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The Role of “Migration Industry” in Migration for the Sake of Education

Liudmila Kopecká | 15. 11. 13
Kristina had always dreamt of studying abroad but had not known how and where to go from Russia. One day she saw an invitation to a conference about study in the Czech Republic organized by one of the Czech language schools. The school was recruiting potential candidates. Paying for the language course, whose price was around 4,000 Euro, was unfortunately not enough to fulfil the dream. Kristina had to pay for a full academic year accommodation in order to get the visa and so the price escalated to 6,000 Euro.

Studying abroad is a present day trend. Just in the last decade the student migration increased rapidly and became one of the main forms of international mobility. Although the Czech Republic was lagging behind on the foreign education market, the number of foreign students has almost tripled in the last ten years. What role does the “migration industry“ play in this process and which institutions mainly contribute to the student migration in the Czech Republic?

It is hardly a secret that migration is a large business. According to British geographers John Salt and Jeremy Stein international migration is “heterogeneous international trade with a large budget that provides hundreds of thousands of jobs and is driven by groups of individuals and institutions, each of these interested in the trade development”. This gives rise to a number of intermediary institutions that facilitate, support and encourage mobility of the people. This phenomenon is typically labelled as "migration industry“ in literature.

Stakeholders in “migration industry“ have a strong interest in the continuity of international migration and play an important role in convincing potential migrants of the benefits of migration. Personnel and travel agencies, transport operators, legal and consulting firms and many others belong to these institutions. In case of education-related migration, these institutions involve particularly agencies offering assistance in acquiring education, language teaching, processing student visas, providing accommodation and other services for students.

Situation in the Czech Republic

According to the Czech Statistical Office in the academic year of 2011/2012 almost 39,000 foreign students studied at universities in the Czech Republic. Mostly represented were students from Slovakia (almost 25,000), then with a considerably smaller percentage were students from Russia (2,874), Ukraine (1,647) and Kazakhstan (962).[1] Compared to the academic year of 2003/2004 the number of foreign students has almost tripled. Ten years ago 13,136 foreigners studied at universities in the Czech Republic.

The interest of students from Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan in higher education undertaken in the Czech Republic is great. A European degree from both public and private universities enjoys immense prestige. However, in order to pass the admission exam in Czech, they mostly have to attend a preparatory language course in the Czech Republic.

Many agencies offer language courses and try to lure the students on the pretext of receiving a free education after having completed these courses. The marketing strategy of the schools draws on themes of Slavic cultural and linguistic closeness in addition to selling a dream of a better life. An advertisement of one of the agencies offers an example: “Do you want to acquire secondary or higher education in Europe and live in a prosperous and developed country? The Czech Republic is a modern, dynamic and developing state in the heart of Europe.”

After the Arrival in the Czech Republic

The “migration industry“ plays a significant role not only in luring people into going abroad, but also in persuading them to stay. Until the student gets his/her bearings in the new environment or while dealing with first visa-extension problems, he/she is a potential client of businesses assisting in obtaining the necessary documents for the Foreign Police Department.

For instance, before the possibility of making an appointment by phone, students often used the so called "queuing" service during the procedure of extending their visa, especially for the first time. As one of my informants told me:

“After I arrived in the Czech Republic (in 2009) I heard many stories from other students about endless queues at the Foreign Police Department about people standing there all night long so as to ever get to the counter. It was my first visa extension attempt and therefore I was very nervous. I turned to a company which made sure that all my documents were complete and one of the employees stood in the queue for me. I paid 2,000 CZK for their services.”(Alena)

In order to extend the visa, a student has to prove that he/she has sufficient financial resources for the whole year. Some of the students, however, have parents providing the financial support monthly and in such case the students have to pay the middleman agency for providing an account statement showing the required amount. Here is an example given by another person I interviewed:

“The man from the agency, I met him in front of the bank. He gave me 80,000 CZK cash that I deposited in my account and asked for the account statement. Then I withdrew the money back I returned them to him. I was asked to pay 1,500 CZK for the agency’s service.” (Světlana)

So the ever-tightening visa process costs the students a lot, but for the agencies it is a further opportunity how to profit from migration.

Prices are different at every agency. Here you find an example of a price list of one of the agencies in Prague offering services to migrants:

Residence registration per year/accommodation confirmation: 2,799 CZK

Account statement: 1,999 CZK

Assistance in visa extension: 999 CZK

Criminal records statement: 1,499 CZK


[1] Data from the Czech Statistical Office 2011

Liudmila Kopecká
Liudmila Kopecká is a PhD student of Anthropology at the Charles University in Prague. In her PhD thesis she focuses on migration of students from Russia to the Czech Republic. In her free time she likes travelling, reading and studying foreign languages.
The project has been generously supported by the European Commission The "Europe for citizens" programme, International Visegrad Fund and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.
Funded by the Europe for
Citizens Programme
of the European Union
Visegrad Fund. Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Daniela Pěničková, project coordinator
Phone: (+420) 296 325 345, E-mail:

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