So you want to live & work in the Czech Republic (or Czechia), but don't know how to get started? Trust me, I've been there! But no need to fear, I have been through the process myself and am here to tell you it's not as difficult as you might think. Here's a detailed guide to help you every step of the way:
Do you need a visa to enter Czechia?
As an American citizen, you can enter the EU for 90 days without a visa. This means that no, you don't need a visa to get to the Czech Republic. But you do need to start working on your visa as soon as you arrive because once your 90 days runs out, technically you could be deported and must be out of the EU for another 90 days before you can return. (The Czech Republic isn't actually too strict about enforcing the 90-day rule, but technically it is still a possibility to get deported if you overstay your welcome)
Can I start working on my visa from home?
There is 1 document you'll need to get from home, but overall you won't want to do that. And let me explain why: every document you get in the U.S. will need to be taken (or mailed) to your state department to get an Apple Steel (basically a notary stamp from the state's government to allow this document to be valid internationally). But, if you wait and do all your documents in the Czech Republic they will already be recognized, so you won't have to spend extra time and money getting the Apple Steels. The 1 document you need from home is your "Proof of Funds" from your home bank in the states. (I'll go into more details about this below)
Different types of visas
Trade License + Employee Visa: this is the most common for foreigners (especially if you're looking to teach). It means you are self employed and will be responsible for paying your own taxes and healthcare. With your trade license you are legally allowed to be "contracted" out to schools or companies and provide them a service. The employee visa allows you to stay in the Czech Republic for 1 year due to the fact that you are working. So when you combine the 2 you can legally stay in the Czech Republic for a year and work!
Business card: if you are looking to be hired for a business job or a public/international school, this is the visa you will get. It's a little more difficult, and you will need help from your employer. You can only get this visa if your employer signs a sheet saying they have offered you a job, and they are sponsoring you. They also have to explain to the government why they need to hire a foreigner to do this job, rather than a local citizen. So for an English Teacher this is simple- they need you because you're a native speaker. But for the business job, it might be a little more difficult. Some companies are super awesome about it and know how to do this well, but it's just about finding the right company to sponsor you!
Do you need a visa agency's help?
The short answer? NO. I used the company "Move to Prague" because my school recommended them to me and I couldn't find any clear answer online for what documents I needed. However, I had a really bad experience with them. Their rates were OUTRAGEOUS and I had to do everything on my own. They literally only gave me a list of documents I need to gather (what I'm giving to you below for free!) and that was IT. After reading this post, you really have all the necessary information to do the process completely on your own. However, I understand it can still be scary so if you truly feel like you need the help of a visa agency I can highly recommend "Visa Force." My boyfriend used them (after we discovered how overly priced mine was), and their pricing was very reasonable + their service was excellent.
So what do I need?
Below I will go into details about what you need in order to apply for both a trade license and Employee visa. If you are looking for a Business card, you'll need the cooperation of your future employer anyways, so they should have someone who will help you with the process. TIP: All Czech official documents must be signed in BLUE ink. Black will not be accepted.
Step #1: Trade License
- Proof of Business Address: since you will be self-employed, you have to show proof that you have some sort of business address. For this you have 2 options: 1) once you find an apartment, you can have your owner write you a letter in Czech saying he/she recognizes this address as your business address as well (most landlords/owners will do it no problem, it's a very common thing) or 2) you rent a P.O. box to claim as your business address (usually around 2,000 CZK for the entire year) MUST BE NOTARIZED
- Background check: you will make an appointment at the US Embassy in Prague to go get a background check. It's super simple. Once you arrive, you'll just sign a paper, pay $50 USD (you can use credit card or exact cash- no change will be given), and then you verbally swear you haven't committed a felony. And done! Super simple. Honestly, they just want $50.
- List of required trades: you can find here, and you submit which trades you will be offering to companies once you have your trade license
- Application form: can download or fill in online here
- Administrative fee: this must be exact cash of 1,000 CZK
-Now what? You take all these documents + the cash to any Trade License authority in Prague and submit them. You'll get your trade license in 3-5 business days.
Step #2: Employee Visa
- 2 passport photos: can even get them at the photo booths in any metro station!
- Proof of funds + debit card: you need a letter from your bank in the states stating that you have a minimum of $5,500 USD in your account. Once you arrive in the Czech Republic, you will have to pay a translator to translate the document into Czech (usually around 350 CZK). Plus, you bring your debit card to show them you have access to this money in the Czech Republic.
- Proof of accommodation: once you find your apartment you will have the OWNER of the apartment write a letter saying you live at this address and have signed a lease agreement for 1 year (make sure your landlord is the actual owner, otherwise you need the landlord to contact the owner to sign). It's really important to get the lease agreement for 1 year because that's the only way you'll be given a 1 year visa. MUST BE NOTARIZED
-Trade License: you already have this!
- Background check: will use the same one you submitted for your trade license, no need to get another one!
- Administrative fee: 5,000 CZK exact cash, no change (note that you will need to use the currency of the country in which you are applying- most likely Germany or Austria- which are both Euros)
I have all my documents, NOW WHAT?
You have to make an appointment for your visa interview OUTSIDE of the Czech Republic. The most common embassy people go to is Berlin, followed by Vienna because of their close proximity to Prague. Once you go in for your interview, it usually takes 90-120 days to process. A long time I know.
So once your original 90 day-visa-free-stay runs out, just make sure you don't travel by plane outside of the Czech Republic or else you might get your passport checked and get deported. You usually can get away with traveling by bus or train to other countries after your 90 days, but know it is still a risk. Once you receive your visa, you're free to travel anywhere you please!
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