Tag Archives: immigration

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.

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).

Biometrics appointment (AKA the ongoing saga in your long-term residence permit process)

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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.

Let me elaborate….

From my previous post you should have a general idea about what documents you need for your long-term residence permit, some things are self explanatory but others need some comment.

If you aren’t applying for your long-term residence permit, you might as well stop right here – it gets pretty boring!  I promise to write some more general interest posts soon!

Proof of accommodation:

This is one of the three documents that determines how long your permit will be good for, you will need to get your landlord to do a new one and have it notarized.  Try either for an open ended permit or a two year period, this doesn’t mean you can’t move or change things – it is just to get you the maximum residence permit.  All the same rules apply as to your original housing document.

Health insurance: 

This one is a little annoying!  Since you have to pay up front, it’s a big out of pocket expense.  I opted for one year insurance through Slavia since my passport will be expiring in early 2015 and I will have to reapply no matter what.  12 months cost me 9,600Kc while 24 months would have been 18,000Kc.  If you didn’t buy this in person last time note that Slavia will offer you a discount as soon as you tell them it is cheaper online, no questions asked.  Again the same rules apply for coverage limits.   Shop around, you might find better than Slavia but I wasn’t able to, I have never made a claim on my insurance so I can’t offer any opinion as to how good the company is.

It’s important you take your existing policy and card, your new policy and card as well as proof of payment to the meeting.  Make copies of everything. 

EDIT:  When returning in 2015 I found the health insurance situation had changed, I ended up using Czechinsure.com, and spoke with Simon Morton.  The process was easier, was in English, and was only 7,500kc for 12 months through a better company than Slavia.

Proof of income:

The requirement is an average of 14,000Kc per month from a minimum of two employers.  I use Fio Banka and they were able to print me a copy of my bank statement, stamp and sign it, all in an instant and at no charge.  Of course you won’t have the requested six months worth of bank statements since you won’t have been working that long!  Take what you can, the Ministry of the Interior may ask you to send more in as they become available.  If you have not had direct deposits you can have your students sign an affidavit to show they have been paying you every month, as I didn’t need this I don’t know the details.  If you have any teaching contracts, in Czech, take along a copy – they might not ask but it can’t hurt.

Income tax clearance letter:

You will need to prove that you have no outstanding taxes from the previous year, even if you weren’t working or even in the country!  This clearance letter is called a bezdlužnost and must be applied for at the tax office that handles your area (your business address).  You will need to take a copy of your passport including the page showing your address, your income tax registration number and payment in the form of a 100Kc kolek (purchased at any post office).  When I applied I was told it would take five weeks and it was done in less than three weeks.

Unless your Czech is really good, take a friend – even for Czechs this is a bureaucratic nightmare with a lot of running around.  The application took me two hours and visits to at least four offices.

Social service tax clearance letter:

Hopefully you have been making your 1890Kc per month social service tax payments.  You will need two documents from this office and will need to apply in person at the appropriate office based on your post code.  They will print and stamp a letter showing the date of all payments you have made, but you will have to request a clearance letter which will take approximately three weeks to be completed.  Czech is very helpful here but I did it alone and they were very friendly.

Živnostenský list extension:

This may be one of the simplest things, a quick trip to the zivno office and 100Kc cash payment and you will have your extension in one week.  They give you a ten month extension, hopefully long enough to get your residence permit.

Long-term residence application form:

You can either go to the office and pick one up, or print it from here.  It is in Czech and English but must be completed in Czech.  Have the same friend who will accompany you to the meeting go through this with you, if you aren’t sure of anything just leave it blank until the meeting.

That’s about if other than the copies of documents listed in my first post!

Next, the meeting!  Easier than you think.

So you’ve decided to stay? The path to your long-term residence permit.

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If you’ve been here more than four months it is time to start planning your renewal.  You need to apply for your long-term residence permit a minimum of 14 days before your original short-term visa expires.  Some of the documents you need will take time to get so don’t leave this until the last minute!  You can find the official requirements here, and as always this is based on my personal experience (your results may vary).

If you are reading this I am assuming you are:  a North American, living in the Czech Republic, working on a živnostenský list and currently holding a short-term visa for the purposes of business.  You also must have been working and paying your social service tax every month!

