Ministry of the Interior’s operations limited during pandemic
As the pandemic develops, the functioning of some departments of the Ministry of the Interior, namely the Department of Asylum and Migration Policy (OAMP) and the Department of the Foreigners’ Police, has been changed. Until now, only clients with urgent matters necessitating personal presence were allowed to visit the OAMP offices, with appointment. Effective from 30 November 2020, foreigners can make an appointment to visit OAMP offices in all matters, while urgent matters necessitating personal presence will still be prioritised and attended to first.
Urgent matters include, e.g., the processing of biometric data, the issuance of new residency permits and ‘bridging labels’ allowing foreigners in urgent need to travel abroad and return to the Czech Republic with a residency card which has expired and whose extension proceedings have not yet been completed. This label is entered in the applicant’s travel document as a visa for a stay over 90 days with a maximum validity of 120 days, usually within one visit. In the current situation, it is necessary to present an air or train/bus ticket to support the urgency of the request for issuing the label.
Urgent matters also include responding to the authorities’ calls to correct errors in one’s application or to provide additional documents. If a foreigner receives a call to appear at the OAMP in person, they may make an appointment at the specific office or may apply by post for an extension of the deadline for doing so. If a foreigner is not in the Czech Republic because of measures against the spreading of COVID-19, they have to apply for an extension of the deadline, and sufficiently justify the absence.
Another fundamentally urgent matter and obligatory for foreigners is to register with the foreigners’ police upon their arrival in the Czech Republic. Due to the current measures, this is conditional upon a negative result of an RT-PCR test. The foreigner is obliged to come to the foreigners’ police office to register within three days of their arrival in the Czech Republic. According to the new travel safety system named Travellers’ Traffic Light (Semafor), foreigners arriving from a high-risk (red) country must undergo an RT-PCR test and self-isolate until results are obtained. The registration period is thus now calculated from the receipt of the negative test result, not from the arrival itself. If the test result is positive, the foreigner has to self-isolate and follow the instructions of the respective regional health protection office. The deadline for registration is then extended until the receipt of a negative test result. To register, it is also necessary to confirm the completion of the arrival form with a QR code that the foreigner receives by email.
The new governmental measures also affect the acceptance of applications for residency permits. In the current situation, it is only necessary to appear in person at the OAMP to submit applications where a foreigner’s presence is explicitly required by law, i.e. first-time applications for long-term residency permit in the territory of the Czech Republic following long-term visas, and applications for residency permits for children born in the Czech Republic and for temporary residency permits of family member of EU citizens.
All applications for the extension of residency permits of foreigners already residing in the Czech Republic can be sent to the appropriate OAMP office by post. The ministry also recommends that any changes (changes in addresses or travel documents, etc.) be done by post or via a data box. However, please note that the statutory deadlines for reporting data changes or for filing extension applications remain the same and continue to be governed by the relevant legislation.
From 30 November 2020 it is also possible to visit the OAMP’s offices without previous appointments regarding departure orders where the deadline for the foreigner to leave the country was set by a decision; to collect documents delivered by a public announcement; if previously called upon to visit the office by an administrative authority; or to be issued a ‘bridging label’ where there is danger in delay, to be proven by the foreigner (e.g. urgent travel to the home country for personal reasons).
The Ministry of the Interior continues to publish important information on its website. During office hours, answers to specific questions can also be obtained through the OAMP’s hot-line.