Once upon a time, I believed that my ideal life was moving somewhere new every couple of years. Then Prague fucked that all up. Since I arrived, I haven’t wanted to leave. And as of this month, I am officially a long term resident of the Czech Republic. How did I do it? With a lot of help.
Before getting a long term residence permit, you need to be here on a visa stay. Your visa must be of over 90 days, but it takes so long to process everything that a typical visa for someone looking to live and work here is a year.
Typically, you need a sponsor, either a school or university for a student visa, or an employment contract for a work visa. You can also apply as a freelancer, which is what I did, but even then, your application requires at least a job offer from a Czech company.
To apply, you need to put together a ton of documents:
- A signed affidavit by your landlord certifying that you have a place to live in Prague.
- If you’re applying as a freelancer, you need a signed letter from the landlord consenting to use of that address as a business.
- An affidavit signed in front of a notary at the American Embassy in Prague certifying that you have never been charged with a felony in the United States and that you are eligible to apply for a business license in the Czech Republic.
- Another affidavit certifying you have never committed a crime that might prevent you from entering the Czech Republic.
- A bank letter, which must be translated, indicating that you have sufficient funds to support yourself. What they consider sufficient funds for one year is $6,000.
- If you’re applying as a freelancer, you need a letter of intent to hire from a language school (or several) in Prague, which I don’t believe is necessary but helps the process along.
- Two passport style photos.
The visa process
After you gather all your documents, you must submit them in person at a Czech embassy outside of the Czech Republic. This can either be done from your home country or from a close embassy around the Czech Republic like Berlin or Budapest. You better believe that I had help in putting all this together and getting an application filled.
When I moved here, a friend recommended the services of Zlata Meyers with Stay in CZ. Zlata is the Czech word for gold, and indeed, her help over the past few years has been fitting to her name. She submitted my completed application and scheduled my interview, something else I would have no idea how to go about doing. They also worked around my ridiculous travel schedule, which was much appreciated. Though as a personal bit of advice, when you go through this process, you should probably just stay put.
During the interview at the embassy, you’re asked to fill out a questionnaire covering basic questions about your intent, your address, and so forth.
About a month (or three) later, they tell you when it’s time to pick up your visa. At this point, you need to come to the embassy (outside the Czech Republic) with a document that proves you have health insurance for the duration of your visa. Then they will affix the visa to your passport and you’re all set.
Long term residency in the Czech Republic
A couple of months before my visa expired, I decided I needed to stay here. So I went back to Zlata to assist me in applying for long term residency. This process is both easier and harder. Since you’re already in the Czech system, instead of getting a bunch of documents from the United States, you need to compile all your Czech documents from the previous year. If you thought that applying for a visa would be tough, imagine having to contact the social security office, the tax office, and every other ministry under the Czech sun to get proof that for the duration of your visa, you have accrued no debts and generally been an upstanding visa-holder.
You also need to compile a list of invoices for the work you have done as part of your visa, indicating that you’ve made a minimum amount of money, and that you’re not just in the Czech Republic hanging out and drinking beer. If you’re not on the Czech public health care system, then you once again have to procure private health insurance for the entire duration of your stay.
Getting all your documents can be a pain, and the process changes constantly, which is why having help is useful. As of late 2017, all applications for long term residency must be submitted with documents that are current within a month of the application. This seems easy, until the social security office waits until the last possible moment and makes all the other documents you already had too old. It’s a nightmare, and I generally don’t recommend undertaking this without help.
The Czech long term residency application process
Once you get a considerably larger application together, you have to go submit it in person at the ministry. Another good reason to have help in this process is that a Czech speaking person can come to these government offices with you to speak on your behalf. Because no one in the ministry speaks a word of English, and if they do, they pretend not to.
The application can take weeks or months to be approved. If you run the risk of your previous visa running out, you have to get a bridge visa. Or maybe multiple bridge visas every couple of months. This grants you legal right to stay in the Czech Republic while you wait for your long term residency.
When your application is approved, you have to go back to the ministry, get fingerprinted and take the photo that will be on your Czech residence card. You also have to submit final payment to the ministry. Note that your payment to the ministry has to be in the form of stamps (which is supposed to prevent corruption). I don’t know how to get these stamps. I just know that you can’t go in there with 2,500 Czech crowns and call it a day. Again, the Stay in CZ team handled all that for me.
After that, you have to wait another 3-4 weeks for the card to be ready for pick up, at which point you are legit, for a maximum of two years. I wanted to cry from happiness when I got my long term residency card. It’s the same feeling I got when I became a US citizen. It was a long awful process, most of which I was shielded from by the wonderful team at Stay in CZ. And I can now use my card as identification the way Czech citizens do. So when I travel with my US passport, I also have to show my residency card, as a way to tell Schengen immigration officials, “I’m not just passing through. This is home.”