The Czech Republic is aiming to bolster its supply of skilled workers by introducing their own "green card" for foreign workers from outside the European Union. The system will allow qualified applicants to receive the card in as little as 30 days and grant them permission to work for one employer for two years.
According to Karel Machotka, head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade's corporate environment department, three groups of foreign workers will qualify for the card: workers with university degrees, specialists with vocational high school qualifications (primarily in technical sectors), and top management personnel.
The green card project is expected to be presented to the government within one month and take effect within the first half of 2008.
"The need for this project was raised by the business sector that has been complaining that the Czech Republic does not have enough qualified workers to fill some specific vacancy types," said Machotka. He added that the automobile industry would especially benefit from the project.
Miloš Tichý, head of the foreign employment department at the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, said that current demand for skilled labor necessitates the project.
"The labor market is developing the way it is [because of a lack of qualified Czech residents], and a more elastic approach is therefore required," he said.
Currently, Czech employers must prove that they cannot find a suitable local candidate or someone from the EU when trying to fill a position. The process generally takes months because the various government departments involved in the process are given 30 days to deal with an enquiry and the Ministry of the Interior, which issues the residence permit, has 120 days to do so.
"The Amendment to the Law on the Residence of Aliens in the Territory of the Czech Republic will adjust [the residence permit application processing] time to 90 days, and we're counting on the time falling to just 30 days with the green cards," said Zdenek Král, deputy head of the Ministry of the Interior's asylum and migration policy department.
209,000 migrant workers were employed in the Czech Republic at the end of the first six months of 2007. 69,000 of them came from outside the EU.
The Czech green card program has very little in common with the United States green card program -- other than its name -- and does not grant permanent residence. It is more similar to Ireland's Green Card, which allows non-EU/EEA workers to take up employment for a limited amount of time. However, both the Czech green card and the Irish green card can be a pathway towards permanent residence in both countries.