8th November 2021

Changes to the Aliens Residence Act and to the Czech Personal ID Cards Act

In what must be called a highly unsystematic approach, Czech law uses a single act – the Aliens Residence Act – to govern not only the status of EU citizens and their family members but also that of third-country foreigners. While the rights enjoyed by EU citizens follow directly from the treaties of the European Union and a number of EU directives, the objective in the case of third-country foreigners is predominantly old-fashioned hazard prevention. The changes made as of August 2021 concern highly diverse issues

– Post-brexit status of U.K. citizens: the cut-off date in this case is 31 December 2020, i.e., the final day of the transition period after brexit. Those British citizens who by that date acquired a title of residence in the Czech Republic will be treated like EU citizens also in the future. The rule puts into stark relief the fatal effects of brexit for U.K. citizens whose status after the transition period drops to that of third-country foreigners such as Russians, Vietnamese, or South Americans;
– Immediate relatives of EU and U.K. citizens are defined in Sec. 15a and Sec. 15b of the Aliens Residence Act, and enjoy a preferential status as next of kin of EU citizens;
– All foreigners, including EU citizens, must turn in their existing residence permits as of 2022, which will be replaced by biometric ID and a “registration”; the pertinent applications trigger a fee payment of CZK 200 (about EUR 8), to be remitted in the form of fee stamps;
– As of 1 September 2021, applicants for a permanent residence permit must show that their command of the Czech language is equivalent to the proficiency level A2 (as opposed to previously A1). This change has far-reaching consequences for those foreigners whose long-term plan is to attain Czech citizenship so as to remove themselves from the immediate administrative oversight of the Ministry of the Interior (which is highly recommendable, as it offers a way out of the bureaucratic jungle of Czech foreign nationals law), because the more stringent language proficiency requirements will be a difficult obstacle for many of them. Applying for Czech citizenship in any case presupposes a five-year stay based on a permanent residence permit. In order to become eligible for citizenship, one then must pass another Czech language skills exam, as well as a multiple-choice test including basic Czech geography, history, and civics;
– Tucked away in a newly created Section 170d, the amendment codifies the first-ever procedure for determining the status of stateless persons. Czech law lacked the pertinent regulation in spite of the fact that it acceded to the 1954 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons way back in 2004;
– The Aliens Residence Act newly includes rules for the health insurance of newborns, who will be insured along with their mother, against payment of a lump sum by one of the parents;
– In addition, non-EU foreign nationals must upon immigration newly present obligatory health insurance taken out from VZP (and no other insurer). The volume of annual premium payments which has thus been secured for VZP as a quasi-monopolist is estimated at up to CZK 1 billion. In regulative terms, this is a bizarre and daring move, reminiscent of the practices of such countries as Belarus, Russia, Venezuela, or China: one particular insurance company, which clearly enjoys cordial relations to the lawmaker and/or the Ministry of the Interior, is being granted a monopoly by law for insurance services which could perfectly well be provided by other insurers in the Czech Republic or from the EU. This particular change of legislation may be expected to run afoul at least of EU law, i.e., more specifically, the free movement of services pursuant to Art. 56 TFEU;
– Finally, August also saw the promulgation of a new Personal ID Cards Act (Act No. 269/2021 Coll.), designed to implement EU requirements. The most important change concerns Czech citizens who reside outside of the Czech Republic, and who will newly be able to apply for a Czech personal ID card. The law stipulates what items must be specified in the personal ID card as mandatory information; however, in contrast to common practice in many EU countries today, the Czech authorities won’t enter addresses abroad into Czech personal ID cards.

All told, we note that this flurry of changes certainly hasn’t brought greater clarity or straightforwardness to Czech foreign nationals law.


Members of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic