Parliament passes extensive amendment to Foreign Nationals’ Residence Act
The amendment underwent significant changes in the course of the legislative process. The approved wording includes the government’s authorisation to set economic migration quotas and to activate extraordinary work visas. The amendment will also affect employee cards. The bill is now on its way to the president and once signed, it will enter into effect (with some exceptions) on the 15th day after its promulgation in the Collection of Laws.
The new rules mainly intend to make life easier for foreign students and research workers. Under the amendment, after finishing their studies or research, foreign students and research workers may apply for a residence permit in the Czech Republic for up to nine months to find employment or start a business. Holders of residence permits for the purpose of research or study issued by another EU member state may stay in our country for up to one year without a visa.
The government’s authorisation to set economic migration quotas remained in the wording of the amendment, which means that the government may regulate the number of applications for residence permits collected during the year by Czech Republic’s representative offices/ embassies abroad, taking into account the workers’ country of origin, the state of particular sectors of the Czech economy, or the type of work performed. At the same time, present migration projects and special regimes will be unified and combined into three economic migration programmes. The government will also be authorised to activate the issuance of so-called extraordinary work visas, which, in the event of labour shortages, will make it possible for selected categories of workers from stipulated countries to obtain a work visa for up to one year through fast-track proceedings.
The foreign nationals’ duty to attend one-day adaptation/integration courses within one year from being issued a residence permit remained in the amendment, with minor modifications, and shall apply from 2021.
Provisions concerning employee cards were added to the wording by an amending proposal. In the future, when collecting their residence permit, employees will have to submit their employer’s confirmation that they actually have started work. Changes in employment, employers or positions will no longer require the consent of the Czech Ministry of the Interior; instead, it will suffice to notify the ministry of the change at least 30 days in advance. In reality, this change is merely cosmetic, as applicants will still have to wait for the ministry’s confirmation that the conditions for making the change have been met. The amendment also limits the possibility of changing an employer – this will only be possible after six months from issuing the employee card, while for cards issued under a special migration programme, changes are permitted only after the end of the cards validity. The possibility to switch from an employer to an employment agency will also be limited.
Other novelties are the possibilities to fast-track the termination of foreigners’ residence permits in the Czech Republic and to speed-up expatriation procedures in the event of security threats. Decisions to terminate foreigners’ residence permits on the grounds of public order or security may in the future not be appealed in administrative proceedings – only their judicial review will be possible, while the court will have to decide within 90 days. After the amendment’s effective date, to cancel a residence permit it will suffice that the person has been sentenced to unconditional imprisonment or for three intentionally committed crimes.
Another amending proposal introduces significant changes to the Employment Act. For instance, information and record-keeping duties vis-à-vis labour offices as regards workers posted abroad should remain with their foreign employer, not the Czech entity to which they have been posted.
The amendment has come a long way from its original wording proposed by the government. The result is a package of rather extensive changes in immigration law. We just have to wait and see how the new legal regulation will work in practice, in particular whether the quotas and extraordinary work visas will satisfy Czech employers’ needs.