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:
- 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.
- 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.
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…
…and had time for a little trip to the lovely city of Carcassonne in France…
…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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….
…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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Ah, summer in Prague! Beer gardens, walks in the park, long warm days. You’ll wish you had more time to be outside instead of teaching. Fortunately you most likely will. This applies to teachers like me who work for schools or private students and teach either in companies or privately, if you teach children in a school setting you were already expecting to have free time over the summer.
When you take TEFL training, and even when you accept a contract with a school, nobody mentions that your summers will be quieter than you expected. This is my second summer in Prague and now I know what to expect, but the first summer was a little stressful. If you are new to the ESL world be aware:
Students take vacation. This is normal and expected of course, but it leaves you with holes in your schedule and since they are all early cancellations this also means holes in your income.
Classes get cancelled for the summer. You would think this isn’t a surprise to the schools but somehow it seems to be. I thought maybe it was just my school but a random survey of other teachers confirms this. Three of my 90 minute classes took the summer off and I wasn’t informed until the day of my final class with them. Not a nice surprise! The loss of 1350Kč per week is noticeable.
Classes end. This happens at other times of the year as well, but expect it in June as it is the end of the semester. Some classes run on terms and, again, your school might not warn you in advance.
What to do to cope with this problem?
Save. Those busy winter and spring months are the time to put something away for now.
Ask your students. In the late spring I have a lesson I do that is all about travel and vacations and I have adapted it to work in most of my classes. This is a perfect time to simply ask “Hey, what vacation plans do you have? What happens to your ESL classes over the summer?”. Don’t expect your school to communicate this to you. Avoid surprises. Alternatively, ask your school – they will certainly be asking you about your summer plans so it is a perfect time to have this conversation.
Take your own vacation. If you are planning to take a break, this is a good time to do it with a minimum loss of income.
Take on substitutions. The one upside here is that summer is also when other teachers will leave – either for the summer or for good. If you are staying and can be flexible you can take on extra classes. I’ve worked hard to be on good terms with the person in my school who handles substitutions.
Try intensive courses. If your school offers intensive English programs you might be able to get involved. These will be high intensity, up to eight hours a day of teaching for anywhere from one day to a week. The benefits are a good experience and a great way to top up your earnings while not really needing to cancel many of your normal classes.
Not to worry, come September things will pick up again and you’ll look back on these quite summer months fondly.
Enjoy the summer!
If you’ve been following my blog, you know this process takes some time. The good news is that the final visit to the immigration office is quite simple. On your previous visit you were given a time and date to come back, so here we are!
Make sure you have your passport and the 2,500Kč in koleks you had to buy from the post office. If you have picked up any Czech you should be fine by yourself, the only questions were to ask for my passport, ask me my address and ask me to sign and date something.
What to do and what to expect?
- Go back to the biometrics office and take a seat – there is no need to check-in with anyone. You could also check the appointment list on the wall just to make sure you are on it.
- Arrive early! My name was called ten minutes before my appointment time.
- After my name was called I went to one of the outside offices instead of the little room where the previous meeting took place.
- A very nice woman asked for my passport and the koleks for payment. She then tested me by asking my address, scanned my left and right pointer fingers and asked me to verify my photo. Finally I signed and dated my original application form and she handed my my long-term residence card.
We are done!
Almost……if you think way back to the beginning of this process you applied for an extension on your zivnostensky list and they gave you a temporary one while your application was being processed, remember? I made two final trips to the zivno office, one for them to copy my residence card and the final one to pick up my new zivno with the same expiration date as my residence card.
And NOW we are done! Good luck!
We are almost there! See my previous post for some important information about your biometrics appointment and the logistics of booking it and getting to it. Arrive early, it will take some time to figure out where to go. Bring a Czech friend if you have one, this will help getting in but your friend won’t be allowed to stay with you during the actual meeting.
Bring your notification letter and of course your passport. You won’t need any payment right now.
The appointment itself was quite simple. They:
- Confirmed my name and date of birth from my passport.
- Asked me my address – this was a test to see if you know where you live and it matches what is in your passport.
- Took my photo with a digital camera.
- Scanned fingerprints from both my left and right pointer fingers, they did it several times to see if they match. Strange process.
- Had me sign a document, in Czech, that allows them to collect all this data.
- Gave me a document that told me when to come back for my biometrics card – for me it was scheduled for almost exactly three weeks away.
- Gave me instructions to bring 2,500Kč in koleks as payment (payment stamps available at the post office).
And that was it! It only took 10 minutes at the most (other than the nightmare getting into the office).
Only one more visit and I’m done. Until next time.
Whew, it’s been a little while since I updated but it has just been a waiting game. To review, I had my meeting and submitted my application on November 4th, 2013.
On the letter confirming your application there will be a reference number, you will need to go to this site to access the list of approved applications by searching for your number. The list is updated every Monday.
On January 17th, 2014 my number finally appeared on the list. Total time for approval, about two months and two weeks. About a week later, on January 25th, I received notice of a letter to by picked up at the post office. If you don’t get a letter within ten days contact the office you applied at. You’ll need to go in for a biometrics appointment – where they collect all the data for your identification card and take your photo.
**Important, you have TEN days from getting your approval letter to book your biometrics appointment. There is a nice little note on the letter mentioning a fine of up to 50,000Kc if you fail to do so. All you need to do is book it, the actual appointment can be after the ten day window. You will be going back to the same office you originally applied at.**
Now, if your Czech has gotten really good you can pull this off alone, but I recommend using a Czech friend. Have them call and book the appointment (they will also need the reference number) and go with you. You won’t have to pay anything at this appointment, they will tell you when to come back to pick up your residence card and to pay them the 2,500Kc by kolek.
**EDIT: Important information about your biometrics appointment: I recommend not accepting an 8am appointment as I did! There will be 100+ people outside waiting if you go to a main office, I went to Koněvova 188/32 which is a central Prague office. There is no system but at 8am when the doors open two employees arrived with a list of all those with appointments and attempt to get them in first. My friend and I literally had to shove our way to the front to get in and even still I was 11 minutes late for my 8am appointment and had an unhappy biometrics employee to deal with.
As an aside, the biometrics department at Koněvova 188/32 is upstairs past where you would have had your previous application meeting – there is a sign on the door but with the door open you can’t read it! You don’t need to stop at the main counter to get a number – go straight in to biometrics.
More updates soon!
You’ve made it this far! Armed with your pile of documents and a Czech friend head off to your meeting. If you have never been to the Ministry of the Interior office brace yourself, it is usually chaos with a lot of people waiting.
The good news is, because you have an appointment, you can jump the queue. It takes a little nerve but just walk to the front of the line, stick your head in – or more likely have your friend do it – and they will issue you a number.
The actual meeting is quite simple, give them everything and answer any questions. It is not like the initial visa meeting you went to at an embassy, there will be no trick questions.
After accepting your application they will issue you a letter that a) proves you have applied and b) lists anything they still require from you. This is important, you have 30 days to provide additional documents (for example more bank statements as they become available). Failure to submit the documents can result in your application being cancelled.
Once you have applied for your long-term residence permit, you also need to ask for a bridge visa to keep you legal while things are in progress. This visa will be issued on the spot at no charge and will be good for 180 days and allow multiple entries into the country (and therefore the Schengen Zone).
You now have two dates to remember:
- Bridge visa expiration – it is good for 180 days, if you get near the expiry and have not been approved they will issue a second bridge visa.
- Živnostenský list extension – it is good for 10 months, but they will extend it again if you show them your bridge visa.
Once again your are legal! And once again it is just a matter of waiting!
More updates once I am approved, I hope!