Citizen Me

I applied for dual Czech citizenship almost 2 years ago – hopefully these notes will help others going through, or thinking of starting, the same process. This is a long post, because the process is a long one…

Introduction

Since January 1st 2014 it has been possible for foreigners living in the Czech Republic to apply for Czech citizenship without having to forfeit their existing nationality, i.e. to obtain dual citizenship. This possibility arose out of European Union standards, which the Czech government was among the last to implement – which tells you something about just how keen on the idea they really were.

In theory, the process of applying is simple. You leave an application with your regional council, who after contacting your local council to make sure you’re not some kind of antisocial delinquent will forward it to the Ministry of Interior in Prague. The Ministry will ask the security services to do a quick background check to make sure you’re not some kind of terrorist, and then make a decision.

According to the Czech Citizenship Act (no. 186/2013 Sb), the Ministry has 6 months from receipt of your documents to get back to you with an approval, a refusal or a request for more information; you can safely ignore this timeframe, as it will really take much, much longer before they do – it’s not like the government were enthusiastic enough to actually appoint extra staff for this new task, after all. By the way, if they ask for more documents, they get another 6 months to respond, so it’s actually in their interest to do so… and if any of your documents expire before they get looked at, they’ll certainly ask you to update/replace them to cover the time since your application.

Assuming all goes well, however, eventually the Ministry will let both you and your regional council know that you’ve been approved, and you will then have to publicly pledge allegiance to the State before the regional governor or their representative. Note that the law doesn’t state how often the regional government needs to hold these ceremonies, so you may be waiting a while… but once the ceremony is over, you are officially a Czech citizen, with all the associated rights and responsibilities. Hurrah!

Now you can go back to your local council and start the paperwork for an ID card and passport…

So, that’s the theory, but if you’ve been living in the Czech Republic for any length of time, you can probably guess that you’re going to need paperwork, and lots of it. Oh boy, is that right.

Been there, done that

The very first thing you’ll need to do is prove that you speak Czech to a sufficient (i.e. B1/Intermediate) standard, and that you know the basics about Czech society and government. You can find lots more information about how to do the standard exams for this on a special website at http://obcanstvi.cestina-pro-cizince.cz (which is available in several languages, including very decent English).

You won’t need to worry about this if you’ve spent three or more years in Czech elementary, secondary or higher education, or if you’re under 15 or over 65, or if you have mental or physical problems that make learning Czech impossible. Equivalent, recognised B1 qualifications are also accepted.

Don’t feel too bad about this – even Slovaks applying for Czech citizenship need it now.

Identify yourself!

Language and culture qualifications in the bag, it’s time to move on to the real paperwork!

First of all, you’ll need an original, full birth certificate, legalised by the application of an apostille, with a translation of the whole thing into Czech by a court-certified translator who has the infamous kulatý razitko. This may well involve expense and getting documentation from your country of birth – it certainly will if you’re British (in which case you can start HERE). I got mine translated at Manes Translations in Prague, who were quick, inexpensive (!), and gave me copies of everything on a thumb drive.

Note that documents previously legalised by your Embassy and/or superlegalised by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs are probably no longer sufficient; if for example you have some documents from getting married here check to make sure you know how they were legalised!

In addition, simple photocopies of your passport and residency permit are required. (Yes, this means that you need to provide the Ministry of the Interior with a copy of a document issued by the Ministry of the Interior in the first place… go figure.)

If you’re married, you’ll also need your marriage certificate. If you’re in a registered partnership, then evidence of this is required. If this was issued in the Czech Republic, an uncertified photocopy will do. Otherwise, a legalised version accompanied by a translation again.

If you’re divorced or have had a registered partnership dissolved, or if your spouse/partner has died, then documentation of this is needed – legalised and translated as appropriate.

And lastly, if you have children, their birth certificates too – simple copies if Czech (yes, even though these too are issued under the authority of the Interior Ministry…), legalised and translated copies if not.

I’m innocent, innocent I tell you!

You won’t be surprised to know that the Czechs aren’t keen on adopting criminals and ne’er-do-wells, so you’ll need to demonstrate a lack of criminal record.

The good news is that you don’t need any Czech documents for this – the Ministry can look you up anyway. This is almost unique, as it seems unable to look up anything else, as you’ll see later…

The bad news is that if you’ve been here for less than a decade, you’ll need confirmation from every state where you’ve lived more than 6 months at a time in the last 10 years – and these documents must be less than 6 months old.

Guess what? Some states don’t (or just won’t) hand out this information – including the United Kingdom. In these cases, a signed deposition that you have no criminal record will do.

 Solvency abuse

Having established that you’re not some kind of lawbreaker, your solvency is the next issue. After all, we wouldn’t want a bunch of parasites turning up and leeching off the state, would we?

You are obliged to produce evidence of your income to demonstrate that you can support yourself. In practice, this apparently means 5 years of tax returns for yourself and your spouse/partner if you are self employed and/or do your own taxes; if you are employed by someone else, then you’ll need official confirmation of your wages from them, along with a copy of your contract of employment or other proof that you’re working legally.

Oh and if you have income from abroad, that will need to be documented too, although it should probably be on your tax returns already.

