The Czech Republic is currently in a period of economic growth, and, while the level of unemployment is low, the country still has skills shortages in a number of areas. Although under Czech law, an employer may only offer a job to a foreigner if they cannot find a suitable Czech or EU national to fill the role, opportunities for work for expats remain good. While speaking Czech is desirable, especially outside Prague, it is not essential, as many international companies conduct business in English. Speaking good German may also be an advantage.
EU citizens may live and work in the Czech Republic without need of a work permit or visa. These are necessary for all other nationals.
In order to work in the Czech Republic, you will need a long-term residence permit with the right to work. There are two types: the Blue Card and the Employee Card.
Blue Cards are available only to people who have high-level professional or university qualifications in an area that is in demand in the Czech Republic, who have been offered a full-time job contract for at least one year, at an agreed salary that is a minimum of 1.5 times greater than the average gross Czech annual salary.
Once issued, the Blue Card is valid for the length of your employment contract plus three months, but for no longer than two years in total. Employee Cards cover all types of employment. The Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs maintains a registry of jobs eligible for Employee Cards and a registry of jobs eligible for Blue Cards.
You must have found a job before you can apply for either type of card, and only certain jobs are eligible. In the case of Employee Cards, the job must have been found via the Central Register of Jobs eligible for Employee Cards. This does not apply to jobs eligible for Blue Cards, but if you receive an offer via another route, you need to check that the job covered by this scheme (you can do this on the register website). In all cases, the employer must be able to prove they cannot find a suitable Czech or EU candidate.
Once you have secured a job offer and contract, you must complete the relevant Employee Card or Blue Card application form, which can be found on the website of the Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and a Visa application form, which can be downloaded from the website of the Czech embassy in your country.
In both cases you will need also to supply supporting documentation. This differs slightly between the two types of Card.
• Your passport, which must be up-to-date, and have at least two blank pages for the visa.
• Two recent passport photographs of yourself.
• Proof of accommodation in the Czech Republic.
• Your employment contract.
• Certificates or notarised copies of your higher professional or university qualifications, accompanied by a professional translation into Czech.
• Medical insurance from an authorised provider for a minimum of 40 days.
• You must also be able to supply a criminal history document, translated into Czech, upon request.
• A valid travel document.
• Two recent passport photographs of yourself.
• Confirmation of availability of accommodation.
• Visa fee.
• Contract of employment or agreement on work activity.
• Documents proving you possess relevant qualifications for the job, with a translation into Czech.
• A criminal history document, with a translation into Czech.
• You must also be able to supply a medical report upon request, with a translation into Czech.
At the time of writing, the visa fee in both cases is CZK 5000. Decisions on visas take up to 90 days, and you may be asked to come to the Czech embassy for an interview.
Average salaries in the Czech Republic are lower than in the UK or USA — they can be up to 50% less, proportionally — but the cost of living is correspondingly lower, and professional expats can expect to live in reasonable comfort. In most cases, you can expect to spend a third to a half less on rent, groceries and public transport. The legal working week is 40 hours, with a leave entitlement of 20 days. Your spouse, if they are not Czech or an EU citizen, must go through the same application process if they wish to work.
In addition to the registries kept by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, jobs that may be eligible for Blue Cards are advertised via major employment websites, including LinkedIn and Glassdoor, and via some international recruitment agencies. There are skills shortages in engineering and related technical professionals, medicine, ICT and teaching. Employers tend to prefer a more detailed CV rather than a resumé, covering qualifications, experience and significant work achievements.
The Czech Republic attracts millions of visitors each year. But depending on your nationality and the purpose of your trip, you may need a visa to travel there.
This article will walk you through the types of visas needed to visit the Czech Republic, based on which country you are coming from, your nationality, how long you’re planning to stay, and the reason for your trip. It will also outline how to apply for a work permit or residency status.
