Category Archives: ESL

Long term residence permit part three (again!)

Whew!  It has been even quieter than usual here.  I do apologize.

If you have been following, since my last post I have been waiting for my residence approval. There was a complication. At the end of December I received a nice letter stating two things:

  1. My proof of income had been rejected as it was not in Czech.  This was my fault as I took a risk sending printouts from the website rather than certified copies.  FIO was able to give me a summary of all months in one giant statement and only charged one fee. 120Kč.
  2. They wanted me to prove I made enough money not only to support myself, by also my partner. In 2012 I had applied for a partnership visa with my Czech girlfriend, after nine months of trying to provide enough information to make them happy we finally broke up and I went back to Canada just long enough to reset my Schengen clock.  Being asked to prove I could support a partner I no longer had, and that they never accepted I had, was interesting.

So, I mailed (by registered mail) my updated a bank statements as well as a notarized místopřísežné prohlášení, a document my ex signed to state we were no longer partners.

On January 11th my application number appeared on the approval spreadsheet.  I had a friend call and make an appointment for January 28th.  This means my application took from October 15th to January 11th to be approved – 89 days.

On January 28th I went back to the Chodov office for my biometrics appointment.  They took my photo and fingerprints.  They also verified my address.

One complication.  They now wanted my expired residence card from when I lived here in 2014.  This is the first time it was mentioned, no one has ever asked to see it or verify it as I was starting over again.  I offered to bring it back when I pick up my card, that seemed to satisfy them.  They issued an approval document and gave me an appointment to come back to pick up the card (as well as pay the 2,500Kč fee in kolek).

The final steps:

On February 18th I went back to the office at Chodov and picked up my shiny new dlouhodoby pobyt and paid the 2,500Kč.  I am now legal until November 2017.

The following Monday I returned to the zivnostensky office where they copied my new residence card and issued my zivno with the same expiration date as my permit.

Total cost of this entire process:  2,880Kč (primarily the actual fee for the permit)

I’m now done this lovely process until the fall of 2017.

Moved? Change of address on your initial six month visa.

Last month I moved to a new flat, which means I needed to change my address with the Ministry of Interior / Foreign Police.  If you recall, after arriving back from an embassy with your shiny new visa it is necessary to go and register and have your address stamped into your passport. You have 30 days to change your address if you move.  The good news is you can make an appointment to do this and if you live in Prague or Central Bohemia they now have one central number to do this.  I would recommend having a Czech friend call and make an appointment for you.  They will need your information including name, date of birth, passport number and new address location – there are different offices based on what district of Prague you live in.

You will need to take your passport as well as a housing document – either your original signed lease (in Czech) OR a notarized confirmation of housing.  See details here, but remember these documents most be in the name of and signed by the actual owner of the flat and good for at least the duration of your visa.  They will check the owner in the building registry.

My appointment was for one week later at the lovely office in Chodov…..

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Which is, honestly, not my favourite place on the planet.  It is always very busy with lots of stressed clients and equally overworked employees.  Come early.  Bring patience.  What I learned this trip is that if you have an appointment you can go straight to the first floor, but what was not so obvious is that you need to go to the machine, find yourself on the list of people and then it will print you a number.  You may need to scroll ahead quite some ways if you are early.

The good news is I was in an out in 30 minutes, no drama, my limited Czech was enough and I am now 100% legal again.

Reflections on teaching, take two – how to get ahead

If you have been following my blog you might have read my reflections on teaching after my first year here in Prague.  I’ve now been back for three months.  It’s been a little quiet on my blog, but traffic shows people are still dropping by to get information.

Now that I have my own flat again…

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…and had time for a little trip to the lovely city of Carcassonne in France…

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…I have a chance to update you on what it is like coming back.

So, what have I learned?  Strangely, if I had to give ONE piece of advice to ESL teachers who have been working for a couple of years I’d say:  Quit.  Then start over.

Now, this may seem like strange advice, but it is not so different from the way people have to leapfrog from company to company to move up the corporate ladder.

What has changed?

