Authorities launch website to help residency applicants with Czech language exams

Beginning in January 2009, foreigners from outside the EU who seek permanent residency in the Czech Republic will have to pass a Czech language exam to qualify for the permit. The authorities have now launched a website with information on the language test, a list of language centres where they can take the exam, as well as places where they can receive a voucher that will entitle them to one exam free-of-charge. And the website also features a sample exam in which seekers of permanent residency can test their Czech language skills.

Předpověď počasí na zítra: bude oblačno, přeháňky, déšť. Teplota kolem 15 °C. If you haven’t got the slightest idea of what the phrase means, you will have to do some studying – if you want to become a permanent resident of the Czech Republic after January 2009, that is. To help all those interested in settling in the country, the Czech Education Ministry has launched a website with information on the process. Martin Mach is the head of the department for secondary and higher vocational education at the Education Ministry.

“The website has two sections; one of them is focused on foreigners and it contains information on the rules of the exam, a list of textbooks and other materials for study, and a sample exam which allows foreigners to check online whether their language skills are sufficient for the exam.”

Foreign nationals applying for permanent residency who come from outside the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland, will have to show they understand basic Czech communication and that they can interpret written and spoken Czech. The level of the exam labelled A1, which is the lowest level of Czech exams for foreigners. Vladimír Řepka, from the Interior Ministry’s press department, explains why the authorities want foreigners to speak Czech.

“The Czech language exam has been introduced by the ministries of education and interior mainly because the Czech Republic is no longer a transit country but is becoming a final destination for foreign nationals. The exam should make these people able to handle basic communication in the Czech language environment. We believe this is very favourable and far-sighted, and will allow the Czech Republic to learn from our neighbours’ mistakes as well as for a better integration of foreigners.”

But not all share the optimistic outlook of the authorities. Marie Jelínková is the head of the migration programme of the Multicultural Centre Prague, an NGO dealing with ethnic diversity in the Czech Republic. She says that the exams in their current form will not have much effect on how well foreigners will integrate into the society.

“This will really not influence the integration of immigrants in the Czech Republic because for most of them, it will be obligatory to pass the test after having lived here for five years, which is when they will be able to apply for permanent residency. A1, which is the easiest level of the exam, was chosen because the ministries of education, interior, and social affairs that are involved in this project, weren’t able to agree on who should pay for the preparation courses. Originally, it was intended to be a more difficult exam which would really enable people to speak Czech quite well.”

Lawyer Pavel Čižinský, from a counselling centre, believes that the programme will work, but he says that the authorities should also take into consideration that very little material is available for foreigners who are interested in learning Czech.

“The system of teaching the Czech language to foreigners is only developing as only few foreigners have been learning Czech so far. The state should perhaps first enhance the system of schools, textbooks and teachers and so on, rather than start by setting administrative conditions for the acquisition of permanent residency. So we have mixed feelings, but we generally believe that the step will be good for the integration of foreigners.”

Although the Czech language exam will be required from January 2009, foreigners can already start taking it in September this year. So if you are planning to move to the Czech Republic any time soon, you will find all the information at