It was summer last year when I found out I was officially moving to Prague. How exciting, right? My husband and I (boyfriend at the time) wanted to live in Europe but never saw exactly how we would make that happen. And then there was an opportunity! I knew someone who worked at a company based in Prague, asked them about openings at the company and what seemed like a hop, a skip, and a jump later, we were moving.
But first, I had to get my visa and work permit. I applied for 2 separate residency visa thingies (technical term), one was a green card and the other a regular work permit and visa. I applied for both because the Green Card would get processed much more quickly, so if it went through, I’d be able to start working much earlier. But what I didn’t yet know was that getting a green card was one road down which not many had traveled. The green card was introduced in 2009, but only 400 people since then had gotten one. Four hundred people in 5 years… for comparison, employment-based immigration in the US is limited by statute to 140,000 persons per year. In 2012, the US issued 1 million green cards. So.
To start the process, I submitted all of my education documents to be verified by the Czech government. Once that went through, documentation had to be sent to the Czech Labor Office to create the position for which I’d been hired in some database so that I could apply for it and for the Green Card. Once that paperwork is submitted, it takes 30 days for the position to be visible online. And when it becomes visible online, one has to apply for it at the Embassy. And to apply for it at the Embassy, you have to book a date right after the position appears so as to be the FIRST PERSON IN THE WHOLE WORLD to apply for it. Otherwise, it’s no longer available to anyone. And you’re pretty much done. So, needless to say, it was nerve wracking.
I booked an appointment at the Embassy, flew to DC, showed up at the Embassy with all my super legalized, apostilled, gold-plated and hand embroidered paperwork, various types of passport photos, fees, etc., etc., ad naseum. The woman at the Embassy looked through everything, shook her head, made a face, left me in the strange waiting room/entryway to make some calls (all the while not sharing any information with me about what was happening and why she was shaking her head), came back and told me she couldn’t submit my application. Why? Because of something related to the paperwork super legalization. And the Czech government was apparently in some meeting for the day so I’d have to come back tomorrow once she verified that what I had was enough. Good thing I’d booked my trip for a few days!
Once I finally got to the Czech Republic, I became very familiar with the Czech Immigration Office. I spent more hours than I’d care to remember trying to get my green card issued. You’d think the people who work at the Immigration Office would speak English but not really. Nor is any of the signage in English. Nor is any part of the process written down in one place that makes it easy to understand what exactly you need to bring with you in order to get the card issued. So you just wait in line for 5 hours, talk to someone who tells you that you don’t have everything you need, leave, get what you need, go back, wait 5 hours to talk to someone who tells you there is something else you need, leave, and you get the point.
But finally, FINALLY, I got the card. Which, as of June 2014, they’ve discontinued. Thankfully, I have until 2016 to figure out the new process!
Good luck with your visa process!