If you have adult children who are still dependents, then you’ll need to provide evidence of their status, like an affidavit to that effect, confirmation of study from their University or suchlike.

Adventures in bureaucracy, part 1

Now the fun really begins!

Being solvent isn’t enough by itself, you have to prove that you don’t owe the State any money. How do you do that? By pestering civil servants, of course!

First, you need a letter less than 30 days old from your local Finance Office stating that you don’t owe them any money beyond permitted underpayments, and haven’t done so for 3 years. Unfortunately, they will be unable to provide the backdating, so you’ll have to settle for a statement that you owe them nothing now. This is what a lack of joined-up government does for you.

Then you need a similar letter from your regional Customs & Excise Office stating the same (which seems odd, until you realise that the Exciseman is responsible for collecting money owed to the Ministry of Finance). There will be a fee for processing this, paid by tax stamps.

And then you need another similar letter from your district social security office. About 6 months after the Citizenship Act came into force the social security administration actually sent round a standard letter for their local offices to use, so this shouldn’t be too hard to arrange – even though it’s still an unusual request and may require a personal visit.

While you’re there, you should also get confirmation of the amounts of any retirement, disability or other state pensions you receive (if any).

Last but not least, you’ll need proof that you don’t owe your health insurance company any money either. In theory, this should cover the whole time since you received a residency permit in the Czech Republic, but some companies shred documents after a decade, so if you’re a long-term resident this likely won’t be possible. What the Ministry of Interior really wants to see is a stamped printout of your “registrační údaje“, i.e. summary of account. You should make sure this covers as long a period as possible, but fortunately this data is transferred if you change insurance provider, which makes things easier.

Edit: July 2016. Apparently the registrační údaje, while required, are sometimes NOT enough by themselves, and a month-by-month statement may be asked for, despite essentially having been summarised by the registrační údaje anyway… a belt and braces approach, apparently!

Adventures in bureaucracy, part 2

Armed with all of the above, it’s finally application time.

Surprise! There is no standardised, official application form, so if your regional council hasn’t shown some initiative and created one, you’ll need to write a simple letter of application of your own (in Czech, obviously). This should include an actual reason for wanting citizenship; being a long term resident, for example, is not enough by itself, although if you own a business that might be.

(Married couples can apply jointly with any non-adult children. In the event that only one parent applies, the agreement of the other must be attached, notarised unless they come with you to submit the application. Children over 15 must also give their agreement in writing, again before a notary or when the application is made.)

Next up, you’ll need a longform CV, which means a written autobiography. This needs to include details of where you’ve lived in the Czech Republic, jobs held or studies undertaken, and an overview of your family life and participation in society. (Don’t laugh about that last bit – applications have been known to be declined because the applicant works in a different town to the one in which they live, and are thus deemed not to be properly integrated locally.)

Technically you should also include details of where and when you have been abroad during your period of residence. In practice, this seems to mean that you should create a separate document with details of any and all foreign travel over the last three years, and a declaration that you haven’t spent more then 6 months at a stretch abroad in the last decade or since you started living in the Czech Republic.

You need to take all of this documentation in person to the Registrar’s Office of your regional council. They will then check the whole lot, and if you ask VERY nicely give you a receipt for it… (good luck with that).

They may also try to tell you that your language/civics test certificate needs to be an original not a certified copy, but this is a dangerous fallacy. If your application is rejected, you can apply again after 2 years, in which case the certificate is still valid, IF you have it.

The End Game

Assuming that you have everything… you’re done! Congratulations!  Now all you can do is wait (and wait… and wait…) for the Ministry’s response.

Hopefully this post has helped you to get this far without losing too much hair. Feel free to share it with others – and best of luck!

14 thoughts on “Citizen Me

  1. Jason says:

    Hi Alastair, I just came upon your post and was curious if you ever did finally get Czech citizenship… was it a total of 2 years after you submitted the paperwork?

    Like

    • Alastair says:

      Hi Jason – I’m still waiting! Next week it will be exactly 2 years since I left the original application with the regional council in Usti nad Labem…

      Like

      • Jason says:

        Hi Alastair, thanks for your comment (if you received this same comment multiple times, my apologies – technical problems). A couple of questions came up as I read your post. The first was being, did the office finally accept the certified copies of your language/culture certificates rather than the originals? And the second related question, when you finally submitted all of the documents, did you give them the originals of the bezdlužnosti that stated you didn’t owe any money or, again, just certified copies? Keeping my fingers crossed that the Ministry will contact you soon! ~Jason

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      • Alastair says:

        Hi Jason, sorry for not getting back to you sooner, I’ve been travelling!
        The office did finally accept the certified copies of the language/culture certificate, yes! (Legally they have no choice, I think, although obviously that wouldn’t necessarily have stopped them from being difficult…).

        As to the proof of non-indebtedness – for those, I submitted originals and kept regular photocopies for myself. The dratted things are only valid for a few months anyway, and I couldn’t see myself needing them for anything else within that space of time.

        Still waiting for a reply!

