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How hard is it for a third country national to work in Austria after going through university there?
March 5, 2008 10:42 PM   Subscribe

How hard is it for a third country national to work in Austria after going through university there?

I'm a 26-years-old Chinese Indonesian who have been living in Singapore for the past 10 years (since my teen-age). 2 years ago, I completed my (3 yrs) bachelor degree in Computing from the National University of Singapore. I have also obtained my Singaporean permanent residence and been working as a software engineer since then in a local company and another MNC.

With only 1 year+ remaining until the completion of my bond with the Singaporean government (due to them sponsoring my undergrad study), I now have to begin evaluating the possible path I could take for the future.

I'd very much like to move to Europe in order to work and live there. However since this is pretty hard to accomplish for a third country national like me, I thought I could first look into studying in a European country and proceed to find job after graduation. I should be able to save up to US$15k by the time I'm ready to leave, coupled with approximate 3 yrs of experience in the IT field. From my parents I could borrow another US$20k (if necessary) for any other expenses while I'm settling down.

I intend to apply to the University of Vienna due to the special low tuition fee of €15.86 / semester for Indonesian. I'd likely enroll into another related bachelor degree programme (e.g. math, science) as I don't think I am up to the challenge of learning cs stuffs at master's level while having to struggle with communicating in German at the same time.

Assuming that I've got all the study matters taken care of (for the sake of discussion), my questions are:

1. Given my prior experiences and qualifications, how hard would it be for me to find tech job in Austria (or surrounding EU countries) upon graduation? I'm inclined to think that having graduated from a 'local' university, it would be much easier for me to be employed within the country as well, but I might be wrong. Do employers have specific preferences in regards to the nationality of people that they are looking for?

2. How much of a period of time that I would have to look for job upon school completion? Is there any kind of temporary visa that I'd be able to apply for while jobhunting within Austria, or do I have to do it from Singapore?

3. How well are asians accepted and integrated into the European society? Let's assume that I could speak intelligible English and German :)

I might have more questions to follow up later, depending on the responses to this thread. Keep in mind that this is still a medium-to-long term plan, I'm basically just trying to determine where I could go from here onwards.
posted by joewandy to Work & Money (16 answers total)
 
You might want to look into graduate study; much or all could be in english. And, if you find the right professor who wants you to do research, you won't have to pay much.
posted by zia at 11:25 PM on March 5, 2008


the language of instruction is not primarily in german then? i'm specifically referring to austria.
posted by joewandy at 11:30 PM on March 5, 2008


I know in both switzerland (st. gallen) and the netherlands, you can do your graduate studies in english. AND if you can find a professor who will sponsor your graduate studies its basically free with a stipend. You could be working on your PhD instead of a second BA... You may also just be able to get a job given your skills and experience (go a on tourist visa, look and then come back after the company sponsors you for a work visa). But then bigger cities would be the way to go...
posted by zia at 12:57 AM on March 6, 2008


Do employers have specific preferences in regards to the nationality of people that they are looking for?

-- Austrian labor laws stipulate that any company that hires a foreigner has to prove that they could not find an equally qualified Austrian for the job. In other words, the deck will be stacked against you. Anecdotally, I know of one Middle Easterner with a degree in engineering who's currently working at an Austrian McDonald's.

How much of a period of time that I would have to look for job upon school completion?

-- In my experience, European universities usually have a pretty light workload. Students will skip most (if not all) of their classes and just make sure they complete their exams at the end. This is definitely more widespread at the undergraduate level. So, I think you would have more than enough time to look for work during your last semester.

How well are asians accepted and integrated into the European society?

Austria is a funny place. Vienna is actually a liberal stronghold (they don't call it "red Vienna" for nothing) but there is a very strong and very odious nationalist, xenophobic streak in the country. The anti-immigrant FPÖ party recently took 15% in Vienna elections; outside of Vienna they've enjoyed even more success. Other places in Europe are certainly more receptive to foreigners. If possible, I would also consider some places in (western) Germany.

Good luck!
posted by Ljubljana at 1:31 AM on March 6, 2008


Duh ... seems that this path is a dead-end then :(
posted by joewandy at 1:56 AM on March 6, 2008


I've googled around ... Does anyone have anything to say about Italy in regards to all my initial questions? Thanks a lot!
posted by joewandy at 4:27 AM on March 6, 2008


Austrian labor laws stipulate that any company that hires a foreigner has to prove that they could not find an equally qualified Austrian for the job. In other words, the deck will be stacked against you. Anecdotally, I know of one Middle Easterner with a degree in engineering who's currently working at an Austrian McDonald's.

