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Migration Policy

The Czech Republic was mainly a transition country for migrants from the East (inclusive from several developing countries outside of Europe) to the West (especially to Germany, but also to other countries of the European union). After the velvet revolution it became gradually also a destination country for a growing number of migrants. The number of immigrants asking for working permit and permanent residency in the Czech Republic will not be probably decreasing in the future. Such a situation involve problems with the integration of foreigners. The government has been aware of this fact and policy measures were accepted to solve it. A special interest has been devoted to refugees from disordered countries (Afghanistan, former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka and Iraq) and the former Czech citizens. The Czech Republic faces also a problem of high number of illegal immigrants.
-Review of individual measures
      : 1. Measures regulating and controlling migration flows
      : 2. Policies integrating immigrants
      : 3. International co-operation


Due to the nature of contemporary migration, international population movements raise a number of common challenges for public policy: inflow and outflow control, labour market regulation with respect to the new foreign labour force, and integration of increasingly diverse categories of migrants (including immigrant workers, their families, temporary and permanent migrants, refugees). From this point of view there are defined in OECD countries three areas of the migration policy: 1. strengthened control of flows (including those of asylum seekers); 2.integration policy (better integration of migrants in the host country); 3. international cooperation on the bilateral or regional level designed to improve the management of migration (such as labour migration).

It is clear that the responses by individual countries differ substantially according to the nature of the migration system (whether it is oriented more towards settlement or labour), the country's geopolitical situation and its willingness to exercise its sovereign right in the sphere of admission, departure and stay of foreigners. Those Central and Eastern European countries (CEECs) which have already begun to negotiate their possible entry into the EU, are trying to establish new migration policies that conform to EU standards in the areas of the entry of refugees, the stay and employment of foreigners, and the border control.

The present-day intention of the Czech Republic and CEECs is to open society, discontinue the former close co-operation between themselves and "reorientate their interests" towards the West. The new political and economic situation has among its significant factors massive migratory movements with their important political, economic, social, demographic, psychological and cultural impacts on the countries of departure, transit and destination. The social and economic conditions (the situation on the labour market, relatively liberal migration legislation, and particularly the liberal practice applied on the foreigners) of the "buffer zone countries" ( such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) create the key "pull" factors for migrants coming from other east European countries.

Although the Czech Republic has the ambitious objective of joining the EU in the first group of applicants (along with Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Cyprus and Slovenia), there is still no official migration policy because of the temporary nature of the migration (it has still more a transit rather than immigration character) and a lack of experience in this field (caused by the impact of the totalitarian regime, compared with West European or overseas countries and perhaps also becouse of the lack of the interests to solve the migration problems). In 1998 the Czech government adopted resolution No. 342/1998, which called migration as a security risk containing international features and immediately influencing stability of the political system. All the contemporary migration policy measures are influenced by the law Nr. 123/1992 on the residence of foreigners on the territory of Czechoslovakia which is discussed below, in the individual chapters.

Review of individual measures

1. Measures regulating and controlling migration flows

At present, the basic legislation for granting permission for entrance and residence in the Czech Republic is included in Law Nr. 123/1992 on the Residence of foreigners on the territory of Czechoslovakia, which was later taken into the legislation of the Czech Republic and amended in 1994 (Law Nr. 190/1994) and in 1996 (Law Nr. 150/1996). The above-mentioned Law determines for the foreigners the conditions of entrance, residence and departure from the Czech Republic. The amendment defines legal status of refugees. There is the problem of the place where one has to apply for the permission for long-term or permanent residence, i.e. the relevant embassy and police headquarters inside the country. This method is not common in many states (the USA, Germany and other countries) because there is a risk of increased expenses on residence which are reimbursed by the state, if the foreigner does not have money or needs medical treatment. From this point of view strict conditions have been anchored for certain countries, whose nationals often misused their journeys to the Czech Republic to conduct illegal activities there1. The list of the countries subject to such visa regulations has been continuously reviewed and updated. A draft concept of the Czech Republic's visa policy was drawn up at the end of 1998 and submitted to the government at the beginning of 1999, but the final decision has not yet been made.

