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Moving to the Czech Republic
A comprehensive guide to moving to the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic, a destination which boasts high living standards and plenty of culture, is a popular place for expats. From visa requirements to the best cities to settle in, our guide has everything you need to know about moving to the Czech Republic.
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Relocating to the Czech Republic
At a Glance:
- If you are not an EU citizen or from one of the 40 states which are exempt from short-term visas requirements, you will need to apply for a Schengen visa before arriving in the Czech Republic.
- Within 30 working days of entering the country, all foreigners are required to register at their local Foreigners’ Police Inspectorate.
- Expats who wish to work as freelancers have a slightly different application process and must obtain a license called živnostenský list.
- Prague is not the only option when settling in the Czech Republic — other cities, including Brno, Ostrava and Plzeň, also have a lot to offer.
Most expats choose to move to Prague, the nation’s political, cultural, and economic center. However, the Czech Republic has a lot more to offer. In this article, you’ll read about the country’s top expat destinations and find out more about visa requirements.
Visa, Blue Card, or Employee Card?
Since the Czech Republic joined the EU in 2004, citizens of all other EU member states enjoy the freedom to move to the Czech Republic without a visa. Citizens of most other countries must apply for a visa before they move. There are, however, roughly 40 states which are exempt from visa requirements if their nationals stay no longer than 90 days and their visit is not employment or business related. You can find a list of these countries and other visa related details in the Entry & Residence section on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.
To work in the Czech Republic, a visa is always required except for prospective employees or blue card holders (see below) and citizens of the EU, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland. If you are not a citizen of one of these countries, you must apply for your visa at a Czech mission abroad well before your move. There are two main categories: long-term and short-term (Schengen) visas. Both can be issued for employment purposes, but they do not replace a work permit. To work in the Czech Republic, you must apply for a permit at a Czech Labor Office before applying for a visa. For more information on this topic see our article on working in the Czech Republic.
Schengen Visas — Great for Short-Term Stays
A Schengen visa entitles its holder to stay within the Schengen area for 90 days over a 180-day period. Assuming the Czech Republic is your main destination within the Schengen area, you should apply for your visa at a Czech diplomatic mission abroad at least two weeks before traveling.
Your Schengen visa application should include:
- a completed application form
- your passport, valid for at least three months prior to your departure, including previous visas and two blank pages
- a recent passport-sized photograph
- documents detailing the nature of your stay in the Czech Republic (e.g. work permit or work contract)
- proof of travel medical insurance covering expenses up to 30,000 EUR
- proof of your intention to leave the country once your visa expires (e.g. plane ticket)
Keep in mind that there are different visa types within the Schengen visa category depending on whether your visit is for business, employment, study, or tourism.
In most cases, applications for a Schengen visa are reviewed within 7 to 15 days. However, to be on the safe side you should apply two months before your planned departure date in case, for example, your passport needs to be renewed.
Planning a Long-Term Business Trip
If you plan on staying in the Czech Republic for more than 90 days, you need a long-term Schengen visa (type D). This process may include an interview at the Czech diplomatic mission where you’re submitting your visa application. In addition to the requirements for a Schengen visa, you must supply the following with your application:
- two passport-sized photographs
- proof of accommodation for the duration of your stay
- a document outlining the nature of your stay
- an excerpt from the penal register of the country where you have your citizenship, plus from any country where you’ve spent more than six months in the past three years
- proof of financial security
- visa application fee of 1,000 CZK
Any foreign documents must be officially translated into Czech.
When you have been approved and go to pick up your visa, you will be asked for proof that you have medical coverage for up to 60,000 EUR, including repatriation services. If you are applying for a working visa, you only need to be covered for the period between your arrival and the moment you’ll be covered by your employer’s health plan.
If you are moving to the Czech Republic for business rather than employment, make sure you can provide proof that you are authorized to carry out your business in the country. Decisions on long-term visas are usually made within 90 to 120 days, so apply well in advance of your planned departure date.
Be Your Own Boss: Freelancing in the Czech Republic
There is a slightly different process if you are moving to the Czech Republic as a freelancer. If you wish to work in the country on a self-employed basis, you will need to apply for a trade license certificate, known as živnostenský list. If you are a non-EU citizen, you will then need to apply for a long-term business visa, which allows you to stay in the country for no longer than a year (you will need to renew it if you wish to stay longer). The application process for this requires:
- proof of identity (e.g. photocopy of the relevant pages of your passport, including passport number)
- two recent passport photos
- proof of sufficient funds (currently 15,000 Kč per person)
- proof of a clear criminal record
- proof of accommodation
- documents to show the purpose of your stay
As above, all documents must be accompanied by a notarized Czech translation.
For more information, the writers of the Wandertooth.com blog provide an easy-to-read and up-to-date guide to how they went about the application process.
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More Visa Info for the Czech Republic
In addition to regular visas and work permits, the Czech Republic also offers two types of long-term permits which function as both residence and work permits: the EU blue card and the employee card. The former is an EU-wide permit facilitating access to the EU labor market for highly qualified individuals; the latter is aimed at nationals of certain non-European countries who can offer skills and qualifications needed in the Czech Republic.
New: The Employee Card for the Czech Republic
As of June 2014, the visa function formerly carried out by the green card in the Czech Republic has been taken over by the employee card. This visa is for third country nationals staying and working in the Czech Republic for an extended period of time. To be eligible for the employee card, the job you have been offered has to be listed in the country’s central records of vacancies. Usually a position only shows up on the registry if it couldn’t be filled by a candidate from within the Czech Republic or the EU.
