Qualified Business Licenses in Austria – solutions and challenges

Why qualified business licenses in Austria are so challenging to obtain – and how to apply for one successfully. 

Anyone who has done the tiniest bit of research into how to become self employed in Austria, will have come across the tricky topic of business licenses. After 1) navigating the steps to register a freelance business, 2) learning who is who (hello SVS, Finanzamt and WKO), step 3) is figuring out which business license you need – and how you can get it so you can start working. 

In this blog:

A tale of two business licenses: free license vs qualified business license

You might already know that not all self-employed business activities require a business license. But if they do, there are two options: a free business license and a qualified one: “reglementierten Gewerbe”. 

(Read this blog post first if you need to know how to figure out which license you need)
You can also check here if your business activity is on the list of qualified business licenses.

It’s the qualified business licenses (or regulated business license, as some say), which present the biggest hurdle to foreigners who want to pursue certain business activities as a self-employed business. 
And yes, I admit that the hurdle is big and it is complicated to get over it successfully.
But, I can also tell you – it’s not impossible. 

With careful preparation and strategic thinking, you can increase your chances of a successful application for a qualified business license and confidently take another step towards your professional dream becoming a reality.

What is the process for obtaining a qualified business license?

The process itself is quite simple.  

These are the 4 main steps towards applying for a qualified business license:

  1. Check the specific requirements for a license.
  2. Pull together the documents that prove your qualifications.  This includes work experience, education, supplementary qualifications.
  3. Get the documents translated into German
  4. Submit application to the relevant business license office

But you and I both know that when it comes to business in Austria, a ‘simple’ process 

doesn’t mean that it’s simple in real life terms.  And especially not, if you are a (non-German speaking) foreigner setting up a self-employed business in Austria for the first time.  

Of all the steps, it is the second which is the most common struggle. Pulling together documents to prove your qualifications often has people tripping up, falling over and feeling defeated. Why is this?  

Challenges and Solutions for Self-Employed individuals who need a qualified business license

Well, the legal requirements of a qualified business license are shaped around receiving an Austrian education and/work experience. So foreign applicants are required to prove that the qualifications obtained outside of Austria are sufficient to meet the requirements of the qualifications obtained inside Austria. And to show how the foreign qualification, despite the difference, still demonstrates an equal level of competence.  

This proof needs to be substantial and believable.

But what ‘substantial’ and ‘believable’ look like for one person, might be very different for another. The law gives applicants the freedom to select the various pieces of proof that could demonstrate their qualifications and experience. And every piece of evidence an applicant submits must be accepted as proof.  

But, here’s the catch… just how substantial, logical or functionally equivalent to Austrian standards these bits of evidence are, is decided on an ad hoc basis.  

Therefore, building a strong portfolio of evidence is key to maximizing your chances of a successful application.  

What happens if my application is turned down? 

Although it is common, I’ve not yet had clients who have been denied a qualified business license. This is not to brag but is the result of years of experience in figuring out with clients what and how to demonstrate their competence in a system, which was not built with foreigners in mind. 

The usual culprit for a denied application is not being able to put together enough substantial evidence that shows you possess the necessary qualifications to carry out the job. 
This is why one of the first things I do with clients who are preparing to submit an application, is to get a thorough insight into their qualifications and experience. 
Next, I put in place a strong strategy on how they can add to their portfolio of evidence. All this increases the chances that they get the license they need, to do the work they love.  

If your license is refused – and remember, this is common if you’re going it alone – you can contest the decision within 4 weeks of receiving it. 
The legal department gets the complaint and the case file and has 3 months to decide whether the complaint is substantial or not. If they decide that the claim is correct, they can change the decision. But if they believe that the original decision was lawful, they can simply send the whole file to the administrative court. 

Let’s zoom in on a couple of specific professions who need a qualified business license  

Imagine you want to manual work, like an “Installateur” (Plumber) or Hairdresser 

In some cases, only a related (Austrian) educational qualification is needed. In others a combination of a particular educational qualification and managerial experience will be needed.

Demonstrating proof of competence means that the business owner not only has the necessary technical and commercial knowledge but also the skills to be able to carry out the trade. And if you want to be able to train an apprentice – then you need to show successful completion of a related exam or course.  

Or what about If you want to get a license as a Business Consultant or a Coach? 

(Not sure which type of license you’d need to be a Coach in Austria, I wrote a blog post specifically for you…)

For either profession, you will need to show:  

  • A profound understanding of business administration
  • Sufficient knowledge of economic law
  • Expertise in consulting
  • Documentation of having passed a proficiency exam
  • A relevant degree or training program
  • At least three years of relevant work experience*
  • Any by relevant, this means including organizational culture analysis, communication process management and solution development. 

*This can vary – the law gives a grand total of 6 possible variations of education and experience!  

I know. I know. Who would still want to register as a self-employed anything after seeing all the hoops that need to be jumped through to get a qualified business license?  

From Dream to Reality: Professional support to get over the qualified business license hurdle

It’s that feeling of overwhelm and being completely lost that I see again and again with my clients who need a qualified business license to pursue their chosen career path in Austria. Overcoming that overwhelm is why I am here. To make doing business in Austria that much easier – especially for foreigners who want to work for themselves.  

It’s not surprising then that many self-employed people (and their future businesses) benefit from a knowledgeable and helping hand when applying for a business license – qualified business licenses in particular. 

With my tried and tested method, I support you to  

✔️check the specific license requirements for your chosen profession 

✔️gather the required documentation

✔️ensure that the documents (work experience, education etc.) – are sufficient and convincing enough

✔️get creative with the type of additional evidence that can be used to make the application as solid as possible

If you’re at the point of overwhelm or just want to maximize your chances of getting your qualified business license – the first time round. 
Why not email me to set up a quick call with me to see how we can work together to get you there?

You May Also Like…

Found a GmbH or register as Self-Employed?

How to choose between a GmbH or Self-Employed status in Austria Still unsure whether you should choose to found a GmbH (Limited Liability Company or ‘LLC’) or register as self-employed, then this blog is for you. 7 reasons a GmbH might be your best choice. In this...