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Governance of migrant integration in Czechia

Czechia was a transit country until the 1990s. It has by now, however, become a destination country in its own right, counting 14 times more migrants than in 1989. This is due as initially a large numbers of ex-Soviet citizens sought international protection in Czechia; later, than labour migration also increased thanks to the rapid economic growth the country experienced in the second half of the 2000s.

The statistics in the chart above are based on Eurostat's Non-national population by group of citizenship, 1 January 2020.

According to the Czech Statistical Office, on 1 January 2020 there were 350,589 third-country nationals (TCNs) living in the Czechia.

Out of them, 2,515 had been granted asylum, 192,901 were permanent residents and 141,130 had temporary residence permits. Within the latter group, 17,141 were granted temporary residence for education, 33,852 - for family reasons, 82,807 - for economic activities, and 7,330 for other reasons.

In 2019 alone, of the 55,753 permits issued, 62% for economic activities, 25% were for studies, 11% for family reunification and 2% for other reasons.

Overall, the most represented countries of origin are Ukraine (145,153), Slovakia (121,278), Vietnam (61,910) and Russia (38,010).

In addition to the foreign population, over 75,000 Czech nationals of migrant background have acquired Czech citizenship since the country joined the EU in 2004; 4,453 of them were naturalised in 2019. Publicly available statistics however on naturalisation do not differentiate between EU and non-EU origins.

Integration strategy

To foster the inclusion of the growing population of migrant background, the interior ministry drafted the first Czech immigrant integration policy in 2000. It focused on equal opportunities and non-discrimination, as well as measures to provide long-term residents with rights similar to those of Czech citizens. The document was fundamentally updated in 2006, 2011 and 2016, with an increased emphasis on promoting good relations between migrant communities and the majority population.

In addition, since 2012, the Czech government published annual action plans which set:

  • Priorities such as proficiency in the Czech language, orientation in society, economic self-sufficiency, increased interactions  within communities, gradual acquisition of rights, and more.
  • Goals, including active participation, prevention of conflicts, exclusion and segregation, integration of second generations, regional and local integration, and more.
  • Means to achieving the above, including practical cooperation with stakeholders, support of the civic society, and more.

Both the policy documents and the action plans target all TCNs, including refugees, mainly after their arrival but also during the pre-migration period. The host society is also named as a target group for some of the integration measure.

Integration programme

All integration programmes set up by the Czech government target specifically the beneficiaries of international protection. The first support programme provided to persons granted international protection was introduced in 1994, 6 years before the first Policy for the Integration of Immigrants. Language and training courses, as well as support for access to the labour and housing market was its main priority.

The second State Integration Programme was elaborated in 2000, while the third one was designed in 2015 as a response to the expected increase in the number of asylum seekers due to the war in Syria. The State Integration Programme now includes 3 parts:

  • an individual integration plan to find housing, a job, appropriate education, health care, as well as guidance to apply for social benefits
  • Czech language courses where 400 hours are guaranteed
  • compulsory civic education course with 8 hours of attendance

The integration programme is however optional. Beneficiaries of international protection may enrol within a year after their protection status has been granted and are encouraged to use each tool available as relevant for their individual case.

Evaluation

The Czech integration strategy was officially assessed in 2009. The report describes changes in the migration situation (decrease of migration flows) and a reorientation of integration measures to specific localities with high concentration of immigrants.

As of 2011, the assessment is part of the Report on Migration and the Integration of Foreign Nationals.

In addition, a system of indicators on the integration of TCNs was established by the Research Institute for Labour and Social Affairs in 2010. The same institute assessed the role of the integration centres in 2015.

As for the State Integration Programme, it was evaluated by the Institute of Ethnology of the Czech Academy of Sciences in 2012.

Legislation

Law on foreigners

The Czech law on foreigners was adopted in 1999 and is among the most amended laws in the country. In 2017, a complex amendment was adopted, introducing new procedures for residence permits. Another amendment, adopted in 2020, among other things introduced a legal obligation for TCNs to attend welcome courses.

