To Zivno or Not to Zivno?

In order to legally work in the Czech Republic, you need permission from the Czech Government and they need some way to document and tax the income you earn as a working resident.

The situation, as I am aware of it, is that there are two types of documents you can get that serve these functions. One is an employer-sponsored work license, the other is the self-employment license (aka, the Zivnostensky list). Depending on your situation, one or the other might be preferable to you.

The Employer-Sponsored Work Permit

For this document, you need to already have a job lined up before you start working. It is exactly what it sounds like – your employer arranges and pays for your work license. Most  of (if not all) the arrangements are made out of your hands, and after approval, the government will subtract taxes from your income .Much like the Social Security tax is taken from income in the US, and you never have to even think about making sure that tax gets paid.

The downsides as I’ve been informed, is that it is difficult to find employers willing to sponsor foreigners for work. I am not sure how true this is across the board, however I am willing to take it on their word that it is at least generally true in the English teaching business – of my twenty or thirty teacher friends and acquaintances here in Prague, I only know of one who was offered the sponsored work license. And you’d better hope your employer has gone through this process before with previous foreign workers – the paperwork trail can be labyrinthine for companies as well as individuals and not every company is ready to take on the challenge. And lastly, you need to have a university degree, and get your diploma apostled in your home country and then accredited at Charles University.

Since I have no personal experience with this work permit, if you have further questions I recommend doing some research – I’d start here.

The Zivnostensky List – A.K.A. Self-Employment License or Trade License

The Self-Employment License, better known here as the “Zivno”, is another option for working legally. It cannot be applied to every trade, but for freelance workers – such as writers or teachers like myself – it is possible, and in my case preferred. I work for three different language schools – it is unlikely any one of them is going to be interested in funding a sponsored work permit for me. Perhaps if I worked full-time at one school, I would have considered this option more.

The Zivno is essentially a list a trades (primarily services, but also some manufacturing trades) that a person can exchange for money. As a self-employed person, there are some additional hoops to jump through – first, you must pay all the administrative fees and do all the initial application paperwork yourself (or pay a visa consultant to assist you). After you’ve gone through the bureaucratic back and forth and collected all necessary signatures and stamps, you still have to manage all your own finances, including paying a monthly tax to the Social Security office. You may only work within the trades you are designated under on your paperwork, but you are allowed to designate more than one – even if you’re not working under all of those at the moment, it gives you more employment flexibility.

Under the Zivno, you are essentially your own “business” and all the associated costs and benefits come with it. You can market your service (be it English teaching, writing, tour guiding, hostel work, or consulting) to whoever you like and not be obligated to stick with one client or employer if it’s not working out. But you are responsible for paying your monthly taxes, maintaining records of invoices and expenditures for the upcoming tax year, and not providing services beyond what you are licensed to.


2 thoughts on “To Zivno or Not to Zivno?

  1. Ashley Williams June 6, 2016 / 10:32 pm

    Thanks for this.

    It seems almost impossible to find this “list” of job types for the Zivno ANYWHERE online!
    I had interviewed at a few places but the visa part really scares people off but it shouldn’t be impossible.
    Sometimes I feel guilty for wanting to come to their country and work when it is so difficult to come to America (I’m American) but the more we learn about each other and different cultures the better.

    Well I guess I’ll find out soon- I’m moving at the end of the month!
    Time is flying.

    Liked by 1 person

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