Despite being a free-travel zone, many of us hear stories of expats, and even citizens, being checked for passports when they enter another Schengen zone country. You would think having legal residency status here would confer some benefits when entering the rest of the zone. Of course, it’s not that simple. How exactly does either a long-term visa or residency permit affect our rights of stay in other Schengen zone countries?
The short and rather unfortunate answer is ‘not much’. Having a long-term visa or permanent residency in the Czech Republic does not grant the holder the same rights of travel and stay as a citizen of a an EU or Schengen member nation (The two are not the same. The UK and Ireland are members of the former not the latter. For Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland it is the reverse situation.)
First, as has been stated on this website before, a person is required to have correct and valid travel documents to enter any Schengen member state. For third state nationals, or TSNs, with a long-term visa or permanent residency, this means a valid passport. Those of you with permanent residency passes should know that, although that little green book looks an awful lot like a passport, it is not recognized as a travel document. In short, border checks have ended among Schengen zone members but not the requirement for member states to request documentation from travelers. This requirement also extends to citizens of Schengen states traveling in the zone, i.e. they also must carry either a valid passport or identity card.
But, I hear you say, how do they know when there are no checks? Again, a little semantics comes into play, and as we know police and officials can be a pedantic bunch. The Schengen agreement does not terminate the domestic policing laws of a given country and some member states reserve the right to check personal identification in the form of a passport. Nations in which police could request to see a passport as ID are: Austria, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia and Netherlands. (In the last example, a photocopy may be acceptable.) Countries where photocopies of the passport information pages are acceptable are Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Romania and Slovenia. (Information was obtained from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.) Strictly speaking, we’re meant to carry some form of ID while living here too. I’m sure some readers may baulk at the requirement in these countries and that’s your right. Take the information merely as a recommendation, one that could save you hassle with the local police.
Regarding length of stay, whether you have permanent residency or a long-term visa the duration is the same: three months in a six month period. As Mrs. Machotková from the Ministry of the Interior states, “For a person with permanent residency in the Czech Republic, assuming he/she lives in the Czech Republic, the Schengen regulations makes it possible for him or her as part of his/her life in the Czech Republic to spend three months out of every six in the territory of another Schengen state.” Unlike a normal tourist, you don’t have to return to your home country, you can return to the Czech Republic and your stay in the Czech Republic does not count against your stay in the rest of the Schengen zone. Suffice to say, you cannot work, at least not legally and you’re required to have medical insurance for the length of your stay. If you intend to stay longer, then you will need to apply for a Schengen visa for that duration.
As the UK and Ireland are not part of the Schengen zone they have completely different rules regarding stays. For the UK, people from US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are eligible for stays up to 180 days, usually without a visa. Check their website for further info. For the Republic of Ireland, stays of up to three months are possible without a visa. Further information is available here.
The condition which changes the above stated residency requirements is if you have a family member who is a European Union member. Family members are:
– a spouse
– a partner in a registered partnership, otherwise known as a civil union
– a parent who is a EU citizen, or his/her spouse or registered partner (Meaning that you a dependent under the age of 21)
– a dependent parent of either the citizen or spouse or partner
Of the categories of family members cited above, it is fair to assume that being a spouse or registered partner of a Czech is more likely among our readers than being a dependent. Thus, for the sake of brevity, we will only cover what you need to do in this situation.
If your Czech spouse or partner moves to work in another EU member state, it is likely that you will have to apply for a “family permit.” According to the legal advice I received from the European Commission, you will be permitted to work or start a business in that country. However, to quote from an earlier document: “At the same time, for reasons of labour market policy, Member States may give preference to Union Citizens.” In other words, nothing can be taken for granted. If you are in the position that your spouse is planning to work in another EU country it would be best to check the labour laws for that particular one. However, you will be permitted to live there for the duration of the stay of your spouse or partner.
If you and your significant other are planning a move, you will require some documentation:
– valid and correct passport
– marriage certificate or proof of partnership registration
You may require a visa if you are a citizen of a country which does not have a visa waiver regime. On the plus side, you should not be expected to produce any documentation proving your income, financial status, abode and so on. However, this is all based on the stay of your spouse or partner.