IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? The Czech Republic is set to launch a comprehensive new immigration law.

What does the change mean? The law will take effect Aug 15 and will introduce new permit categories for intra-corporate transferees, foreign investors and seasonal workers. It will also clarify processes for some employee-card, permanent-residence and long-term visa applicants.

  • Implementation time frame: The new legislation was published Monday and will come into force Aug. 15.
  • Visas/permits affected: ICT permits, employee cards, investment-based visas, permanent-residence cards, temporary-residence and long-term visas, including a new long-term visa category for seasonal workers.
  • Who is affected: Employers and foreign nationals applying for any of the permits or visas listed above.
  • Impact on processing times: Authorities are currently experiencing processing delays. It is not expected that the new law will improve processing times, at least in the short-term.

Background: One of the purposes of the new law is to implement the EU’s Intra Corporate Transfer (ICT) Directive 2014/66/EU. However, it touches on a number of other areas as well. Among key changes, the Czech Republic will:

  • Implement the EU’s ICT directive. ICT Cards will be made available to non-EU national managers, specialists and trainees who have been employed by an employer outside the Czech Republic for at least six months. Assignments cannot exceed three years for managers and specialists or one year for trainees. While officials are introducing ICT Cards in order to move into compliance with the EU directive, the Czech Republic’s existing ICT framework is, in many ways, more favorable to companies and ICTs. Processing times are faster under the existing program, there is no requirement that the ICT be employed by the employer for at least six months and assignments are not limited to three years. The impact of the implementation of this directive, therefore, is likely to be limited.
  • Change the application process for foreign nationals who are board members or executive directors of a Czech company. In some cases, foreign nationals in these positions have applied for employee cards rather than long-term visas or residence permits in the business category. This is because the employee card process usually involves less scrutiny. Officials are aiming to close this loophole by requiring board members and executive directors to apply for long-term visas or residence permits when appropriate. Current employee card holders will not be affected, though extensions will not be allowed.
  • Introduce investor visas. In order to be eligible for an investment card, executives must invest at least 75 million koruny (about US $3.4 million) and create at least 20 jobs. Multiple visas may be issued for the same investment project. However, while this option may contain some benefits, the complexity of the application makes an employee card a better option for qualifying managers.
  • Make clarifications on the permanent residence process for non-EU nationals. The new law will specify that non-EU nationals who have been in the Czech Republic at the time they apply for permanent residence should be eligible for permanent residence. This means that applicants who lose their residence status while an application is pending will still be eligible, provided they had been in the country for five years as of the date of their application.
  • Allow some first-time visa and residence card applications to be made in country. Currently, the Czech Republic requires first-time visa or residence card applicants to submit applications abroad at a Czech embassy or consulate. The law will change this in certain cases, however, and will allow some employers participating in special programs to submit applications in the Czech Republic on behalf of foreign employees.
  • Allow for the outsourcing of long-term visa and residence permit applications. While this is already happening for short-term Schengen Visas, the law will make this option available for long-term visa and residence permit applications as well. This change is expected to improve processing times in countries where embassies and consulates see a high number of applications.
  • Create a long-term visa permit for seasonal workers. This will allow workers to come to the Czech Republic for up to six months, but seasonal workers who want to change jobs will have to apply for an employment card or residence permit.

BAL Analysis: The benefits of the new ICT and investor categories may be limited because existing options might be preferential. Employers should take note of the changes and make sure that foreign nationals coming to the Czech Republic are applying for the right kind of permit and following proper procedures.