Czech response to arrival of Ukrainian refugees – three new laws

The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused an unprecedented influx of refugees seeking shelter and safety in the Czech Republic. Czech legislation was not prepared for such a situation: although authorities managed to respond quickly and flexibly, it became clear that a new legal framework was inevitable. The government thus drafted three new laws to address the situation. All have now been promulgated in the Collection of Laws of the Czech Republic and entered into effect on 21 March 2022.

Temporary protection in the Czech Republic

Act No. 65/2022 Coll., on Certain Measures in Connection with the Armed Conflict in Ukraine, incorporates the decision of the EU Council of 4 March 2022 and lays down the conditions for granting ‘temporary protection’ to foreigners who come to the Czech Republic in connection with the conflict in Ukraine. The act defines the range of persons who may be granted temporary protection: namely Ukrainian nationals and their family members who resided in Ukraine before 24 February 2022, but also other persons, such as holders of international protection in Ukraine or holders of valid permanent residence permits in Ukraine who have been prevented from returning to their home country by a threat of real danger, pursuant to the Czech Foreigners’ Residence Act. Temporary protection cannot be granted in more than one EU member state.

A person who has been granted temporary protection is regarded as a holder of a long-term visa for tolerated stay pursuant to the Foreigners’ Residence Act. The law also ensures the simple and smooth transition to temporary protection status, by stipulating that tolerance visas issued from 24 February 2022 in connection with the conflict in Ukraine until the law’s effective date shall be automatically regarded as having granted temporary protection.

Furthermore, the law defines special rules for the provision of healthcare and awards foreigners enjoying temporary protection the status of an insured person under public health insurance.

Employment and social security

The second law is Act No. 66/2022 Coll., on Measures in the Area of Employment and Social Security in Connection with the Conflict in Ukraine. It stipulates that for the purposes of the Employment Act, foreigners under temporary protection shall be regarded as foreigners with a permanent residence permit. This status gives them free access to the labour market and exempts them from the obligation to obtain a work permit. At the same time, it entitles foreigners with temporary protection humanitarian benefits of CZK 5,000, paid by the respective regional branch of the Labour Office of the Czech Republic. In the event of an emergency concerning (the lack of) income, property or a social distress, the same benefit can be awarded to foreigners for up to five months following the month of having been granted temporary protection.

Education

The last law, Act No. 67/2022 Coll., on Measures in the Area of Education in Connection with the Armed Conflict in Ukraine, provides access to schools and children's groups to refugee children, and deals with related issues. The act specifies the conditions under which it is possible to modify educational programmes for individual students, and the possibilities of admitting new students in the currently running school year and in the next one.

All of the above laws will expire on 31 March 2023. It is possible that before that date, the legislators will further adjust the individual regulations to best fit the current situation. At the moment, it is not clear how the concept of temporary protection will be approached in the future, or how it will be possible to switch from this regime to one of standard residence titles. This area will also have to be further addressed in the future.

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