Value of experience – time:

After returning I very slowly took on new classes to try to build a good schedule.  I quickly found that most people want someone with a couple of years experience.  This puts you at the top of the list, and gives you the opportunity to pick and choose the classes more than the first time around.  The result?  My week now looks like this:

Monday:  16:00 to 21:00

Tuesday:  08:00 to 09:30 and 17:30 to 21:00

Wednesday: 08:00 to 20:00 with very few breaks

Thursday:  08:00 to 12:30 and again from 18:30 to 21:00

Friday: 09:30 to 10:30

This compact schedule allows me plenty of spare time to lesson plan as well as extended weekends to travel without huge opportunity cost.  I am averaging around 21 hours (not teaching hours which are 45 minutes) per week, and could easily take more if I wanted to.

Value of experience – money:

When I left Prague in the fall of 2014, my best rate was 350Kc per hour (60 minutes) and most classes were still at 300Kc per hour.  Since I have been back many of my classes are at 375Kc per hour or better, all the way up to 500Kc per hour.  This may not sound like much but 300 to 375 represents a 25% increase in pay.  Factor this by my average hours and, allowing for cancellations, that equals 28,000 to 31,000Kc per month.  A much better wage that I was making last time around.

Value of experience – variety:

Where in 2014 I was working for two schools and a handful of private students, in June 2015 I sent out 10 different invoices.  These ranged from schools (one large and two small ones) to direct to companies as well as individual students.  On top of this I still maintain four individual students who pay by cash.  Not only does this give me more control over what course to take, it gives me the security of being able to drop a class or contract and not starve to death.

The variety also makes teaching more interesting.  Currently my students include IT professionals, accountants, homemakers and students.  I teach mostly as close to home as possible including skype lessons to students in Poland and Germany. I also spend one day per week in another Czech city where I can work the entire day as well as take my own Czech classes.

Bottom line:

Even if you don’t intend to leave Prague and return like I did, it might be an idea to drop classes that are not profitable or enjoyable so that you can make room for the good stuff.

The quick and easy visa process, part three – it all comes together.

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Back to Vienna: This is the third and final instalment in my “second time around” Czech long term residence visa process.  If you’ve just stumbled upon my site and you are doing your first visa I recommend you start here with the more detailed posts from 2013.  If you just want the summery start back at part one. I had my first visa appointment in Vienna on April 7th, 2015 and got the email saying I was approved on May 6th. That’s one month less a day for approval and well ahead of the expiry of my 90 day entry on May 20th.  Whew!  As I was busy with other things I didn’t go to pick the visa up until May 15th and did the normal midnight Student Agency bus to Vienna.  Cost 979kc plus €4.40 for the Bahn.  **Actually, I didn’t take the Bahn both ways – instead I walked the 11+ kms from Stadion to the Embassy since I arrived at 4:30 am and didn’t need to be there until 8:30. You see interesting things on the streets at 6:00 am, including cool old cars.

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Once at the Embassy I handed in my passport, health insurance documents (including proof of payment) and waited about 20 minutes for it to be processed.  When it was done they gave it back to me along with instructions to check in with the Foreign Police within three days of entering the Czech Republic. So, back to Stadion, back on Student Agency and back to Prague by 17:00.

Back in Prague: Visa in hand there were still four things that needed to be wrapped up:

Živnostenský List finalization: I visited the office where they copied my passport and visa and told me to come back next week.  The zivno is active as of now, even if I don’t have a copy yet. Cost: nothing, as it was paid for last time.

Social Service Tax registration: I also dropped by the social service tax office, they gave me forms to fill out and told me to come back when I had my actual Živnostenský document.  **A Czech person is helpful here.** Cost: nothing (but it will be 1943Kc per month)

Income Tax registration: The income tax office is in the same building as the zivnostensky office.  All that was needed was a change of address as my account is still active. Cost: nothing.

Foreign Police registration:  Ah.  The foreign Police. Take a Czech friend with you.  And a snack.  And some patience.  There were about 200 people in the building and it took about three hours to get in.  When you arrive take a number for “tourist registration” and fill out the two forms the reception will give you. Cost: nothing

Elapsed time: If you are keeping score, the total time from start to finish – from the time I arrived and started applying for things to the time I had a visa in my passport and was legal to work – March 9th to May 18th or 71 days.  Keep in mind I could have taken a slightly earlier appointment in Berlin and/or gone to pick up my visa one week earlier if I wanted to shave some time off this.

Costs:

My total cost from start to finish for the Živnostenský, criminal record checks, visa and travel was 8,350kc (which is about $415 Canadian or €305).

The quick and easy visa process, part two – the appointment.

