Tag Archives: Czech

Driving 102 – harder than I thought

Back at the end of January I started going to driving school and arranging to take the tests in order to get my class B (passenger) Czech driving license or řidičák.

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This process turned out to be more challenging  and took longer than I imagined.  To be clear, I understand the traffic laws here and can say with no hesitation (and many people to confirm) that I am a very good driver.  In Canada I had a car, bus and motorcycle license and worked in automotive for a decade.  I’m not a new driver by any stretch.  My Canadian license was expiring in February so I had to get things in gear.

After attending driving school, there are two parts to the process:

Written test

This takes place at the Magistrate Office in Prague 10.  This is the only office in Prague for written tests.  My school arranged the test date and time and I did not need to pay anything at this time.  When you arrive go upstairs and find your instructor, they will register you with the office and take your documents.

You will need you identification – passport or dlouhodoby pobyt (long term residence card) with appropriate stamps and address information to prove you have been here at least 180 days.  I also took my approval letter since I was still waiting for my long term residence.

Unless you have learned Czech really well, you will need a certified translator.  The questions are tricky, even for native speakers.  Likely your school will suggest or supply a translator.  My advice here is to be very careful.  My recommended translator was busy, so they suggested someone else.  This translator had little to no experience with the test and was translating word for word as we went, meaning I was not getting the context and connotation of the words.  Had I not studied a lot both in Czech and English it would have been a disaster.  Cost of the translator: 1,500Kč

What is the test like?

I arrived early on February 12th and waited for the process to start.

Surprise!  Even though I had had a vision and colour vision test at a doctor before I was allowed to attend driving school, there was a ten question colour vision test before I could start the main test.  I am colour blind.  This surprise threw me off completely and I struggled with the dot test as well as strange mathematical answers to some of the dot tests (not “what number do you see?” but “is the number “65-14, 65+14 or 76-2?”.  I did pass, but just.

The main test is 25 multiple choice questions, some text and some with pictures.  You have 30 minutes to complete it.  With the challenges around the translation I completed it with 30 seconds remaining and passed by only one point.  Some of the questions I knew already in Czech, most I had seen during my studies, but a few were entirely new.  It would be nice if extra time was given to allow for the translation slowing things down.  But a pass is a pass, no matter how slim, and I moved on.  At the end you will receive a document confirming you passed.

Driving test (round one)

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At the end of the same week I was scheduled to take the driving test.  I had the option of going to the school in Dejvická, or meeting my instructor at the Magistrate’s office and being the first to be tested. I opted for the first test which found me there at 7:15AM on February 18th waiting with a healthy fear of the unknown.  This fear, it turns out, was not unfounded.

There were a large number of driving school cars waiting in the parking lot behind the magistrate’s office.  In the past police performed the test but now it is a dedicated group of magistrates.  We waited for our tester to arrive.

There is a possibility they will ask you to do a walk around the car and identify all the mandatory safety equipment, this did not happen for me.

The test itself was from the office to the school location in Dejvická.  Here is what happened:

  • Magistrate came out and sat in the back of the car, directly behind me.
  • I said good morning in my best Czech and apologized for my poor language skills.  No response.
  • He identified himself, his badge number and title and then explained the procedure to my instructor.
  • I was instructed to leave the parking area and follow instructions.
  • We went through the city, I was careful to not exceed the speed limit in any way.
  • At one point we came to a no entry road, but I was given no instructions to turn so I slowed to a stop while waiting for instructions (my mistake was to hesitate).  In the end I made a decision and turned left before instead of entering the no entry road.
  • I was told three times to put both hands on the wheel, even though at the time I had both hands on the wheel (I was aware and very careful about this rule).
  • We went through Karlovo náměstí and then through a series of smaller streets before rejoining the main road and going to Dejvická.
  • We parked, nose in, in a normal parking spot.

I was then informed that I had failed due to not yielding to traffic on my right while going through the small streets around Karlovo náměstí.  In the Czech Republic, if you are not on a main road you have to give way to traffic from the right, a rule I am very well aware of.  There was no discussion, no debate, and I understood the magistrate when he called me špatný řidič which is Czech for bad driver.

This is one of the intersections in question, the sign is informing you to yield to traffic on your right:

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Although I know I was aware of these intersections as I went through them, there was no traffic and nobody to yield to.  I was really quite shocked at this turn of events, and then angry.  Later in the day I felt slightly better when I learned the magistrate had failed all seven students at the school that morning.  Statistically improbable.  Worse still, the next test date was not until March 3rd, and of course would cost me an extra 880Kč!

Driving test (round two)

My Canadian license was set to expire on February 25th (my birthday).  I took the opportunity before that to drive as much as possible around Prague and also away for a weekend in Žatec.  I focused on the areas and routes between the school and the magistrate office.  This made me feel better about the process and helped confirm that the assessment of me was incorrect – I actually look for traffic on my left and right even when I do have the right of way. I also took advantage of an offer from my instructor to do one more driving lesson the Sunday before the test.

I arrived at the magistrate’s office early on March 3rd, very nervous and concerned about the prospect of another bad experience.  I was pleasantly surprised:

  • The magistrate was late, he arrived at 7:45.  This pleased me as it meant more morning traffic which I actually find easier to concentrate in (and ignore the test).  He sat in the rear passenger seat so I could turn to speak to him.
  • Again I used my best Czech to great him and explain I speak very little Czech.  This time he acknowledged me. He was not friendly, but he was polite and spoke slowly so I could understand him.
  • My instructor explained my driving history and what the issue was during the last test.
  • I was instructed to drive to Dejvická via the more direct highway route using Barrandov most and the tunnels.  My instructor told me where to turn if necessary.
  • During the trip the instructor and the magistrate chatted about various things.  I just drove carefully, watching the speed limit, and keeping two hands on the wheel.
  • We arrived in Dejvická, I parked on the street and the test was over.  No issues.

