It is the worst thing that could happen. You join the paper chase. Get the right forms and documents, get them signed, follow the advice of a professional, put up with the delays and still after everything have your visa rejected.
This is what happened to Janice (not her real name), an American who hoped to relocate to the Czech Republic with her partner. Sadly, a combination of stricter rules, misinformation and professional incompetence foiled Janice and her boyfriend´s plans. Doing the right thing, the couple started the application process the first week they arrived, thinking that 90 days would be sufficient time to submit the paperwork and get the visa. What is usually smooth sailing for most of us was in Janice´s words a “Kafkaesque nightmare.”
The first problem they encountered was that their landlord´s name was not listed in the Land Registry, because the building is cooperatively owned. This lead to further complications with the co-op and the property manager regarding the paper work; complications which could have taken a year to solve but still took months.
Additional delays were created by the consultant they hired. He filed their papers five weeks after he said he would. He took another five weeks to arrange their appointment at the Czech embassy in Dresden. For one meeting, he brought their application papers in Russian. At the next meeting, he forgot them. All the time he reassured Janice and her partner that it didn´t matter if they were late because they were American.
The whole process ended up taking six months. When they lodged the forms in Dresden, the couple were interviewed, part of the process they were not informed about. Janice admits this took her by surprise and she probably came off a bit flustered. The clerk wanted to know how long they had been in the Czech Republic and why she wanted to pursue her profession in this country. Her gut feeling was that she would be rejected and three months later she was unfortunately right.
Nora Gosmanová from Assistance2Expats (www.assistance2expats.cz) is familiar with this story and others. Her advice to prospective applicants is to be aware of the rules and the procedures of application. One of the most common misunderstandings applicants have regards the rules relating to stay in the Czech Republic. Under the new Schengen regulations, third party nationals with a few exceptions can only stay in a Schengen country, like the Czech Republic, for 90 days out of 180 days. The abolition of border checks between Schengen states does not mean this rule is not enforced. In fact, Schengen has not diminished police powers. One example is the power for police to stop foreigners on the street and check passports. There are no figures on how frequent this is but the power is in the regulations.
Another misconception is that applying for the visa waives these rules. It doesn´t. Whether a tourist or a visa hopeful, people are expected to abide by the 90 day stay limit. Not doing so is one of the common reasons for visas being rejected. In hindsight, Janice admits that knowing this would have changed things. For this reason Gosmanová urges applicants to obtain relevant and accurate information before starting the application process.
Gosmanová also points out that during the application period the Foreigners´ Police check up on people´s stays to make sure they do not breech the 90 day limit. One common way to do this is to simply contact the client and ask them to come to the Foreigners´ Police. Turning up is proof that the person is in violation of the stay and, according to Ms. Gosmanová, could be imprisoned or deported. Again figures on this are hard to come by and it´s best to consider this a worst case scenario – albeit one which the police are within their legitimate powers to carry out.
The Foreigners´ Police also have the power to check all aspects of the application. If an applicant applies with a labor permit, the Foreigners´ Police will check that the person will be employed at the organization listed and that they are not yet employed until the visa is granted. The Foreigners´ Police also checks that a person who applies with a trade license intends to carry out the specified business and that they are not employed directly with a company. Working when you shouldn´t or being employed when you have a trade license are official reasons for having your visa rejected.
It is important to stress that these are the more common reasons for visa rejection. To say that a list of common reasons officially exists would be an overstatement. There are legal reasons as outlined in the law (§56law number. 326/99 Sb.) but a spokesperson from the Foreigners´ Police said that they are used to judge individual applications and why they reject you. The Foreigners´ Police are not legally obliged to inform you why your application was rejected, though in some cases, as with Janice, they do.
Seeking legal advice, she was told that her application may also have been rejected because she applied with a business license. The reasoning goes that in the current economic situation the government is less likely to accept people who are self-employed as there are fewer opportunities. When I put this to both Ms. Gosmanová and the Foreigners´ Police they both seemed skeptical. Gosmanová said the only reason for rejection on that basis would be if the license was not being used for its stated purpose. The spokesperson with the Foreigners´ Police said that an application is made for a specific purpose and if that purpose is to do business than an applicant´s request will be considered with the particular business they have in mind.
Readers will probably know people who have managed to work around the regulations and whose experience contradicts the letter of law. Sure, governments and bureaucracies are inconsistent and it are those inconsistencies which then catch out people like Janice or substantiate rumors of special treatment as were told to her. Kafkaesque is an oft-used cliché about Czech bureaucracy but in Janice´s case there seems to be some truth.
To avoid problems with your application Ms. Gosmanová recommends:
· Have all your documents in order and find out if there are going to be any problems, e.g. with your place of abode or employer
· Contact professionals to better understand the law and procedures concerning visas and residency and don´t listen to rumors. Several agencies can be found here.
· Be prepared to leave the Schengen zone if the application process takes more than 90 days.