Getting there:

At midnight on Monday the 6th of April I caught the Student Agency bus from Florenc.  Transit time to Vienna should have been 4.5 hours, but the first bus had issues and we had to return to Prague and switch to another bus.  My visa appointment was at 9:30 and I had considered taking the 3:30 am bus but, after my bus broke down, I was happy I had taken the midnight bus.  The bus drops you at Stadion bus station on the U2 Bahn line in Vienna.  My intention was to walk around all morning (I’ve been to Vienna twice and don’t have any need to see much more) but it was so cold that instead I went to Westbahnhof and hung out eating fresh bread, drinking tea and using the free wifi.  Cost:  Student Agency bus (return) 976kc plus two Bahn tickets at €2.20 each.

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From Westbahnhof it is a pleasant 25 minute walk along Mariahilfer Strasse to the Embassy. There are also trams that will take you most of the way there.  There are many nice shops and cafes on the way and you will also pass the Technical Museum.  The entrance to the visa section is down the left side of the building.

The Appointment:

I arrived a few moments early for my appointment and was greeted by the friendly staff who took all of my documents and my €91 (in cash, exact change required).  Moments later I was invited into the office where I was asked a series of questions:

  • what do I intend to do in the Czech Republic?
  • how long do I intend to stay?
  • how much money do I plan to earn every month?
  • where do I live in Prague?
  • how much is my rent?
  • how many people do I share a flat with?
  • do I have a Czech bank account?
  • when did I first visit the Czech Republic?
  • when did I arrive in the Czech Republic this time?
  • when did I previously live in the Czech Republic?

At this point I also supplied copies of my previous visa and residence card.  I brought up the fact that I am studying Czech and used a few well rehearsed phrases to emphasize this.  Interestingly I was NOT asked what I would do if my visa was not ready by the time my 90 day Schengen limit expires on May 19th.  The staff translated my statement into Czech, read it all back to me in English and then had me sign the application document.  I received a stamp in my passport to show I had applied for a visa and a receipt with a reference number.  The staff informed me that the process can take up to three months, but that I would likely hear from someone sooner by email.  They were friendly, polite, helpful and even thanked me for being so well organized. The entire visit lasted about one hour.

Getting back:

When I originally booked my ticket I chose the 15:40 return bus that would get me to Prague around 20:00.  Out on the street at 10:30 in the morning I was at a loss as to what to do, so I returned to Westbahnhof and used the free internet to look for an earlier bus.  Student Agency allows free changes up to one hour before departure so I was able to switch to a 12:40 bus that would get my home by 17:00.  This left time for a stroll, lunch at the Stadion shopping centre and then onto the bus with time to spare.

Of course there was construction on the way home and we had to take a rural detour….

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…but it was a good trip and I was happy to be back home and into my bed.  10.5 hours bus travel time for a one hour meeting! And now I wait, patiently, for the email to tell me my visa is ready to be picked up.  Watch for the final installment sometime soon!

Angloville, a volunteer experience…

At some point I stumbled upon the Angloville website and liked the idea of a week in the country with a group of native English volunteers and Polish participants.  After contacting them I signed up for a session in Zabuze, east of Warsaw, from April 1st to the 6th.  It was a really great experience!

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You don’t:

  • need to be a teacher.
  • need experience.
  • need a lot of money.
  • need to worry too much!

But you do:

  • need to be a native English speaker.
  • need to be interested in other people.
  • need some patience.
  • want to share your life very closely for an entire week.

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Think of Angloville as a mini-immersion process – they create an English environment within the host country.  During the week we spend all day, every day, speaking English both in the sessions and during meals or social time.  The participants pay for the event and as a result are quite motivated.  Participants were professionals from a variety of fields, all of them with interesting backgrounds and stories.  The English speaking volunteers were also amazing, all of us from different countries and different backgrounds.

Days consisted of many one to one or two to two sessions…..

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…as well as many group activities, games and socializing.

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There were two organizers with us, so all the logistics were looked after.  Just show up at the meeting point and go from there. The venue was amazing: beautiful countryside, nice rooms and meeting spaces, and good food three times per day (even for a vegetarian like me).

For an interesting, fun, challenging and economical experience, I highly recommend Angloville for your next trip to Poland! I’ll be heading to Wroclaw in May for another great week!

The quick and easy visa process, part one.

If you have been following me, you know I already had a visa and residence permit once and am back to do it all again.  If you are new here and stumbled upon my blog while looking for Živnostenský list or Czech immigration information, I recommend you start at the beginning. Even though I had a visa before, because I let my residence permit expire I need to start from scratch.

