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…
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.
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.
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!