What to do when you arrive as a US teaching assistant in Austria
You have done a lot to get to this point, and you’ve finally arrived in the country you will call home for the next nine months. But what exactly should you do first? Below you’ll find action items that should be dealt with immediately after you arrive to teach English in Austria.
Registering with the local authorities
When moving to Austria, it is important to remember that registering with the authorities and organizing your residency permit are two separate issues handled by separate authorities. You will be in contact with the authorities responsible for your residency permit before you arrive in order to set up an appointment to pick up your permit. Additionally, within three days of arriving in Austria, by law you (and any dependents traveling with you) are required to register with the registration authorities.
In Vienna, you register with the Magistratisches Bezirksamt. Elsewhere in Austria, you register with the local Magistrat or Gemeindeamt. In order to register, you will need to bring the following documents:
Meldezettel registration form, including landlord/landlady’s signature
Your passport (and any supporting documents, if applicable)
Complete the Meldezettel form and have the person renting you your accommodations sign it in the field provided in the bottom left-hand corner of the form.
Bring your passport and any relevant documents (e.g. marriage license if your spouse has moved to Austria with you) to the registration office with you. The authorities will record your personal data, passport number, and current and home addresses and then assign you a 12-digit registration number (Zentraler Melderegister-Zahl, or ZMR-Zahl), which you can use in other official business to identify yourself. Be sure that you register your accommodation in Austria as your Hauptwohnsitz (primary residence) rather than as your Nebenwohnsitz (secondary residence).
Please also note that your registration number will be used to ascertain if you have a valid residency permit and whether a valid permit has expired. Furthermore, the Meldezettel is an important document for many other identification purposes, so it is a good idea to make a physical copy of the document as well as a digital copy you can access on the go.
When your time teaching English in Austria draws to a close, please remember to de-register with the authorities. You may de-register your residence three days before you depart from Austria or ask a trusted individual to de-register for you within three days after your departure.
We recommend that you arrive in Austria before the weeklong orientation in order to finalize your living arrangements. This is particularly true in smaller parts of Austria, where it may be difficult to find suitable accommodations online. In such instances, we suggest looking for options online and then arriving early in September to scout out the various locations in person. Also be sure to contact current teaching assistants in your city and the mentor teachers at your school(s).
Finalizing your residency permit
The immigration authorities will ask to see your Meldezettel, so obtain one from the relevant authorities before going to pick up your residency permit. When you pick up your residency permit, the immigration authorities will ask for your Meldezettel, your passport, and any remaining fees if you did not pay in full when you submitted your residency permit application to the Austrian consulate in the US. The authorities will also take your fingerprints. In some cases, you will receive your permit immediately after submitting your fingerprints. In others, you will have to return to the office about ten days later to pick up your permit. Be sure to factor in the possibility of a ten-day wait.
Opening a bank account
One of the first things you should do after arriving is open an Austrian bank account into which the school board can deposit your monthly salary. Be sure that you open a Gehaltskonto or Girokonto, as your employer will otherwise not be able to direct-deposit your paycheck. When you open your account, inform the bank that your employer is the Landesschulrat for your province (or the Stadtschulrat in Vienna).
Once your account has been opened, give your account details to your school so that you can be paid on time. While teaching English in Austrian schools, you’ll earn a monthly gross salary of around €1,490. After deductions for taxes and health insurance, you’ll see a net amount of approximately €1,200 deposited into your bank account each month.
During your time as an English teaching assistant in Austria, you will have insurance provided to you as an employee of your school board. Coverage begins on the first day of your assignment. Officially, your coverage ends on the last day, but Austrian law stipulates a six-week grace period after the end of your employment contract, meaning you will be covered until July 12.
As an employee of the school board, your health and accident insurance will be with BVA, the Versicherungsanstalt öffentlich Bediensteter. For detailed information about the conditions and extent of coverage, please consult the BVA website or call their hotline at 05 04 05.
