Foreigners in the Czech Republic: a brief overview

Published: Mar 26, 2024 Reading time: 4 minutes
Foreigners in the Czech Republic: a brief overview
© Foto: Timon Studler, Unsplash

One in ten. That is roughly the ratio of foreigners represented in the Czech census count, which, according to the latest data from the Czech Statistical Office, is approaching 11 million. More than half of the foreigners in the Czech Republic are Ukrainians, but there are also representatives from 185 other countries, from Afghanistan and Albania to Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Foreigner or migrant?

Although the terms foreigner and migrant are commonly used interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing. A foreigner is a person who is not a citizen of the Czech Republic. It is a legal term defined by the so-called Aliens Act.

On the other hand, there is no definition of the term migrant in the Czech legal system. According to the most commonly used UN definition, it generally refers to a person who has changed their country of habitual residence for at least one year.

In principle, the two categories overlap to a large extent. Most foreigners are also migrants. However, there are important exceptions: many foreigners are not migrants because they were born in the Czech Republic but do not have Czech citizenship. Conversely, many migrants - about 5,000 a year - drop out of the statistics on foreigners because they become naturalised, that is, acquire Czech citizenship.

Number of foreigners in the Czech Republic

According to official statistics, 1,065,740 foreigners lived in the Czech Republic at the end of 2023. Compared to the first year of Czech independence in 1993, around 14 times more foreigners live in the country. It is perhaps no surprise that the fastest increase ever was recorded in 2022 when around half a million Ukrainian citizens who had been driven from their homes by the war unleashed by Russia arrived in the Czech Republic.

The conflict in Ukraine is reflected not only in the total number of foreigners but also in their national structure. Ukrainians currently make up over half of the virtual "foreigner pie chart". Slovak citizens have the second largest representation, followed by Vietnamese and Russians.

As the animated graph below shows, the four groups have dominated the ranking of foreigners throughout the post-revolutionary period. It is only at the fifth position that there is an occasional change. The long-standing position of Poles has been taken over by Germans several times in recent years, and most recently by Romanians. About 20,000 of them now live legally in the Czech Republic.


Residence status

The foreign community is divided more or less evenly into three groups according to their residence permit category. Most foreigners in the Czech Republic live under temporary protection. This status was activated within the EU in March 2022 in response to the mass arrival of refugees from Ukraine. The purpose of introducing temporary protection was to prevent overcrowding in the asylum systems of member states, where they typically handle applications on a case-by-case basis.

The second third of foreigners reside in the Czech Republic based on permanent residence. This permit can be obtained by both EU citizens and nationals of so-called third countries (i.e. non-EU countries). The standard condition for granting this permit is continuous residence in the Czech Republic for five years.

The 341,000 foreigners in the remaining group comprise mainly EU citizens with a registration certificate and third-country nationals with a long-term visa or long-term residence permit. Based on data from the Ministry of the Interior, the chart below includes this diverse group in the temporary residence category.

Distribution

According to the figure above, foreigners comprise approximately one-tenth of the Czech population, but this figure obscures the relatively significant regional differences. The attached map shows the number of foreigners in each district. Regarding the regions, Prague clearly indicates the highest number in the long term (345,000 by the end of 2022), followed by the Central Bohemia and South Moravia regions.

Not surprisingly, the capital city also dominates the regional rankings by the share of foreigners in the population - by the end of 2022, more than one in four Prague residents was a foreigner. Large percentages of foreigners, between 11 and 14 per cent, also reside in the Pilsen, Hradec Králové, and the Central Bohemia regions.

It is worth noting that even in this case, the aggregate data conceal essential nuances, such as the distribution of individual groups of foreigners by nationality. For example, a map showing the distribution of Vietnamese people would be significantly darker near the German border. At the same time, the majority of Poles would predictably be found in the northern Bohemia region from Liberec to Náchod.

Where to look for more detailed data?

Are you interested in the demographic specifics of the foreign population in the Czech Republic, how many people apply for asylum and how many get it, what percentage of foreigners have jobs or trades in the Czech Republic, how many children of foreigners attend schools, or is there a big problem with crimes committed by foreigners? We advise anyone who would like to learn more about the lives of foreigners than our overview article offers to consult the annual report of Foreigners in the Czech Republic, published by the Czech Statistical Office.

Autor: Jakub Andrle, Migration in Context

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