The Czech Republic Now Entering The Zone

Changes are on the way for one of Eastern Europe’s TEFL hotspots: the Czech Republic will soon officially be a part of the Schengen Zone.

Sadly this is not an indication of good Chinese food on the way (that’s Szhechuan, not Schengen!), but rather regulations which will make impossible the once every three-month visa run utilized by many schools and teachers to get around work regulations.

The Schengen zone already incorporates much of western Europe and will soon include many new EU countries. Like with most official visa procedures, the situation is complex, but basically, an individual can spend no more than six months out of any one year in the Schengen zone [it is described in the article as two three-month stays in a year, in a rolling six month period, which as I have always understood translates to six months out of a year, with those two periods back to back]. It’s not possible to get around this by leaving the zone, getting a stamp in your passport from somewhere else, and turning around and returning: you have to stay out for six months before you can return. This is not compatible with a nine-month or year-long EFL stint.

Obviously, if you have a proper work permit, this is all irrelevant: you stay for the length of the permit and you don’t need to make visa runs of any kind. It seems to be the case in the Czech Republic though that many employers and teachers do not go through the lengthy procedure for obtaining a work permit.

It’s easy to frame this as teachers who don’t care about the law, rather than including local schools as accomplices in avoiding the law – as this article seems to do – if you’ve never gone through the process of getting a work permit.

However, it’s not just the fact that you need to gather local documents and understand the local language to get a work permit, you also tend to need a contract, a lease, and other information from your employer. In general an individual does not just come and get a work permit, and may not even be able to without a school’s (or employer’s) support. If a teacher doesn’t have a work permit, the school knows and the school likely benefits, perhaps by avoiding some taxes or insurance costs, or perhaps just by saving itself the hassle of dealing with bureaucracy. Schools also have fewer obligations to teachers employed illegally.

Will entering Schengen affect the number of English teachers? My guess is that because citizens of other EU countries can work in the Czech Republic without applying for permits, the demand for British and Irish and other EU country teachers will increase, and it will be harder still for North American / other non-EU teachers to work there. Schools will not want to go through the paperwork and will not want to face the risk of their teachers not being allowed to re-enter the country.

On the positive side, I think it might also have some effect on wages and conditions – if the pool of potential teachers is smaller, it may not be as easy for schools to get away with offering bottom of the barrel salaries and conditions.