Czech Republic: Offer Exemptions for (Un)Married Binational Couples #LoveIsNotTourism

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The Issue At Hand - A Background (*Special Note - Research Supporting the Importance of Expanding "Family" Definition At Bottom of Petition)

The government of The Czech Republic is currently preventing unmarried, Long Distance Relationship, and/or Living-Alone-Together relationships at the border if the citizen/resident is from a banned nation. On March 16, the Czech Republic closed its borders in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Swift and strong measures were taken by the government in order to protect its citizens and control the spread of the virus. Headlines were grim but gradually became more optimistic: "Czech borders may remain closed for the next two years [...]," "Czech borders should remain closed for one year, [...]," "Czech borders with neighbors could fully reopen by July, [...]," Their success in mitigating and eventually controlling the spread of COVID-19 in such a short period of time should be applauded and respected. As measures were lessened, travel between border nations became possible, progressively leading to the Czech Republic opening borders without restrictions to tourist to 8 third country nations as of July 1, 2020. But then came the headline that many of us that belong to the US, Latin America, and Russia, as well as all banned nations dreaded to read: "EU borders will likely remain closed to the US, Latin American countries, and Russia this summer." Summer for 2020 began June 20 and will end September 22. It is a scary prospect for binational couples who have yet to tie the knot, as well as those who have not married and/or cohabited due to a myriad of reasons varying from economic, political, religious, occupation, circumstance, the legal process itself, etc. As July 1, 2020 crept forward, the expanded list was axed down to 15 nations with the Czech Republic only adopting 8 of them. This has cut off the other 187 nations in the world, as well as obstructing thousands from reuniting with their partners, both married and unmarried. Most couples have been separated since March, some since January or even further, 3-7+ months of separation already with no end in sight.

First, we must acknowledge that they have been more lenient than other nations, who have outright forbade entry even for those carrying temporary residents or legally recognized registered partners, common-law partners, or citizen-foreigner marriages in which the foreigner has not become a citizen. In that context, the Czech Republic does, in short, allow entry for those bearing residence in the Czech Republic, holders of a long-term visa, those issued a short-term visa after 11 May 2020, transit, foreign nationals whose entry is in the interest of the nation, international workers, diplomats, and urgent situations provided by documentation.

Family Defined - According to the Czech Republic

They also include family members within the meaning of Section 15(a) of Act No. 326/1999 Coll, such definitions most applicable in the current context of non-EU citizens include: the spouse and a very specific subsection that adds further flexibility to the interpretation of Family Member. This is Section 15(a), Subsections 3(a) and 3(b) (page 10 of the PDF) and offers the most suitable component for expanding upon the definition of "Family Member." Within that section describes alternatives to marriage, such as living with the EU citizen, citizen of the EU, or because of long-term adverse health alone can not take care of personal care without a EU citizen, or is a citizen of the EU's ongoing relationship similar to the relationship and lives with his family in his household. In short: family is only defined (in the context pertaining to Third-Country Nationals) as a spouse of an EU citizen, dependents under 21 or dependents that are EU citizens, health-related requiring care of EU citizen, or shares the same household. 

Our Request As Separated Couples - Expand the Definition of "Family", Allow Us to Enter on Sworn Statement and Preventative Measures in Spirit of The Denmark Model, Recognize that We Are Not Tourists, and Anything But More Waiting and Bureaucracy

We ask upon the nation's leadership, persons such as President Miloš Zeman, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, Minister of Health Adam Vojtěch, Minister of Foreign Affairs Tomáš Petříček, Minister of the Interior Jan Hamáček, as well as any others that may garner their support to us, to lend us your attention and consideration.

First, the leading item of concern, as those belonging to groups effected by the current definitions of "Family", is to expand the definition of "Family" beyond what is considered to be the "Traditional Family." The reason: families of today have largely deviated from the traditional family norm*. Research conducted by Lenka Formánková and Alena Křížková at The Institute of Sociology, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague will be included at the bottom of the petition to offer support to the importance of expanding the definition of "family." Family is no longer just a formal bureaucratic process through marriage or registration and tying up of assets (which may not even be possible at present for some). Family, as supported by research below in the context pertaining to binational couples, has shifted its focus more on the relationship itself and less on the traditional legal recognition of such. Many binational couples are well acquainted with one another's families, visit frequently, and would be considered family in every single aspect other than marriage.

Second, we understand the economic benefits and consequences (such as marital status for taxes) of legally recognized marriages and partnerships. We are not pleading for change in that regard nor are we asking to redefine "marriage", we simply request to share the same Freedom of Movement as married couples.

