The immigration system will be simplified – for half a billion crowns. But experts have reservations

PPCE - 2022/07/27


Digitisation of the public sector is one of the priorities of the current government. For example, the digitisation of immigration processes should be complete by the end of 2025 and cost around CZK 500 million. But experts have reservations about it.

The half-billion investment is co-financed by the European Recovery Fund. However, despite the plans for simplification and the large budget, individual ministries are working on their projects in parallel, exposing themselves to further administrative problems.

“Each of the ministries involved is responsible for a different part of the immigration agenda. The Ministry of the Interior deals with the entry and residence of foreigners and the related digital system. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is innovating the conditions under which foreigners can work here, taking inspiration from advanced migration economies such as Canada and Australia. But they are working on their projects in parallel and there is a lack of intersection where they should meet. The goal of making it easier for civil servants to work is thus falling short,” says Miroslav Mejtský, a labour migration specialist at Petyovský & Partners.

The current state of Czech immigration policy is bad…

During 2020, the Czech authorities worked with the European Commission on a feasibility study on digitising the Czech immigration system. In addition to the Department of Asylum and Migration Policy at the Ministry of the Interior, sub-departments of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the Police of the Czech Republic participated in the analysis.

“In its current state, the Czech migration policy and the agenda related to it is highly ineffective. The system is unfriendly on both fronts, both for OAMP staff and for foreigners who have almost no access to their agenda. The large amount of manual work and the physical management of documents is very costly in terms of time and money for the authorities. Automation and moving data to the digital sphere could change a lot,” explains Miroslav Mejtský.

Four options are proposed

The feasibility study proposed four possible options for the digitisation process. The first ‘zero’ option would maintain the status quo, while the fourth envisages a complete reform to meet current and future needs. Stakeholders unanimously opted for the path of complete digitisation. 

“The decision to pursue the digitisation option, labelled as “economic” in the feasibility study, was not subject to any vote, but was a decision of the MoI management based on the documents submitted and the recommendations of the study’s implementer, which was funded by the European Commission under the Structural Reform Support Programme. The recommendation was also based on the real feasibility of the entire project, both in terms of time, financial and legislative aspects,” explains Pavla Novotná, Director of the Asylum and Migration Policy Department at the Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic.

It won’t work without a legislative change

In order for public sector representatives to implement new systems and projects, the Czech migration legislation must first undergo several modifications, without which it will not be possible. The list includes, for example, the abolition of birth numbers for foreigners, the removal of the foreigners’ agenda from administrative law or the introduction of the obligation to have a data box and a bank account. 

“The path of complete digitalization of the migration agenda foresees several legislative changes that have not yet been introduced. OAMP representatives wanted to have the first draft of the amendment to the Aliens Residence Act ready by the end of last year,” Mejtský said.

“Currently, the preparation of the tender documentation for the public procurement is underway, where the analysis of the substantive problem, including the necessary legislative amendments, and the preparation of the substantive part of the assignment for the construction of the information system based on user requirements is being carried out within the framework of the European Commission’s TSI programme, where the Ministry has already succeeded for the second time with its application for support. The launch of the operation of the new IS including the introduction of selected digital services within the first phase of the implementation of the digital reform of the residence permit agenda is scheduled for the end of 2024 or 1 January 2025 at the latest,” concludes Pavla Novotná, Director of the Department of Asylum and Migration Policy at the Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic.