The employment of foreigners from the vantage point of applied law

The employment of foreigners on the Czech market is a hotly debated topic these days. According to an analysis by the Prague Institute of Planning and Development from October last year, on average, at least every tenth economically active person in the Czech Republic is a foreigner; in Prague, the ratio is in fact one in five. 

This topic is of crucial importance to the real estate market. While it is true that construction and engineering came only third in the 2017 ranking of industries with foreign workers in Prague, the share of foreigners in this particular business segment is indeed extraordinarily high, and in operational terms may be called existential – almost 40% of all employees in the construction industry hail from a country other than the Czech Republic. As we can see, foreign workers have become an indispensable labor resources for the Czech Republic (and for Prague in particular).

A look at the absolute figures reveals that (as at 12/31/2017), the labor offices in the Czech Republic accounted for 475,354 employed foreigners, of whom 142,200 come from third countries (i.e., non-EU countries). Whether a given worker comes from an EU country or a third country (i.e., from outside the EU) is of fundamental importance in terms of the need for (and possibility to obtain) work permit and residence permit.

EU citizens (as well as the citizens of Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland, and Switzerland) enjoy the same legal status as Czech citizens in employment matters, and need no special permit to become employed in the Czech Republic. A similar status is bestowed on the (non-EU) family member of such EU nationals: they may participate in the job market once they have obtained their temporary residence permit from the ministry of the interior (in the form of a residence card for EU family members).

Citizens from third countries, by contrast, need a number of documents before they may perform work as employees in the Czech Republic: a residence permit, a work permit, and a valid employment contract (or similar contract). These permits come in different flavors, either as a dual permit – the residence permit and work permit rolled into one – or as separate legal titles for staying in the country on the one hand and for performing in a gainful occupation on the other hand. An example for the former is the dual employee card, which combines a long-term residence permit (of more than three months) with a work permit. This card may be awarded to citizens from all third countries without restrictions for a period of up to two years (repeated prolongations are possible).

Other dual options are the so-called blue card, which is issued for high-caliber work by especially skilled staff (and thus presupposes that its holder graduated from university or technical college), or a card for corporate transferees, which is designated for management or specialist positions (as well as paid internships) in group companies, whereas the foreigner is being seconded to the position from their third country to the Czech Republic, always within one and the same group of companies. A special category, which to do justice would require an article of its own, is employment with a temp agency. Such agency work has very specific advantages and disadvantages. A foreigner who carries out paid work in the Czech Republic without the relevant permit (or in violation of the terms of their permit) is engaging in illegal work.

In closing, we note that employing foreigners entails a host of special obligations for the employer, among them the duty to register the foreign worker with the district labor office, the duty to keep separate records of one’s foreign workforce, and the duty to keep copies of all permits and approvals on file. The supervisory authorities perform compliance checks with these duties and investigate cases of potential illegal work; infractions carry a fine and possibly other sanctions.

Czech Statistical Bureau “Cizinci na pražském trhu práce – 2018” (Foreigners in the Prague Job Market – 2018), Ing. Jiří Mejstřík, Prague Institute of Planning and Development, 2018-10



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