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.
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!
It’s great when you have a regular class that you like and can look forward to meeting your student(s) every week, but I’ve learned I really enjoy an alternative: substitutions.
During the last week I doubled my class load from my main school by taking on as many substitution classes as I could. I’ve spoken to other teachers and there are mixed feelings about “subs” and some teachers avoid them like the plague.
What can you expect?
There are some negatives to consider:
- Short notice. Most subs come available one or two days before the class, and some only the day of the class. Flexibility is key.
- Unpredictability. Often you will get a sub and then have it taken away again within minutes as the class was cancelled or rescheduled. I’ve learned it is better to lesson plan as late as possible. Don’t expect a consistent income from these classes.
- Confusion. One Tuesday I got up early to make my 8 o’clock sub an hour from home. On arrival I found the permanent teacher already there! There was confusion about the dates and I was supposed to come the following week. The following Tuesday I was back, setup and ready to go, when a student came in to inform me they had cancelled the class the previous week. A little frustrating to say the least, but with the minor benefit that I still get paid for both classes as it was not my fault and I did show up.
- Mixed abilities. It might say “pre-intermediate” on your course sheet but don’t be surprised if you show up to find students who can barely say hello. Your group of six people might only be two in the end. Have a backup plan, and a backup backup plan.
But the benefits can make it worth it:
- Extra income. Throwing a couple of extra hours into your week can be a nice bit of padding and make up for your other regular cancellations.
- Flexibility. You can keep a morning or two free for yourself and only take on the extra work if you want to.
- Interesting people. That nice feeling of meeting new students for the first time just happens over and over! Most of them will be happy to meet you and want to learn something about you.
- Interesting material. Chances are very good you won’t have to follow a text, the regular teacher will want to continue in it, so this leaves you free to do something fun and interesting with the students. Pick something you like to teach.
- Less lesson planning time. If you have been teaching for a while you will have a stack of lessons to pull from. Keep a few of your favorites for each level and use them as your sub plans. Almost no preparation required.
One thing I have learned is if you want a substitution you have to ask for it. Try to get on good terms with whoever manages subs for your school and talk to them so you come to mind when something comes up.
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.
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.
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.
After a good nights rest at my hostel in Vienna and a hearty breakfast of bread, cheese and hot chocolate I was off to visit the Czech Embassy. Despite searching online I had no idea what to expect and was quite nervous – these people have the power to kill my plans entirely!
It was a pleasant surprise.
I arrived with a pile of paper neatly organized and with copies of everything in case they asked for it, just to review:
- Application form – completed as much as I could and ready to ask for any clarification (for example the form asks for the dates of all previous stays in the Schengen Zone but in the end they did not need this information from me).
- Original criminal record check.
- Two passport photos.
- Bank balance statement letter with certified translation.
- Photocopies of the front and back of the bank access card.
- Zivno approval letter.
- Copy off my passport photo page.
- 97 euros in cash. EDIT: 91 euros in April, 2015.
- And of course my passport.
The staff were very friendly and promptly took all my information, helped me finish the forms and asked me to take a seat. About 20 minutes later I was invited in for the interview.
During the interview Ladek, the embassy employee, asked me various questions including:
- My education history and what I studied including dates.
- My housing arrangements in Prague.
- What type of business I intended to conduct once I had my visa.
- What special training I had to be able to conduct business.
- How long I intended to stay in the Czech Republic.
- What I intended to do while waiting for my visa to be approved.
I answered all questions honestly and openly but was cautious about stating I would travel outside the Schengen Zone if necessary while waiting for my approval and that I would not exceed my 90 day limit. Ladek was very friendly and we spoke for almost two hours on various topics unrelated to my application, he even gave me suggestions about what Czech musicians and writers to explore.
Ladek was clear that he did not make the visa decision and that it could take up to 90 days for them to issue an approval however he felt I would have an answer within six weeks.
I left the embassy after the interview and enjoyed the rest of the day in Vienna before catching the bus back to Prague.
Next step: waiting.
