So after spending a month and a half gathering various documents for my visa application, my interview was finally scheduled.
The person who prepared my application met with me a few days prior and gave me my already completed forms. This included all the documents I had collected and a couple of passport photos. She provided me with a few guidelines:
- Tell them I had a trip planned outside the Schengen zone to avoid overstaying my visa while I waited for it to be processed.
- Memorize my address and be able to talk about the neighborhood, if asked.
- Be very clear that I was not yet working in the Czech Republic. Avoid mentioning any work done online.
- Emphasize how my experience provides me with the skills I will use to work in the Czech Republic.
- Be detailed about my plan of employment, including names of companies that will be hiring me and my contacts there.
The interview had to be conducted at the Czech Embassy in Berlin. That was fine; it was a great excuse to return to Berlin. The embassy is a large building that comprises three different entities: the actual embassy, the consulate, and a Czech info point. The visa processing is done in the back of the building at the consulate. I arrived a few minutes early for my appointment, just to be safe, and buzzed the embassy from the gate. I told them I was there for my appointment at 1:30.
“Then come back at 1:30,” replied the disembodied voice on the other end.
I sat down to wait, and I watched the office employees return casually from lunch. They left the gate open to signal that they were now open for business. I made sure to wait until 1:30 to go inside, because if I received another curt remark from one of these people, I was going to tell them to fuck off and take my 92 Euro application fee and drink it across the street.
But when I got inside, the lady behind the window was perfectly pleasant. There was no one else there so she took my documents right away. You have to give them both the originals and the copies, pay the fee, and hand over your passport. In the meantime, she asked me to fill out a form with 5 questions on it.
The form included questions about my housing, my employment, my intended stay in the country, and what I know about taxes and medical insurance. I sat down and carefully answered all the questions. I was able to use my phone to look up information, as needed.
When I finished, I got up and returned the form. She read it over, and told me she would translate it into Czech. Then she stamped my passport to document my visa application date, and told me to come back in six to eight weeks to pick it up.
A total of fifteen minutes later, I walked out of there having completed my visa “interview.” As straightforward as it all was, I can’t help but wonder: isn’t there a better way? Did I really have to come to a neighboring country to pay them and answer these questions? Because I could have just emailed them the questionnaire. I have a Czech bank account; I could have transferred them the fee. Or used Venmo. Or mailed it together with my completed documents. I could have dropped all of it off at an office in Prague; it’s only the capital of the Czech Republic. Why did I spend a day commuting to Berlin for this?
When it’s ready, they will send me a notification via email, and I’ll have to return to pick it up in person. I guess they don’t have FedEx over there. Bureaucracy, I tell ya.