Monday, April 11, 2011

Czech Green Card - Secret Back Door to Europe?

I recently wrote about the Czech Blue Card. It's the Czech Republic's implementation of the European Blue Card. The Blue Card is possibly helpful as a way into Europe long-term in that it will eventually let you live and work anywhere in Europe which accepts it (though for political reasons, this is being watered down quite a bit), but the downside to the Blue Card from the potential immigrant's point of view is pretty clear: it doesn't seem to offer any mechanism to make it easier to get in. However, when I read about the Czech Blue Card, I stumbled across this intriguing quote:
These new permits do not replace the Green Cards introduced in 2009 which simplify the hiring of workers without professional qualifications from certain specified countries.
That's very interesting. For many people who want to work abroad, their holy grail is an easy way into Europe. For most people, that "easy way" simply doesn't exist. However, the Czech Green Card might be that way for some.

Back in 2007/08, after the Czech Republic entered the EU in 2004, they simultaneously lost some citizens to emigration and had a huge economic boom. A strong, export-driven market meant that they were creating jobs faster than their citizens could fill them and, like many economically strong countries, many of their citizens didn't want jobs as waiters or lorry (truck) drivers. In response, the Czech government created the Green Card in an attempt to make it very easy to attract unskilled labor.

There was just one problem: they launched it in 2009, right as the world economy was collapsing. Many Czech residents were upset at the thought of their jobs being offered to foreigners because unemployment skyrocketed and they understandably wanted to protect their economy.

Things are a bit better now and the Green Card scheme survives. The Czech Ministry of the Interior maintains a Green Card explanation site (in English, no less!). This site explains how the card works and what steps you need to take to apply. Basically the card is a combined residency and work permit. There are three types of cards available:
  • Type A: for qualified workers with university education and key personnel
  • Type B: for workers in jobs with a minimum educational requirement
  • Type C: for other workers
The validity of the green card is for 2-3 years. For green card types A and B it is possible to extend their validity under certain circumstances for up to 3 years. Thus, you probably want to avoid Type C if you wish to stay in Europe permanently. Also note that the green card is only available to citizens of the following twelve countries:
  1. Australian Commonwealth
  2. Montenegro
  3. Republic of Croatia
  4. Japan
  5. Canada
  6. Republic of Korea
  7. New Zealand
  8. Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  9. Republic of Macedonia
  10. United States of America
  11. Serbia
  12. Ukraine
The government also provides  a great portal to help you find Czech Green Card jobs. I like their jobs by category page myself. They have jobs for secretaris, clerks, beauticians, cleaners, travel guides, actuaries, cabinet makers, bartenders, and so on.

If you apply, you can receive an answer in as little as two months. You still have to fly to the Czech Republic, but this looks like the easiest way into Europe for those without skills.

Prague
Prague, City Center, Capital of the Czech Republic
Photo by Moyan Brenn

There are still a few issues. I suspect that not speaking at least basic Czech could be an obstacle and it's unclear to me whether or not one's spouse/partner is allowed. I also don't know how many green cards are issued per year, so merely having green cards available but not issuing them could be an obstacle. If anyone has more information they can share with me about this, I'd love to hear it.

Here's a free Foreign Service Institute basic Czech course to get you started with the language. Combine that with a Pimsleur course for pronunciation and you'll have a great head start.
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