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This post will cover from the start of the process to waiting for the visa appointment and I will post more once things move ahead.  This process is for someone here on a trade license (Živnostenský list).  I’ve included actual dates so you can see the real timeline here in 2015.  If things have changed from 2013 I will make an effort to update the original postings to reflect this.  As I arrived in the Schengen Zone on February 19th, I am on a bit of a timeline to pull this off by May 20th.

Useful information:  The Ministry of the Interior website.

Documents needed:

Canadian criminal record check:  I applied at the Embassy in Prague on March 9th, it was ready for pickup on March 10th.  You can get this in Canada before you come, but it is no faster, no cheaper and won’t be in Czech so you will need to pay to get it translated.  Note that they are only open from 9:00 until 12:00 but you can make an appointment for afternoon if necessary.  Cost: 1,000kc.

The criminal record check needs to be super-notarized by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Minsterstvo zahranicnich veci) located at #5 Toskansky Palac, very close to the castle.  It is often busy and I arrived at 13:00 to be the first in line when they opened at 13:30 – I was in and out in five minutes.  Cost:  600kc (note, you will need to pay this by “kolek” which are financial payment stamps available at the post office – they won’t accept cash).

We aren’t done!  Take your super-notarized Canadian criminal record check to a notary (there are Czech Points all over Prague) and have an official notarized copy made – you will need this copy for your Živnostenský list.  Cost:  60kc.

Czech criminal record check: Because I lived here for two years, I needed to get a Czech criminal record check (rejstřík trestů) as well.  There is a good explanation of this process on Prague.tv.  The article says the wait will be long but I was in and out in five minutes and was able to pay the fee in cash, they didn’t need koleks.  Cost:  100kc (not the 50kc stated in the article).

Housing document:  You will need some proof of housing, a lease or doklad ubytovani.  This document must be signed by the registered owners of the flat and notarized – they will check it to make sure they are the registered owners.  It must be good for at least the duration of your visa plus the waiting period, so try to get one that is either open ended or at least good for one year. Cost:  60kc?  Or zero if your landlord is nice like mine is.

Proof of funds:  You need a document to prove you have at least 110,000kc available to you.  I had my Canadian bank provide this proof of funds before I left Canada but note it can’t be more than three months old.  You will need a card that can access this account.  You will also need a certified translation, I had mine done at Grabmuller, if took three days. Cost: $20 (from my bank in Canada) plus 400kc for the translation.

Passport photos:  Available at most photo shops or even photo booths in the metro.  Cost:  100kc

Živnostenský approval letter:  I won’t go into detail on this, please look at my previous postings for the how and why of the trade licence.  Or, stop by the office in Prague 7, room 203, and get details about what you will need.  They do speak English and are vey helpful.  Cost:  1,000kc.


The initial visa appointment:  Now, before, during or after this you will need to have made an appointment at a Czech Embassy somewhere.  From Prague the most common are:

Berlin.  I emailed them on March 16th, they replied to my email but asked me to call the embassy, and they could have fit me in as early as March 25th.

Bratislava. When I managed to get through to someone on March 17th they were booking appointments for the middle of June!

Vienna.  This is where I have my appointment, I finally managed to contact them by phone on March 17th and was able to get an appointment for Aril 7th.  This is the same embassy I used last time.  Note:  they wanted me to email them all of my documents including my zivnostensky list BEFORE they would give my an appointment, but I managed to convince them to make the appointment and then scanned and emailed things as I got them.

This is the end of part one, watch for an update after my visa appointment on April 7th.

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Lather, rinse, repeat.

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Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Solstice too.  Veselé Vánoce a šťastný Nový rok.

If you’ve been following, I’m sorry it’s been so quiet here!  Traffic statistics show that people are still coming by and I hope the information has been valuable.  Watch this space as the information will all get updated, verified and put to the test very soon – I’m going to do it all again!

This has been an interesting three months back in Canada.  I’ve learned that I have changed, perhaps more than I thought I had.  My friends advice about visiting before moving back would have been good to follow I guess but now I can move on with more clarity and certainty.

Although my Plan has not yet come together, I think it will all come together and I can leave North America behind with a clear conscience.

See you soon in Prague, and if anyone who is following is now in Prague I would love to meet up to compare notes and see how life is treating you.  I would also love to know of any opportunities people know of in Prague or elsewhere – I’m game to try just about anything.

