Applying for your visa is absolutely the most stress-inducing part of moving to the Czech Republic to study, and I hate to tell you this, but it almost never gets better. If you’re moving to Prague for uni, honestly, you’re just going to have to accept that, for at least a few months a year, you will be dealing with some visa issues and Czech bureaucracy (it's almost a right of passage for international students in Prague at this point).
But, I’ve got some good news too.
First, it almost always works out in the end. Even in my most complicated situations, where I’ve had to work with a lawyer just because I got so lost and confused by the process. Not that there were actually legal troubles, except that the ministry made a so-called “impossible” mistake that left my application in a perpetual state of processing.
And second, the Czech student visa is actually one of the easiest student visas in Europe to qualify for. That doesn’t necessarily mean it's the easiest to apply for though. Luckily after going through an abnormal amount of visa issues (usually the result of my many, many mistakes I’ve made throughout several application and renewal processes) I have learned all the ins and outs of this process.
So here is exactly what you need to do in order to get your visa.
And definitely check out this post about a few (slightly sneaky) tricks that might make your life a whole lot easier while you’re applying: Hacking the Visa System (More Tips & Tricks)
Also a forewarning: I am NOT an expert and I am NOT a lawyer, this is NOT legal advice by any means. I am simply explaining my experience with the Czech visa system and how I would go about applying if I were applying again. :)
Okay, let's get into it…
Overwhelmed? You Have Options.
When you are applying for a visa, you have two options for how to apply.
Do it yourself
Hire someone to apply in your favor
My first time applying, I hired someone because I was so lost. After that, I felt like I had the procedure figured out well enough to do it myself.
Spoiler: I did not. But I won’t let you make the same mistakes as I did!
Hiring A Visa Service
Here are the services that I have used that I can recommend:
When I first moved, I got help from Pavla at http://www.czimmigration.com/en/
MUCH cheaper 4,000Kč ($170) (not including third-party charges such as notary fees, translation of official documents, etc. and I’m not sure how much that all costs honestly)
With an easy situation such as applying for the first time, they did an excellent job and I got my visa in good order
Later I contacted them with an issue and they said I was about to be deported (I was not) so I contacted PExpats and they got it sorted out very easily
When I was already in Prague and had issued I used https://www.pexpats.com/ (They also helped me apply for nostrification, if that’s something you’ll have to tackle as well)
Rustam is a lawyer and definitely an expert in the immigration law, he got everything sorted with a complicated visa issue in no time
They are much more expensive 18,000kć ($765)
So personally, if you don’t have a complicated situation, then CZImmigration would be totally sufficient and provide you with all the help you need. But, if you have a complicated situation and need more expertise or require the help of a lawyer, then you might want to consider PExpats.
Doing it Yourself
I'm gonna walk you through it the way I wish someone had for me.
And honestly, once you get the hang of it, visas aren't so scary.
Important Background Info
A visa usually takes at most 60 days to process, but it can double that in complicated situations so plan accordingly.
When you apply for the first time, you must apply from abroad.
Only when you are applying for a renewal can you then apply from within the Czech Republic. (Keep this in mind when I talk about some tricks later)
There are two types of permits you can apply for with the purpose of studies (in a Czech accredited program):
§ 42d - A visa for a stay of over 90 days (long-term)
§ 30/1 "studies”- Long-term residence
Online, it says you can apply for both from abroad. And like I said, I’m not an expert so I can’t say how applying for long-term residence from abroad would work. What I do know, is that myself and everyone I know applied abroad for the long term visa (visa for a stay of over 90 days) for our first visa, and then when we renewed the at the end of the school year we applied for the long-term residence. In this article I am writing about applying for the “§ 42d - visa for a stay of over 90 days (long-term)”
You must be studying for a Czech accredited degree in order to qualify for one of the visas I listed above.
If you are studying for a US, British, or other degree that is not accredited in the Czech Republic, then you must apply for the § 30/1 "other" purpose visa.
This includes if you don’t intend on applying for nostrification.
Be aware that you can’t technically have a student job on this visa while on a student visa, you can.
When you have to apply for a renewal, make sure that you submit the application BEFORE the date of expiration. If you don’t, you will have to leave and apply from abroad again.