Asylum law

An asylum law was adopted in 1999 to complement the law on foreigners and to regulate specific areas of international protection. Following multiple amendments, a comprehensive reform entered into effect in 2016. Among other changes, it shortens the period of stay prior to which asylum-seekers gain free access to the labour market from 12 to 6 months. It also provides for the individualised approach of the integration programme currently in effect.

Integration law

Czechia does not have a self-standing integration law.

Measures in this field are based on resolutions of the government.

Nationality Law

The 2013 citizenship law fully repealed law 40/1993 Coll. Among other changes, it allows dual citizenship and adds new categories of persons entitled to citizenship. This resulted in a significant spike in the number of people applying for and granted citizenship. At the end of January 2021, an amendment to the citizenship law passed its first reading, which in several points tightens the conditions for obtainining Czech citizenship.

Anti-discrimination

Czechia’s first anti-discrimination law was adopted in 2009. It implements the EU legislative framework but anchors only limited procedural safeguards against discrimination. It has largely remained intact ever since although amendments are currently being drafted.

Public authorities

The Czech interior ministry has played a coordinating role in the field of integration since 2000, succeeding to the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs for the 2004-2008 period. The interior ministry's Department for Asylum and Migration Policy is responsible for the coordination of both the State Integration Programme and the Policy for the Integration of Immigrants.

The interior ministry's Refugee Facilities Administration implements the State Integration Programme and operates 10 out of the 14 regional integration centres. Three other integration centres - the Centre for the integration of foreigners in Usti, Caritas in Hradec Králové and Integration Centre Prague - are managed by NGOs and the South Moravia Regional Authority.

On the regional and municipal level, the integration agenda is usually covered by those responsible for education, housing and social services. Although local authorities are not obliged to develop their own strategies, the Region of Prague did design one in 2014, in cooperation with a wide range of public and civil society organisations.

Civil society

In addition to managing 3 out of 13 regional integration centres, civil society organisations are also represented in the Committee on the Rights of Foreigners of the Government Council for Human Rights. Their role there is mainly to review and comment on upcoming legislation and policies. In addition, specific migrant communities have representatives at the Council on National Minorities, which also exists at the municipal level. 

Over all, civil society plays an important role in the process of the integration of immigrants in large cities, especially in the capital Prague.

Funding

Non-profit organisations and local authorities can apply for financing through several funds. The European Social Fund, the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the national budget are the most important sources of financing. In addition, national and private funds are available for service providers and other stakeholders to carry out projects aiming for a better integration of the migrant population.

The information below will be updated once the national programmes for the EU funds during the 2021-2027 period become available; where public, such updates have already been included.

EU Funds

Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) in the Czech Republic

  • Details: The national integration priorities under AMIF reflect the Czech integration policy and include language education, social orientation and support to regional integration centres and other service providers. The allocation for Czechia AMIF for the 2014-2020 period is €51,224,740. Of this amount, 16% is allocated to asylum and 55% - to integration. See the full Czech AMIF programme.
  • National managing authority: The national managing authority for AMIF is the interior ministry's Department for Home Affairs EU Funds.

European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) in the Czech Republic

  • Details: For the 2021-2027 period, ESF+ is contributing €2.4 billion through two operational programmes that collectively provide €4 billion in funding. Social inclusion is the thematic priority of both operational programmes.
  • National managing authority: The national managing authorities for the European Social Fund (ESF+) in the Czech Republic are the Operational Programme Employment Plus (OPZ+) at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the Operational Programme Jan Amos Komensky (OP VVV) at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports.

Other EU funds for integration available in the Czech Republic

ERASMUS+, the EU’s programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe

National managing authority: Centre for International Cooperation in Education (DZS)

European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to strengthen economic and social cohesion in the EU by correcting regional imbalances

National managing authority: Ministry for Regional Development of the Czech Republic, Integrated Regional Operational Programme (IROP)

Other Funds

Other public funding in the Czech Republic

Private funding in the Czech Republic

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