Crossing borders after the state of emergency
The state of emergency ended in the Czech Republic after 66 days on 17 May. Although many restrictions still remain in place, there have been several changes. The current conditions governing the entry of foreigners to the Czech Republic are summarised by the measure of the Ministry of Health of 15 May.
In practice, this protective measure preserves many of the restrictions adopted by Government Resolution No. 511 of 4 May, which we described here. So, what are the main changes?
From now on, EU citizens who enter the Czech territory to perform an economic activity not exceeding 72 hours are no longer obliged to fulfil the obligations pursuant to Government Resolution No. 332, determining the work conditions for critical infrastructure employees. This means, for example, that the employer is no longer required to provide separate areas for eating, restrict the employees’ free movement in the workplace or provide them with FFP2 respirators. However, employers are still obliged to provide certain incoming foreign employees with accommodation, medical care, transport from the border and to work, and to pay the costs related to repatriation of foreign employees who have lost their job in the Czech Republic.
The Ministry of the Interior should also restore all visa and residence proceedings of those foreigners who applied for them at foreign embassies. This condition, however, only concerns proceedings initiated in “non-risk countries”. The list of these countries has been published on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is regularly updated according to the development of the epidemic.
Another important change concerns foreigners included in one of the Government programmes for economic migration (Key and Research Staff Programme, Highly Qualified Worker Programme, Qualified Worker Programme), who are able to file applications from now on. The applicants included in one of the first two programmes may file their applications without limitation provided that the situation in their country allows so according to the list of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Applications of foreigners under the Qualified Worker Programme will be accepted only in case they work in health care or social services. It is also newly possible to apply for residence permits for the purpose of scientific research and under the Student Mode; married couples and minor children of foreigners with long-term or permanent residence in the Czech Republic may apply for residence with a view to family reunification.
The end of the state of emergency also terminates the validity of certain simplifications. For example, the Ministry of the Interior will no longer allow foreigners to change their employer during the first 6 months, nor will it allow for accelerated proceedings in case of a change regarding an employer who helps implement emergency measures. Employees will thus have to file their applications for approval of a change of employer under standard conditions, i.e., subject to certain exceptions, not sooner than 6 months after they obtained their permit and at least 30 days before the planned commencement of work, and will have to wait for approval of the Ministry of the Interior. As of the end of the state of emergency, a 60-day deadline for finding a new job and the corresponding change of employer also commences for the holders of employee cards who lost their jobs during the state of emergency and up to 60 days before its beginning. This also means a return to the standard rules.
According to the Government’s statement, the emergency measures can be expected to be gradually loosened in the upcoming weeks and months. From 26 May, general border controls should be replaced by random checks. Nevertheless, foreigners may only enter the Czech territory with a negative Covid-19 test until further notice. The Minister of Health has announced that the borders could fully reopen on 8 June if the epidemic continues to develop favourably. Protective measures and the duty to submit a negative test would then apply only to foreigners coming from risk countries as listed by the Ministry of Health based on the circumstances.