For the last decade or so I have said I wanted to try being an English teacher, friends told me I would be great at it. Non-native English speakers often told me they appreciated my patience and how I adjusted my speed and language to their level.
In April 2013 I took the plunge and committed to training at The Language House in Prague. This was not an easy decision, there are a lot of schools offering training. Before committing I searched for reviews and asked former students and current teachers. Chris Westergaard was very supportive and patient with me, I actually enrolled back in the spring of 2012 and kept changing dates on him, he handled it well.
Why did I choose TLH in the end? The number of practice teaching hours was almost double that of most courses, they have a tremendous social media network and support group and they get very good reviews from students.
Did I make the right decision? Hell yes!
Was it hard? Indeed! It was a long month and an emotional roller coaster. I learned a lot about teaching and quite a bit about myself as well.
What should you expect if you head out on the TEFL adventure?
- It will be all consuming for one month or more.
- As a native English speaker you won’t likely know your own grammar well and it is a daunting task especially when facing students who know your own language better than you do.
- There will be ups and downs! Some days you will be on top of the world and happy to have succeeded, other days you will want to run away, far far away.
- This will only be the beginning – no one learns even a basic new job in one month so don’t expect to be a seasoned teacher at the end of one month.
- You will be supported. The entire team at TLH is there to help you, encourage you, hold your hand when necessary and buy you the occasional beer when required.
What should you bring to this?
- Commitment, it is only one month and you can do anything for one month.
- Humor, it is essential.
- Bravery, most people will be terrified the first time in front of a class. Be brave and if you can’t be brave just fake it, no one knows the difference.
- One month later you will have a shiny new TEFL certificate to hang on the wall. A ticket to work and travel and live in many places on the planet.
- You will know more about your own language then you ever thought possible.
- An entire new group of friends, people you will have bonded with in a way only people that have done something hard and survived can bond.
What’s next? The task of finding meaningful work here in Prague, in whatever form that takes.
Feel free to message me if you have any questions about Prague, TEFL, immigration or anything else I might know!
Before you run off to either the zivno office or try to make an appointment with an embassy there are a few things you need to have:
A confirmation of balance letter from your bank back home that needs to be formatted a certain way:
- Your name, and ONLY your name on the account. If they are joint accounts ask the bank to leave the other person off the letter.
- Minimum balance of $6,000 USD, if you don’t have it then borrow it, get the letter and then give the money back again.
- This has to be an account you can produce an access card for so they know you can access the funds while in the Czech Republic.
- Has to be an original, not a copy or email!
- Has to be on bank letterhead.
- Has to be signed in BLUE ink. If they can stamp it as well, all the better.
Once you have this letter in hand you will need to get it translated to Czech by a certified company that can stamp the translation. I used Grabmuller and was very pleased with the speed of service, location and price (about 400kc for the one page). Hold onto both the translation and the original.
You Criminal Record Check:
Now you could get this in Canada before coming, it will take a couple of weeks after visiting the RCMP or police in your home area and then you’d have to translate it to Czech. OR you can get it from the Canadian Embassy here in Prague, it will take a day or so and already be in English and Czech! You’ll need your passport of course, and a fee of 1,000kc. It’s not over yet though, you’ll need to get this “super-notarized”. The Embassy will give you instructions on how to do this, it involves buying a 600kc “kolek” from the post office and then going to a government office where they will notarize it for you. With this in hand go to a normal notary and have them copy and notarize your super-notarized original – clear? You will need one copy for the zivno and the original to take to the Czech Embassy.
We’re not done yet! Next post will cover your housing and business address documents.
IMPORTANT: You have 90 days as a tourist here before you need to leave, the visa process can take up to 3 months to complete so get this started NOW. You can not apply for the visa once you are beyond the 90 day window. Many people stay beyond the 90 day window while the visa is being processed but technically this is illegal.
To stay in the Czech Republic beyond the 90 day tourist entry you will need a long stay “D” visa. There are several reasons for applying for a long stay visa.
You could be a student, or find a company to hire you and help you get a visa, or you could become self employed and have a trade license. Most English teachers coming to Prague now work as self employed contractors – it makes it easier for the schools to manage and in the end you make more money and have control over your own destiny! With a work permit there are a lot of hoops for the employer to jump through and then if for some reason you lose your job you also lose your visa! Not the best scenario!
For detailed information on visa types it is worth a read through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
We will be focusing on the “Long Stay D Visa For Purpose of Entrepreneurship” and the trade license or “Živnostenský list”.
So which comes first? The visa or the zivno (as it is commonly called)? In a roundabout way the answer is both.
- Apply for and be approved for your zivno.
- Take your zivno approval letter to an appropriate Czech Embassy to apply for your visa.
- Once you have your visa take it back to the zivno office to get your true, official zivno!
The next posts will break it down further including timelines and what to do after this miracle occurs!
So long as you plan ahead and can be very patient you will get through this! Before coming to Prague I researched and read and sifted through all kinds of information without ever getting a clear picture of what it takes for a Canadian, American or other non EU citizen to stay and work in the Czech Republic.
Before we get started there are a few things to understand. The Czech Republic is in the Schengen Zone – as a North American you can only spend 90 days of every 6 months in the Schengen Zone.
During my process I have kept detailed records of what it took for me, a Canadian, to become legal in the Czech Republic in 2013. I can’t make any claims it will be the same in a week, or give any advice how it works for other nationalities. Certainly there are companies that will help you with the process, for a fee of course. Two things about me: I like to know how things work, and I am pretty keen on holding onto my money. Over the next few posts I will try to clear up some of the mystery around the process by giving a detailed account of my experience….
Persevere, it is a fantastic country and well worth the effort to be able to spend the time and settle in.