Migrationonline.cz

The website for critical discussion about migration in Central and Eastern Europe.
12. 8. 13
Zdroj: migrationonline.cz

Family Reunification in the Czech Republic – Delays When Coming, Little Rights When Here

The present article summarizes the debate about family reunification of foreign nationals in the Czech Republic initiated as part of the project Migration to the Centre. Its general conclusion is that the family reunion procedure is marked with delays and bureaucracy, while the state does little for foreign family members in terms of integration and social rights.

Family migration was, until only recently, the main purpose of migration to the Czech Republic as more than 40 % of all residence permits were issued for the purpose of family reunification.[1] The explanation of this relatively high ratio of family migrants compared with other EU countries can be explained by restrictive policies in issuing permits for work and business purposes.[2]

The Czech Republic ranks among the countries with more accommodating conditions for family reunification because it was ranked 13th on the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) in 2010.[3] Family reunification legislation is highly influenced by the EU Family Reunification Directive, which, according to NGOs, has significantly improved the status of family migrants.[4]

Procedural delays are currently considered the biggest problem with family reunification in the Czech Republic.

While some experts consider the current legal regulation of family reunification in the Czech Republic satisfactory[5], others still see room for improvement.[6] The letter expressed concerns in particular with regard to the long waiting period for reunification (270 days), limited access of family members to the public health insurance scheme, minimum age for spouses (20 years) and obstacles to obtain independent residence status from sponsor.[7]

All experts participating in the debate, however, agreed that there are considerable procedural shortcomings when it comes to family reunification. These, in particular, include: delays in deciding upon applications, an inconsistent assessment of applications from within one family, and problematic methods of verification of declared family ties. Procedural delays are currently considered to be the biggest problem of family reunification in the Czech Republic. Practitioners declare that, in some cases, the right to family life and speedy procedure may have been violated.[8]

Newly proposed immigration legislation remedies only some of these concerns – e.g. the waiting period would be reduced to 4 months, but it fails to act on other shortcomings present in the current regulations. The changes proposed in the new legislation was the hot topic in the public debate organized by the Multicultural Center Prague in June 2013 that was attended by

Experts expressed concerns about the planned introduction of adaptation-integration courses for family members in the proposed legislation.

experts from academia, legal practice, and the Office of Ombudsman.[9] While the participants endorsed some improvements proposed in the new legislation (such as the reduction of waiting period mentioned above), they expressed concerns about the planned introduction of adaptation-integration courses for family members (including spouses of Czech citizens) and the introduction of the new condition of common language of spouses. As the proposed legislation never reached Parliament, it is not yet clear how these measures would be implemented.[10]

The public debate also touched upon the important point of socio-psychological effects caused by the lengthy and complex family reunification procedure on the entire family, which include the disruption of ties between family members, problems with integration, etc.[11] In this context, the concept of transnational motherhood was also mentioned where more and more mothers decide to leave their children in their country of origin where they are raised by other family members. The practitioners also mentioned the difficulties of sponsors to prove the necessary amount of income or applying for residence permits or visas in the Czech embassies.

The migrants contributed to the debate by providing five short articles. Their contributions focused on their experience being the family member who came to the Czech Republic for family reunification, or, on the other hand, their experience being the sponsor who decided to bring his family to the Czech Republic. In general, migrants feel very sensitive to the sudden intervention of the authorities into their private lives, either in form of interviews at the embassies or during on-site checks done by the police. As expressed by one of the migrant authors describing the story of Osama who sought to bring his family from Saudi Arabia to the Czech Republic while completing his studies: “Bureaucracy is like a deaf lady, moving slowly and keeping foreigners separate from their partners and families”.[12]

In general, the procedure the families need to follow when they decide to reunite in the Czech Republic is lengthy, complex, and can also be costly. I would add two additional points to complete the picture of the family reunification reality in the Czech Republic:

- Firstly, there is a big problem with the health insurance of family members of Czech citizens and third-country nationals who, by law, do not fall in to the public health insurance scheme. They are left with compulsory commercial health insurance companies who often refuse to cover surgical or other more complex procedures. Thus, for example a child of two third country parents working in the Czech Republic (and thus contributing into its social and health insurance schemes) is not covered by the public health insurance. There are cases when the commercial health insurance companies refused to pay for care of prematurely born babies and left the families with huge debts. Many experts and NGOs see this situation as one of the biggest problems with the immigration policy of the Czech Republic.[13] Currently, the implementation of the Single Permit Directive opened another sensitive issue of inclusion of family members into the scheme for unemployed.[14]

- Secondly, there is a limited possibility for families already residing in the territory of the Czech Republic to apply for the residence permit for the purpose of family reunification from within the territory of the Czech Republic (as opposed to the embassy in their country of origin). This limitation affects families who already live in the Czech Republic but possess residence permits for other purposes.

To conclude, all the participants of the debate agreed that the procedure of family reunion in the Czech Republic is marked with procedural delays and bureaucracy. Immigration experts and migrants themselves also agreed that the state does little for foreign family members residing in the territory in terms of integration and social rights.


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[1] This percentage was 39 % in 2010, 43 % in 2011, but fell to 30,9 % in 2012 when the main purpose for application for long-term residence permits was study. See, Ministry of Interior of the Czech Republic, Report on situation in migration and integration of foreign nationals in the Czech Republic in 2012, Prague, 2013 p. 45. Please note, that data for 2012 were released after the publication of relevant articles.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Michala Chilli, The migrant’s right to family life during proceedings on family reunification in the Czech Republic, MigraceOnline, 25. 7. 2013.

[10] The Ministry of Interior put its proposal of complete recodification of the immigration legislation for public consultation in May 2013. After a great number of amending proposals and protest of migrant NGOs, the Ministry pulled the proposal back for reconsideration. Read more in: MigraceOnline, The draft of the new Aliens Act: Tighter Rules for All, 30. 8. 2013.

[11] Oksana Rizak, Magda Faltová, see video para 9 above.

[12] Tania Dumbrava, Separated by the Sword of Bureaucracy, MigraceOnline, 12. 8. 2013.

[13] See: Campaign for health insurance for migrants lead by the Consortium of Migrants Assisting Organizations in the Czech Republic since 2011.

Alexandra Dubová
Alexandra Dubová graduated from the human rights program at the Central European University in Budapest. She currently works as a lawyer for the Organization for Aid to Refugees. She cooperates with the MKC Prague as a MigraceOnline.cz team member.
Alexandra Dubová
12. 8. 13
Zdroj: migrationonline.cz
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