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Living in Austria

Motoring/Driver's License

A U.S. driver's license alone is not sufficient to drive in Austria. The U.S. driver's license must be accompanied by an international driver's permit (obtainable in the U.S. from AAA) or by an official translation of the U.S. driver's license, which can be obtained at one of the Austrian automobile clubs (ÖAMTC or ARBÖ). This arrangement is only acceptable for the first six months of driving in Austria, after which all drivers must obtain an Austrian license.

Speed Limits

100 km/h on highways; 130 km/h on freeways (Autobahn); 50 km/h in residential areas between the signs marking the city limits, if not otherwise posted.

Driving on the Autobahn and Expressways (Vignette)

Austria requires all vehicles using the Autobahn to display a highway tax sticker Autobahn Vignette on the inside windshield of the vehicle. The sticker may be purchased at border crossings, gas stations in Austria, as well as small Tabak shops located in Austrian towns. Fines for failing to display a valid Autobahn vignette on the windshield of your car are usually around $200.00.

Since the 1st of January 1997, Austria's motorways and expressways (Autobahnen und Schnellstrassen), which formerly were free of toll, can be used only after paying a time-restricted toll called Vignette. This is a legal obligation, which everybody, Austrian citizens as well as foreigners, have to adhere to.

To inform all foreign visitors at the border crossings, the Austrian government has installed large information boards in three languages (German, English, and the language of the neighboring country). Inside Austria, signs are only in the German language.

Background: Austria has followed the Swiss example of a general toll on freeways (Autobahnen and Schnellstrassen), introduced by Switzerland in the 80s. Austria did not follow the French and Italian freeway-toll system where the toll has to be paid at toll stations directly on the motorways. The Vignette can be bought at all Austrian border crossings, post offices and all branch offices of the two Austrian automobile clubs ÖAMTC and ARBÖ. (There are also short-time Vignettes available). All sales outlets are indicated with the toll label symbol.

It is the responsibility of the customs authorities and police to ensure the compliance with the duty to possess tax labels on Austria's motorways and expressways. The police is obliged by law to make no exceptions or compromises. The use of motorways and expressways without a valid tax label is deemed to be a violation of administrative orders and will incur a fine when there is a tax label control. According to the law the Austrian Vignette has to be properly fixed on the windscreen. There is no exception.

Driving While Under the Influence of Alcohol (Or Drugs)

Is severely punished. Minimum fine of Euro 364, and loss of driver's license. Maximum limit of blood-alcohol level is 0,5 promille.

All traffic accidents involving personal injury must be reported immediately to police. Accidents involving material damage (fender benders) must be reported only when the identity of the other party cannot be established.

In several cities there are designated short-period parking zones (blue or yellow zones) in which parking is limited to 1 hours. Parking in these zones in bigger cities is usually subject to payment. In smaller towns it may be free of charge.

Automobiles

U.S. automobiles imported into Austria must be converted to Austrian specifications, which can be expensive. A road tax, depending on the engine horsepower, is administered by the car insurance. It amounts to Euro 0,40 per month and horsepower. (There is a road tax exemption for cars under 24 horsepower).

Information Regarding Austrian Driver's Licenses

The Vienna Police Headquarters, Department of Motor Vehicles, has provided the following information to the Embassy:

  1. Effective November 1, 1997, a valid U.S. driver's license entitles the bearer to drive a vehicle of the category stipulated in the license, if accompanied by an International Driver's License or with an official translation provided by the Austrian Automobile Associations (ÖAMTC or ARBÖ, for up to six months from the first date of entry into Austria.
  2. After the six-month period, only the possession of an Austrian driver's license entitles one to drive a motor vehicle in Austria. There are only exceptions for non-EU foreign nationals who can prove (with a letter from employer/contract, etc.) that they will be in Austria for work or educational reasons for no longer than one year. These people are entitled to drive up to twelve months in Austria from the first date of entry into Austria.
  3. How to obtain an Austrian driver's license

The following provides some more detailed information on the procedures related to having a U.S. driver's license "transferred" (Umschreibung) to an Austrian driver's license.
 
Vienna, the office responsible for processing applications for an Austrian license, based on having a valid U.S. driver's license, is:

Bundespolizeidirektion Wien
Verkehrsamt
Josef-Holaubek-Platz 1
1090 Wien
Tel. 313 100

In the Austrian provinces the Bezirkshauptmannschaft should be contacted.
The Verkehrsamt corresponds to the Department of Motor Vehicles in U.S. federal states.

Information on the process of Führerscheinumschreibung is available outside of room 3128 of the Verkehrsamt. Application forms (Führerscheinantrag) and lists of the physicians entitled to provide legally recognized physical examinations (Sachverständiger Arzt der Allgemeinmedizin) also are available in the same place.