Congratulations to me! I survived my first full (22 teaching hour) week as an ESL teacher in Prague. Whew.
Wondering what this looks like? A brief summary of the highs and lows:
Sunday: Lesson planning, fun! Yes I could have done it during the week but to get a running start I spent all day Sunday creating lesson plans for my week ahead. A little work now and hopefully less stress during the week. It gets easier the more you do and I’ve gone from the 3 hours per lesson it took during school to a mere 30 minutes for something basic.
Monday: 8am class – private one to one with an executive who wants conversation with a native speaker. Cancelled! And I had such a nice plan for the first lesson. 1-3, back to back beginners classes – a new experience but I enjoyed it. Downside is that it is 40 minutes from the centre (tram, metro, bus) but the upside is I teach the same lesson twice which is great practice. 430 class – a nice one to one with someone who just wants to improve her English in a business environment. A good end to day one.
Tuesday: More of the same, a good conversation class followed by more time on the metro and back to back intermediate classes. 6pm class – cancelled.
Wednesday: What, another cancellation? All that time on Sunday is starting to look like a bad idea, but at least I now have a stock pile of lessons for the next classes. Great news! My first true private student (from my ad on Expats.cz) has signed up for Friday! Already hoping to build independence from the school. Back to back beginners classes that went very well – you can see the improvement so quickly, it is very rewarding.
Thursday: A free morning, relax and sleep in and buy some groceries. Back on the metro again for back to back intermediate classes with a fun group of people. 6pm cancelled as well.
Friday: A great conversation class to start the day at 8am, makes up for the 30 minutes of commuting. Fun advanced class as well. Ended the day in style with a nice tea at my favorite tea room while giving my first true private lesson.
Reflections? Some lessons go well, some go poorly and generally the students enjoy it no matter how you feel. Fake it if you have to!
It Is A Lot Of Work! I know it will get easier, but with 5 of 8 school based classes cancelled my net for the week was around 3,500 czk (don’t do the conversion, it will make you cry).
Week two under way! Full class load so far and excited to see how it goes.
For the last decade or so I have said I wanted to try being an English teacher, friends told me I would be great at it. Non-native English speakers often told me they appreciated my patience and how I adjusted my speed and language to their level.
In April 2013 I took the plunge and committed to training at The Language House in Prague. This was not an easy decision, there are a lot of schools offering training. Before committing I searched for reviews and asked former students and current teachers. Chris Westergaard was very supportive and patient with me, I actually enrolled back in the spring of 2012 and kept changing dates on him, he handled it well.
Why did I choose TLH in the end? The number of practice teaching hours was almost double that of most courses, they have a tremendous social media network and support group and they get very good reviews from students.
Did I make the right decision? Hell yes!
Was it hard? Indeed! It was a long month and an emotional roller coaster. I learned a lot about teaching and quite a bit about myself as well.
What should you expect if you head out on the TEFL adventure?
- It will be all consuming for one month or more.
- As a native English speaker you won’t likely know your own grammar well and it is a daunting task especially when facing students who know your own language better than you do.
- There will be ups and downs! Some days you will be on top of the world and happy to have succeeded, other days you will want to run away, far far away.
- This will only be the beginning – no one learns even a basic new job in one month so don’t expect to be a seasoned teacher at the end of one month.
- You will be supported. The entire team at TLH is there to help you, encourage you, hold your hand when necessary and buy you the occasional beer when required.
What should you bring to this?
- Commitment, it is only one month and you can do anything for one month.
- Humor, it is essential.
- Bravery, most people will be terrified the first time in front of a class. Be brave and if you can’t be brave just fake it, no one knows the difference.
- One month later you will have a shiny new TEFL certificate to hang on the wall. A ticket to work and travel and live in many places on the planet.
- You will know more about your own language then you ever thought possible.
- An entire new group of friends, people you will have bonded with in a way only people that have done something hard and survived can bond.
What’s next? The task of finding meaningful work here in Prague, in whatever form that takes.
Feel free to message me if you have any questions about Prague, TEFL, immigration or anything else I might know!