Liking it here, are ya? Think you may want to stay for a bit longer than your tourist visa allows, and want to do it legally? Congratulations – you are now in for a fun process called Getting Your Long Term Visa! Please note, this article is about getting your first visa. Much of the paperwork and procedure is the same for renewing your visa – with the major exception you don’t need to visit a Czech embassy outside the country.
Czech laws are continuously changing, and the requirements seem also to vary depending on who you speak with and on which day of the week it is. We decided to get advice from a pro – Nora Vindušková, managing partner of Assistance2Expats (www.assistance2expats.cz, 222 510 867,) a local company specializing in helping expatriates settle legally in the country. Because the procedure is much easier for EU nationals; we’ll start with you.
Vindušková says if you plan to stay longer than 30 days, you need to register your stay with the foreign police (in Prague the office is at Konevova 32, Prague 3, 974 820 409) or apply for confirmation of temporary stay, a so-called “EU card.” The temporary part is a bit of a misnomer as Vindušková says it is for an unlimited time period. You’ll receive a certificate of sorts, it doesn’t go in your passport, but should be kept with your passport. At the foreign police you’ll fill out an application, show proof of your medical insurance, purpose of stay, proof of accommodation and of course, your passport. More information on these documents can be found below. Vindušková says the EU card will be required if you are interested in getting a mortgage, registering property or a car, getting a Czech driving license and the like.
For non-EU residents, the process gets a bit more complicated. A long-term visa is based on your legal purpose of stay. Vindušková says that means a person who wants to stay in this country longer than 90 days (or depending on what your country of origin’s visa agreements are with the Czech Republic) must have a reason to stay, i.e. work, study, business, etc. If your purpose is to work, you must be hired by an employer who will provide for you a work permit. This work permit thus becomes your purpose of stay. A work permit usually takes about 30-35 days to process. However, you don’t need to wait until you have the actual permit in your hands to begin the rest of the visa process. You’ll be given a work permit reference number and that’s what you’ll need for your application.
Other valid documents include confirmation from your university if you want a student visa, or securing either your trade license (Živnostenský list) or forming an S.R.O., which is a Czech limited liability company. If your spouse is here working, you can apply for a family reunification visa, which is based on their purpose of stay. You must have your marriage license, specially legalized and/or apostilled. The legalization of your marriage license varies depending on what country issued it. Same applies for any children – you’ll need their birth certificates. If you are getting any type of visa, except one based on a work permit, you’ll also need to show a statement from your bank proving you have adequate funds to cover your stay, currently 120,000CZK. If this is from a foreign bank, it must be officially translated.
That’s the biggie – securing your purpose of stay. Once that’s sorted you can continue with the other bits and bobs. First, your passport. Vindušková says it must be valid for at least three months longer that your planned length of stay. So for example, if you are applying in January 2009 for a long term visa, which is good for one year; your passport must be valid until at least April 2010. Also, you must have two empty pages in your passport for the visa to be placed and you’ll need three passport sized photos as well. Next you’ll need proof of accommodation. This is a form, signed and notarized by your landlord stating you have a place to live. You’ll also need a statement from the land registry proving that the person listed on the previous document as your landlord actually owns the flat he is renting to you. When looking for a flat, be sure your potential landlord is willing to sign the proper documents for you. And again, the landlord statement must extend through your planned stay. If it doesn’t you’ll only be issued a visa for as long as the statement says you have a place to live.
Proof of medical insurance is also needed. If your purpose of stay is a work permit, you are fine because the foreign police assume once your paperwork is complete and you are legal, the company will supply you with medical insurance, which they are bound by law to do anyway. They are sticklers for this – you’ll need to show proof when you are dropping off your original application at a Czech embassy, when you are registering at your local Czech foreign police, when you are applying for an extension (renewal) of your visa and if you have to make any changes to your original visa, like address, etc. And don’t think your insurance card will be enough, you’ll also need your original contract or statement issued by the health insurance company that you are covered. And again, your coverage period must extend through the length of your visa. Czech health insurance can be obtained on a contract basis through www.vzp.cz and there are international companies operating here locally as well.
One new change Vindušková mentioned, and this applies to people renewing their visas too, is you will no longer have to get your Czech criminal record checked – the foreign police will be doing it themselves. However, you still must provide a criminal record check from any country in which you have legally resided for more than three months in the past three years. In this case “legally resided” means you have documentation in your passport that the foreign police can see.
Vindušková says the foreign police has four months to process your visa. Once you’ve gathered all your documentation, make an appointment at a nearby Czech embassy. If you are already in the country, Dresden, Germany (Erna-Berger-Strasse 1 01097, +49-351-655670, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.mzv.cz/dresden) or Vienna, Austria (Penzingerstrasse 11-13, 1140, +43-1-894-3741, email@example.com, www.mzv.cz/vienna) are nearby. They’ll go through your paperwork, and if they accept it, you are probably okay. They’ll notify you when the visa is ready to be picked up, and upon crossing the Czech border back in this country, you have three business days to register at the foreign police in the region where you live. Actual processing times vary – in Vindušková’s experience for student visas or “education” work permit holders (i.e. teachers) it usually takes about two months, for everyone else, you may have to wait the full four. It also depends on “your” foreign police – if you live in Prague, the waiting time will probably be longer than if you live anywhere else in the country. A tip from Vindušková: call or visit “your” foreign police before you start the process to see what exactly it is they want. Hard to believe in this country I know, but sometimes different offices will have varying documentation or notarization requirements.
“What is most underestimated is the documentation,” says Vindušková. “You can’t use copies, internet printouts – only original and notarized copies, and if they aren’t in Czech, they need to be officially translated. Also, no documentation can be older than six months.”
A trip to the foreign police is suggested to pick up all documents, including visa application form and landlord document. Two more points from Vindušková: You don’t get anything back, so always provide notarized copies and if you are denied, the foreign police don’t have to tell you why.
Other websites that may be of assistance include www.en.domavcr.cz. Home in the Czech Republic hopes to make foreigners’ stay here a bit easier, while www.myczechrepublic.com has a variety of information on living in the country, including a list of Czech consulates and embassies and links to other related websites. And of course the supremely intelligent Expats community is always willing to share their experiences – visit the discussion forums on www.expats.cz.