The Czech Republic is a member of the European Union, so if you’re an EU citizen, you can go there without worrying about a visa. Visitors from the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) – Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway – can also enter visa-free, so long as they have a valid passport or ID card. The Czech Republic is also a part of the Schengen Area.
Citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico, and several other countries do not need a visa, as long as they are planning to visit for business or pleasure and stay less than 90 days in a 180-day period. They must also have a passport issued within the last 10 years, which is valid for at least three months after their planned date of departure from the Schengen Area. For more information on the Schengen visa requirements, see here.
The Czech Republic offers three types of visas.
Schengen Short-Term Visa
This visa is valid within the Schengen Area for up to 90 days, and can either be an airport transfer visa (type “A” visa) – valid for a layover within the Czech Republic – or a short-term visa (type “C” visa) – for the purpose of tourism, business, culture, sport, study, scientific research, employment or training.
For an airport transfer visa, applicants will need to fill out an application form and bring with them:
• a passport photo
• a valid passport
• documents proving the continuation of their journey to their final destination and their intention not to enter the Czech Republic
For a short-term Schengen visa, applicants will need to fill out an application form and bring with them:
• a passport photo
• a valid passport
• travel health insurance
• biometric data, such as fingerprints
• documents proving the purpose of their journey, their accommodation plans, their financial means and their intention to leave the territory
The fee for this visa is €60 for adults and €30 for children between six and 12 years of age.
Long-term visas are intended for applicants who expect to stay more than 90 days in the Czech Republic for health, culture, sport, family, study, research, or entrepreneurship purposes. People who plan to stay longer in the Czech Republic, including for university or employment, should apply for a long-term residence permit.
To apply for a regular long-term visa, applicants need to fill out an application form and bring with them:
• two passport photos
• a valid passport
• travel health insurance
• biometric data, such as fingerprints
• a copy of their criminal record, from their home country and any state they lived in for more than six months in the last three years
• documents proving the purpose of their stay, their accommodation plans and their financial means
The fee for this visa is 2,500 CZK, or about €100, for most applicants.
Long-Term Visa For The Purpose Of Collecting A Residence Permit
These visas are single-entry visas for applicants who want to stay in the Czech Republic for several months and plan to apply for a long-term residency permit. The visa allows for 60-day stays in the Czech Republic and is valid for six months.
Spouses and family members looking to join visa-holders will need to apply for a Schengen visa. Then, once they are in the Czech Republic, they can apply for either a residency permit – if the family member already in the Czech Republic is an EU national – or a long-term visa – if the family member is not. For that, the spouse or family member will need marriage or birth certificates translated into Czech, along with the other information specified above.
Once granted the long-term visa, applicants and any family members need to inform the Foreigners’ Police Office about the place and length of their stay in the Czech Republic within three business days.
All non-EU and non-EFTA citizens will need an employment permit and a residency permit or an Employee Card or a Blue Card. Both cards are ways to combine employment and residency permits into one document.
Work permits are issued by the Labor Office, and require a work permit application, an administrative fee of 500 CZK, and information about the job offer, including the potential employer, the position, the place of work, and how long the job will last for. These are usually issued only for internships or shorter work periods, and both Blue Cards and Employee Cards are used for regular long-term employment.
Blue Cards are for highly qualified foreigners who will work in the Czech Republic for more than three months and are sponsored by an employer. If approved by the Ministry of the Interior, Blue Cards automatically come with a long-term visa. Applicants must apply before arriving in the Czech Republic, with:
• an application form
• two passport photos
• a valid passport
• travel health insurance
• biometric data, such as fingerprints
• a copy of their criminal record, from their home country and any state they lived in for more than six months in the last three years
They will also require supporting documents, such as:
• an employment contract that is valid for at least one year and includes a salary that’s at least 1.5 times the average gross yearly salary in the Czech Republic
• a university degree certification
• proof of accommodation (e.g. a rent agreement)
The fee for this visa is 5,000 CZK, or about €200, for most applicants.
