Brno, Czech Republic – The Czech Republic is quickly becoming one of the most popular destinations for foreigners to study and work in Central Europe. Recent detailed statistics released by the Czech statistical office help us get a more comprehensive picture of the foreign-born nationals currently residing in the Czech Republic. Comparison of current data with statistics from 2003 clearly show that their numbers have increased exponentially over the last years and decades.
Who are the foreigners living in Czechia? Where are they residing? And for what purpose? All the answers here.
Number of foreigners in the Czech Republic skyrocketing
Foreign nationals currently make up nearly 5% of the Czech population and more than 10% of the Czech workforce. According to the data from the Czech statistical office, the number of foreigners has more than doubled over the past 14 years.
In 2003, there were slightly less than 250,000 foreign nationals residing in the Czech Republic on visas and permits ranging from stays of over 90 days to permanent residence. In 2017, they were more than 524,000. Out of the total number of foreigners, more than 53% of them are permanent residents, 26% have temporary residence and 17% are considered as long-term residents. A minority of foreigners, 3% and 0.5%, hold long-term visas and have asylum status respectively.
Where do they come from?
Numbering at 300.000, non-EU citizens make up the bulk of foreigners residing in the Czech Republic (like neighboring Slovakia where, for the first time last year, EU citizens were outnumbered by third country nationals). The countries with the highest numbers of foreign nationals living in the Czech Republic include Ukraine (117,000), Vietnam (60,000), Russia (37,000) and the United States (10,000).
On the other hand, foreign nationals from the EU accounted for nearly 220,000 people, or 43% of the total number of foreigners. The EU member countries with the highest immigration to the Czech Republic include neighboring Slovakia (112,000), Germany (21,000) and Poland (21,000).
The situation did not dramatically change over the past 15 years. In 2003, Slovaks accounted for the largest share of foreign-born nationals in Czechia (65,000), ahead of Ukrainians (62,000) – whose numbers only really surged in recent years, following the conflict in the Donbass region – as well as Vietnamese (29,000) and Poles (16,000).
Where are they staying?
Unsurprisingly, the largest amount of registered foreign nationals in 2017 is found in the country’s two largest cities, Prague (nearly 200.000) and Brno (35,000). As of early 2019, more than a quarter of Prague’s workforce are foreign nationals (who, besides, make up roughly 15% of the Czech capital’s total population). In 2003, there were only 61,000 foreign nationals living in Prague, with their numbers almost tripling in less than 15 years.
More generally, most of the foreign-born nationals are concentrated in Bohemia, particularly in regions bordering Poland and Germany, rather than Moravia, the Czech Republic’s eastern half. Other regions with high rates of foreign-born nationals include the Central Bohemian region outside of Prague (23,000) and South Bohemia (more than 7,000).
What are they doing in the Czech Republic?
According to the Czech statistical office, foreigners who are staying on the territory of the Czech Republic for over one year made up the vast majority (97%) of the total number of registered aliens.
Visas for the purpose of “employment and business” are particularly popular among citizens from Mongolia (82%), Ukraine (59%), and Vietnam (52%), with Czech authorities turning to these countries for cheap labor and with the aim of addressing a growing lack of workforce and mounting labor shortages. Meanwhile, people residing for the purpose of “family reunification” is higher among Asian citizens, most notably from South Korea (39%) and China (30%).
A lot of foreigners also come to the Czech Republic to pursue their studies. That’s particularly the case for citizens from Kazakhstan (57%), Russia (37%) and the United States (36%) – keeping in mind that EU citizens (mainly Slovaks) make up the bulk of foreign students enrolled in Czech universities (58%).
The Czech Republic has one of the lowest rates of asylum in the EU. In 2017, less than 2.700 foreign nationals were granted asylum status (compared to 208 in 2003). Most of them came from Ukraine (419), Syria (410), Belarus (250), Iraq (207) and Russia (198). 230 individuals that were granted asylum were stateless.
Love and personal relationships also bring many non-Czechs to immigrate. In 2017, there were more than 4,600 marriages between a Czech and non-Czech citizen on the territory (nearly twice as much as fifteen years ago). Marriages between Czech women and foreign men (2,654 marriages in 2017) are more common than the other way around. Most of the lucky grooms came from Slovakia, Germany, and the UK, while the equally lucky foreign brides marrying Czech men were mostly from Slovakia, Ukraine, and Russia.
The Czech Republic is proving to be a very attractive place for foreigners to reside, as attested by the increasing numbers of immigrants, the main driver of the population’s increase last year. And while Czechs are increasingly in favor of letting foreign workers being employed in the country, more than 40% of the population still view the country’s growing reliance on foreign workforce in a negative light, and hostility remains widespread, especially towards ethnic minorities.
Written by Lorna Radtke
Lorna Radtke is a student of international relations and European politics at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic, and has previously also lived in Austria. Her desire to dive into European politics began during her secondary education years in the United States, her home country. Eager to pursue her interest in media and journalism by researching intriguing topics and writing original articles, she joined the team of Kafkadesk contributors in April 2019. Feel free to check out her latest pieces here!