The Concept of modernization of the visa issuing process2, approved by the government resolution No. 748/1998, reflects the fact that all visas for entry to the Czech Republic will be issued at the embassies abroad. A pilot project was successfully started by embassies of the Czech Republic in Paris, Warsaw and Vienna, at the Prague-Ruzyně airport and at the border crossing Dolní Dvořiště.

But the Czech Republic does not have any amendment about regulation (compared with EU states) of the influx of foreigners (for example granting this permission without delay or on the basis of false marriages). There is also an absence of legal authorization for granting the permission for residence on the basis of humanitarian reasons or international obligations concerning temporary asylum.


The law No.123/1992 defines:

1.1. Short-term stay

The short-term stay not exceeding 180 days permits foreigners´ free movement as tourists under the compliance with the conditions for granting a visa or agreed upon in "visa-free" agreements.

Table 1: Foreigners with short-term stay
People treated at the state border of the CR
(arrivals+departures) (in millions)
Foreigners (in millions)146199192214213204
Foreigners denied entry at border crossings on
arrival to the Czech Republic (in thousands)
Source: Directorate of Foreigners and Border Police Services

1.2. Long-term and permanent residence

Granting the long-term residence is subject to proving the purpose of the stay (such as employment, business, study, therapy, study visit, etc.). The residence permit shall be granted for a period necessary to achieve such purpose, but not exceeding one year. Upon a request by the foreigner, the period may be prolonged repeatedly, each time for a period not exceeding one year. In 1998 as in previous years, the most frequent reasons for granting long-term residence permits to foreigners in the Czech Republic were employment (48%) and business activities (40%). In comparison with 1997, long-term residence permits for the purpose of employment tended to decrease as opposed to business activities.

The permanent residence permit at the territory of the Czech Republic is granted to a foreigner particularly for the purpose of family reunification in the cases where the spouse, a person of direct kin or a sibling of a foreigner had been granted permanent residence on the territory of the Czech Republic. It can also be granted on humanitarian grounds or in the interests of the foreign policy of the Czech Republic. The prevailing reasons of applicants for permanent residence permits in the Czech Republic in 1998 were marriage with a Czech citizen (48.8%) and moving to relatives (32%). The number of the rejected applications for permanent residence permit has grown by almost one half in the same period, while 45 % of them were rejected for not meeting the requirement of family reunification.

Table 2: Foreigners with long-term or permanent residence in the Czech Republic (as of December 31)
(LTR permit = long-term residence permit on the territory of the Czech Republic)
(PR permit = permanent residence permit on the territory of the Czech Republic)
Source: Directorate of Foreigners and Border Police Services
Table 3: Foreigners with residence permit in the Czech Republic (as of December 31)
Source: Directorate of Foreigners and Border Police Services

At the end of 1998, a total of 220,187 foreigners with the residence permit were registered in the Czech Republic, out of which approx. 57,000 people (i.e. 26 per cent) were registered in Prague. Similarly to the year 1997, in 1998, too, the outflow of foreigners with long-term or permanent residence permits from Prague continued, as opposed to the inflow of foreigners to other territories, out of which particularly Central Bohemia showed the highest absolute as well as relative year-to-year growth and ranked as the second region. Classified by districts of the Czech Republic (Prague not taken into account), the highest numbers of granted residence permits of either type were in the districts of Brno, Ostrava, Karviná, Mladá Boleslav and Prague-East.

