As a result of historic low unemployment levels (approximately 2.2% - the lowest in the EU)[1] companies have suffered from a shortage of workers, and in particular qualified technical specialists in the Czech Republic. As an export oriented economy heavily engaged in manufacturing and industry, such workers are now in extreme demand in the country. Accordingly, the desire to employ highly qualified workers from third (non-EU) countries has escalated over recent years, causing an influx of applications, all of which require extensive and burdensome administrative steps. Applications are renowned for taking extensive periods of time before an applicant is even scheduled for an appointment to lodge a visa application as there is no statutory period for scheduling an appointment. The notoriously slow and inefficient process in the Czech Republic has caused widespread frustration among prospective employers/employees.

As an immediate but partial solution to the predicament, the Czech government has introduced Project Ukraine and Project India (together “the Project”) which aims to substantially reduce the time before a visa application can be lodged for eligible applicants. Provided an applicant and their future Czech employer qualify for the Project, they (and any family members who also seek to move to the Czech Republic with them) will be scheduled for an appointment at the embassy to lodge their visa applications in advance of other applicants. Employee Card[2] or Blue Card[3] visa applicants as well as their family members who apply for long-term visas for family reasons (as specified in the Act No. 326/1999 Coll., on residence of foreigners) will not be required to go through registration in the appointment reservation system as standard applicants.

This appointment reservation system used for visa applicants in Ukraine has faced criticism for its inefficiency and corruption[4], and according to many it has been abused. The advantage for applicants is significant: they can bypass the initial phase of the appointment reservation system and receive a priority date, and are thereby put at an advantage over the other large line of applicants. They will be evaluated and approved as a priority. However, notably the Project does not decrease any of the given statutory periods, such as the period in which the Ministry of Interior needs to evaluate and decide upon a visa application. The remaining stages of the visa application procedure stay unchanged after an application is lodged.

The scale of the Project is capped at a maximum of 500 highly qualified workers from Ukraine and 500 from India per year. To be eligible, applicants have to be citizens of these countries and be highly qualified specialists in their fields.[5]

Provided the above criteria is met, any employer who seeks to employ a highly qualified Indian or Ukrainian worker through the above accelerated process is eligible for the Project.

There are several key components involved in the application:

The employer must submit an application to the Ministry of Industry and Trade which states the name and specific position of the applicant. As the Ministry of Industry and Trade shares the application with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as with the Ministry of Interior, both the embassy and later the Ministry of Interior are aware of which visa applicants should be prioritized.

The employer must have a recommendation[6] from an organisation representing entrepreneurs (such as the Czech Chamber of Commerce or the Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic), a governmental body or from Czechinvest[7]. Such recommendations are valid for one year. There are multiple further requirements for the employer to qualify for the Project, mostly of an administrative nature. In particular, all obligations of the employer towards the state such as taxes or payments on social insurance must be certified.

The employer must ensure that all of the documentation the applicant has lodged abroad is duly prepared. This requires sending the originals/authorised copies of various documentation along with authorised translations into Czech, where necessary. Additionally, the employer needs to fulfil the so called “National Job Market Test” requirement as set out in the Act No. 435/2004 Coll., on Employment. This means creating a job vacancy which is published in the electronic database of the Labour Office.

Provided an EU candidate fulfils the given objective criteria for the position applies, the employer should prefer this EU candidate, unless there are justifiable reasons why such candidate does not fulfil the given requirements. For that reason a good specification of the requirements regarding the vacancy is of a high importance.

Furthermore, the prospective Czech based employer is required to provide an affidavit which affirms that the worker meets the qualification requirements for the job and that he or she has a significant impact upon the business of the employer in the Czech Republic.

The Project has been passed as a resolution of the Czech government and there is no legal right for the foreign workers and Czech based employers to participate in the Project. However, the Project may provide, at least for some Czech entrepreneurs, a useful tool to fight the shortage of qualified workers on the national/European job market.