I am a car guy, I love cars. My first car, when I was 10 years old, was a 1973 VW Beetle. I’ve had my license since I was 16, had many, many cars and driven more than the average number of kms both for work and pleasure.
One of my commitments to myself in moving back to the Czech Republic was that I would get a car. Of course this means I also need a Czech driving license. You are not able to get a Czech license on your initial six month visa, but once you have a residence permit you are not legally allowed to use your foreign license anymore. There are people who have lived here for years and still use a North American license but I am not willing to risk it.
Why is it a challenge? Canada does not belong to the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic. This means that in order to get a license here (or anywhere in Europe) I need to go to driving school.
What does driving school mean here?
|Class “B” – theory lessons:|
|Regulations on vehicle operation||5 lessons|
|Regulations on driving and maintenance||1 lesson|
|Driving theory and safe driving practices||3 lessons|
|Basic first aid||1 lesson|
|Revision and practice test||1 lesson|
|Class “B” – driving/practice lessons|
|Driving – closed course||2 lessons|
|Driving – light traffic||5 lessons|
|Driving – normal traffic||12 lessons|
|Driving – heavy traffic/difficult driving conditions||9 lessons|
|Vehicle maintenance practice||2 lessons|
|First aid practice||4 lessons|
One lesson = 45 minutes.
This is a rather large commitment! And prices range from 10,000Kč and up. In the end I chose a school called Amos, in Dejvická. It was recommended by my girlfriend and they offered me the course without charging an English language supplement. The instructor speaks as much English as I speak Czech, so although I don’t need driving lessons, I am getting Czech lessons out of this. If you don’t have any Czech, or driving experience, spend the extra money and get an instructor who speaks English.
You will need to find a doctor to give you a medical exam before you can start at school. This proved a challenge and in the end I found a very small clinic that did it for 400Kč. You can download the form here.
We have now completed all the necessary drives around Prague. The school also supplied me with badly translated English versions of all the pertinent regulations to study.
One grey area is that I am still waiting for my long term residence card. I have been assured that as long as I can prove I have lived here over 185 days, and can provide my passport and address information, they will allow me to take the tests.
Sites you might find useful:
Czech online test system. Note there are printed tests available and you can translate these as I have done.
Online intersection tests. Again in Czech, but it will give you an idea what to expect.
I am scheduled for a written test at the magistrates office in Vršovice. For this I have to bring a registered translator. Cost is 700Kč for the test (this will include the driving test fee). The translator charges 1,500Kč.
After this, but the same week, I will have the driving test at my school in Dejvická.
Once complete, I should receive the actual license in 10 to 20 days.
Total cost will be approximately 13,200Kč.
I’ll update with more on the experience once it is all done.
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.
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…..
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.
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!
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.
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:
- 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!
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:
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!
Next step: the visa appointment.
Okay, so you have a pile of paper ready to go. Time to get the process moving.
Go to the office in Prague 7 at nábřeží Kapitána Jaroše, room 203. You can find hours and information here. Arrive and take a number. As an aside there is a fantastic tourist attraction here – the old old elevators that you have to catch as they go by. Once you get in you might be pleasantly surprised – the staff here were friendly and helpful and spoke excellent English.
You will need to give them:
- a completed application form (they will provide this and tell you what to do)
- the notarized copy of your original criminal record check (keep the true original, you will need it for your visa)
- both copies of your business address form – note that they will go online and check the property registry to ensure the person is the legal property owner
They will copy your passport. If you have a Czech friend take them with you and have them sign a power of attorney so they can act on your behalf if you are out of the country.
One thing they will ask you is what you want as your trades. You can choose as many as you want and can add to the list later. In my case I put English teacher, tour guide and business consultant. Note that these are all unregistered trades – anything officially recognized like doctors, lawyers, engineers etc is a different process that I won’t go into at all.
The friendly people will then send you on your way and tell you to come back in one week or so. In may case they called three days later to tell me I could pick up my approval earlier.
What you will receive is an approval form saying that they will issue you a zivno as soon as you come back with a visa – you are not legal to carry on business yet. Add this approval letter to the pile of paper you need to take to the Embassy.
Next stop – the visa application…
Before you run off to either the zivno office or try to make an appointment with an embassy there are a few things you need to have:
A confirmation of balance letter from your bank back home that needs to be formatted a certain way:
- Your name, and ONLY your name on the account. If they are joint accounts ask the bank to leave the other person off the letter.
- Minimum balance of $6,000 USD, if you don’t have it then borrow it, get the letter and then give the money back again.
- This has to be an account you can produce an access card for so they know you can access the funds while in the Czech Republic.
- Has to be an original, not a copy or email!
- Has to be on bank letterhead.
- Has to be signed in BLUE ink. If they can stamp it as well, all the better.
Once you have this letter in hand you will need to get it translated to Czech by a certified company that can stamp the translation. I used Grabmuller and was very pleased with the speed of service, location and price (about 400kc for the one page). Hold onto both the translation and the original.
You Criminal Record Check:
Now you could get this in Canada before coming, it will take a couple of weeks after visiting the RCMP or police in your home area and then you’d have to translate it to Czech. OR you can get it from the Canadian Embassy here in Prague, it will take a day or so and already be in English and Czech! You’ll need your passport of course, and a fee of 1,000kc. It’s not over yet though, you’ll need to get this “super-notarized”. The Embassy will give you instructions on how to do this, it involves buying a 600kc “kolek” from the post office and then going to a government office where they will notarize it for you. With this in hand go to a normal notary and have them copy and notarize your super-notarized original – clear? You will need one copy for the zivno and the original to take to the Czech Embassy.
We’re not done yet! Next post will cover your housing and business address documents.