That's not completely true - EU laws mean that companies need to prove that they couldn't find an EU national (or someone who already has a working visa, for example via a partner) as part of the application process for a work permit. So these days it's not really about being Austrian, it's about being from the EU. Not that that helps the OP at all.

This is the case in all EU countries joewandy, therefore also in Italy. That said, there are plenty of us foreigners who managed to get work permits anyway. I'm afraid that I can't help with this particular case though, except to suggest that having studied locally might help you get a job but it won't help you with the visa side of things. I suggest that you look seriously at your job options now. That will give you a good idea of what qualifications and experience you would need and what you'd be dealing with in a few years' time.
posted by different at 6:43 AM on March 6, 2008


The UK has changed things slightly for international students through its International Graduates Scheme. Non-EU students who complete degrees in the UK (not just science or engineering degrees, as before) are eligible to stay in the UK for 12 months to gain work experience. At the end of this period, they become eligible to apply for a work permit according to EU rules (which becomes somewhat easier to get if you are already in regular employment). Other EU countries may have similar schemes in place.
posted by lumiere at 9:06 AM on March 6, 2008


These "you have to check that there is no X-national" rules are always flexible. Canadian public institutions like universities have these rules to prefer equally qualified Canadians, but my professors were very international - the university just argued that they were better than any Canadian. Basically, since the employer is the judge of your qualifications, they are the one who can just say they think you are more qualified.

So it's really about the attitude of the employers; these laws just give them an excuse to discriminate. To be honest, there is always discrimination against immigrants for being foreign and having an accent - in most of Canada this is just disguised as "lacking Canadian experience".

I don't know about Italy, but I do know people in the UK who have gotten jobs working there after completely graduate degrees as international students - from New Zealand and Taiwan, as well as from China. The New Zealander works in computers and cryptography, other people work in science research. I don't think your "third world" origin would really make a difference in the UK, not compared to just not being British, though there might be some racial discrimination (I wouldn't say this is common, but always possible). But for most people you would just be from Singapore, which is an English country. If you also are fluent in Chinese, there is a large Chinese community in Britain (as well as many other places like Canada, Australia, etc), and there may be work specifically for people who are bilingual in Chinese (mostly Mandarin, but possibly also other dialects) and English, in which you may have an advantage over most British citizens. They have recently introduced Mandarin into some schools in Britain, because there is demand for it in the economy.

No matter where you go, if you can handle the language issues, a graduate degree would be better than another undergraduate degree. Tuition fees are about the same at state universities, but you have a better chance of getting funding (not a great chance, but at least the possibility) and much better career prospects following graduation.

on preview - that's good news about international students in the UK, lumiere.
posted by jb at 9:26 AM on March 6, 2008


I think you will find it easier to get a job in Northern Europe e.g., Netherlands, UK, Scandnavia than in Central and Southern Europe. Italy and Austria in particular, I would expect that if you get into a multinational or NGO or thinktank you might get a job but not very likely with a local Italian or Austrian company. In Italy, young Italians have tremendous trouble getting a job, in Austria less so. Netherlands is short people now and it is quite easy, and a friend who is in IT and moving to London told me recently that she was told she would have no problems finding a job (by recruiters).
posted by zia at 2:07 PM on March 6, 2008


While the International Graduates Scheme from UK sounds good, the cost is prohibitively too high for me (I'd burn through all my savings just for 1 year of study there). This is one option that I'd keep in mind though.

As suggested by Zia, I scanned through the study options for countries in Northern Europe and found the following fact about Finland:

"International programmes offered by Finnish Higher Education institutions presented in the database of international programmes carry no tuition fees unless otherwise stated in the course description."

Is this true? FREE? That sounds too good to be true :P What's the catch? Admission standard is extremely high or something?

Can anybody comment on what you think would be the IT job prospect there for (non-EU) foreign graduates ? I don't mind learning Finnish if that's what it takes.
posted by joewandy at 8:55 PM on March 6, 2008


I'd add on to my own question above. From the Immigration page

"What happens after the studies are completed?