You’ll receive your electronic insurance card, or e-card, approximately one month after you start your teaching assistant job. Austria’s e-cards include your Sozialversicherungsnummer (social security number), which doctors can use to verify your coverage any time you need to seek treatment or consultation.
Coverage includes treatment for sickness or physical injuries, basic dental work, pregnancy, various medications, therapy and lab work prescribed by your doctor, hospitalization, etc., and numerous medical practitioners and hospitals all around Austria have contracts with the BVA that further simplify the process of obtaining care. Your healthcare providers will bill BVA directly, and BVA will in turn charge you 20% of the total for out-patient treatment; the entirety of in-patient treatment (hospitalization) is covered.
During your time teaching English in Austria, your insurance will also cover most medication you may need. You will be required to pay a prescription fee (Rezeptgebühr) of €4.90 for each medication your doctor prescribes you. If you need additional medication, contact the physician who prescribed the medication and ask them to issue you a new prescription. Please be aware that birth control medication is not covered by your insurance policy. If you plan to take birth control, be prepared to pay about €10-20 each month.
Austrian health insurance is valid in EU countries as well as in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Iceland. If you plan on vacationing outside of Austria, request an Urlaubskrankenschein (also called an Auslandsbetreuungsschein) just in case you become ill while you’re away. Check that your e-card has Europäische Krankenversicherungskarte written on the back (above the signature) and bring your e-card with you while traveling.
Please note that your Austrian insurance is not valid in the United States. If you visit the US during your time as a teaching assistant in Austria, be sure to secure suitable insurance coverage for the duration of your stay. If traveling outside of the European Union, enquire whether there are insurance reciprocity agreements between Austria and the country or countries you plan to visit. The BVA currently has bilateral agreements with Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Turkey.
If you are bringing your children or spouse with you while you teach English in Austria, be aware that children are insured free of charge on their parent’s insurance. Spouses may be insured free of charge if they are exclusively engaged in childcare. Otherwise, the premium you pay to insure your spouse is 3.4% of the primary insurance holder’s gross salary.
If you fall ill and are unable to work, immediately call your school(s) to inform them that you will not be able to go to work. You will need to get a note from your doctor (Krankenstandsmeldung) stating that you are ill / unable to work and forward it to the BVA. Please ask your school(s) if you are required to submit confirmation from your doctor to them. Whether or not you need to do so will largely depend on the duration of your illness.
If you have been assigned to teach English in Austrian schools in two different cities, you may be eligible to receive reimbursement for the cost of transportation between the two schools. The costs are generally reimbursed in the form of a raise in your monthly salary equivalent to the cost of public transportation between the two cities. That being said, this is handled differently in the various provinces, so contact your mentor teacher, the school administrators, or the provincial school board for more information.
Many former US English teaching assistants in Austria recommend purchasing a train discount card (Vorteilskarte), which are issued by the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) and which you can apply for at Austrian train stations. To apply, you will need to bring an ID and a passport-sized photo with you. The card is valid for one year and reduces the costs of your train tickets by up to 50%. You will pay €19.90 if you are under 26; otherwise, expect the card to cost €66.
You can also use your Vorteilskarte to get a 25% discount on travel in most European countries—sometimes a seat will cost as little as €29. For more information on the Vorteilskarte and the Austrian Federal Railways, please consult the ÖBB website.
If you live in a city with public transportation (metro, trams, buses, etc.), consult their individual websites for information on monthly/annual tickets that will save you additional money.
You may want to contact the US Social Security Administration to see if it is possible to count your time teaching English in Austrian schools toward your US social security in terms of their calculations of your total time as a working citizen.
Tax returns: while you teach English in Austria, salary deductions will be made in accordance with Austrian tax law. However, given that taxes are deduced based on a yearly salary and you will only be working for a few months in each calendar year, you will pay more taxes than you actually owe. Therefore, you should file for a tax refund at the end of the year by obtaining the required forms from your local Finanzamt.
Salary statements: US teaching assistants in Austria receive a monthly salary statement, or Gehaltszettel, that shows their gross income and the various deductions that have been made. This information is generally also available on your bank statement.