Hacking the Visa System (More Tips & Tricks)
If you do everything right, this will probably be of no use to you. But, the visa system just really likes to screw people over so if you ever find yourself in a bind, knowing about these tips and tricks could help you out.
Side note: I am writing this from the perspective of an American applying for a Czech student visa. Keep in mind that different laws apply depending on the country, visa, and passport, so some of these might not work for everybody.
A FOREWARNING: This is for educational purposes only. If you do decide to go through with any of this, that is your decision. Everything I'm listing here is 100% legal, but keep in mind that some of these things might not always work out how you expect, and I know people for whom that has been the case. You could end up with unexpected costs and challenges so proceed at your own expense.
Applying from “Abroad”
When you are applying for your first visa to move to the Czech Republic, it is legally required that you apply from abroad. This will usually be your home country or the country you are currently a resident of. But, what they don’t tell you, is you can apply from any country in the world, including other EU member states.
This means if you don’t have enough time to apply in your home country, you can technically fly to Prague on your 90-day Schengen area tourist visa, submit your visa application in a nearby city like Berlin or Vienna immediately after you arrive, and then hang out in Prague while praying your visa is approved within the typical 60-day timeframe.
If you were to do this, it would be best to make the visa appointment before booking your flight. Visa appointments aren’t always easy to get, so contact several embassies to get the soonest appointment. And if none pop up soon enough, circle back and see if there have been any recent cancelations. Then, coordinate with your flight and make sure you don’t waste any of your 90 days that may be essential to the processing time.
While I did a semester abroad in Malaysia, I let my Czech visa lapse. I planned to apply for a new visa from Malaysia, however, due to visa and timing complications, I wasn’t able to apply there. I then only had a three-week visit in the US before going back to start the fall semester in Prague, which is obviously not enough time to apply and wait for a visa. So instead of skipping a semester of uni, when I returned to Prague, I submitted my application for a new visa in Vienna. About 60 days and a whole lot of stress later, it was approved and I was all set!
Emergency Second Passport
A lot of Americans aren’t aware that you can apply for an emergency second passport in the event your passport has to be in two places at once, i.e. with an embassy while they process a visa and also with you for essential travel.
I did this before my first semester of university. My visa was still in processing, yet the semester was about to begin, so I applied and was expedited an emergency passport. You can read more about it here.
This one technically isn’t a secret at all, but surprisingly a lot of people aren’t aware of bridging visas and how helpful they can be. Bridging visas are a visa that is granted without processing time so that you can travel while your current visa/residency status is in a processing period.
I’ve gotten several bridging visas throughout the years and they’re very easy to qualify for. They will always be given without processing time aka the day you request it. The only requirements are (1) you have a visa renewal/extension/change of purpose in processing and (2) you want to travel while it is still processing. This could include going home for Christmas, traveling for spring break, taking a semester abroad, or in general just traveling for any reason while your visa is processing. The last time I renewed my residency, the ministry employee collecting my application suggested it before I had a chance to ask.
Since there are barely any requirements to qualify. I would recommend getting one every time you renew a visa just in case you decide to travel and would like to avoid the headache of waiting in line at the MVCR for hours again.
For example, at the end of my first school year in Prague, I wanted to go home for the summer but my visa expired in mid-July. I knew that if I let my visa lapse, I would have to start over and reapply for a whole new visa in the US, which would require more documents, a longer processing time, and would delay my ability to apply for long-term residence and get an EU biometric card. So before I left for summer vacation I made an appointment in Prague to extend my visa/residency. While submitting my application I just explained that I would be traveling for the summer and needed a bridging visa. This way, I had an EU visa in my passport for travel purposes while my visa extension was still in processing. Also, since I got the bridging visa, when my extension was approved while I was still in the US, the ministry was able to hold on to my visa until I returned to Prague and was able to pick it up in person.
Language Barriers at Visa Appointments
In your home country, they probably speak English, but in Prague, MVCR employees might not, and let me tell you, this can be stressful. Although, I will say this is getting better and, in the past few years, I have been able to get by with English just fine. It is still good for you to know that you are allowed to bring a Czech-speaking friend to visa appointments as a translator. If that isn’t possible, I would at least come prepared with a list of important phrases and a translation app.
Technically ,Slovak is allowed too if for some reason that is easier for you according to the Czech Law Administrative Procedure Code Act No. 500/2004 Coll. § 16.1 https://www.zakonyprolidi.cz/cs/2004-500#cast2)
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Edited by Sophia Pedigo