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  2. Jason says:

    That’s ridiculous. I’m collecting my documents now and hoping to apply soon in Prague. I heard about some people who actually got rejected and am not sure why that would happen if everything was in order. Nevertheless, I did find your blog very helpful in making sure I have the essentials. Did you give them the original language/history certificates at the end or a certified copy? Good luck and I hope they contact you soon!

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  3. Jason says:

    Hi Alastair, (apologies if this is a double post. Thought the first one didn’t go thru). Can’t believe you’re still waiting. Fingers crossed that you get a response soon. I’m in the process of gathering the right documents myself in Prague. Turns out some people have been rejected, but am unsure why that would happen if they’ve fulfilled all of the conditions. Did you give the office a certified copy of the language/history certificate at the end or dd they insist on the original? Thanks for creating this blogpost. I found it very helpful for information!

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  4. Paul says:

    Thanks for your informative blog post.
    According to mzv.cz, citizenship can be granted after five years *permanent* residence, or ten years non-permanent (but continuous) residence, so long as you have a permanent residence visa at the time of application. Does an EU passport count as ‘permanent residence’ or does one need a permanent residence permit? If so, it would seem that citizenship would take five years to get the PR status, followed by another five years to get citizenship.

    What happened in your case?

    Second, do you happen to know where in the Czech Nationality Act it says that you need to show that you have paid tax *in order to demonstrate that you can support yourself*? The mzv.cz says that you have to have paid your legal obligations in respect of tax and social security; however, the implication is that, if you lived in CR without an income (for example, living off capital) you wouldn’t have any unfulfilled obligations. There is no mention of having to show that you can support yourself.

    Thanks again for your help.

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  5. Paul says:

    I’ve found the answer to my question about permanent residence:

    Do doby pobytu požadované v písmenech a) a b) se započítává doba jakéhokoli
    oprávněného pobytu na území České republiky před dosažením 18 let věku.
    (2) Státní občanství České republiky lze udělit, pokud žadatel prokáže, že
    se na území České republiky skutečně zdržuje alespoň v rozsahu jedné poloviny
    doby pobytu, jak je stanovena v odstavci 1 písm. a) až c). Do této doby se
    započítávají i období nepřítomnosti cizince na území České republiky, pokud
    jednotlivá období nepřítomnosti nepřesáhla 2 po sobě jdoucí měsíce, nebo ze
    závažného důvodu 6 po sobě jdoucích měsíců; závažným důvodem je zejména
    těhotenství a narození dítěte, vážné onemocnění, studium, odborné školení nebo
    pracovní cesta.

    As you can see, you do need PR status (but only three years) if you are an EU citizen.

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  6. Paul says:

    Sorry for the long posts:
    I think that I’ve solved the other question, as well. According to the law, as far as I can see, there is no requirement to demonstrate that you have an income, only to demonstrate that you have paid tax on any income you do have. Here’s the relevant section of the law:

    Státní občanství České republiky lze udělit žadateli, který prokáže výsi
    a zdroje svých příjmů, popřípadě splnění oznamovací povinnosti při přeshraničním
    převozu5) nebo bezhotovostní převod finančních prostředků z ciziny a že ze svých
    příjmů v deklarované výsi odvádí daň, pokud podle jiného právního předpisu6) tuto
    povinnost neplní jiná osoba. Skutečnosti dle předchozí věty je žadatel povinen
    prokázat za období posledních 3 let předcházejících dni podání žádosti.
    Notice that they say three years, not the five they asked you for.

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  7. Alastair says:

    Hi Paul!

    I’ve had permament residence in the Czech Republic since 1994, so the length of time wasn’t really a problem for me – although of course when I was asked to provide details of my insurance since being granted PR, that was a bit more problematic!

    In terms of income, my understanding from what I have been told in phone calls to the Interior Ministry is that they are looking to be sure that you are self supporting, i.e. won’t immediately be signing on for lots of state benefits. Unfortunately the line “který prokáže výsi a zdroje svých příjmů” (“who demonstrates the level and source of their income”) doesn’t really make clear whether that means from actual earned income or from savings, while the remainder of the sentence deals with transfers from abroad.

    Ultimately it might just come down to the preference/judgement of the person who reviews the application… It certainly seems from my experience to be the case that the documentary requirements in the law are being treated as a minimum, rather than as an absolute, and if asked for additional details there’s very little one can do about it.

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    • Paul says:

      Thanks very much Alastair. I think you are probably right that they are mainly interested in your ability to look after yourself financially. That sentence was in the section about not needing social security rather than the section about proving residence.

      On their website they make the point that EU citizens might not have registered in the country, and that, therefore, other pieces of evidence could be used to prove residence. Did they accept other evidence, such as rental contracts, utility payments, etc? If so, which ones? How reasonable and flexible were they about this?

      Thanks again for your help.

      Like

  8. Alastair says:

    Hey Paul, I’m afraid that because I’ve had permanent residency since 1994, the question of proving residence by other means hasn’t come up for me – so unfortunately I have no idea what kinds of evidence they might accept. Sorry!

    Like

  9. Jason says:

    Hi Alastair, hope all is going well with you and your application for citizenship. Was just curious if you’ve had any updates on your status since the summer. All the best! Jason

    Like

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