Different permit validities for family members of foreign employees
Like many other countries, the Czech Republic enables the relocation of employees together with their close family members, most often their spouses and children. Foreign nationals have been using this option very often, as they do not want to be parted from their immediate family. This necessitates the filing of an application for long-term residence permits; it is not possible for employees employed seasonally or under short-term work assignments.
The relocation of family members together with the main applicant is conditional upon obtaining a family visa. The application can be filed with the Czech embassy in the relevant state. A family visa is valid for one year. The visa itself is a mere stamp in a passport; if family members want to prolong their stay in the Czech Republic, they must apply for a long-term residence permit for the purpose of a family reunification. Once the application is approved, the applicant receives a residence card similar to the Czech identification card (občanský průkaz), always linked to the main applicant’s permit. The card cannot be issued separately. Card holders enjoy many benefits, especially free access to the Czech labour market. Cards are valid for up to two years, usually copying the validity of the permit of the main applicant (e.g. employee card holder).
Recently, we have seen some changes in the approach to granting long-term residence permits, e.g. breaking the connection between the validity of a family member’s permit and the main applicant’s permit, which have caused certain complications. Previously, long-term residence permits of family members were issued so as to unify the permits’ validity for all family members even if this meant issuing the first permit of a family member for a period shorter than one year. It was then easy to arrange for the subsequent renewals of residence permits, as the entire family only had to bear in mind one deadline, and one visit to the Ministry of Interior was sufficient. Now, the ministry mostly grants long-term residence permits with a minimum one-year validity, resulting in differences in the validity term of individual family members’ permits.
This change is in line with the basic principle of a long-term residence, i.e. the minimum validity of one-year. This longer validity may constitute an advantage, but where families with a higher number of members are involved, this means many more visits to the authorities, and a risk of failure to apply for extending the permit validity in a timely manner. Consequently, it is always necessary to check the validity of each individual permit separately.