After waiting for a few moments at the school (and paying the extra 880Kč) I was given documents to take to the license registration office (registr řidičů)..

What license registration office?

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This part of the process was a bit of a surprise to me.  My instructor explained to me I would need to take all the documentation to the registration office at Vyšehrad, complete a form, supply a photo and then wait for 20 days while they process it.  I was also told to wait until the next day for my test results to be entered into the system.

I decided to go to the office on the way home to get the required form to fill out and return the following day.  This was fortunate as it turned out that two trips were not necessary.  I needed:

  • Test and training document supplied by the school and stamped by the magistrate.
  • My dlouhodoby pobyt AND passport as I needed to prove I had been in the country more than 180 days.
  • A photo (available in the office next door for 125Kč).

A very helpful woman explained in careful Czech that everything was now done on the computer and I could apply immediately as she would enter it into the system.  I went off to get photos and she was nice enough to wave me back to her window to finish with me.  Spend enough time at government offices here and these small acts of cooperation and kindness are truly appreciated.  Other than a 50Kč fee to be paid when I pick up the license, there were no other fees.

I was given a small piece of paper and told to come back on March 23rd for my license. On further investigation I learned that is the maximum processing time and current processing information can be found online – 16 days at the time of this writing.

Wrapping it up!

To summarize:

  • Driving school (as noted this is pricing for Czech students) : 10,980Kč
  • Medical examination: 400Kč
  • Translator: 1,500Kč
  • First driving test: 700Kč
  • Second driving test: 880Kč
  • Photos: 125Kč
  • License fee: 50Kč

Total:  14,635Kč

Update:  it was in fact 16 days.  The day my application date appeared online, I went to pick up the license and was in and out in under five minutes.

What next?  Even before passing the second test, I had already purchased a used car – an entirely new adventure you can read about in my next post.

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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.

The countdown begins, long term residence permit (again)

I was approved for my six month visa on May 4th, and although I didn’t pick it up until May 15th it expires 6 months from the date of approval  That is November 4th.  A little over six weeks from now.  The appointment for the long term residence or, dlouhodoby pobyt, has to be at least 14 days before the visa expires.  What this means is I realized last week I need to get moving!

These next posts will be a summary, if you want detailed information start back in November 2013 when I did this the first time. If you are new to the idea of moving to the Czech Republic you need to get a six month visa to start and can find details here.

You can find a list of official requirements as well as the application form on the Ministry of Interior website.

Step one:  try to achieve a calm state of mind.  There is some bureaucracy you will need to work through to pull this off, and it makes the initial six month visa and the trip to an embassy seem like a much nicer way to spend time.

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Six weeks out:

Make an appointment at the appropriate Ministry of Interior office.  In Prague they now have a central number for appointments and they will tell you where to go and when.  If your Czech isn’t good (and I admit mine is still very poor) it is best to have a friend call.  They will need your:

  • passport number
  • date of birth
  • full name
  • visa number
  • visa expiration date
  • home address (this determines what office to go to)

They’ll give you an appointment data and time, in my case I asked for a specific one.

Apply for your social service tax clearance letter.  You’ve been paying your 1943Kč every month and now you need to prove it.  Find the appropriate office to go to, which in theory is based on your account number.  For some reason even though I went to the appropriate one I was told I had to go back to where I originally set up my social service account.  I muddled through this in Czech and got a document listing all my payments to date (they issue this on the spot) as well as applied for a bezdlužnost which will take about four weeks and be sent to your home address.  On the application form I had to the list reason for application and I put povolení k pobytu (residence permit).  Cost:  0Kč.

Apply for your income tax clearance letter.  Even though you likely weren’t working here the year before (or in most cases not even living here) you need a clearance letter to show you owe no taxes.  You will need to go the appropriate finanční úřad (financial office).  There seems to be some confusion, but I went to the one based on my residence address.  You will need 100Kč for payment, get it in kolek from the post office as usual.  This will take about four weeks as well and will be mailed.  Cost: 100Kč.

Next stop živnostenský list extension.

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.

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!

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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The last step: social security and tax registration

 

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You have your visa, your zivno, you’ve registered with the foreign police, hopefully you are looking for work or have found some already.  You can relax!  Almost…..

Up until now there have been very few things you couldn’t somehow get through without speaking Czech, but by now you should have made at lease one Czech friend and it’s a good time to call them up!  You can do this alone, I did it with very muddled Czech skills, but it is a little stressful!

When you head out to do this take your passport, zivno, lease, and pretty much anything they might ask for.

Social security tax:  you need to register for this by the 8th day of the month after you start earning an income (ex:  if you started working in June you need to register by July 8th).  The Czech Social Security Administration has quite a bit of information in English, but to determine which office you need to go to see the Czech version.  **Edit:  They have updated the website and what office is responsible for each area – I recommend having a friend call the main administration number and ask for guidance.**

After you register they will mail you a form with account information.  You social security tax payment of 1890Kc needs to be paid by the 19th of every month and can either be done in person at any post office or through online banking.  **Edit:  for 2014 this has increased to 1894Kc per month.**

Income tax: you need to register for this within 30 days of starting to earn an income.  Where you register depends on where you live so either ask at the zivno office or search here.  It is a confusing system and I highly recommend having Czech help!  In the end you will get a registration number and will hold onto it until tax time.  You will need this number on your invoices if you are billing schools or customers.

You Are Done!  Of course you need work, and a bank account and a bunch of things you never ever thought of, but the hard part is done.

Oh, did we mention that you need to start your visa renewal process about 45 days before your current one expires?