Ministry will no longer pay for Czech language test required for permanent residence

The Interior and Education Ministries have proposed a number of changes to the rules governing the language test required for foreigners to obtain permanent residence in Czechia. The proposal envisions an increase in the cost of the test, an end to the interior ministry footing the bill, and allowing a wider range of tests to be used as proof of Czech language knowledge.

Foreigners can apply for a permanent residence permit after five years of living in the Czech Republic or with a so-called “blue card” for highly skilled workers – but one of the conditions for being granted permanent residence is passing a Czech language exam at CEFR level A2. At the moment, this is a specific government-mandated exam, but the new proposal plans to expand the range of tests that applicants for permanent residence can use to prove their knowledge of Czech.

For example, medical professionals from abroad would no longer have to take the Czech language test to get permanent residence under the new proposal – their so-called “approval exam”, which they have to pass in order to practice medicine in Czechia, would be enough. This exam tests their knowledge of the Czech health system, Czech law, and the ability to express oneself professionally in Czech, and the ministry argues that in order for a foreign doctor, dentist or pharmacist to pass it, they have to already have a very good command of the Czech language – indeed, a better command than is required by the current language exam – therefore there is no need for them to take another test.

Requests from foreigners for recognition of other standardized tests are also increasing, according to the ministry, as some already have tests at a higher level than is required for permanent residence. Under the current regulations, they still have to take the mandated A2 exam, even if they already have an exam at a higher level.

"If a foreigner has passed one of the above-mentioned exams, they have demonstrated a higher level of knowledge than is required to prove permanent residence. It is therefore logical to recognize these exams as equivalent to the Czech language test for the purposes of permanent residence," state the authors of the proposal.

Photo: Czech National Pedagogic Institute

However, the Czech Rectors Conference, the association of rectors of Higher Education Institutions in the Czech Republic, has some reservations about the changes, saying that the approval exam is a highly specialized exam that is about proving educational attainment, not knowledge of the Czech language.

The ministry has proposed these changes in response to a recent increase in permanent residence applications and increased interest in the language exam, leading to long waiting times of around five months. As an illustration, in 2020 approximately 2,500 applicants passed the exam, while the interior ministry estimates that this year the number of applications for permanent residence in the Czech Republic will reach 30,000. It attributes this upswing partly to the increasing number of doctors coming to the Czech Republic from abroad thanks to the visa program for highly qualified employees which started in September 2019, and partly thanks to the influx of refugees from Ukraine.

At the moment, the Ministry of the Interior pays for and issues vouchers for applicants to take the Czech language test, but part of the new proposal envisages scrapping the vouchers and having applicants pay for the test themselves, which could save the ministry a lot of money – the cost of vouchers for the first round of exams was close to CZK 20 million this year.

The maximum price of the exam would also increase from CZK 2,500 to 3,200 under the proposed amendment.

The government is due to discuss the proposed changes soon, and if passed, they should go into effect from January 1 of next year.