Prague, Czech Republic – Ranked as one of the top European destinations for foreigners, the benefits of living in the Czech Republic are obvious and well-documented, from the country’s quality of life and public transport infrastructure to its central location in Europe and affordable cost of living.
But one downside for many foreigners is the prospect of integrating into Czech society: a complex language, a culture that can be fairly insular and a sometimes impenetrable bureaucracy are among the challenges. To address this issue, the Czech government has created a new “adaptation-integration” course for foreigners. Here’s what you need to know.
Who has to take the course?
If you received your long-term or permanent residence permit in 2021 and you are not a citizen of an EU member state, you probably have to take the new course called “Welcome to the Czech Republic” (“Vítejte v České republice” in Czech). All the information below refers to holders of long-term or permanent residence permits.
The Czech Ministry of the Interior has made it obligatory for “selected groups of third-country nationals” whose residence permit came into effect on January 1st of this year or afterwards. Additionally, if you had a permit before 2021 but the purpose of your stay changed in 2021, your permit is in effect new and you have to take the adaptation-integration course. The obligation also applies to people who got their 2021 permanent residence permit based on humanitarian reasons, such as the family and spouses of asylum-seekers (but the obligation does NOT usually apply to the asylum-seekers themselves; see below.)
Foreigners have one year, from the effective date of their permit, to take the class. For example, if your residency permit came into force on January 1, 2021, you’ve only got until the end of the year to take the class.
The classes are also mandatory in other, more technical cases, such as someone who is a “foreign national and the spouse of an asylee, whose marriage took place before the asylee entered the territory”; for “an asylee’s minor child or a child dependent on the care of an asylee if that child has not applied for asylum”; or for “a foreign national who was a citizen of the Czech Republic in the past.”
Also, if your permanent residence permit has been issued “for reasons worthy of special consideration” or “in the national interest of the Czech Republic”, if you are the child of a foreign national who holds a permanent residence permit “for the application is family reunification”. Mandatory classes also apply to permit holders “after the cancellation of a previous permanent residence permit” because you spent six continuous years outside of the Czech Republic, or 12 months outside of the EU, or four years outside the Czech Republic “after the completion of international protection proceedings”. Yes, pretty technical.
It might sound like the mandatory classes are rather sweeping in terms of the people who are required to take them, but there are notable exceptions. One is that students don’t have to take the adaptation-integration course as long as their permit is for the purpose of education. It’s also clearly stipulated that citizens of EU member states are not required to take the course.
There are also exceptions for long-term or permanent residence permit holders when the permit is for investors, foreign service workers, “intra-company employee transfer” card holders, and people who have their long-term residence for the “purpose of protection in the territory” such as asylum seekers.
How does it work?
First of all, it’s just a single four-hour class, so it’s not exactly arduous. And there’s no test or anything at the end: it’s just information for your benefit. A Czech-speaking tutor presides over the class but it is interpreted into one of these nine languages of your choice: English, Russian, Ukrainian, Spanish, French, Serbian, Mongolian, Arabic and Vietnamese.
In terms of where the classes will be, the courses are a project of the Centres for Support of Integration of Foreign Nationals (http://www.integracnicentra.cz) with 18 locations in the Czech Republic; you get to choose the one you prefer. The courses might also be offered by organizations officially cooperating with the Centre for Support of Integration of Foreign Nationals. It’s important to note that only these courses associated with the Centre via the official website fulfills the obligation; any other courses do not count. See here: www.vitejtevcr.cz.
Though there is no exam at the end, you have to stick around for the whole four hours. At that point you will receive a shiny diploma (certificate of attendance, really) to frame and mount in whatever place of honor you deem fit.
What is it for?
The “Welcome to the Czech Republic” adaptation-integration course is designed to help foreigners with things they deal with in their everyday life, as well as your rights and obligations as a permit-carrying foreigner. The course aims to introduce the basic values of Czech society and Czech culture, which sounds interesting on its own. Will it include vital presentations about beer, dumplings, cucumber season and taking off your shoes in the house?
The goal of the course is to provide the essentials about the Czech Republic, about the laws concerning residency, as well as background information on education, employment, doing business, leisure time, health care, housing, and “basic intercultural information about the Czech Republic”.
The course also gives tips and info about organizations and institutions providing free counselling for foreigners, on language courses for conquering the monster Czech language, and connections to a host of other services such as those offered by the Centres for Support of Integration of Foreigners.
How much does it cost?
Foreigners will have to pay 1,500 Kc (around 60€) for the course, to be paid in advance. The process involves first registering, then paying the fee, and after confirmation of payment you get to enroll in the class (the portal for registration is www.frs.gov.cz).
The cost of not taking the course is much steeper: failure to take the course within one year of the date when your permit was issued is an offence that can be fined up to 10,000 Kc (400€).