Language exams for foreigners seeking permanent residency permit to become tougher

Illustrative photo: Enrique Molina

Foreigners from non-EU states are obliged to undergo a Czech language exam to secure permanent residency in the country. The government is currently preparing legislation to make the tests harder as well as introduce stricter checks on potential cheaters, arguing that the Czech Republic currently has some of the lowest language requirements in Europe.

Illustrative photo: Enrique Molina
With a growing economy, low-unemployment and the ever present reality of good beer and beautiful architecture the Czech Republic has seen a growing amount of immigration in recent years.

Some, such as Pierre from Panama, are also making a dedicated effort towards learning the local language.

“I have been in an intensive course for almost four weeks now and I have learned a lot. There is some logic to it.

“What is hard for me and the rest of my classmates, as well as perhaps all foreigners, is that there are so many exceptions in the language that it are very hard to grasp. It comes with a fair amount of memorisation of certain words and terms.”

Pierre is currently learning Czech out of interest, but for many it is a necessity in order to secure a permanent residency permit.

In order to receive the document which provides access to public health insurance, and social assistance benefits, foreigners from states outside the EU also have to pass a Czech language test.

One of those who prepare them for the exams is teacher Kristina Horáčková from the Czech Language Training centre in Prague.

“People who want to get permanent residency currently have to fulfil the A1 level exam.

“Right now it has roughly the same format as the British exam, such as the first certificate. So there is a reading, listening, writing and of course a speaking part as well.

“Each part takes at least 20 to 30 minutes so it is quite time consuming.”

This may soon change however, as the government is currently preparing legislation that seeks to increase the level of proficiency of Czech required for the permit to level A2. The new measure should come into effect in 2021.

Rather than a discriminatory measure, setting the A2 language level baseline higher will provide residency permit holders with the necessary knowledge to function in society and the workplace, according to the Education Ministry.

Teacher Ms. Horáčková does agree with the idea and says that it could also potentially raise the value of the residency permit.

Photo: Ondřej Tomšů,  Radio Prague International
However, she also says the new standard could prove a challenge for some Czech learners.

“Right now, A1 is not easy per se, but it is doable if you learn and study properly. For non-Slavic speakers it will be harder, but you can definitely pull it off.

“However, A2 will be challenging even for Slavic speakers and for others I am afraid to say that it will be a big problem to pass.”

Asked about what he makes of the idea as a Czech learner, Pierre says it should be fine, but highlights the problems some may face.

“If, let’s say, you are a person does not have the means or the time to dedicate yourself to learning A2 level Czech, it would of course be detrimental to securing a residence permit here.”

It is not just tougher tests that the government is considering to implement, but stricter exam rules too. For example, police officers would be able to oversee the test in order to prevent cheating.

Those caught skirting the rules or failing to turn up on the examination date would automatically fail the free test and have to pay CZK 2,500 crowns for a re-sit.