When you renew, you should apply for the § 30/1 "studies”- Long-term residence
Read through this website: https://www.mvcr.cz/mvcren/article/a-visa-for-a-stay-of-over-90-days-long-term.aspx?q=Y2hudW09Mg%3d%3d
This is the official Czech Ministry of the Interior website which explains how to apply, but this is far from everything you need to know and will probably leave you with a myriad of questions, exactly why I am writing this post right now.
Reach out to the consulate you will be applying at.
Let them know you are applying for a student visa and ask if they have any advice or recommendations. Every consulate is different; they may handle the process slightly differently or they may be willing to provide a lot of help to get you through the process.
Here are some questions you will want to ask when emailing them:
How and when can you apply?
(If you live far away) Can you apply via mail?
How can you pay the application fee? (Cash, credit card, check?)
When should you submit proof of health insurance?
Are there any additional documents that must be submitted? (Criminal history check, Medical report, or copies of the front of your debit card)
Which official documents must be apostilled or notarized?
Gather your documents.
Your documents can not be older than 180 days (except for your passport & passport photos)
There is an application fee of 2,500Kč (about $100)
Bring two copies of each document
Unofficial documents & copies of official documents must be notarized
All documents must be submitted in Czech, which means any official documents in English must be translated by a certified translator.
We'll get more into that later but keep this in mind for now.
Required Documents to Apply:
2 ID-sized photos
Confirmation of Study
Proof of Accommodation
Proof of Funds
If you are under 18:
First time applying or upon request:
Criminal history check
Copies of the front of your debit card
And this part is essential:
This is the order you should gather these documents & everything you need to know about each item.
If you don’t have a passport or if your passport expires within the next 9 months apply ASAP, especially because since COVID, there has been a huge backup of passport applications. If there aren’t at least two consecutive blank pages, you need to have pages added.
2) Proof of Funds
If you aren’t tight on money, then doing this early isn’t necessary. But, if you’re like me and having a huge chunk-of-change laying around is more of a luxury than the norm, this is definitely essential to the process.
So here’s the secret: that money doesn’t need to stay in your account after you get that proof.
Here’s what I (and pretty much everyone) always did:
Put the money in my account (I often borrowed the amount from my parents or another trusted friend or relative)
Let it sit for the required 24 hours
Got the “Proof of Funds” document from the bank
After you’ve gotten this document, you can use it for tuition, an apartment deposit, booking flights, or transfer it back to whoever you borrowed it from.
Like I said, documents can’t be older than 180 days and processing takes about 60 days which gives you some wiggle room. And the Czech government can’t just go in to your bank account and check if the money is there again. I guess they could request that you submit the document again, but I have never heard of that happening except once the 180 days have passed.
That being said, be smart about this.
This rule is in place for a reason. You need to be able to support yourself while abroad. I absolutely don’t encourage moving abroad without the sufficient savings to support yourself.
Need help planning a budget? Read my post about the Cost of Living in Prague
How do you get this document?
Well, since you’re probably outside the Czech Republic, this will be a bit trickier. For my first visa, I opened an account at Charles Schwab. They provided a certificate/letter in Czech language, which saved a little money on translations. It took a few phone calls and some annoying explaining, but eventually, we were able to get it.
Luckily, after you move you can open a bank account in Prague and they will always know exactly what you are talking about when you request the document and it will always be in Czech.
What should it look like?
The proof of funds should be a one page letter or certificate with the account holder information, the current account balance, and it must have a stamp and signature from the bank. The original must be submitted so your bank must mail it to you or pick it up in person. If your bank can’t provide the letter in Czech, you must have it officially translated.
How much money do you need?
I swear the Czech Ministry gives the most complicated explanation of how much you need possible.
They say “15 times the amount of the existential minimum of 2,740kč for the first month and double the amount of existential minimum for every month afterwards” which is so unnecessarily complicated.
In the simplest terms, you need about $4,303 for a one year visa (based on the June 2022 exchange rate).
