Being Legal in the Czech Republic
It goes without saying that being illegal in any country is not the best state of affairs to be in. In the Czech Republic, there are three basic levels of legal status: visas, permanent residency and citizenship.
While there are a multitude of conditions governing how a person can attain the various levels of status; my purpose here is to give a generalized overview of them with links for further information at the end.
Visas are the basic starting document for most people who come to the Czech Republic and are usually quite specific to one’s reasons for being here. They can be quite limiting to you if you have a study visa but would like to take work to earn some extra money, for example, as you would not be legally able to carry out one activity if your visa is for another.
Typically, visas to the Czech Republic must be applied for at a Czech consulate or embassy outside of the country and are subject to annual renewal. Renewals should not require a trip outside the country to a consulate or embassy if you submit your renewal application before the deadline.
Visas are also very specific to your citizenship and/or country of origin. It is essential that you contact your nearest Czech consulate or embassy to determine if citizens of your country are required to have a visa for basic entry to the Czech Republic or if your country has a visa waiver agreement with the Czech Republic.
Visas are fine if you are not planning to stay in the Czech Republic for the long term. However, they can be very limiting when it comes to your legal rights and the renewal process is a yearly headache that is both expensive in time and money. If you’re planning a longer term stay in the country, it will certainly be in your interests to consider permanent residency.
So, you’ve decided the Czech Republic may very well be the place for you and you want to form a deeper relationship with the country and culture than a simple visa might allow you; welcome to the world of permanent residency.
Like visas, there are a variety of ways to qualify for permanent residency. Unlike visas, which are very specific to your reasons for coming to the Czech Republic, permanent residency is more reflective of the relationship you’ve built with the country.
The most typical way that permanent residency is granted is by marrying a Czech citizen or starting a family with them. Permanent residency can also be based on other familial relationships.
Alternately, one can base their permanent residency on five years of continuous visas in the Czech Republic.
Permanent residency will give you all the rights and freedoms of a Czech citizen with the exception of being able to vote in national elections.
If you are a non-European Union citizen, you will likely have to sit a basic Czech language test as part of your application process; EU citizens are exempt from this requirement.
Typically, permanent residency is granted for a period of ten years.
Until January of 2014, citizenship in the Czech Republic was an unlikely course of action for the average foreigner in the country. Prior to that date, Czech legislation required citizenship applicants to provide proof that they had surrendered all other citizenships as part of the application process.
Happily, that came to an end when the Czech Republic amended the law to allow for dual or multiple citizenship and the doors for becoming full fledged Czech citizens were properly and fairly opened to those who wanted to call the country “Home” but also wanted to retain existing citizenships.
As with permanent residency, there are a variety of situations under which one can qualify to apply for citizenship ranging from familial relationships to time spent living in Czech territory as a permanent resident.
If, for example, one wished to apply for citizenship based on years of permanent residency; a non-EU citizen would need to provide proof of having lived for five years in the Czech Republic with permanent residency status while an EU citizen would need to provide proof of three years.
As with permanent residency, Citizenship application requires a language abilities test and a knowledge test of Czech life and institutions. There is a list of exemptions detailing who does not need to take these exams in the links at the bottom of this page.
Citizenship gives you all rights and freedoms including the ability to vote in national elections.
Links for Further Reading
Regardless of your resons for coming to the Czech Republic, a good first step is to visit this easily navigable and multilingual immigration portal operated by the Ministry of the Interior. It’s use is not limited to foreigners as it has useful information for Czech employers who hire foreigners:
This site will help you quickly locate the nearest Czech consulate or embassy to you so you can ensure the exact documentation that someone from your country needs to legally be in Czech territory:
This link gives a more detailed overview to changes made in Czech citizenship laws in January of 2014:
This website contains a great deal of information about tests for both permanent residency and citizenship including practice tests, FAQ sections and links for further information:
This link will give you an overview of the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) which the permanent residency and citizenship language tests are marked according to and what skills are expected at the specified levels: