The amendment to the current law on foreigners was put forward by Interior Minister Jan Hamáček, of the Social Democrats, who says the main impulse for the changes was to implement an EU directive to improve the mobility of third-country researchers or students within the EU.
Magda Faltová, head of the NGO Association for Integration and Migration, says this is one of the few positive aspects of the amendment:
“Another positive aspect is that the amendment introduces a new residency permit for researchers and students. If they graduate or end their research contract, they can receive a permit that will allow them to look for a job or start a business within the next nine months.”
Mrs Faltová also welcomes the fact that the amendment assigns a specific role to the state regarding the integration of migrants into Czech society, by establishing regional integration centres.
“Although they have been operating for several years, they are actually mentioned for the first time in the immigration act.
“They are supposed to provide services to migrants and the state should finance the services. In the future, there will also be mandatory integration courses for migrants with a specific residency permit.”
On the other hand, experts on migration are very critical towards the so-called employee cards, a new type of permit for long-term residence in the Czech Republic where the purpose of the holder’s stay is employment. The card entitles its holders to reside in the country, but they are not allowed to change their job during the initial six months of their stay.
While the state argues that the employee cards will help to prevent job agencies from pursuing predatory practices linked to the process of hiring foreign workers, Mrs Faltová warns it might have exactly the opposite effect:
“The law newly says that migrants will not be allowed to change their employer for the first six months after their arrival in the Czech Republic.
“We find it very problematic and we think it will lead to labour exploitation. Migrants could find themselves in a difficult situation in case there are some problems with the employer.”
Migration experts also disagree with the newly introduced special work visas for labourers from specific countries and economic sectors:
“Migrants coming on the basis of this specific visa will not be allowed to change the purpose of their stay on Czech territory. They will not be allowed stay for longer than one year and after the one year visa expires they will have to return. They will not be allowed to bring their family or to apply for any other residency permit on Czech territory.”
Among other changes, the newly adopted amendment to the foreigners’ law also simplifies and expands the government programme for economic migration for highly qualified workers.