Third, the approach that we have all rallied behind is what has been deemed as the "Denmark Model", social media trends using the hashtag of #DoItLikeDenmark. This has since expanded to Sweden and those of us within this petition hope to see it adopted by the Czech Republic, as well as the rest of the EU. In the Denmark Model, under the section "Private Matters - You are the partner, parent, etc. of a person resident in Denmark", unmarried couples are given the privilege to reunite. In exact wording: "You can enter Denmark if you are the [...], fiancé, sweetheart, [...] of a Danish national resident in or permanently staying in Denmark or of a foreigner resident in Denmark and otherwise have a legal right to enter Denmark. It is a condition for sweethearts, fiancés, [...] from countries other than EU Member States, Schengen countries and the United Kingdom that they can present proof of a negative COVID-19 test carried out no more than 72 hours before entry. If you cannot have a test carried out within this period, you must present a declaration to that effect. The relationship between sweethearts must have lasted for a certain period, normally three months, and you must have met regularly in person. Accordingly, sweethearts whose relationship has been based merely on written and telephone contact are not deemed to have a worthy purpose under the current entry restrictions. The nature and duration of a relationship can be substantiated by a solemn declaration in which the person resident in Denmark declares under penalty of perjury to be in a relationship with the person who wants to enter Denmark and that the purpose of the entry is to visit the person resident in Denmark. The solemn declaration must be brought on paper (the original document or a printout/photocopy) and handed in at the border control point. The form can be used for repeated entries into Denmark. Further, sweethearts, fiancés, [...] must present proof of a negative COVID-19 test carried out no more than 72 hours before entry." I cannot stress this enough, we, the petitioners, are ready and willing to follow this model. We will test, we will quarantine and wear masks until results return, we will provide sworn statements under penalty of perjury for the native of the relationship and the threat of losing the privilege of entry for third-country nationals, whatever must be done to allow entry sooner. 

Fourth, the risk for binational couples, even from banned countries, following epidemic guidelines are less of a threat than tourists who do not have to abide by preventative measures. A tourist, by nature of their visit and lack of restrictions upon entry, stands to be more exposed to contracting and spreading of COVID-19 than binational couples. If, at any point during their trip, they contract COVID-19 (or before their trip but have no symptoms) and are otherwise unaware, they stand a greater risk due to the range of movement they have in their itineraries and may not be in a position to quarantine if discovered. Whereas binational couples reuniting with family will have limited range of movement and will have adhered by preventative guidelines upon entry to minimize risk as much as possible, as well as a reliable place to stay for the purpose of quarantine instead of jeopardizing the operation of businesses, such hotels.

Finally, the nature of our visit is family reunification. Disappointing community response to COVID-19 at present that complicates matters further for binational couples. The low thresholds for "green-lighting" leaves some nations vulnerable to the jump-rope of case-trend data, effectively turning the borders on and off at any given time with limited windows to capitalize on the opportunity of travel. We are unable to control the irresponsible actions of others. To penalize those of us who are not married, or were unable to get married before the outbreak (such as myself, I was to marry in the Hradec Králové region in June after 3 years of engagement and graduating college), is unjust and unfair. Our purpose is not to meander about the nation, rather, it is to stay with our loved ones. To be conflated with tourists goes directly against the nature of the visit.

We respectfully request this petition be considered at face-value in creating exemptions of entry for unmarried binational couples. There is a wide range of individuals that want to go so far as to marry whereas some simply just want to see their loved ones in-person; a video screen is no substitute for actually being with the person and none of these individuals more important than the other. The question of commitment to one another is hardly a question in itself, many of these couples visit each other every so many months and have done so for years, and will not do anything to jeopardize that. These relationships require much of what many cannot endure, do the right thing in offering the one thing that makes them less painful: allow us enter so that we can reunite. Děkuji za váš čas a pozornost. Doufáme, že nám dáte privilegium spojit se s těmi, které tolik milujeme. #LoveIsNotTourism

*Research - Love Will Keep Us Apart? Understanding Living Apart Together Partnerships in the Post-state-socialist Czech Republic Lenka Formánková, Alena Křížková - Institute of Sociology, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague

**Unmarried Binational Couples & Long Distance Relationships follow the same behaviors as Living-Apart-Together couples and will be used synonymous of one another

Love Will Keep Us Apart? Understanding Living Apart Together Partnerships in the Post-state-socialist Czech Republic Lenka Formánková, Alena Křížková - Institute of Sociology, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague. To emphasize the prevalence of these types of relationships, "data collected in Great Britain suggest that LAT partnerships should not be overlooked in the research on intimate relationships, as up to 25% of adults who are not cohabiting are in fact living apart together [Duncan et al. 2014:1]. Data from the survey Life and Work Trajectories 2010 conducted in the Czech Republic provided some statistical evidence of this phenomenon. In the Czech Republic about 6% of the adult population between the ages of 25 and 60 live in a LAT relationship. This type of partnership is most prevalent in the 25–35 age group (10%)"

The research aids in providing the primary types of relationships that unmarried binational couples can be categorized under: "Another research by Duncan et al. [2013] on the British population found four types of LAT partnerships: (a) partners who willingly choose that they
‘won’t’ live together, (b) couples who ‘can’t’’ live together owing to external constraints, (c) couples ‘not now’ living together who see LAT as just a stage, and (d)
‘oughtn’t’ to live together, a group predominated by women, where cohabitation
is not possible because of obligations to others. Cohabitation represented a desired form of partnership for the ‘can’t’, the ‘oughtn’t to’, and the ‘not now’ types.
The ‘won’t’ live together type was common among partners over the age of 40, in
most cases living a distance of 20 minutes or less from each other, and with prior
experience of marriage. Autonomy and independence were the main reasons for
choosing this arrangement [Duncan et al. 2013]." The research shows that cohabitation is in fact a goal for these couples, they simply just do not have the means or ability at that current time. For example, my case is we were to carry out the long-distance-relationship for the duration it took to finish university and have a career. Without that, we would not have the means to engage in the legal immigration process nor being able to even afford to cohabit. That does not mean those who are happily apart mean less, it's just the nature of their relationship gives greater emphasis to autonomy; this does not make it any less of a relationship and any less family.