School attendance is mandatory for all children living permanently in Austria until they have finished 9 classes, which are usually completed at the age of 15. Asylum seeking children attend primary and secondary school after their asylum application has been admitted to the regular procedure. As long as they reside in the initial reception centre of the state, school attendance in public schools is not provided, however. Preparatory classes are usually set up where many children have a poor knowledge of the German language. Schools often register pupils without sufficient knowledge of the German language as extraordinary pupils for a maximum period of 12 months.
Access to education for asylum seekers older than 15 may become difficult, however, as schooling is not compulsory after the age of 15 for asylum seekers. Moreover, children who did not attend the mandatory school years in Austria have difficulties in continuing their education. For those unaccompanied children, who have not successfully finished the last mandatory school year, special courses are available free of charge. For children accompanied by their family, this possibility is often not available for free.
The Aliens Employment Act restricts access to vocational training, because the necessary work permits can only be issued for seasonal work. In July 2012, however, exceptions were introduced for asylum seeking children up to the age of 18. A decree of the Ministry of Social Affairs allowed for children to obtain a work permit as apprentices in professions where there is a shortage of workers. Yet this measure proved to be insufficient in ensuring vocational training, as only 18 children have received such a permit since July 2012. A further decree of the Ministry of Social Affairs of March 2013 increased the maximum age for benefitting from the exceptions to vocational training restrictions from 18 to 25. However, in 2018, the possibility for asylum seekers to complete an apprenticeship in a profession with a shortage of apprentices has been deleted.
According to a law that entered into force on 1 August 2017, young people under the age of 18 who have completed the 9-year schooling and who are permanent residents in Austria are obliged to pursue education or training. However, this law is not applied to asylum seekers, despite criticism from NGOs and the Chamber of Employment for failing to address a problematic aspect of integration and education policy. In October 2019, the Federal Youth Association (Bundesjugendvertretung) called for the inclusion of underaged asylum seekers as target group of the law. Nevertheless, they can benefit from a wide range of language and literacy courses. In Vienna, the educational hub arranges course places for literacy courses, German courses, and basic education. There are also special courses available for women and mothers. At a few high schools transitional courses are organised in order to prepare for regular classes. Free language courses are further offered in refugee homes and also by NGOs. However, these courses are not always sufficient in terms of time and quality. Language courses are only accessible to asylum seekers when the government has sufficient financial resources.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, schools were closed for long time periods in 2020. Home schooling was generally organised in a rather chaotic way (especially during the first months) and NGOs reported that children asylum seekers had problems having access to home-schooling due to the lack of technical equipment. No considerable effort of the Ministry of Integration was conducted to address these issues.
 Salzburger Nachrichten, Ende der Lehre für Asylbewerber fix – Betroffene dürfen begonnene Lehre abschließen, 27 August 2018; available in German at: https://bit.ly/2TOA3Ev.