Welfare benefits and social security in Austria


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 Who is eligible fo social welfare and what kind of social welfare is provided?

The Austrian welfare state benefits all citizens as it provides targeted support in specific situations (e.g. sickness, unemployment, family, retirement, invalidity, surviving dependants). Social welfare rights include financial or other aid provided by the government. In Austria, rights for welfare benefits and social security are connected to factors such as employment, nationality (Austrian, EU; EEA; non EU-citizens), the status of residence, and length of stay in Austria.

  • Persons living in Austria who have a permanent residence permit are treated as Austrians when accessing social assistance.
  • People with a temporary residence permit have access to social security and a majority of the welfare rights.
  • Asylum seekers don’t have access to regular social welfare benefits and social security. Instead they are covered by primary care (German: Grundversorgung) including adequate housing, food, health insurance and pocket money.
  • People in irregular status cannot use any economic welfare benefits such as health insurance, however emergency and primary medical treatment cannot be refused.

The welfare benefits regard social, health or work needs.

Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?

If you lose your job in Austria you can apply for unemployment benefits. The conditions are that you reside in Austria, have a minimum insurance record, be basically capable of working and be willing to work in a reasonable suitable job. First time claimants need at least 52 weeks of employment within a reference period of 24 months prior to asserting claim. Young adults under the age of 25 need a minimum of 26 weeks. Asylum seekers don`t have access to the job market apart from some exemptions. Therefore they are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

What can I do if I have no income or if my income is too low for a living?

You may claim means tested minimum incomebedarfsorientierte Mindestsicherung) if you have no income or a low income below the minimum standard of 837,76 € per person or 628,32 € per person for couples. If you receive means tested minimum income you are also registered with the public health insurance. Your own income from work or other benefits as well as your assets are included into the means test. More information about means tested minimum income.

Can I bring my family to Austria?

If you have asylum status in Austria (granted protection) you can bring your family to Austria. For further information see chapter 2.3  What is resettlement – Family reunification

What welfare benefits are there for my family?

Your family members in Austria have the right to welfare benefits and social security just as you. If your family members don’t have any other public health insurance and if they have their main residence in Austria they can be coinsured (mitversichert) free of charge. You can check here if it’s possible to coinsure your family: German information; English information.

You and your family can benefit from economic assistance for families such as child benefit, child tax credit or child-raising allowance. All families are entitled to child benefit, regardless of income. The amount of child benefit is determined by the number and age of the children. For one child under 3 years e.g. it is currently 110,18 € per month. The child tax credit of 58,4 € per child per month is paid together with child benefit. In order to receive child-raising allowance at the full rate for the entire duration, the ten (free) examinations specified on the maternity card (Mutter-Kind-Pass) (five before and five after the child’s birth) must be carried out within the specified periods and sent in to health inusrance. 

What welfare benefits are there for people with disabilities?

There are different forms of disability. Some people are physically disabled. For example they are blind, deaf or unable to walk and need a wheelchair. Other people are mentally disabled. Disabilities can be innate or a result of an accident or a disease.

People with disabilities are supported in many ways in Austria so they can participate in society equally:

  • Increased protection against redundancy/dismissal

Employers have to obtain the agreement of the Disabled Persons Committee before they can make a person redundant.

  • Occupational subsidies

The range of offers extends from financial benefits via technical working aids to special training courses.

  • Additional holidays

This is permitted insofar as it is provided for in the respective collective agreement, employment regulations or company agreement.

  • Income tax allowance

Tax breaks can be applied for at the local tax office from a degree of disability of 25%.

The three best- known organizations that support physically or mentally disabled persons are Caritas (www.caritas.at), Diakonie (www.diakonie.at) and Lebenshilfe (www.lebenshilfe.at).  Apart from this there are other organizations operating on a regional level.


How can I obtain welfare benefits as an asylum seeker?

As an asylum seeker you need to register yourself in order to get primary care (German: Grundversorung) including adequate housing, food, health insurance and pocket money. You can register as an asylum seeker at any police department or police officer.


How can I obtain welfare benefits if I have granted protection?

  • After you received granted protection you can stay in primary care for 4 more months.


  • Social Insurance

Afterwards you can receive social insurance which provides health, accident and pension insurance. Social insurance in Austria is a legal obligation. With granted protection you are allowed to work in Austria. It is your employers’ obligation to sign you up for social insurance. As a self-employed worker you have to sign up yourself.


  • Means Tested Minimum Income

As long as you are not having any income, you are able to apply for means tested minimum income. Anybody who is getting means tested minimum income is automatically health insured and will receive an insurance card (e-card). In order to prove your entitlement to means tested minimum income, you have to submit a proof of income and statements of assets to the district administrative authority responsible for the place of your permanent residence. Your application must be accompanied by copies of the following documents for each person living in your household:

  • Proof of identity (photo ID)
  • Personal documents (birth certificates, certificates of citizenship or residence permits/registration certificates or letters of recognition, marriage certificate, legally binding divorce decree, compromise agreement)
  • Recent income statements (pay certificate, notification of pension starting, decision letters concerning benefits, alimony and maintenance payments, letters from the Public Employment Service Austria (AMS) and the appointments card, sickness benefit, child-raising allowance, other income)
  • Evidence of rent payment (tenancy agreement, proof of amount of current rent, service charges, rent and housing benefit decision letters)
  • Evidence of benefits claimed (e.g. AMS benefits, applications for pension, housing benefit, housing benefit granted by the tax office or maintenance, other applications for entitlement to an income)
  • Evidence of assets (e.g. car, savings, building loan contracts, life insurance, pension provision, property and land etc.)
  • Other Welfare Benefits

For welfare benefits such as child benefit or unemployment benefit you need to apply at the relevant authority. The information booklet “Your social security rights in Austria” published by the European Comission gives more detailed information about different welfare benefits including information about how and where to apply and which documents are needed for application.