Here is the calculation:
September (or your first month): 2,740kč x 15 = 41,100kč
For the rest of the year: 11 months x 2 x 2,740kč = 60,280kč
Then, add these together for the total: 41,100kč + 60,280kč = 101,380kč
Which is about $4,303 USD as of 18 June 2022.
It doesn’t hurt to have more than the required amount. They might even grant your visa for a longer duration because of this and save your headache for a little while longer.
3) Proof of Accommodation & Confirmation of Study
Ideally, the ball should already be rolling for these and, thus, they should take about the same time to get the necessary documentation and have it mailed to you. But, in case you don’t already haven’t already lined up your dorm or apartment, start looking ASAP!
I know finding housing is daunting, so check out this post I wrote about my trick for finding accommodation, especially if you’re in a pinch.
Proof of Accommodation
I recommend starting with proof of accommodation earlier, only because it seems more likely there could be some delays with this. Especially if your accommodation provider is unfamiliar with the process, whereas your university is probably mailing out confirmations of study daily.
For the Proof of Accommodation, you just need a housing contract for one year (read about why I think you should always get a one-year contract, even if you plan on moving after the first semester), and should be provided in Czech by the dorm or landlord. This can be submitted as the original or as a legalized copy. However, since the landlord must be present for the legalization, the contract probably has to be mailed anyways which may take some time. If your landlord is familiar with the process, they may also have a way of going about this so definitely check with them.
Tip for AAU Students:
Something I didn’t mention in that post is that if you book through AAU to stay at Zeitraum, you will have to pay for the whole year upfront— which I think is absolutely ridiculous. You can avoid this by booking directly through Zeitraum directly and paying month by month. The only difference is you won’t be placed on the “AAU floor."
Confirmation of Study
In order to get this, you must first pay the first semester’s tuition (luckily you should already have your proof of funds!). After that, getting this paper should just be an email away. This document must be submitted as an original, so your university should also mail it to you which may take some time so request it ASAP after receiving your proof of funds.
4) Health Insurance (sometimes)
This is an optional 4th step or, alternatively, the final step.
Email your consulate to ask what they require. Technically, you don’t need to submit this until after you have been approved. This is good because in the event that your application is denied or delayed, you won’t have spent money on months of insurance you can’t even use.
In the past I have submitted it all together, so just confirm with your consulate what they require.
You must have this exact insurance:
5) Upon Request Documents:
Again, make sure to email your consulate to ask what they require.
These could include:
Criminal history check
Copies of the front of your debit card
Criminal History Check
I had to do this once, I just went to my town hall and it was quite easy to get. You are required to have a background check from the country you are a citizen of and any country you have lived in for over 6 months in the last 3 years.
I think I also had to do this once and I just had my doctor write a note, it was very easy. This will also have to be translated. This must “prove the fulfillment of conditions set out in the measure of Ministry of Health on prevention of the spread of infectious illnesses.” Nowadays, it's probably necessary to do with COVID.
Copies of the Front of your Debit Card
This is a weird one, and it isn’t written online anywhere, but once in New York, I was required to do this. I think it was because I was re-applying from the US for the second time after my first year in Prague, so my bank was Czech and they said I needed to show proof that I had access to the money in the account (which was weird because the account was in my name but I just went with it). After that, I never had to do this again, but I always brought two copies just in case.
6) If you are under 18:
I’ve never had to do this so I really don’t know anything about it, so I’m just going to direct you to this official page: https://www.mvcr.cz/mvcren/article/a-consent-of-parents.aspx
7) Non-Time Sensitive Documents
2 ID-sized photos
Just make sure they’re EU rectangle cut, not square like for the US.
Every time you have to take passport photos save the extras! I have so many different photos in so many shapes and sizes and I bring them to every visa appointment just incase the new ones I took aren’t accepted. This has happened before and I’m always so glad I have about 5 other options for them to choose from!
Translations, Copies, and Legalizing Documents
This is the hard part. Everything must be submitted as either (1) the original document in Czech or (2) the original document in English with a certified Czech translation attached. So, unfortunately, this can’t be an at home online translation or a favor from a Czech speaking friend.
When they say “certified translation” or “official translation," what they mean is the document must be translated by a court registered translator. This official translation involves them attaching the original document (or a notarized copy) to their Czech translation then stamping as certified.