Unlike the original visa, you don’t have to leave the country to apply for your residence permit.  This saves you travel but be prepared for the huge amount of bureaucracy you need to navigate.  The long-term permit is valid for up to two years based on the shortest validity of three things:

  • Passport
  • Health insurance policy
  • Housing document

I will go into more details in further postings but here is the checklist of documents you need to gather:

  • Proof of accommodation.  This is the same as what was needed for your original visa, but try to get this new one either open ended or valid for two years.
  • Health insurance.  You will need to buy another policy, prepaid for up to two years (hopefully you have some funds set aside for this!).
  • Your passport, of course.  Copy the information and visa pages.
  • Proof of income.  You require a minimum average of 14,000Kc per month.  Copies of any contracts you have, in Czech, will also be helpful.
  • Income tax clearance letter (bezdlužnost) to prove that you have no outstanding taxes.
  • Social service tax clearance letter plus a list of all the payments you have made to them.
  • A copy of your original živnostenský list.
  • A notarized copy of your živnostenský extension (valid for ten months).
  • A passport photo.

You do not need proof of funds or a criminal record check this time.

Things to consider:

If you plan to do this yourself, a Czech friend will be essential!  I muddled through most of the offices but needed help with some things and would have been lost without help during the actual meeting.

Costs:  this is relatively cheap.  Your biggest expense will be for your health insurance, mine was 9,600Kc for one year.  Allow a few hundred more for some forms, notarization and fees.  The actual application is free but you will need 2,500Kc for your biometric card when you are finally approved.

A bridge visa.  When you go for your appointment request a bridge visa, there is no charge and they will issue it immediately.  Mine is valid for six months and allows multiple entries into the country – essential if you plan to travel!

This Will Take Time!  I have heard horror stories of people being in process for years, but you can continue to work as long as you keep your bridge visa and  živnostenský valid.

What’s the first step?

Make an appointment for your application meeting – I made mine for three weeks before my short-term visa expiry.

You can find the contact information here, you need to apply at the appropriate office based on where you live.  The numbers are hard to get through to and they likely won’t speak English so have a friend call.

In the next postings I will go into more detail about documents…..

Holding thumbs that this all works out for us!

Getting a visa appointment…a lesson in patience

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Now you have your zivno approval in hand as well as a tidy pile of other documents.  You need an appointment at a Czech Embassy, in case you missed this point there are no Czech Embassies in the Czech Republic – you need to leave.  If you are a Canadian the good news is you can go to any Czech Embassy on the planet to apply for your visa, but keep in mind you need to return to the same embassy to pick it up.

Being based in Prague there are three embassies within easy reach:

Berlin

Bratislava

Vienna

Click the links to get the contact information and hours.  I emailed all of them the moment I knew I would have my zivno approval letter in a few days.  Vienna emailed me back within hours to say they could fit me in the next week!  What luck and don’t expect this – it is non uncommon to wait a month or more for the initial appointment, this is the reason you need to get this process going as soon as you arrive on your 90 day tourist entry.  Interestingly Bratislava emailed me a week later to say they could see me in a month and I never did hear back from Berlin.

As soon as you have your appointment date book your trip.  For Vienna I went by Student Agency bus – it was cheap and the timing worked well although you either have to take a night bus or stay the night as your appointment will always be in the morning.  Book your bus well in advance and save money!  It’s a good excuse for a couple of days in Vienna.  If you do go to Vienna I recommend Hostel Ruthensteiner as it was an easy 25 minute walk to the Embassy the next morning and the hostel was really nice!

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Next step:  the visa appointment.

You have got to live somewhere!

An odd thing about this process, well ONE Of the odd things among many, to apply for your zivno you need to have a place to live and place of business in the Czech Republic.  Of course you can’t technically live here for more than 90 days until you have your visa which you need your zivno to get.   Makes perfect sense, right?

Confirmation of housing:

Find a place to live.  There are lots of ways to do this including Expats.cz for flatshares and entire flats, Bezrealitky.cz for privately advertized flats and Sreality.cz for flats mostly from realtors (fees involved).  But be careful!  Every house and flat is registered with a land registry office and the person who signs your documents must be the person registered to sign for the property.  Usually this is the flat owner but some building have a strange communal ownership system where you would need 51% of the people to sign.  Renting a share is great, but not if you can’t get that all important signature.

Have the landlord give you a letter stating the details of your tenancy.  Include the start date, end date (or open end date), rent amount and of course all your personal details including your passport number and date of birth.  Have them notarize the document at a notary or Czech Point office.

IMPORTANT:  This has to be your real residence, after this is all done the Foreign Police may come to check up on you, so make sure your name is on the buzzer, the mailbox and the flat if possible.

Confirmation of business address:

Since you are self employed, you need a place of business.  It does not matter if you never ever do business here it is just an address and it is most convenient to use your home address as this is where official correspondence will go.  Once again your landlord needs to give you a letter stating they are authorizing you to do business at this address, you will need two copies but they don’t need to be notarized.

Photos:

While you are out running around anyhow, get 4 passport sized photos done at either a photo booth in the metro stations or most camera shops.  You will need them for the visa process.

We are getting there, almost time to actually do something.