Employee Cards are for foreigners who will work in the Czech Republic for more than three months, but who may not be highly qualified or work full-time – jobs only need to offer 15 hours per week. These cards also come with a long-term visa, and they require the same application material as the Blue Card, except that, in place of university qualifications, they ask for proof of financial means. Also, your employment contract does not need to be for a specific length of time or amount of money, if you are applying for an Employee Card.
Long-term residency is available for people who have been living in the Czech Republic for more than 90 days and intend to live in the Czech Republic for more than a year (including time spent with a former visa).
The application must be filed in person, and requires a completed application form and supporting information, dependent on the reasons for your longer stay. Most applications will require:
• a passport
• proof of accommodation
• a photograph
• proof of financial support
• health documents
For more specific requirements, visit the Ministry of the Interior’s website, and select the reasons you are applying for the long-term residence permit.
Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.
When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.
Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.
Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.
Important questions to ask the insurance provider:
1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?
2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?
3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.
4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?
5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.
6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.
7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.
8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?
9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.
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There are numerous ways to find accommodation in the Czech Republic, including through newspapers, online portals and local real estate agents. Regardless of how you find the property, however, you should make sure that you see and secure it in person. If you cannot view a property before you move to the Czech Republic, then it’s advised that you stay in short-term accommodation when you first move there, so that you can look around properly before you commit to anything longer term.
It’s important to note that prices are often marked up for expats, so unless you speak Czech, or have a friend who does, you may end up paying more.
Once you’ve found a property you would like to live in, your estate agent will organise your paperwork. Tenancy agreements are usually either fixed-term or run indefinitely until one party (the buyer or the seller) decides to cease the arrangement.
Leases can be provided in English or Czech, but it’s important to note that in any legal matters a Czech contract will be prioritised. Therefore, it may work in your favour to use a friend or interpreter who speaks Czech. They can ensure that the leases are the same, before you sign anything.
The deposit amount required for a lease will vary depending upon the length of your tenancy arrangement, but typically it is set at one to two months’ rent. Outside of this, upfront fees are minimal. However, if you find a property through a letting agent, you may be expected to pay a commission fee, which is usually around one month’s rent.
Since joining the EU in 2004 and adopting the last amendment to the Foreign Exchange Act (FEA), it has become easier for foreign nationals to buy property in the Czech Republic.
At present, you can buy property in the Czech Republic if you have a Czech residency permit, have been granted asylum, or have a legal entity headquartered there.
Citizens of EU countries (plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) can get permission to reside in the Czech Republic on demand, without needing to provide a specific reason, and will simply need the following to do so:
• Two photos
• ID card or passport
• Certificate of health insurance
• An affidavit stating that they have sufficient funds (this is to prove that they don’t need to use the social security system)
Citizens of the United States have almost the same process, due to the Mutual Support and Protection of Investment protocol. However, they’ll first need to obtain a visa that enables them to stay in the country for more than 90 days.
For foreign nationals from outside of the EU and US, the process is a lot more complicated. In order to purchase a property, they’ll need to obtain a visa, remain in the Czech Republic for seven years, and obtain a green card, which allows them to buy a property.
Once the necessary paperwork is in place, your property hunt can begin! There are numerous ways you can find property, but we recommend that you use an estate agent. Estate agents will vary depending upon where you’re looking for property, but some examples include:
Prices for property in the Czech Republic vary, with cities such as Kolín, Kladno and Neratovice offering more for your money. But if you’re looking for a balance between cost and square footage, the communities of Ricany, Beroun and Slany are popular amongst expats, due to the convenience of commuting.
Prices in these areas vary, but you can expect to pay around €204,000 to €320,000 for a one-bedroom apartment, €349,000 to €650,000 for a two-bedroom apartment and €364,000 to €620,000 for a three-bedroom house.
