A difficult journey to Czech citizenship
I am a US citizen, and I’ve been living in the Czech Republic since 1994. I started looking into the possibilities of dual citizenship in 2000 but it was always more complicated than I liked – if you had a parent who was Czech, it was easy, but otherwise you had to give up your other citizenship.
Even though people said that for US citizenship you could say you were going to give it up, hand over your passport, and then go back to the US Embassy and get a new one, I wanted to do things properly, so I thought it wouldn’t be possible.
In January 2014, the law changed; it became possible to legally get dual Czech-American citizenship. So I started the process, which finally finished in September 2016, over two years later.
My son, who was born here, submitted proof of having attended school for 12 years and was approved for dual citizenship within about a month. Please understand that I am only describing how I got citizenship as a non-EU citizen; if your situation is different from mine the requirements for you may also be different.
The main thing that you need in order to obtain Czech citizenship, and I cannot stress this enough, is motivation. It is a frustrating and tedious slog through iron hoops of Kafka-esque bureaucracy. It can be done but you really must keep your eyes on the prize.
The other things you need:
- permanent residency in the Czech Republic for at least 5 years;
- passing grades on the tests of Czech language (B1) and Czech knowledge;
- compliance with Czech laws;
- a source of income;
- not being on welfare;
- about 8000 CZK (4900 for the tests, 2000 for the citizenship, plus a half dozen stamps and Czech Point visits here and there, and then more if you want an ID card / passport).
You have to be able to prove all these things with recent (and legally translated, when necessary) documents, including your birth certificate; marriage certificate (or registered partnership); CV (this is freeform – I tried submitting a neatly-bulleted resume but they don’t want your work history, they want your whole history, including, for example, the towns your parents were born in and their histories – all written in Czech); criminal registry form going back 10 years; a signed declaration of your good citizenship; and proof that you are not in debt from the financial office, the social security office, the health insurance office, the customs office, or the tax office.
You have to prove that you haven’t been out of the country for more than a certain number of days each year, though how you prove that is a bit fuzzy – I just signed a declaration that I had not been. For me the hardest parts of this were the CV and managing to get around all the offices and then submitting all the papers before any of them were out of date.
They also recommend letters of reference from upstanding members of the community, any publications that prove what a great person you are and a benefit to the country.
The tests of Czech language and knowledge can be skipped if you meet certain conditions but I thought it was interesting. Plus it’s fun to ask your Czech friends questions like Jak se jmenuje nejvyšší pohoří na Moravě? and Pan Svoboda se chce stát poslancem Poslanecké sněmovny ČR. Kolik let nejdéle může být poslancem v jednom volebním období?
About a year after I had submitted everything, my application was rejected. The paperwork I had submitted had gone out of date while it sat on someone’s desk, and I had to run around all the offices again. Also I had to submit an application to the civil registry office to make a change to my son’s birth certificate, which had listed my country of birth as USA instead of Spojené státy americké, which I’m sure you can understand had the potential to be very confusing.
It is difficult to avoid sarcasm at certain points, but it does not actually help the application process at all. A sense of humor is more useful than you might imagine. It is also important to have friends through this process or you will sometimes think you are going crazy. If Jan Kopkáš at BEC had not encouraged me, I would definitely have given up.
But be careful not to take anybody’s word unless they are actually working at the citizenship office. So many people told me that jus soli applied for my son, but I promise you that it did not. I was told that I couldn’t get citizenship as a freelancer. People told me that I could not get dual citizenship without giving up my US citizenship, but I have dual citizenship now, I really do. It is possible.
And when it’s all over you get a rose and a nice paperweight. And you can throw yourself a party at The Immigrant if you want to.
Contact information for the regional office that deals with citizenship applications:
- Krajský úřad Jihomoravského kraje
- dbor správní, oddělení správní
- Žerotínovo nám. 3/5, 601 82 Brno
- +420 541 651 111
- administrative hours: Mon and Wed 8 am – 5 pm
Facebook group for more information and people on the same journey: Applying For Czech Citizenship, anebo kde domov můj