If we go through the required documents, the following should already be in Czech and must be submitted just as the original copy:
Confirmation of Study
Proof of Accommodation
Proof of Funds (if you’re lucky)
That probably leaves these to be translated:
Proof of Funds
Criminal history check (if required)
Medical report (if required)
P.S. if you want to keep any original copies, just let the consulate know and they will make sure it is returned to you.
Finding a Translator
When I applied the first time, getting the translations was the toughest part, which is why we decided to use http://www.czimmigration.com/en/ . However, they don’t just do translations, so if you go through them, you’ll have to pay for the whole visa service.
I have also found this service https://www.forstudents.cz/our-services/translations, which I haven’t personally used, but they can arrange translations for 400kč - 550kč per page.
But, if you’ve gotten this far, I’d consider just working directly with a translator. This is the website where you can search the list of court registered translators: https://www.kstcr.cz/cz/url-members/params/members[region]//members[type]/isTranslator/members[name]//members[languages]/1 Anybody listed on this website is qualified to help. In the past, I worked with Adam Homsi who is listed on this website. His contact info is listed below and also on the official website:
Phone: +420 776 003 838
Also, the embassy in the UK provides a list of czech translators residing in the UK here: https://www.mzv.cz/london/en/visa_and_consular_information/list_of_translators/index.html I’m not sure if you can use these translators if you don’t live in the UK, but it could also be an option.
Legalized Official Copies
One last thing to remember, if you can not get an original document, then you must submit a legalized official copy. The form of legalization could be a notarization or an apostille depending on who you are submitting it to, so always specify which you need.
For example, my criminal record check was a copy of a file from my town hall, so they simply notarized it when I picked it up, and then I sent it to Prague to be officially translated. But, when I was filing for nostrification, I had to have my high school diploma apostilled by the state of Connecticut (which is a hassle, so try to avoid apostilles if possible). Regardless, always confirm with the court registered translator or the consulate which type of legalization you need.
So now you have all your documents either in the original Czech document or a certified translation. The last thing you must do to get our documents ready for submitting at the consulate is make two copies of everything. Literally everything! This includes your passport and all of your documents. Sometimes if you forget, they might help you out at the consulate but not always. Out of an abundance of caution, I always copied everything like 3 times, attached each copy to the original with a paperclip and made copies of things that might not even need to be copied. (I once showed up to an appointment completely unprepared without copies and missing documents — will never let that happen again lol)
Submitting your Application!
You’ve finally made it! This part is easy. Just make sure you have all your documents in order and show up on time to your appointment.
Like I said, I have messed up this part before and you definitely don’t want to be in that position too so double, triple, and quadruple check you have everything in order before the appointment.
Here’s a convenient little checklist I kept in my notes app that you can use too!
What to expect
Honestly, the appointment is fairly uneventful if you did everything right. You’ll just show up, take a number, and wait. When your number is called, you’ll be directed into a separate room and to a cubicle. Unless you have a translator (which you probably won’t need in your home country), you’ll have to go in alone. You’ll had over your documents, they’ll go through it all, stamp a bunch of stuff, then take your fingerprints, and that's pretty much it.
What if there is an issue?
In this case, this might not be such a smooth process. But don't worry, read here about the most common mistakes and how I have resolved them in the past.
Acceptance & Picking up your Visa
Within 60 days, your application should have a decision. At most, it can take 120 days, but this is the legal limit for them to file a decision.
At this point all you have to do is:
1) Get your health insurance in order
2) Pick up your visa from the consulate
Here’s your visa pick-up check list:
Health Insurance Contract (if not yet submitted)
Proof of Payment
Any other documents they may have requested (ie. new versions of documents which are now over 180 days old)
Hop on that plane and you’re on your way! Here are some other posts which may help you with this next step in your journey:
One last thing…
Upon arrival, check with your accommodation provider to see if they register with the Foreign Police for you, chances are they will. But if they don’t, you have 3 days to do this.
And that’s it! Until next year.
In the meantime, enjoy your first year of uni!
Applying for a renewal?
Check out this video I made of the process for my renewal/application for residence.
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Edited by Sophia Pedigo