After completing the studies, the student may remain in Finland if he or she can be granted a new residence permit on other grounds. The permit may be granted, for example for continuing studies within the same field or on the basis of family ties or employment.

A foreigner who has taken a degree in Finland can get also a residence permit for search for work. The permit can be granted for six (6) months."

So I get free study, PLUS 6 months opportunity to find work? Why isn't all of us 'third countries' students rushing to Finland then .... ?? The regulations seem to be waay more relaxed compared to other European countries.

Come people, tell me what's the catch.
posted by joewandy at 9:33 PM on March 6, 2008


1. Given my prior experiences and qualifications, how hard would it be for me to find tech job in Austria (or surrounding EU countries) upon graduation? I'm inclined to think that having graduated from a 'local' university, it would be much easier for me to be employed within the country as well, but I might be wrong. Do employers have specific preferences in regards to the nationality of people that they are looking for?

It depends on your experience. What kind of software engineering have you been doing? If it's work in a hot field, you'll have an easier time finding a job. On the other hand, with a non-European name, you'll have a tougher time finding a job. Austria is a little funny that way.

2. How much of a period of time that I would have to look for job upon school completion? Is there any kind of temporary visa that I'd be able to apply for while jobhunting within Austria, or do I have to do it from Singapore?

I'm not sure what the visa rules are for Singaporeans. I'd suggest that you search while you're in school - you may be able to find someone who will hire you on a part-time basis and handle some of the work visa bureacracy. Otherwise, you'd have to check with Austria and see what your options are after you graduate, in regards to extending your visa.

3. How well are asians accepted and integrated into the European society? Let's assume that I could speak intelligible English and German :)

Unfortunately, Austria is a little backwards in this area. Fortunately, the IT sector is a little more open.

My gut feeling: you can probably find a job and get a visa here. I did it as a non-EU citizen in 2000. You might want to look at some of my previous posts on this topic for other details. If you have the right kind of software engineering background, I might even be able to help you find a job. If you have any specific questions regarding Austria, getting a work visa here, living here, etc., feel free to MeMail me, and my email address is in my profile...
posted by syzygy at 9:46 AM on March 7, 2008


Ljubljana: Austrian labor laws stipulate that any company that hires a foreigner has to prove that they could not find an equally qualified Austrian for the job. In other words, the deck will be stacked against you.

This is true (when you add different's caveat regarding EU citizens), but it's not too terribly hard to get around if you're working in a technical field like software engineering. I had no trouble qualifying for a work visa here (in Austria), working in that field. When you're in software engineering, you just have to use the right combination of acronyms on your resume (think: include everything possible, especially the most obscure stuff).
posted by syzygy at 9:50 AM on March 7, 2008


Come people, tell me what's the catch.

I'm done lurking around in lurking around in Findland Forum and would now post a self-answer to my own question above for the benefits of others who might care (if any exists :P)

The catch is that you GOTTA know how to speak Finnish before you can even hope to compete with the locals for job opportunity. Good English skill alone will not cut it and Finnish has the reputation of being a language that is terribly hard to learn (at least to reach a decent conversational level).

Basically the generally prevalent sentiment is that: not speak Finnish -> get ready to work as dishwashers or cleaners (if you're lucky) ...

The free education is a (very) nice perk which attracted many people to the country, BUT from a professional perspective, it's basically of no value since you would have a hard time being employed there after graduation.

I think I'm just gonna go off to Australia instead. At least it's nearer to Singapore :)
posted by joewandy at 5:56 AM on March 9, 2008


"It depends on your experience. What kind of software engineering have you been doing? If it's work in a hot field, you'll have an easier time finding a job."

I'm now mostly doing web development stuffs (primarily J2EE, with various odd and scripting jobs here and there). Being out from school for only 1 1/2 years, I still have a lot to learn in terms of experiences and skills. Short term at least I'd go for a couple of certs as well (Sun's) since they are rather easily afforable and attainable with some decent efforts (whether they are actually of value or not will be the subject of another discussion :P ).

"On the other hand, with a non-European name, you'll have a tougher time finding a job. Austria is a little funny that way."

I'm thankful to my father that my name (Joe Wandy) at least still sounds vaguely semi-western :D and not distinctively asian.
posted by joewandy at 6:30 AM on March 9, 2008


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