How to Register a Company in Austria as a Foreigner

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At the heart of south-central Europe, Austria forms what has been described as the neutral core of Europe owing to its vast and diverse economic system. Austria is a member of the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development among others, which gives rise to its standing on the world map, providing investors with the peace of mind that business is conducted to the highest international business standards. Wondering how to register a company in Austria?  Worry not, here is what you need to know.

What are the requirements to register a company in Austria?

Opening a business in Austria is easier for passport holders from Switzerland, any European country or the European Economic Area. Permits and special visas will not be required. A residence permit is required for citizens who do not come from these areas. In addition, the individual must have no criminal record from his/her home country and must be 18 years or older. With these prerequisites fulfilled, foreigners can set up a business, acquire a company, or function as a company director or CEO in Austria.

What documentation do you need to register a company in Austria

To set up a company in Austria, you can hire a firm specializing in company formation in the country. You have to be familiar with the Company Act as it is the primary law which is concerned with the setting up of a business in Austria.  

Here are the steps to establishing a business in Austria:

  1. Your first step to forming your company in this country is to decide on the legal structure that best fits your kind of business. This will be discussed further under the Legal Structures section of this post.
  2. Have your company name and activity approved by the Austrian Commercial Registry Office, also known as HRA. It is the government agency in charge of regulating the setting up of companies, registering them, and other services associated with business incorporation. You can do this step online.
    Prepare to provide your personal information, such as details of the type of business you are forming.
  3. Draft your company’s statutory documents and have them notarized.
  4. Gather, prepare and submit the required incorporation documents for approval to the Trade Register..
  5. Open an Austrian bank account. Here's a guide on how to open a bank account in Austria.You may also want to consider opening a virtual bank account with a European IBAN if the company you’re registering in Austria will regularly be banking and transferring money abroad. It is a way to cut on conversion costs and transfer fees. Banks charge above the mid market rate, the actual currency rate they use to move money from one bank to another. 
    Whereas if you transfer money through a virtual bank account by B2B Pay, you save a significant amount of these costs as well as get your money as soon as 24 hours depending on the bank. With a virtual bank account, you can secure your own European IBAN you can use to transfer money from Austria to 212 countries in 32 currencies using the same low rates.
  6. Secure clearance from the Economic Chamber.
  7. Register your business with the tax authorities. 
  8. Apply for a business license from the local district authority.

The Company Act is the legal structure that provides for the inception of businesses in Austria. It provides for the following business entities:

Sole Trader (Sole Proprietorship)

This is the easiest form of establishing a business in Austria. However, only citizens are eligible. No minimum share capital is required. Nevertheless, you will need to obtain a trade license and register your trade name with the company's register in Austria.    

How to register a company in Austria as a foreigner

The Austrian Limited Liability Company (LLC)

This form of entity is the most preferred for entrepreneurs seeking to commence their operations in Austria. At least one director and a shareholder must be appointed; they can be residents or foreigners. Austria's legal registered address is mandatory for purposes of registration with Commercial Register.

A minimum share capital of €10,000 is required for the initial incorporation, half of which must be paid in cash before the start of the incorporation process. A standard share capital requirement of €35,000 applies from the 11th year of the Company's operation in Austria. Companies with an annual turnover of above €30,000 are subject to value-added tax registration.

The Austria Public Limited Public Liability Company (AG)

The Austrian PLC locally referred to as an AG is the legal entity endorsed for entrepreneurs intending to raise capital for listing on the Vienna Stock Exchange Market. A minimum share capital of €70,000 is required for incorporation with at least 25% of the amount payable at the onset of the incorporation process.  One shareholder and director must be appointed, it doesn't matter if they are foreigners or residents. 

Similar to the LLC, AG is liable for value-added tax registration for annual turnover above €30,000 and is required to appoint a statutory auditor.

Austria Branch Office (Niederlassung)

The branch office set up is a good option for companies looking for penetration in the Austrian market. 100% foreign ownership for businesses outside the European Economic Area (EEA) is allowed. However, a resident representative is compulsory for companies located outside of the EEA. Also, businesses are allowed to open and operate a corporate bank account

The Branch Office operations are dependent on the parent company, meaning all the decisions will be made from the head office.

Subsidiary

Also known as the Austrian Representative or Representanz. This type of entity as opposed to the Branch office is independent and usually registered as LLC. A resident representative is required for establishments outside EEA. In addition, subsidiary entities enjoy the same benefits as the Branch office. 

What documentation do you need to register a company in Austria?

To realise the process, you will need to present the following documents:

  1. Notarized  passports or Ids for  the directors and shareholders 

  2. Company’s statutory documents

  3. A lease contract with a local address for the company's location in Austria

  4. Documentation for the managers and directors e.g copies of passports, IDs, Residence permits, etc. 

  5. Information about the share distribution among the shareholders

  6. Austrian bank account details

Note: All the above documents must be filed with the Trade Register to obtain the Company's Certificate of Incorporation. They must be translated into German and notarized for them to be official copies. 

Upon approval of all registrations and payment of all fees, your company can now legally conduct business in Austria.

How long does it take to register a company in Austria as a foreigner?

Now that you have all the information required, as an investor pushing to register a company in Austria you might wonder, “Exactly how long does it take to complete the entire process?” Well, worry not. Below is a brief check timeline:

  • Business name reservation can be done online and it only takes a few hours

  • Drafting and notarization of statutory documents can take up to two days

  • Documentation by the trade register approximately takes 6 days

  • Opening of a corporate bank account takes just one day

  • Clearance from the economic chambers  takes one day

  • Registration with the tax authorities takes up to two weeks

  • The application for a business license takes a few hours.

See… 

In less than 30 days you have your company up and running, as long as you have the necessary documents and prerequisites. How sweet! 

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