Czech Republic approves plan for immigrant green cards

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The Czech government approved a plan on 22 October 2007 to introduce a "green card" for foreign immigrants from outside the European Union. The green card would be for select professions experiencing labor shortages.

Recent statistics show that 220,000 foreigners are legally working in the 10 million-strong nation. A majority of these are foreigners from within the EU, with neighbouring Slovakia making up the largest of this group.

"The Czech Republic also needs foreign workforce from countries outside the EU," said Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Necas. An estimated 75,000 non-EU migrants work in the Czech Republic under the current work permit system.

The green card system will bring the issuance of a work permit and a residence permit under a single procedure and reduce many of the delays that migrants currently face. According to the Czech Industry and Trade Ministry, the green card will be valid for three years.

It is unclear how the proposed green card would mesh with the European Union's proposed "blue card", which aims to solve the same issues on an EU-wide level.

The government hopes the system will be more transparent and mitigate the amount of illegal immigration to the country.

Necas said the plan could be implemented as early as next year.