If you purchase your property through an estate agent, you can request that the documentation is provided in English. If not, we recommend that you get an interpreter. The buying process can take up to 60 days, and in addition to the purchase cost of the property, you may face additional fees, such as:
• Legal fees: 1% + 19% VAT
• Registrations fees: 0.01 to 0.02%
• Agent’s fee: 2.5% to 5%
• Real estate acquisition tax: 4%
The typical process for purchasing is to find a property you’d like to buy and then to commission a performance report. This will look at the property’s quality and ensure the title security. Once the property has passed the checks, your attorney and the real estate agent will draw up the purchase paperwork, which includes your intent to purchase and the contract of the deposit. Deposits can be negotiable, but they are usually priced between 10% and 30% of the property’s value.
Once the contract is drawn up, ensure you get an independent lawyer to look it over and ensure that it protects and benefits both parties. Some contracts are more beneficial to the seller; for example, they may state that the deposit is non-refundable if the buyer pulls out of the purchase.
Once the purchase contract has been signed by both the buyer and the seller, the remaining balance of the property is due, and this will be held in escrow until the title is transferred over. This process usually takes 31 days to complete.
If you need help with financing the purchase of a property in the Czech Republic, you may be better off finding a mortgage from an overseas lender than from a local bank in the country. However, this will depend upon your financial circumstances. There are 80% loan to value (LTV) options available, but they are limited, as new rules issued by the Czech National Bank (CNB) state that the value of a loan cannot exceed nine times the annual net income. Also, the monthly repayments of the loan cannot exceed 45% of a person’s monthly net income.
Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.
Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.
If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.
The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).
Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.
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QUICK LINK: Czech Republic health insurance
Statutory healthcare is provided by a number of government-approved insurers, and you have the right to choose between them (the biggest is VZP, which covers around 60% of the population).
If you are employed and you are covered by an insurer chosen by your workplace, your deductions will come directly from your salary. Your employer will typically also pay a percentage of the insurance premium.
Medical insurance is compulsory and the majority of expats are eligible for the state insurance system. The government subsidises health insurance for the unemployed.
If you are not eligible for the state system, you may be eligible for VZP’s subsidiary insurance company, Pojištovna VZP. This is a health insurance scheme specifically for foreigners, is linked to AXA, and is recognized by the Department of Migration and Asylum Policy of the Ministry of the Interior.
If you are going to be in the country for more than 90 days, you must have proof of coverage, so even if you are planning to apply under Pojištovna VZP it is advisable to sort out your insurance before you go, with a private provider if necessary.
Expats who do not have a residency permit may also be eligible for one of two contractual schemes run by the General Health Insurance Company (GHIC).
If you are employed, then your employer will register you for healthcare, but if you are self-employed you will need to do it yourself. You can apply online via the PVZP website, or by phone. Expats report that staff on the other end of the phone line are helpful and speak good English.
Your insurance will be valid once the premium is paid and undertaking the process online may entitle you to discounts: as much as 20% for full family coverage. Note that PVZP’s ‘exclusive’ package is the only one to offer coverage on pre-existing conditions: double check if this applies to you.
You can also go through an intermediary: Hamilton Hudson has signed an exclusivity agreement with the Czech government and is licensed to arrange coverage for expats.
Once you have signed up you will receive your insurance card, which will include your personal identification number (rodné císlo). You must take this with you to any surgery or hospital appointments as proof that you are insured, otherwise you could be denied treatment or have to pay. A copy of your child’s insurance card will be kept at their school or summer camp, and in the location of some after-school activities.
If applying for a visa, consider taking the following steps when applying for insurance:
• apply for Complex Health Insurance
• make sure that you have coverage to a minimum of 60 000 EUR
• have coverage provided by a Czech Health Insurance company
• get your coverage through an official Health Insurance Agent registered with the Czech National Bank
These steps should ensure the validity of your insurance for a visa application.