1.3. Work permits for foreigners

With the growing unemployment, pressure is exerted on the reduction in numbers of the employed foreigners, and job centres make decisions in accordance with this situation. The number of valid work permits for foreigners in the Czech Republic has been reduced step by step. According to the statistics of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, 49,927 valid work permits for foreigners were registered by December 31 1998, compared to 61,044 valid work permits by December 31 1997 and 71,002 work permits by December 31 1996. The number of Slovak nationals registered in relation with employment in job centres also decreased from 69,723 people at the end of 1997 to 61,320 people as of December 31 1998. The largest numbers of valid work permits for foreigners at the end of 1998, similarly to the end of 1997, were in Prague (16,639), the districts of Mladá Boleslav (2,868) and Brno (2,085). As regards nationalities, the labour market was largely influenced by the nationals of Slovakia (61,320), Ukraine (21,406), Poland (11,514), Bulgaria (3,166) and Moldavia (2,676).

However, from the assessment of economic situation of less advanced countries of Eastern and Southeastern Europe it can be concluded that the inflow of foreigners into the Czech Republic will probably not be decreasing in the future. Apart from the probable growth of illegal employment imposition of limitations on legal employment of foreigners may lead to the search of and use of other forms of unregulated entry to the labour market. Such forms may include various business activities of foreigners. If an employer breaches the law on employment in the Czech Republic, the controlling bodies of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs or the job centres may impose a fine in the administrative procedure of up to 250,000 CZK; in the case of a repeated breach of the same obligation, for which an employer had already been fined, the sum may be increased up to 1,000,000 CZK.

1.4. Business activities of foreigners in the Czech Republic

According to the data from the Ministry of Industry and Trade, there were 1,590,810 businessmen, including 44,962 foreigners, and 2,592,239 tradespeople, including 55,905 foreigners, registered in the Czech Republic at the end of 1998. Most of the foreign businessmen (15,197 people) were registered in Prague, particularly in the Prague 6 district, followed by the districts of Vsetín (2,038 people) and Brno. Among the foreign businessmen in the Czech Republic the Vietnamese nationals prevail (15,454 people), followed by nationals of the Ukraine (9,942 people) and Slovakia (6,248 people). There is the negative the fact that a number of foreigners who were granted residence permits for the purpose of business activities have breached the law on employment by employing other foreigners without the relevant work and residence permits.

1.5. Granting of Czech citizenship

According to the data from the Czech Ministry of the Interior, 1,128 applicants were granted Czech citizenship in 1998, of whom the largest group were Ukrainians (particularly Czechs from the Chernobyl region) and Bulgarians. Out of the total number, another 154 foreigners with the status of a refugee were granted Czech citizenship, most of them former nationals of Romania and Vietnam.

1.6. Granting of refugee status

The Czech Republic and Slovakia have adopted the UN Geneva convention on the refugee status (taking effect in 1992) and the 1967 Protocol (valid since 1991) without any geographical limitations. These international agreements have become the pillars for building Czechoslovak, later Czech, legislation on refugees. These documents, the law on refugees (Law No. 498/1990), and an amendment to the law on refugees No. 317/1993 are bound and to large extent determine how asylum seekers and refugees are treated. As far as integration is concerned, very important changes were introduced by Law No. 150/1996, which shortened the time after which refugees can apply and, consequently, can get citizenship of the Czech Republic from 10 to only 5 years. According to the Department for Refugees and Integration of Foreigners of the Czech Ministry of the Interior, a total of 18,046 foreigners went through the refugee camps between 1990 and the end of 1998. As of December 31 1998, there were 1,482 foreigners on the territory of the Czech Republic who have been granted the refugee status and 2,125 applicants for it. On October 1, 1998, the first-level procedure of granting the refugee status was transferred from the responsibility of the Directorate of Foreigner and Border Police of theCzech Republic to the Department for Refugees and Integration of Foreigners of the Czech Ministry of the Interior.