1.  Applicants must have their "main residence" (Hauptwohnsitz) in Austria. Please note that the Austrian police registration forms (Meldezettel) indicate whether or not the applicant's current address is their "main residence" (Hauptwohnsitz, in the form of a Ja or Nein boxes which are filled out, when you register). If you marked Nein on your original Meldezettel, the authorities may require you to re-register with the police. This entails filling out a new Meldezettel, marking the appropriate box (Ja) that indicates that your current Austrian address is your main residence, and submitting this new Meldezettel to the appropriate Meldeamt.

2.  If the applicant has a driver's license that has been issued by a state of which he or she is not a resident, the applicant is obligated to document either that he or she had a main residence in the state issuing the license or lived there for a period of at least six months.

3.  Applicants must submit the following documentation:

a.  A  completed application (Führerscheinantrag)

b.  A physical given by a qualified physician (Sachverständiger). Lists of these physicians are available at the Verkehrsamt, Austrian automobile clubs (ÖAMTC or ARBÖ) or police precinct offices (Bezirkspolizeikomissariat). Physicals have to have been taken within the last year. A vision test is part of the physical. Therefore, if applicants have corrective lenses or contacts, the physicians will ask them to bring documentation from their ophthalmologists or opticians regarding their corrective lenses. (For wearers of corrective lenses, this document this is the so-called Brillenpass. If you do not have this information with you, local opticians can measure and document the attributes of corrective lenses and issue a Brillenpass. The wearers of contact lenses may need to consult an ophthalmologist.)

c.  A translation of the applicant's driver's license. (ÖAMTC, provides official translations of U.S. driver's licenses for a fee of Euro 8.--) NOTE: Although U.S. driver's licenses routinely include a date of expiration, not all U.S. states record the date of issue on driver's licenses, and this is a piece of information that may interest the Austrian authorities because it normally is included on all documents. Therefore, applicants may want to bring additional information with them, if available, that might be used to document either how long they have been driving or when their current driver's license was issued, e.g. previous driver's licenses that have been "clipped" or have expired, receipts related to the application fees for current licenses, etc.

d.  Passport (original) and two photocopies of the relevant pages, i.e. pages 2 and 3 and the page with your visa and/or residency permit. Note: U.S. citizens are required to apply for residency permits after 90 days. If you do not have a residency permit, you cannot plausibly declare Austria as your "main residence" (see above).

e.  Meldezettel (original) and 1 photocopy thereof. (See above regarding the issue of "main residence.")

f.  Driver's license (original) and 2 photocopies thereof (front and back sides if relevant information is on both sides).

g.  Two identical passport size photos (standard European dimensions available from photo automats or at photo studios, not U.S. size passport pictures, which are too large).

According to the Austrian authorities, the processing of an application takes 4-6 weeks. Applicants are notified by mail when their licenses are ready and must pick them up in person. A processing free of Euro 56.-- is charged. In order to obtain an Austrian driver's license based on their U.S. license, (Umschreibung) U.S. citizens must apply at the Verkehrsamt after taking up residence in Austria (Hauptwohnsitz) and show that they have a valid driver's license from any state in the U.S.

They will have to have a medical exam and provide other standard information as well.

If they do not meet all of the above prerequisites, they have to take the full Austrian theoretical and practical tests.

Please note that, whatever car categories the U.S. driver's license comprised, the Austrian driver's license issued on the basis of the U.S. license will be for the category "B" only.

The current law is an improvement over the old in that U.S. citizens from all 50 states are now exempt from both a written and practical driving test, as long as they meet the above requirements.

We understand that the following should be presented at the time of application for a driver's license:

  • U.S. driver's license (if applicable)
  • Translation into German of the U.S. driver's license, to be obtained at the:
    ÖAMTC, Schubertring 1-3, 1010 Vienna, Tel. 711 99 - 0
  • Passport
  • Registration slip (Meldezettel)
  • 2 passport photographs

4. Mopeds can be operated in Austria after the 16th birthday. However, a special license (Mopenführerschein) is required - please conctact ÖAMTC or ARBÖ for details.

5. The provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act of 1967 are in force in the entire territory of Austria.

6. Applications in Vienna for the issuance of a driver's license are to be addressed to the Verkehrsamt, Liechtenwerderplatz 5, 1090 Vienna, Tel.: 313 450. Questions should be directed to the Verkehrsamt der Bundespolizeidirektion Wien, Tel.: 313 450, ext. 8742.

7. After the exchange of drivers licenses, Austrian authorities will send the U.S. drivers license to the Department of Motorvehicles in the state the license was issued.