When making cash purchases in the Czech Republic, you will always need to use the countryâ€™s own currency, known as Czech crowns or Karuna. You will usually see this written as CZK, Cz, or KC. Whilst the Czech Republic is a member of the EU, the country did not join the Eurozone and therefore retained its own national currency.
You may find it convenient to pay in Euros or US dollars when visiting souvenir shops or tourist restaurants. However, where establishments are happy to accept foreign currency, the exchange rate will be very poor; so the amount you pay will be much higher than if paid in the local currency. In addition, any change due would not be given in Euros or US dollars.
Instead, head to an ATM to withdraw Czech crowns, or pay by credit or debit card. If you donâ€™t have a card or bank account operating in CZK, you are likely to be charged a currency conversion fee, and the conversion rate may be poor. Shop around to find the best credit or debit card offers for making payments in foreign currencies.
ATM machines are widely available in town and city centres. They will normally have an option on screen to complete the transaction in English if you are using a card which was not issued in the Czech Republic.
Occasionally you may find someone on the street offering attractive exchange rates. They may be hanging around near a currency exchange booth or a bank. Under no circumstances make a transaction with these people, as you will be given counterfeit money or be subject to some other criminal act. You will not be refunded by the authorities or your insurance company.
There are 100 hellers or halers in a Czech crown, and you will see them included in shop prices. However, heller coins were withdrawn in 2008! As a result, you will never be given change in hellers; the amount you are paying will be rounded up to the nearest crown.
The Czech coins are available in the denomination of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 Czech crowns. Banknotes in circulation are 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000 and 5000 Czech crowns.
Bank branches are open Monday to Friday, but are closed at weekends and on public holidays.
If you are living in the Czech Republic for any length of time, it will be useful to set up a bank account in the country. Carefully research the account charges for current accounts on offer. Some are free if you deposit a minimum amount each month. However, most will charge a monthly fee, and the amounts can vary enormously.
You are also likely to be charged an annual fee for your debit card, which many expats will not be used to. On top of that, you will be charged for all ATM withdrawals. Some will charge more for an ATM withdrawal from a machine which belongs to another bank. Occasionally you can track down an account which gives you up to two cash withdrawals a month without paying a fee.
The charges and interest rates for overdrawn accounts will also vary enormously. If you are very careful with money, you can ignore this aspect when choosing an account, but remember that sudden illness or emergency circumstances may cause you to leave the country unexpectedly, which might make it hard to stay on top of your banking in the Czech Republic.
Most banks in the Czech Republic offer a service to bank online. The charges for doing this will vary, as will the security procedures to keep your money safe.
Many banks in the Czech Republic will try to serve you in English, but how successful this is will depend on the member of staff you come into contact with. If you ask, it is likely you will be able to speak to someone who can communicate with you in fluent or sufficient English.
One bank, the ÄŒeskÃ¡ spoÅ™itelna has designed a bank account specifically for expats. All their services can be accessed in English, French and German. Like some other banks, they also allow you to operate two foreign-exchange accounts, which may help you manage financial commitments back in your country of origin.
Once you have decided to open an account, you will need to visit a branch in person. This applies even if you open an online account. Bring your original identity documents with you for the bank staff to check. The Czech government takes money laundering seriously and amended the anti-money laundering act in 2016, reflecting the demands of the EU directives on this matter. This increases the responsibility of all banks to check who their customers are, identify signs of criminal activity and respond appropriately. There has been a strengthening of the laws concerning who owns assets (such as trust funds and companies) and the true beneficiaries of those assets.
It is possible to obtain a credit card if you are a permanent resident in the Czech Republic. Interest rates are much higher than those offered for loans, so you should try to cover the full repayment each month.
