?
Answer: Yes there is an official notice from MA 35 here (please use Google Translate or DeepL if your German proficiency does not allow you to grasp the content). The information contained in this FAQ was compiled taking the notice (as of 6 May 2020) into consideration.
Question 9: Most of the above refers to MA 35. What can I do if the authority handling my case is outside of Vienna?
Answer: While I have only found definitive notices from MA 35, the situation with other Austrian immigration authorities will likely be the same. Please contact them directly to discuss how to safeguard your interests.
Question 10: Can somebody help me with any of the steps above? Someone like a lawyer, maybe?
Answer: Yes, please feel free to reach out to any immigration lawyer in Austria. If you should consider working with me, I will gladly assist you with the steps mentioned above and act as your representative in any dealings with MA 35 or the other authorities. You can find my contact details here.
EDIT (2 June 2020): Updated the links to the appointment booking systems of the MA 35 branches in 1200 Vienna and 1120 Vienna.