Close and distant family members of EU citizens: Implications in practice

With the amendment of 2 August 2021, the Act on the Residence of Foreigners makes a new distinction between close and distant family members of EU citizens. This distinction also entails different rights and obligations, access to the application, or application requirements. In this article, we present the impact of these new rules in practice.

Perhaps not surprisingly, close family members have a simplified residence permit application process, greater rights during the procedure, and a simplified path to permanent residence. In this context, a close family member is defined as a “nuclear family member”, i.e. a husband, wife, registered partner, parent of an EU citizen under the age of 21, a descendant under the age of 21, or a descendant or an ancestor of the EU citizen’s spouse, if they are dependent on the maintenance or care provided by the EU citizen or their spouse.

The act now includes unmarried couples (partners) and relatives, such as a dependant of an EU citizen or a person whose serious health needs urgent personal care from an EU citizen, as distant family members. These distant family members who obtained temporary residence prior to 2 August 2021 had until 31 August 2022 to exchange their documents for a residence card to retain the rights of a close family member. If they have not done so, they will not retain this status.

As part of the amendment, the procedure for issuing a temporary residence permit has also been modified. The changes will again be felt in particular by distant family members, who can only apply under a special short-term visa for family members, which is issued at Czech embassies abroad. Therefore, the distant family member will no longer be able to apply for temporary residence in the Czech Republic on the basis of a visa issued for another purpose, a departure order, etc. The administrative authority has the possibility to dismiss the application if it is submitted on the basis of another short-term visa (e.g. also issued by another state). This condition does not apply to citizens of third countries with visa-free regime, but only to countries that have visa requirements for the Czech Republic (and thus the EU). Close family members are not subject to this condition; however, they should apply for residence permit within 3 months of entering the Czech Republic.

Under normal circumstances, the family member, after their arrival in the Czech Republic, will submit an application to the relevant office of the Asylum and Migration Policy Department of the Ministry of the Interior within 3 months. When submitting the application, the foreign individual gets a visa sticker in their passport and is granted a “fiction of residence”, but a preliminary assessment is made at the counter of the Ministry of the Interior as to whether or not the applicant meets the conditions for being granted temporary residence. It is therefore advisable to bring as many documents as possible to prove a partnership or other relationship with an EU citizen when applying.

Also, distant family members will now only receive a “residence permit certificate”, while close family members will receive a biometric residence card valid for up to 5 years. In contrast, distant family members are now granted a residence permit for only 3 years.

And what are the other application requirements for a distant family member?

  • When applying for temporary residence, the distant family member is also newly required to provide proof of income. This is the aggregate monthly income of the family after reunification (to be provided for the last 3 months). They must also provide proof of health insurance for the entire planned period of stay. Thus, distant family members have to pay high amounts for comprehensive health insurance.
  • Unlike close family members, distant family members can only apply for permanent residence after 5 years of temporary residence. For any extension of temporary residence, proof of income and insurance must always be provided again. A new administrative fee of CZK 200 per application has also been introduced.
  • If an application for temporary residence for a distant family member is rejected, the fiction of residence terminates at the moment of notification of the decision. Therefore, during any appeal, the foreign individual can no longer reside in the territory of the Czech Republic, with exceptions.

The status of close family members, therefore, brings many advantages. They can apply for temporary residence from any visa or residence, they do not have to prove income or insurance and can apply for permanent residence already after 2 years.

The amendment to the Act on the Residence of Foreigners brought stricter conditions for partners of EU citizens, i.e. distant family members. If you need help with an application for temporary residence for a family member of an EU citizen, please contact us.

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