Over the past thirty years, it has become normal practice to leave tips in restaurants, cafes and bars in the Czech Republic. Sometimes the service charge will be added to the bill and presented for your approval, in which case you do not leave any further amount. If a service charge has not been added then you should leave a tip. The normal guide price is 10 percent of the billâ€™s total. You can add more for excellent service if you wish; if the service was truly terrible, donâ€™t leave a tip. However, bear in mind that the type of happy, exuberant service that US customers enjoy is not always the custom in Europe. Previously, good service was expected to be reserved. Donâ€™t confuse a serious waiter with bad service!
Tips given to taxi drivers are also appreciated. You can usually round up to the notes you are handing over or tell the driver how much in total you would like to pay. Itâ€™s normally less than 10 percent and will depend on the fare and the cash notes you are using.
There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.
International Bank Transfers
For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.
Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.
You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.
When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.
As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.
As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.
Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals
Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.
You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.
Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.
Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.
A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:
1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.
2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.
3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.
Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.
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If you are intending to move to the Czech Republic, then communication will be one of your top priorities. We will look below at the languages spoken in the region, and how easy it will be for you to communicate as an English-speaking expat.
The official language of the Republic is Czech (čeština), and well over 90% of the population speak this as their main language, described by writer Karel Čapek as a language in which every word has a thousand year history. It is not the only language spoken in the country, however, as the Czech Republic is also home to the following tongues, among others:
The Czech language itself dates from at least the 1st century AD and expanded beyond the regions occupied by the Czech people to influence other languages such as Polish. The Czech Language Revival of the 18th century cemented its place as a national tongue. It is part of the West Slavic sub-branch of the Indo-European language family, which includes Polish, Kashubian, Upper and Lower Sorbian and Slovak. Slovak is the closest to Czech, followed by Polish and Silesian. It uses the Latin alphabet, although the language itself has inevitably been influenced by the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe during the 20th century.
It is still widely spoken well beyond the borders of the Czech Republic itself. Within the Republic, it has a number of dialects:
• the Haná (central Moravian) region
• the Moravian-Slovak region (or the east Moravian region, including Moravian Wallachia)
• the Lassko (Silesian) region
Even if you speak Czech, therefore, you may encounter differences in dialect throughout the country. It has to be said that this is not an easy language to learn if you are a native English speaker: its pronunciation does not come naturally and it has a difficult grammatical structure.
However, you should find that many Czechs speak English: this is the most popular language in the country beside Czech itself, followed by German and Russian. It is estimated that around ⅕ of the Czech population are bilingual and you will find the largest extent of this in Prague, a multi-cultural city of around 200,000 foreign inhabitants. People working in the tourism and hospitality sectors, in particular, will have a good command of English.
You will find that there are generational differences: older people are more likely to speak Russian or German rather than English, but you should find a reasonable standard of English among the younger generation.
English is widely spoken in the workplace and business generally, especially if you are working in an international company (for example, in IT or engineering). You may, however, wish to learn some basic phrases in Czech, both for the sake of politeness, but also because English outside the business world may still be limited and you may need the basics of the language for everyday practical reasons.
There is a wide range of Czech language provision available, particularly in Prague, and you will have little difficulty in finding private provision, whether in a language school or with a personal tutor. Some courses are exam-based and some are more informal, with a focus on Czech for practical matters. You can also do intensive four-week courses.
Some English speakers may choose to go out to the Czech Republic in order to teach English. It is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).
If you are going out to the Czech Republic as an English teacher, it is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA. You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality. Business English is always a good specialisation.
Most private schools in the Czech Republic also require at least a Bachelor’s degree: basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work. You will find a range of opportunities, from teaching children to teaching adult professionals, to summer schools. Prague is the main centre for TEFL teaching but it is competitive: you may want to consider finding work in Brno or Pilsen instead. Hiring for TEFL jobs takes place all year round but most terms run from September–June, unless you are applying specifically to summer schools.
You can expect a monthly salary of around £650 – 1000 per month and are likely to be paid the higher range if you are working in Prague. You are permitted to apply for your own work visa, rather than relying on your employer: you will need one if you are applying from outside the EU (usually the Zivno working visa: this is shorthand for the Zivnostensky List, the type of visa which applies to non-EU freelancing nationals). You can apply to a visa-arranging company as the Czech Republic can be bureaucratic in the extreme. Full time jobs are usually 20–25 hours per week.
You will need a high standard of Czech and the appropriate qualifications if you are intending to see work as an interpreter or translator.
Czech literacy rates are amongst the highest in the world, at around 99%. The Czech Republic ranks below average amongst OECD reporting countries on the percentage of GDP spent on education, at around 3.5%. The nation’s PISA rating has steadily declined since the early 2000s, from what used to be a very high rating.
State education in the Czech Republic is well developed and well regulated. It is controlled by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. Lessons are conducted in Czech, and several other languages may be taught throughout the system, including English.
Pre-school is guaranteed at age five, and tuition is compulsory from ages six to 15, and provided free up to and including university level.
If your child needs Czech language training to be able to attend state school, this can be organised locally (typically a minimum of 70 hours would be required), and extra support can be continued at school as necessary.
Children can be enrolled at a very early age in nurseries or in kindergartens. Pre-school is not mandatory but is guaranteed at age five. Primary schooling covers ages 6 – 10, and lower secondary school runs from ages 11 – 15.
Upper secondary school runs from ages 16 – 18 or 19, but many students will either cease study at 15, or enter a vocational or technical college with the aim of gaining qualifications in their chosen trade. The duration of tuition here will vary depending on the profession or occupation chosen. For those attending the vocational colleges or taking apprenticeships, there is also the chance of further advancement through technical universities, and there are many institutions for professions such as teaching.
For those continuing their studies in the state upper secondary system, a further State Graduation Exam is taken at age 18, with many expected to go on to university, depending on exam grades.
Czech universities are run on the familiar three-level model: BA/BSc, MA, PhD. Colleges and specialized colleges are available for those who may not achieve the grades necessary to go to university.
State education will be conducted in the Czech language throughout, but the Roman alphabet is used (with many additional accented letters), removing at least one stumbling block for expat children who may wish to enter the system.
Although homeschooling is legal in the Czech Republic, there are stringent conditions attached, and children must still sit state exams. You are advised to research thoroughly and contact expats who have been through the procedures if you are considering this route.
There are a large number of private schools in the Czech Republic, offering tuition at various levels. Their curricula will generally be closely aligned to the state system, with additional classes and activities depending on the philosophy of the individual school.
There are also a good number of fee-paying international schools catering more specifically for expat children of all ages, some with day care for infants, but separate pre-school kindergarten (ages 3-6) is also available privately in the larger cities. Many of these schools offer the full International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP), and most are based on tuition in English under various national education systems.
Here are a few of the international schools in the Czech Republic:
• 1st International School, Ostrava (UK, pre-school to sixth form)
• Christian International School of Prague (UK, preparatory to sixth form)
• International School of Prague (ages 3-19 IBDP)
• Park Lane International, Prague (10 – 18 UK, IBDP)
• Open Gate Boarding School, Ricany (IBDP)
• PORG International, Prague (IBDP)
• Prague British International School (UK, IBDP)
• Sunny Canadian International School, Prague (co-ed day school)
• Townshend International School, Hluboka (UK, A levels, IGCSE)
There are others in many areas, plus French schools and Montessori institutions to consider.
Extra-curricular activities will vary considerably, and need to be ascertained from the individual school. Demand for places at international schools is always high, and it is important to contact the school of your choice as early as possible. Fees will also be quite substantial, and it is always important to read the small print – additional expenses can mount up. For example many schools have additional contributary capital Funds for improvements/repairs.
High school or international school graduates will have the choice to continue their studies in the Czech Republic, but many will want to pursue their higher education abroad. Successful graduation from Czech schools will give your child an internationally recognised high standard qualification, which is accepted at major universities worldwide without the need for additional assessments.