Monday, December 12, 2011

All I Want for Christmas is a Long Stay Visa

The Czech Republic changed their immigration laws in January 2011, making it more difficult for foreigners to enter and stay in their country.  Stricter health insurance requirements, a biometric ID card, and a shift in the ministry responsible for issuing the visas all added up to a much longer process for us this year. 

We started the process back in March by applying for a renewal of our work permits.  That went pretty well, so we assumed the remainder of the steps would fall in place as they had in 2010.  With our renewed work permits (and all the other papers) in hand we set off for the Interior Ministry office to apply for and hopefully obtain our visas.  A young man greeted us and looked through all of our papers.  He asked us if we had a Czech health insurance card.  No, we replied, we have US insurance.  He told us we needed to have Czech health insurance.  (We have found out since this event that we probably are required by the new law to have Czech health insurance.)  Nonetheless, he graciously took all of our papers and told us that they would call us in about a month.

Before that month was up, we once again went to the office to check on the visas, having heard nothing from them.  Our old visas were to expire soon and we would need a temporary extension.  They graciously pasted a temporary visa into our passports.  They told us they would call when the visas were ready, hopefully before the middle of October, when the temporary ones expired.

So, on the first of October, having heard nothing from the Interior Ministry, we once again visited to check on the visas.  Still our new visas were not ready and our temporary visas were about to expire, again.  The woman helping us looked at our paperwork and asked several questions.  There seemed to be some sort of problem with the information they had in our files.  It appeared that she did not understand what it was, and we certainly did not know.  In the end, she put another temporary visa in our passports.  It was good until the middle of December.

At the end of all this visa drama, we are very happy to report, we received our new visas just last week.  Thank you for praying with us about this!