Table 4: Applicants for refugee status
Applicants for refugee status 220711871417221121094086
Number of granted cases254110591509678
Source: Department for Refugees and Integration of Foreigners of the Czech Ministry of the Interior

From the beginning of the existence of the Czech Republic until 1997 the annual number of applicants for refugee status oscillated around 2,000 people. In 1998 4,086 foreigners submitted applications for the refugee status, i.e. approx. twice more than in each of the previous years. Among the applicants in 1998 the nationals of Afghanistan prevailed, followed by the nationals of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka, Iraq and India. A steep increase in the number of applicants in comparison with the situation in 1997 was recorded in the case of the nationals of Afghanistan (approx. 300%), Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka and India. In spite of a certain increase, low numbers of applicants for the refugee status on the one hand, and high numbers of illegal crossings of the state borders on the other hand have remained typical of the Czech Republic in comparison with some EU member states.

2. Policies integrating immigrants3

In comparison with Western countries, the situation and experience of the Czech Republic in the field of integration of immigrants is different in consequence of its previous historical and geopolitical development. The active policies reflect a primary interest in the reintegration of ethnic nationals, refugees and as well as handicapped people from Bosnia and Herzegovina rather than resident immigrants. The fact that the Czech government is devoting serious attention to this issue is proved by the resolution No. 689/1999 about the Concept of the integration of foreigners on the territory of the Czech Republic. On the basis of the Czech government resolution No. 847 of December 16, 1998 the integration programme continued also in 1999. This programme involves people who have been granted the refugee status and foreigners whom have been granted permanent residence permit on the territory of the Czech Republic with regard to their health handicap, which involved people under temporary protection.

2.1. Integration of Refugees

The most important task of the integration of refugees, which has been fulfilled with the assistance of the state, is to ensure reasonable and dignified conditions of their living, particularly accommodation and employment, free courses of the Czech language, guidance, and support for family reunification. Non-governmental organisations are partners of the state in the sphere of consultancy. Since 1994 accommodation has been provided to more than 310 refugees and their relatives, which has cost about 29 million crowns4. The protection was enlarged to the group of Albanian refugees in connection with the war in Kosovo in the beginning of 1999. All of them were repatriated in November 1999, when the war finished.

2.2. Integration of handicapped people

This project, drawn up by the Ministry of the Interior, deals with the problem of temporary residents who could not return to Bosnia and Herzegovina5 after their term of residence expired because of their handicap and dependence on the help of other people and who expressed an interest to stay in the Czech Republic. The project also deals with the problem of social situation and residence of relatives of the handicapped people who have cared for them.

The governmental aid is aimed at the provision and legalization of the residence of these people, as well as provision of social security and accommodation. Permission for permanent residence and other legal procedures provide them with access to the labour market.

2.3. Assistance to Czech expatriates

A program, drawn up by the Ministry of the Interior, has been implemented on the basis of a contract with the non-governmental People in Need Foundation since 1994. The purpose of the program is not stimulate the return of Czechs living abroad, but to enable it in necessary cases, with some specific limits and exactly specified conditions. It provides solutions to individual applications for permanent residence permit submitted by Czechs living abroad. The chosen countries6 whose inhabitants have proved Czech origin will enjoy support after their return to the Czech Republic on the basis of a proposal by the Foreign Ministry. The project also covers the stay of their close relatives of foreign ethnic origin, allowing them to be granted permanent residence for family reunification. Since the start of the project in 1994 till the end of 1998, material conditions were provided for the return of 158 families, i.e. for 629 Czechs from abroad. Total expenses on the implementation of this program amounted to 40 million crowns. Under a similar program over 1,800 Czechs returned from the Chernobyl area during the years 1991-1993.

