The Czech Republic is ranked in the top 10 places for foreigners and the benefits of living here are obvious. The quality of life, public transportation infrastructure and the country’s central location in Europe are among the well-known reasons. But one downside for many foreigners is the prospect of integrating into Czech society. A complex language, a culture that can be fairly insular, a sometimes impenetrable bureaucracy are among the challenges. The Czech government recognizes that these difficulties can mean some foreigners never integrate into society as well as they should, and now the government has created a new “adaptation-integration” course for foreigners. Here’s what you need to know:

The classes are mandatory for some foreigners

If you received your long-term or permanent residence permit this year (2021) and you’re not a citizen of an EU member state, you probably have to take the new course called “Welcome to the Czech Republic” (“Vítejte v České republice” in Czech). All the information below refers to holders of long-term or permanent residence permits.

The Czech Ministry of the Interior has made it obligatory for “selected groups of third-country nationals” whose residence permit came into effect on January 1st of this year or afterwards. Also, if you had a permit before 2021 but you changed in the purpose of your stay in 2021, your permit is in effect new and you have to take the adaptation-integration course. The obligation also applies to people who got their 2021 permanent residence permit based on humanitarian reasons, such as the family and spouses of asylum-seekers (but the obligation does NOT usually apply to the asylum-seekers themselves; see below.)

Foreigners have one year, from the effective date of their permit, to take the class. So if your residency permit says January 1, 2021, you’ve only got until the end of the year to take the class.

It is also mandatory in other cases which are quite technical, such as someone who is a “foreign national and the spouse of an asylee, whose marriage took place before the asylee entered the territory”; for “an asylee’s minor child or a child dependent on the care of an asylee if that child has not applied for asylum”; or for “a foreign national who

was a citizen of the Czech Republic in the past.” Also if your permanent residence permit is “for reasons worthy of special consideration” or “in the national interest of the Czech Republic”, if you are the child of a foreign national who holds a permanent residence permit “for the application is family reunification”. Mandatory classes also apply to permit holders “after the cancellation of a previous permanent residence permit” because you spent six continuous years outside the Czech Republic, or twelve months outside the European Union, or four years outside the Czech Republic “after the completion of international protection proceedings”. Yes, pretty technical.

Some foreigners don’t have to take the course, even if they got their residence permit in 2021.

It might sound like the mandatory classes are rather sweeping in terms of the people who are required to take them, but there are notable exceptions. One is that students don’t have to take the adaptation-integration course as long as their permit is for the purposes of education. It’s also clearly stipulated that citizens of EU member countries are not required to take the course.

There are also exceptions for long-term or permanent residence permit holders when the permit is for investors, foreign service workers, “intra-company employee transfer” card holders, and folks who have their long-term residence for the “purpose of protection in the territory” such as asylum seekers. So if you are in one of those categories, the course is not mandatory.

It’s low-stress, language-friendly, widely available, and you get a certificate for your wall!

First of all, it’s just a single four-hour class, so it’s not exactly arduous. And there’s no test or anything like that at the end; it’s just information for your benefit. A Czech-speaking tutor presides over the class but it is interpreted into one of these nine languages of your choice: English, Russian, Ukrainian, Spanish, French, Serbian, Mongolian, Arabic and Vietnamese. That’s quite a large array of mother tongues.

In terms of where the classes will be, the courses are a project of the Centres for Support of Integration of Foreign Nationals (http://www.integracnicentra.cz) with eighteen locations in the Czech Republic; you get to choose your location. The courses might also be offered by organizations officially cooperating with the Centre for Support of Integration of Foreign Nationals. It’s important to note that only these courses associated with the Centre via the official website fulfills the obligation; any other courses do not count. See www.vitejtevcr.cz.

Though there is no exam at the end, you have to stick around for the whole four hours. At that point you will receive a shiny diploma (certificate of attendance, really) to frame and mount in whatever place of honor you deem fit.

The course just wants to help

The “Welcome to the Czech Republic” adaptation-integration course is designed to help foreigners with things they deal with in their everyday life, as well as your rights and obligations as a permit-carrying foreigner. The course aims to introduce the basic values of Czech society and Czech culture, which sounds interesting on its own. Will it include vital presentations about beer, dumplings, cucumber season and taking off your shoes in the house?

Anyway, officially the course has the goal of providing the essentials about the Czech Republic, about the laws concerning residency, as well as background info on education, employment, doing business, leisure time, health care, housing, and “basic intercultural information about the Czech Republic”.

The course also gives tips and info about organizations and institutions providing free counselling for foreigners, on language courses for conquering the monster that is the Czech language, and connections to a host of other services such as those offered by the Centres for Support of Integration of Foreigners.

It’s not free but it’s more expensive not to take it.

Foreigners will have to pay CZK 1500 for the privilege of the course, and you pay in advance. The process involves first registering, then paying the fee, and after confirmation of payment you get to enroll in the class (the portal for registration is www.frs.gov.cz). So don’t expect a class where you can show up with your cash and get it over with, it’s not even possible to enroll until you’ve paid. But the cost of not taking the course is much steeper; failure to take the course within one year of the date when your permit was issued is an offence that can be fined up to CZK 10,000.

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