See you around!

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Time to wrap things up!

If you read my previous post you might remember that I was debating if I should stay or go.  It was very hard to finally decide, but the combination of looking for new or better contracts, a better offer elsewhere and my impending residence permit renewal resulted in a decision.

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So, if you are in the same position I am, there are a couple of things you need to do before you go.

Cancel or suspend your živnostenský list:

To do this will require a visit to the same office you got the zivno from in the first place.  You can actually suspend it, but only up to the expiry date, so this is not very helpful for us North Americans unless you are just leaving for the summer and want to avoid social service tax.  In my case cancellation was the only option.

Do this before month end so you can avoid paying extra social service tax.   Good news!  There is no charge!  Finally, something for free!  My office in Prague 7 took one week to complete it.  It does require two visits as you have to apply to cancel it and then go back to sign off on it and they will give you a document proving you cancelled it.  Save this document.

The zivno office will also notify social service tax you are leaving, but they recommend you visit them to make sure the assessment is stopped.

Cancel your social service tax:

Again you want to do this before month end so you aren’t assessed for the following month, 1894Kc is still 1894Kc!  With my zivno cancellation letter in hand I dropped by my social service tax office.  They will have you fill out a form to cancel your business activities and stop the tax.  While my zivno office speaks a little English, here I took along a letter to help me communicate what I wanted to do.  A Czech speaking friend might be helpful.  **Remember that they amount you pay each month is for the previous month, so even if you cancel this month you still need to pay once more**.

And that is about it!  For now.  Make sure you keep records of all these things as you will need them next year for, you guessed it, TAXES!

 

 

 

Should I stay or should I go?

If you’ve been teaching in Prague for any length of time you have seen the revolving door that is ESL.  People come, people go.  Very quickly.  Some of us plan it this way, ESL is a means to an end and a way to spend some time in Europe.  Others, like me, didn’t really come into this with an end plan or an exit strategy.

Just recently I terminated my contracts at both my schools which leaves me with only my private students as of September 1.  So now the big decisions come:  stay (and get my shit together to work for companies directly or fill my private student schedule) or pack it in and return to British Columbia (and familiar territory as well as a challenging but well paid career in the automotive industry).

Prague is a spectacular city, it really is.  High praise from me as I am not at all a city person.

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Teaching can be a rewarding  job.  I meet lots of interesting people, I have control over my schedule and am not sitting in an office or, god forbid, a cubicle.  On the other hand there are some challenges:  the compensation is quite poor, schedules can be erratic and you don’t have the benefit of co-workers to interact with.

The compensation is a particular sticking point.  If I was choosing between an entry level job in Canada or teaching here it would be a reasonable comparison, but I am not.  Compared to other teachers I know I am in a slightly different dilemma as back in Canada I am a professional while here I am “just another” ESL teacher.  A good teacher, but still easily replaced.

Other considerations?  It does get tiring always being a foreigner, always struggling at least a bit with the language and the culture. Immigration is an ongoing challenge as well as it needs to be renewed every two years at the most.   The appeal of something familiar, comfortable and easy is hard to ignore.

Oh, and a car!  Gosh I miss owning a car and a motorcycle.  (for those from North America that are new here, your license is not transferable.  You need to go back to driving school before you can ever consider a car here, and then consider the cost and fuel at $2 a litre).

But British Columbia, Squamish in particular but Vancouver as well, are hard to beat for beauty and nature.

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Most of the people I have met in Europe that learn I am a) Canadian b) from British Columbia and c) from outside Vancouver have one simple question:  Why?  What are you doing here?

Sometimes I can’t answer them in a way that satisfies either them or me.  Squamish is a recreation  capitol, full of places to hike, mountain bike and climb.  Although it is certainly more expensive than Prague, the earning potential is so much more that it makes the math look ridiculous.

Work is a definite consideration.  Teaching ESL has a plateau, you will never move past a certain level and would need to work very hard indeed to make a salary that will cover more than expenses.  This is particularly true of you want to travel outside of the Czech Republic as the crown does not go far at all in euro countries.  Working in automotive has it’s own challenges but the pay scale is exponentially better than teaching.

And of course my family and friends are back in Canada.

 

Watch this space.  Decisions will come, and I’ll document the process either way.  You can expect to either see “how to exit teaching” or ” how to grown your teaching career”.