3. International co-operation

The Czech Republic has signed (along with Poland, Hungary and Slovak) with the EU the "Europe Agreements" in 1991, which replaced existing cooperation agreements. These "Agreements" established a bilateral association between the EU and each CEEC, covering both intergovernmental and purely EU spheres: political dialogue, movement of goods and workforce, establishment and supply of services, payments, subsidies, harmonization of laws, and economic, financial, and cultural cooperation. The Europe Agreements are part of an overall pre-accession strategy, which was adopted in principle at the Copenhagen EU summit in June 1993. One of the most important tasks in the sphere of the preparation for the accession of the Czech Republic to the European Union is the harmonization of measures in the visa policy and practice with those of EU members, consistent protection of state borders especially against illegal migration, the preparation of legislation for the standard principles applied by EU members in the sphere of foreigners' arrivals and residence in the country, asylum procedure, expulsion and readmission as well as the fulfilment of the Schengen Agreement criteria. EU structures actively monitor the development in this area in all candidate countries and participate in the assistance to individual countries in the form of providing know-how and technical and technological assistance within the framework of the PHARE Programme. The Czech Republic is currently in an intermediary and uncertain phase, between a closer association with the EU and a differentiated accession process that would entail a long transition period. In this respect the movement of people has proved to be an important, but sensitive issue.


National Round Table, Ministry of the Interior, Prague, 112 p., 1998.

Drbohlav, D.: Integration of International Migrants and refugees, Position paper for 3rd international symposium on the protection of refugees in Central Europe in Budapest (23.-25. April 1997) , UNHCR, 41 p., 1997.

Information on the Migration Situation in the Territory of the Czech Republic, Ministry of the Interior, 1998.

Trends in International Migration, Annual Report, SOPEMI, 1998.

1 A foreign applying for a visa must prove the purpose of his journey (such as a verified invitation from an organisation or individual with permanent residence in the Czech Republic), present a booked return ticket or deposit a sum at a Czech embassy abroad.

2 The project Modernisation of Visa Issuing Process entails qualitative change in the process of issuing visas. The model is based on the fact that a visa issuing office (embassy, border crossing, the Foreigner Police Department) consults the central body (the "regime workplace" of the Foreign and Border Police Service Directorate). Observance of this basic principle is vital for the examination of all applicants by Czech embassies with the use of updated files, for the transfer of data produced in the process of visa issuing, for the creation of preconditions for cooperation with other state bodies in the process of reviewing, and for the creation of preconditions of international consular cooperation complying with the practice applied in EU members and Schengen countries.

3 Regarding the information presented in reports on migration between 1996-1997 and on the integration of foreigners in the Czech Republic, it can be said that a national roundtable discussion on the relations between communities has become a turning point in this sphere. The discussion took place in cooperation between the Department for Refugees and Integration of the Czech Ministry of the Interior and the Council of Europe, in particular with the Committee on Migration (CDMG) and the non-governmental organisation Migration Policy Group (MPG) in Prague on February 19, 1998 with the aim to arouse a common discussion on problems of foreigners¨ integration and intercommunity relations in the Czech Republic. Conclusions from the discussion created a basis for the ascertainment and gradual clarification of intercommunity relations in the Czech Republic. Comprehensive information on the course and conclusions of a national round-table discussion are contained in the Proceedings, published in Czech and English by the Department for Refugees and Integration of Foreigners of the Czech Ministry of the Interior.

4 In 1998 conditions were created for the integration of 65 people who have been granted the refugee status. Twenty-eight contracts on the provision of accommodation were concluded. The sum spent on the reconstruction of suitable homes amounted to 6,050,000 CZK, the sum spent on the infrastructure development in municipalities amounted to 3,070,000 CZK

5 Within a project of permanent solution to the situation of people under temporary protection, conditions were created in 1998 for the integration of sixty-four foreigners who have been granted permanent residence permit on the territory of the Czech Republic with regard to their health handicap. Twenty-five contracts on the provision of accommodation were concluded. The sum spent on the provision of accommodation amounted to 5,700,000 CZK, the sum spent on the infrastructure development in municipalities amounted to 2,890,000 CZK.

6 The countries included Kazakhstan, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kirgizstan, Tadjikistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Amenia, Georgia and since 1996 also Bosnia and Herzegovina.



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