Citizens of 12 countries eligible for Czech green cards

Photo: European Commission

In just a few days, it will be easier for foreigners to come to work in the Czech Republic – or at least for some of them. Czech authorities have issued a list of 12 countries whose citizens will be eligible for the Czech green card which combines work and residence permits. Most Czech employers welcome the new provision as they hope it will make the Czech labour market more accessible. But the choice of the countries included on the Green card list has raised eyebrows.

Photo: European Commission
As of January 2009, citizens of Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Japan, Macedonia, Monte Negro, New Zealand, Serbia, South Korea, Ukraine and the United States will find it easier to get a job in the Czech Republic. Czech authorities have come up with a new system under which these countries’ nationals will be able to apply for a green card – a document which will grant them work and residence permits. I asked Jana Říhová, a spokeswoman for the Labour Ministry, what the choice of countries eligible for the green card programme was based on.

“Green cards are meant for foreign workers from countries outside the EU which are on the list of the Interior Ministry. This list was based on security, political and sanitary criteria.”

One of the largest ethnic minorities in the Czech Republic is the Vietnamese community but Vietnam was left out of the list. Why was that?

“Well, to put it simply, Vietnam unfortunately did not meet all the given criteria, particularly the security criterion.”

Czech employers welcome the new provision as there are currently some 100,000 job vacancies on Czech labour market. But the choice of the countries selected for the new programme has raised doubts and criticism – especially the omission of Vietnam. Marcel Winter is the head of the Czech-Vietnamese Association.

“This decision will harm hundreds of Czech employers who are waiting for skilled Vietnamese metal toolers, welders, locksmiths, mechanics, bricklayers, miners, and other professionals.”

But the authorities say the list of countries included in the program might change in the future. There will be three kinds of green cards; university graduates might apply for a card valid for up to three years, other permits will expire in two years. All those interested in obtaining a green card will have to apply at Czech embassies and consulates in their own countries. But with most of the EU plunging into recession, the question is whether there will be a significant number of jobs available for foreigners in the coming months. Jana Říhová of the Labour Ministry says the number of green cards issued in 2009 will depend entirely on demand.

“This again depends on employers’ behaviour. It’s true that we have noted a certain drop in the number of foreign workers who usually lose their jobs first in these kinds of situations. On the other hand, it’s difficult to foresee further developments. The number of workers will probably drop in some fields of the industry, but in other branches, the situation might be the opposite.”