Austria borders Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland and Liechtenstein – all countries part of the Schengen Agreement. Austria has a population of over 8 million and the country’s official language is German.
Roughly 75% of the Austrian landscape is covered by the Alps, at an average altitude of over 300 meters – a fact that provides favourable conditions for winter sports. In the north of Austria lies the Danube river valley, where most of the country’s agriculture is developed.
Since it joined the European Union in 1995 (adopting the Euro as its official currency), the national economy has strengthened every year. Nowadays, Austria is known for having a high standard of living; the country’s Development Index (HDI) is the 25th in the world ranking. Aside from its well-developed industrial sector (with Red Bull and Woldford as examples), tourism is another fundamental segment of the local economy: Vienna and the various ski resorts attract millions of visitors every year.
Formerly the centre of the Habsburg-Austrian Austro-Hungarian Empire, Austria bequeathed the world with the musicality in Strauss’s waltzes and the genius of Mozart. Austria’s capital, Vienna, with nearly 2 million inhabitants, attracts visitors from Europe and abroad for its vibrant cultural scene.
Many of the non-EU travellers come to Austria for the mountains and lakes of the Salzkammergut district and for romantic boat rides on the Danube. Meanwhile, European citizens enjoy visiting the Kunsthistorisches Museum (considered one of the best museums in the world) and the graceful Schonbrunn Palace.
After joining the Schengen Area over a decade ago, Austria has been consolidated a position on the top 10 of most visited countries in Europe. Besides amazing culture and landscapes, the country is also a safe and pleasant place to travel to. With modern trains, clean roads, remarkable white wines and friendly people, this little nation offsets the distance from the sea with its intriguing character.
In 1995, Austria became a member of the European Union and in 2007, it joined the Schengen Area. Due to these agreements, it nowadays holds strong political and economic ties with other 25 Schengen Member States – most of which are also EU members. This open-border policy also means EU citizens can travel to Austria without needing to apply for a visa.
Regarding non-EU passport holders (Americans included), since a great number of visitors come to Austria overland from one of its EU neighbours, many travellers weren’t required to have their documents checked. However, after the 2015 immigration crisis in Europe, Austria re-established the control of its external borders with other Schengen Countries in 2016.
As one of the strongest supporter of a new immigration policy, the Austrian government has backed up the introduction of the ETIAS as of 2021. This authorization system will allow Austrian authorities to access to information of non-EU travellers prior to their arrival in the country. In case the visitor enters Austria from a different Schengen Country, he/she will nonetheless have to bear a valid ETIAS. This will assure Austrian authorities the given traveller has been “checked” and presents no threat to public health or safety.
Once implemented, the ETIAS will grant visitors an authorization to travel up to 3 months (in every 180-day-period) in Austria, being free to move around the Schengen Area. However, citizens of countries which until 2021 do not enjoy a visa-waiver policy will have to contact the Austrian consulate in their home country before travelling.