What does the social insurance system in Austria cover for?

The social insurance in Austria provides health, pension and work accident insurance cover.

How is the social insurance system in Austria organized?

Everyone who lives in Austria is obligated to have a social insurance. It is primarily financed by employers’ and employees’ contributions. A total of 22 social insurance institutions provide health, pension and work accident insurance cover. They are organized in an umbrella organization, the Federation of Austrian Social Insurance Institutions (Hauptverband der österreichischen Sozialversicherungsträger). Within the public insurance system in Austria, the insurance providers are organized along territories and professional branches. As a consequence, you don´t choose your public insurer yourself but location and profession are decisive for your insurance provider.

On the basis of the Austrian insurance law, legally resident foreign citizens are treated equally to Austrian citizens and benefit from national insurance and assistance. The social welfare system is an important integration tool as it offers protection against risks such as unemployment, accidents on the job, illness and invalidity, insurance services for maternity and paternity, family insurance services and pension.

How is the health insurance in Austria organized?

Basic health insurance by law as part of the social insurance is a legal obligation in Austria. In other words, in case of sickness, accident at work or unemployment the social insurance system is taking over the costs of treatment, rehabilitation and for medicine.

Within the public insurance system in Austria, the health insurance providers are organized along territories and professional branches. As a consequence, the workers/employees don´t choose their public insurer themselves but location and profession of the employer are decisive for the health insurance providers. Most of the public insurance providers offer schemes for non-/unemployed persons in different life-phases (students, retired persons, family members etc.) so that a basic health service is accessible for all.

If you are an asylum seeker you are automatically health insured by applying for asylum.

If you have granted protection or are a temporary residence holder you get a valid working permit. It is your employers’ obligation to sign you up for health insurance. As a self-employed worker you have to sign up yourself. As long as you are not having any income, you are able to apply for means tested minimum income (German: bedarfsorientierte Mindestsicherung).  Anybody who is getting means tested minimum income is automatically health insured and will receive an insurance card (e-card).

For further information about health care see chapter 2.


What does the pension insurance cover?

In Austria, the statutory pension insurance scheme comprises the following:

  • Benefits for old-age provision (old-age pensions);
  • Benefits on grounds of reduced capacity for work (invalidity pensions);
  • Benefits for family members upon death of the insuree (survivors’ pensions.)

For the old age pension you need to fulfil the same requirements as Austrian citizens: statuary requirement age (currently 60 years for woman and 65 years for men) and a minimum of 180 insurance or contributory months. The amount of pension benefits depends on the contributory income, the number of insurance months accrued and the age of retirement.


What can I do as an unregistered person in case of an emergency?

If you are staying in Austria without authorization you don’t have any access to social security or welfare benefits.  However emergency and primary medical treatment cannot be refused. The access to health facilities does not involve any kind of reporting.  Persons without health insurance (e.g. asylum seekers who don’t register themselves as asylum applicants) can receive medical services by the NGO-run health project AMBER MED (http://www.amber-med.at/en) with doctors providing treatment on a voluntary basis.


3.6 Sources, further information & links

The current system of Austrian social services has adapted very little to the influx of immigrants and their families. Considering that the procedures to access these services can be complicated and confusing for foreigners it would be useful to provide intercultural mediators which is rarely the case. However, you can contact the institutions Caritas or Diakonie to guide you during administrative procedures and make your contact with the public administration easier.

Websites that give more information about social benefits and social security which also served as sources for the information above:


3.7 Q&A

  1. What do welfare benefits and social security cover?

Social security covers public pension, health insurance and work accident insurance.

Welfare benefits cover social, health and work needs. For more information click here.

  1. What are the basic requirements to access the welfare benefits and social security?

You need to have granted protection in Austria. If you are still waiting for positive asylum your basic needs are covered by primary care (German: Grundversorgung).

  1. Do legally resident foreign citizens have equal rights as Austrian citizens when it comes to access to welfare benefits and social security?

Yes, they have equal rights in most of the cases. However there are exceptions, e.g. foreign residents without a permanent residence permit are not eligible for public housing.

  1. Do family members of asylum seekers have the same rights to social benefits as them?

Asylum seekers are covered by primary care including adequate housing, food, health care and pocket money. This is the same for every asylum seeker in Austria. If an asylum seeker gets a residence status such as granted protection or subsidiary protection, family members will receive the same status. If your family members are not yet in Austria you need to apply for family reunification. For further information look at the website provided by the Austrian  Red Cross.

5.Can persons with disabilities access welfare benefits?

Yes, they can.

6.Does a person with irregular status have the right to welfare benefits?

No, only the right to emergency and primary medical treatment.