The Aliens Employment Act (AuslBG) states that an employer can obtain an employment permit for an asylum seeker 3 months after the asylum application is admitted to the regular procedure, provided that no final decision in the asylum procedure has been taken prior to that date.
The possibility of obtaining access to the labour market is restricted by a labour market test (Ersatzkraftverfahren), which requires proof that the respective vacancy cannot be filled by an Austrian citizen, a citizen of the EU or a legally residing third-country national with access to the labour market (long-time resident status holder, family member etc.).
Applications for an employment permit must be submitted by the employer to the regional Labour Market Service (AMS) office in the area of the district where the envisaged place of employment is located. Decisions are taken by the competent regional AMS office. In the procedure, representatives of the social partners have to be involved in a regional advisory board. The regional advisory board has to recommend such an employment permit unanimously. Appeals have to be made to the Federal State AMS office that must decide on appeals against decisions of the regional AMS office. There is no further right of appeal. The decision has to be made within 6 weeks; in case of appeal proceedings, the same time limit must be applied.
In addition, a 2004 ordinance introduced further restrictions to the access to the labour market by limiting employment to seasonal work either in tourism, agriculture or forestry. These seasonal jobs are limited by a yearly quota for each federal province and can only be issued for a maximum period of 6 months.
A further problem for asylum seekers working as seasonal workers is the regulation in the Basic Care Acts of the state and the federal provinces that requires a contribution to Basic Care, if asylum seekers have an income. In practice, there is only an allowance of €110 left to asylum seekers in most of the federal provinces, while the rest of the money earned contributes to the cost of reception. If they have been receiving an income for more than 3 months, Basic Care support is no longer provided. If the asylum seeker asks for readmission into Basic Care after they have finished the employment, cash contributions to the provision of Basic Care are demanded. In fact, it is assumed by the authorities that only about €550 (1.5 times the basic provision amount) per month have been spent by the asylum seeker on subsistence and accommodation during the period of employment. Income exceeding this amount is deducted from the allowance received under Basic Care from that time onwards until repaid.
Moreover, asylum seekers are not registered at the Public Employment Service as unemployed persons. Therefore they are not entitled to vocational trainings provided or financed by the Public Employment Service. As they are not registered as persons searching for work at the Public Employment Service, access to the labour market largely depends on their own initiative and pro-activity in job hunting. Their lack of resources can also be an additional obstacle in securing in job; e.g. when it comes to travel costs for job interviews.
Until October 2018, asylum seekers below the age of 25 had the right to get a work permit for an apprenticeship in shortage occupations. However, the ministerial decrees of 2012 and 2013 were revoked, and asylum seekers below the age of 25 are not offered this possibility anymore. Those who are still apprentices are allowed to continue working as long as they stay in Austria. In Upper Austria, where a particularly large number of young asylum-seekers are apprentices, a broad protest has been formed against this “disintegration policy”.
The Federal Administrative Court found that restricting access to the labor market is contrary to Article 15(2) of the recast Reception Conditions Directive and concluded that asylum seekers should have effective access to the labor market.  They may also be self-employed under the general conditions as soon as they are registered as asylum seekers.
Since 1 April 2018, asylum seekers admitted to the regular procedure for 3 months or more can also be employed through service vouchers in private households (e.g. for gardening, cleaning or child care etc.). Vouchers can be bought at the post office or online. However, in practice, the necessary registration is complicated and this possibility is not very known nor used. The Ministry of Social Affairs decided in 2018 that asylum seekers have no longer access to vocational training. Since then, the possibility of working through vouchers is one of the only possibilities to work for asylum seekers.
Asylum seekers can carry out non-profit activities and receive an acknowledgment of their contributions. The amount of this remuneration was debated throughout 2018 and 2019. The Ministry of Interior lowered the maximum remuneration to €1,50 by way of decree. This decree was revoked by the interim government in May 2019, thus re-instating the former regulation which foresees that asylum seekers are allowed to earn up to €110 per month. These non-profit jobs include administrative and/or office assistance, translation services, support for parks and sports facilities, playgrounds, elderly care, assistance in nursery schools, school attendance services, assistance in animal shelters, or support for minor resettlements in the municipality. Since April 2018, the Minister of Interior has the power to regulate which NGOs will be able to enlist asylum seekers on a voluntary basis for charitable activities and to set the maximum amount for such work. The minimum fee is regulated for each sector e.g. €11.75 an hour for gardening. The monthly income for this kind of employment is limited to €600.
On 25 January 2017, the Ministry of Social Affairs submitted a decree to the Labour Market Service (AMS). The Decree clarifies that:
- Asylum seekers are allowed to complete practical experience and internships within the framework of their training in vocational schools or secondary schools;
- Adult asylum seekers are also allowed to do unpaid voluntary work for certain companies. An asylum seeker may take 3 months in a one-year period with several companies.
Companies have to register asylum seekers for internships at the AMS no later than 14 days before the start of the internship. Interns are also entitled to reasonable remuneration.
By the end of 2018, 1,249 asylum seekers had a valid work permit, out of which 1,070 were apprentices and, during that same year, 1,615 additional work permit have been issued to asylum seekers, out of which 757 concerned apprentices. 2019 was marked by a drastic decrease in the number of apprentices given that the Ministerial decrees foreseeing the access to vocational training for asylum applicants aged below 25 years old were revoked in 2018. As a result, only 943 work permits have been issued during the year, out of which only 12 were issued to apprentices. In these special cases, the asylum applicants had challenged the decisions in front of the Labour Market Service Agency, arguing that denying access to labour market infringes their rights guaranteed under the Recast Reception Directive. The Constitutional Court announced on 1 March 2021 that it will examine whether the ministerial decrees are infringing the constitutional rights of the asylum seekers. By the end of 2019, only 996 asylum applicants had valid working permits, out of which 741 were apprentices and 110 concerned seasonal work. For most applicants who could still start an apprenticeship the formation ends in 2021. By the end of 2020, 576 applicants had valid working permits, out of which 397 were apprentices.
 Article 4(1) AuslBG.
 Article 20(1) and (3) AuslBG.
 Ordinance GZ 435.006/6-II/7/2004,11 May 2004.
 In Tyrol, asylum seekers may earn €240 per month without contribution to the cost of basic care.
 BVwG, Decision, No W209 2184750-1, 25 June 2018.
 Article 7(3a) GVG-B.
 Ministry of Labour, Anzeigebestätigungen gem. § 3 Abs. 5 AuslBG für Ferial- und Berufspraktika und Volontariate von AsylwerberInnen, 25 January 2017, available in German at: http://bit.ly/2oTXTjU.
 Information provided by the Labour Market Service (AMS) on February 2019.