The migrant crisis on the islands off the coast of Greece continues to fill the front pages – alas, many European countries, among them the Visegrád (V4) states and Austria in particular, are still highly unwilling to get involved in resolving the issue. And yet, outside the limelight, an inconspicuous legal change in September 2019 has liberalized Czech citizenship law in favor of 20th-century emigrants. This may help many who are affected by Brexit or who wish to leave the U.S. under the specter of a Trump reelection (the situation in Germany and Austria see this article).
In April 2020, in an article on the planned tightening of the Czech Citizenship Act (requiring foreigners in a greater number of cases to prove that they have no criminal record, though this tightening has not yet materialized), we noted in passing that as of September 2019, not only emigrants themselves but also their descendants could newly (re-)gain Czech citizenship, based on self-declaration, no exclusion periods or other conditions attached. In this case, there is no difference between Czech and Czechoslovak citizenship, i.e., practically all emigrants and their descendants may ask for a Czech passport. Within this context, dual citizenship will be tolerated. However, three categories of individuals are barred from making use of the option: firstly, all those who lost their citizenship based on decree No. 33/1945 of Dr. Edvard Beneš of 2 August 1945, i.e., all Sudeten Germans and Czechoslovak Magyars – which in effect means the active application of a Beneš decree! – secondly, the inhabitants of Carpathian Ruthenia, which was ceded wholesale to the Soviet Union in 1945; and all those who have since become Slovak citizens. Sudeten Germans, Magyars (Hungarians), Ukrainians, and their descendants are clearly excluded from obtaining Czech citizenship. In practice, the only relevant restriction is that which is imposed on the third group: Slovak citizens. All applicants must demonstrate that they are not Slovak citizens. This can be done by filing a request to such effect with a Slovak embassy or with the Bratislava District Office (Okresný úrad). Note, however, that the Slovak authorities have been slow in preparing for the need to accommodate such requests.
New options for prospective applicants from the UK and the U.S.
Overall, it makes sense for Czech (or Czechoslovak) emigrants and their descendants, who are UK or U.S. citizens today and who would like to obtain an EU passport for political or practical reasons (Brexit, Trump, employment in the EU) to go through their records of ancestry and dig up old records and documents (i.e., in particular, birth certificates and wedding certificates – originals will be needed, and will have to be apostilled and be furnished with a certified translation). More specifically, a certified translation into Czech will be indispensable in the Czech Republic; Slovak authorities will accept documents (or translations) in Czech. One thing is obvious: an EU passport, whether issued by the Czech Republic, Austria, or Germany, provides infinitely more rights and security than a mere EU residency permit.
Act on Czech Citizenship (Act No. 186/2013 Coll.)
Amendment to the Act on Czech Citizenship, Act No. 207/2019 Coll.
12th April 2021
19th February 2021
12th April 2021