FIBEL                    ASSOCIATION FIBEL

1. A brief history of FIBEL: It was founded 20 years ago and what it most significant is its durability, not only that of the chairperson of this institution, but also of some of the other members of the committee. Most of them are still active from the very beginning. As are both the employees of the Consultancy.

2. FIBEL is subsidised with some 80% by the City of Vienna (Department for Integration and Diversity), small funding comes from the Ministry for Women’s Affairs and also a small amount comes for the Ministry for Family Affairs.

3. We offer consultation services to some 300 to 400 persons annually, in addition we organise regular information sessions and workshops. The most questions that we are confronted with during the consultations concern the unification of families, marriage and specific passages of family law - the latter concentrates mainly on problems of the break-up of partnerships or divorce. This is evidence of how the problems of bi-national couples are influenced by laws: the fact that the life of a couple will be influenced by the varied aspects of diverse cultures becomes fully evident only after they have overcome the legal obstacles. We try to explain to our clients, as far as possible, how their lives will be influenced by these aspects. We try to find out, for example, if they have discussed the questions of child upbringing, or christening or circumcision of young boys.
FIBEL also offers inter-cultural mediation.
Until two months ago we held regular bi-monthly women’s discussion meetings called Open Group. We are sorry to have had to stop this but this was due to the fact that it appeared that the communications habits of our younger clients have changed.

4. What has also changed - and that increasingly for the worse, is the legal situation: Austria has increasingly become an active participant in the erection of Fortress Europe. In spite that the number of bi-national marriages has steadily increased to some 20% a year. We are sure that this number is even higher, because Austrian authorities do not register marriages which have been concluded outside the country.
Just before the introduction of more stringent immigration law restrictions the number was 28%.

5. Our biggest problems: the regulation requiring the first- time application for a residence permit to be submitted in the country of origin. This applies mainly to asylum seekers who have married in this country and whose asylum application has been rejected. Many of these persons have lived here for many years, have families and/or have already found jobs here.
It can take up to a year for a residence permit for a "family member" to be granted. What this means for the families of those persons who are affected and who have to live here can only be left to the imagination. The Austrian Interior Ministry accepts first-time applications for residence permits to be submitted in this country in only a small minority of cases. But even such an exception is rare and takes a long time to be granted so that only a few persons even bother to try.

6. Our second major problem is the family financial income benchmark which the Austrian marriage partners must achieve for a person of "Third Country Origin" to receive a residence permit.
At present an Austrian male/female must prove to earn some 1,600 to 1,800 euros a month (depending on the rental fees, the number of children and any possible credit payments) in order for a couple to be allowed to live in Austria.
Although it is possible to complement this sum with savings but then they must prove that they have the whole total sum needed for one entire year.
This income benchmark is, however, much too high for many people to achieve, especially for young people, women and divorced mothers with children. It is virtually impossible to prove the necessary family income on the basis of a work pre - contract.

7. The third major problem is the required language proficiency: the first-time application for a residence permit at an Austrian embassy abroad must be accompanied by a certificate of a so-called A1 German Language examination. This means that one must learn the basics of German abroad before one can even submit an application for family reunion. Even though the requirements for language proficiency are not too strict the mastery of Latin script in itself can prove to be a great obstacle. And we are all aware of the fact that the number of institutions which can offer qualified language instruction is also very rare.

8. And for information only: The submission of the first application includes the signing of the so-called Integration Contract which is a condition that the signatory must achieve, within two years of receiving residence, level A2 (called Module 1 in Austria) in order to receive permanent residence and that Level B1 (Module 2) is a condition for granting citizenship. The residence permit for "Family Members" is granted for 1 + 2+ 2 years. Permanent residence can be granted after five years, Austrian citizenship after six years. These are the basic facts on the field of our activities. It is, of course, only a brief survey of what we do and we can discuss further details later in the day.

Web: www.verein-fibel.at

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TF: +43-1-2127664