The card acts as both a residence and a work permit. It is initially valid for a maximum period of two years, but you can apply for an extension at the Ministry of Interior. To apply for an employee card, you must apply at your nearest Czech embassy or consulate and supply the following documents:
- a completed application form
- a valid travel document
- two recent passport-sized photographs
- an employment contract
- documents showing professional qualifications to do the job in question
- application fee of 2,500 CZK
- in some cases, a medical certificate and an extract from your penal register
The Blue Card — A Question of Supply and Demand
The EU blue card was introduced to provide EU countries with the possibility to compensate for skills shortages. If your skill set or qualifications are in demand in the Czech Republic, you can apply for a job listed in the register of vacancies eligible for blue cards; you can also check whether a job you have found elsewhere qualifies for a blue card. One condition is that your new gross annual salary must amount to at least 1.5 times the average gross annual salary in the Czech Republic.
Blue cards are usually only granted for jobs where no suitable candidate could be found in the Czech Republic or in the EU. Applicants must have completed a higher (vocational) education, attending their respective educational institutions for at least three years.
In addition to the documents needed to apply for an employee card, you must supply the following:
- a signed employment contract for a job which requires high qualifications for a period of at least one year
- if you work in a regulated profession, a document certifying compliance with the requirements for that job
- proof of medical coverage for the period between the day you enter the country and the day you fall under the national health insurance
- proof of accommodation (which must be notarized by a Czech notary)
A blue card is valid for the duration of your employment contract plus three months, but no longer than a maximum of two years. You should receive a decision from the Czech embassy within 90 days. The body where you applied for the blue card, be it the Czech Ministry of Interior or a Czech mission abroad, will contact you when your application has been successful to arrange an appointment for it to be picked up.
Registration of Foreigners
Non-EU citizens moving to Prague have to register at the Foreign Police Department or at an office of the Ministry of Interior within three working days of arrival. Within 30 working days of entering the country, all foreigners are required to register at either their local Foreigners’ Police Inspectorate or at an office of the Ministry of the Interior. The difference between EU and non-EU citizens is that EU citizens do not need a residency permit (but can get one if needed), while all others may need to apply for a long-term resident permit.
Prospective employee or blue card holders must also present themselves at an office of the Department of Asylum and Migration Policy of the Ministry of the Interior to provide their biometric data within three days of arrival. This can be completed at the same time as registration. The card can be collected for a fee of 2,500 CZK paid in the form of revenue stamps, which can be purchased at the post office.
Expat Destinations in the Czech Republic
“The Golden City”, as Prague is often known, is undoubtedly the country’s main attraction, both culturally and economically. We have dedicated a whole article series to the topics of moving to Prague, living in Prague and working in Prague. Below you’ll find a short introduction to the city as well as an overview of other expat destinations in the Czech Republic.
Prague — Raising the Bar
Prague has been the political, cultural, and economic center of Central Europe for most of its 1,100-year history. The largest city in the Czech Republic, Prague is home to approximately 1.4 million people, with a metropolitan area containing just over 2 million inhabitants. The city’s economy accounts for 25% of the country’s GDP. It is also the home of the European headquarters of many international companies, offering plenty of job opportunities for expats.
Prague is an increasingly cosmopolitan city. At the beginning of 2017, 14% of the population of Prague was foreign. With more than 7 million international visitors in 2016 alone, tourism plays a major part in the city’s wealth, providing more than half of Prague’s income.
Brno — More than Just Public Administration
Brno is the Czech Republic’s second largest city, with around 377,000 residents. Home to the country’s Supreme Court, the city is a significant administrative center as well as the seat of numerous state authorities.
The Brno Exhibition Center, which hosts a number of large trade fairs and other events each year, is one of the largest exhibition centers in Europe. The city is also home to several historical sights, including various churches and the royal Špilberk Castle. On top of this, Brno is known for being an important university city with a number of higher education institutions based in the city.
Ostrava — Once the Steel Heart, Now the Polluted Lung
As the third largest city in terms of population and the second largest in area, Ostrava was historically the industrial center of the Czech Republic. Playing host to heavy industry, including coal and steel production, the city was nicknamed the “steel heart of the republic”. However, with the fall of communism in 1989 came the closure of many of the coal mines and the subsequent end to much of the area’s prosperity. Heavy industry has had a negative impact on the environment in Ostrava, making the city one of the most polluted in the EU. However, the government and some businesses are continuing to implement more and more measures to clean it up.
Plzeň — Time to Raise Your Glasses
The fourth most populous city, Plzeň, is also one of the most prosperous in the Czech Republic. It was the European Capital of Culture 2015 and has acquired worldwide fame for its Pilsner beer. The Škoda factory was established here (although production is no longer based in the city), and several foreign companies, such as Daikin and Panasonic, have manufacturing bases here. Plzeň is also a center of academic, business, and cultural life for the western part of the Czech Republic.
Traveling in and around the country
The Czech Republic is centrally located at the heart of Europe and boasts excellent transportation links both within its borders and to its neighboring countries.
By air, the Czech Republic can be reached via several international airports. The biggest is Václav Havel Airport near Prague, but other international airports can be found at Brno, Karlovy Vary, and Mošnov (near Ostrava), among other places.
The Czech Republic has an extensive railway network, connecting the country to the rest of Europe. Long-distant coach services also offer a fast and inexpensive way of travelling. The highways are generally well maintained, while smaller roads through small towns or villages may not be of such a high quality. To use Czech highways you must purchase a vignette for your vehicle to show that you have paid the tolls.