I’ve wanted to write this for quite some time, but in my usual lazy fashion, it just kept falling to the wayside. But yesterday morning I got to make my second visit to the Ausländeramt – aka foreigner’s office – here in Nürnberg, and that reminded me to get back on this one.
I would like to stress that this has only been my experience, so if you’ve had a ‘sunshine and daisies’ experience at the Czech Foreign Police, that’s lovely. Well done. For me, and for most of my friends, it was pretty much a miserable experience, and this is how it went.
Some of my friends were lucky, and had a family friend, or someone from their school who went along with them and helped them deal with things. My school took care of my work permit for me, but I had to go and apply for my 1st visa and subsequent residence permits on my own.
HOWEVER, having someone along for the ride does not mean that it actually helped my friends. For example: one guy applied for his renewal residence permit last year in May (he’s been in the Czech Republic for *I think* 3.5-4 years now), and he actually was just there yesterday as well, trying to pick it up. AFTER A YEAR AND FOUR MONTHS. It’s not ready yet. He keeps getting extensions, and they keep saying it’s not ready. Basically last year they reorganized how they processed things, and they’re now backed up by over a year. It’s laughable, it really is. I’m not saying we make things easy for people to move/live in the U.S., but this is really impressive.
In that spirit, let me present my experiences at the Czech Foreign Police vs. the German Ausländeramt. Enjoy.
The Czech Republic
1) Notice that you have 2-3 months left on your current visa and/or residence permit.
2) Decide on a day to go to the Foreign Police (F.P.) and try to renew; request off of work for said day.
3) Talk to friends and compile a list of what documents they needed on their most recent visit to the F.P., and gather said documents.
4) Talk to receptionist at work whose job it is to help with this nonsense, and discuss what could possibly be needed.
5) Try to go to bed early the night before, but inevitably get kept awake somehow.
6) Wake up far too early and yet later than you planned.
7) Get to scary F.P. office in the middle-of-nowhere Prague 10 at 6am, and find yourself to be about the 50th person in line.
8) Wait until 8am, getting more and more annoyed as the 49 people ahead of you are joined by 1-5 of their closest friends. Think that placeholding should really not be allowed.
9) Wait patiently as they start letting people in the building by groups of about 25.
10) Get very pissed when you realize that they’ve stopped doing that, and people are just walking up and passing everyone still waiting in line.
11) Go in and join the inside line. Wait another 1-2 hours.
12) Get to window and give them the printout in Czech saying that you’re there to renew your residence permit.
13) They give you a number and you find a seat. Ideally the seat is not near any kids, anyone smelly, or the door. This is also known as the Holy Grail Seat. Because it doesn’t exist.
14) Check the status of your number on the electronic board. Note that of the 12 counters, only 4-6 are manned. 3-5 are doing one set of numbers (for example: 100s), and one is doing something in the 600s. Your number is 954. Decide that this does not bode well.
17) Still waiting. Be thankful at least that smoking isn’t allowed inside. Enough gets in through the open door.
18) Get slightly murderous while watching people not work. Wonder why they chose to have the counters behind a big glass wall. Sadists.
19) It’s 3pm, aka closing time. Because they’re working so hard. They aren’t to your number yet either. Awesome. Go home, because you get to do this again.
20) Repeat steps 7-19 on another day, preferably one when they’re open until 5.
21) Finally get called in after 2 days and 15+ hours of your life are gone.
22) Go in, hand over papers.
23) Get a stamp and told to come back in 60 days.
24) Get no indication if you have everything necessary, but get scorned for not speaking Czech. Pointing at calendars to tell you when to come back will probably be involved.
25) Leave after your 2-5 minute exchange.
26) Wait 60 days.
27) Cancel another days worth of lessons to go back.
28) Repeat steps 5-11.
29) Get to window and give them printout in Czech saying that you’re there to pick up your new permit.
30) Woo! A 100s number this time!
31) Wait 1-2 hours.
32) Get called in, get stamped, good to go for another year.
33) Go home and take a nap.
I had to do that three times, as my passport expired and I needed to get a new permit for my new passport. It was just as delightful every time. EVERY TIME.
Yeesh. I can feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about it. Okay, so on to…
1) Get a letter notifying you that your residence permit is up in 90 days. It asks that if you do/don’t want to renew, to notify them via email, and has the necessary application for the new permit enclosed.
2) Send email/application back, stating that you do want to renew, and would like an appointment, but please be aware that you are on vacation from August 10-30.
3) Return from vacation to find that your appointment is next week on Monday – or – your first real day back to work.
4) Cancel Monday’s classes.
5) Gather items on the list that they provided in the appointment notification letter, which tells you exactly what you need to bring with.
6) Arrive 10 minutes before your 9:40 appointment, get a number and instructions to go to the 3rd floor.
7) Get in elevator with a family. Elevator goes down to basement level, the family exits. The elevator goes up, stopping at floors 0 and 1 for no apparent reason.
8) Reach 3rd floor, where your number is already up, run down the hall to the correct office.
9) Hand over all documents.
10) Attempt bad German. Girl takes pity on you and explains the parts you don’t understand in equally bad English.
11) Learn that your ‘biometric’ passport photo (what you asked for), is not biometric. It’s a bit small, but the girl thinks it will be okay.
12) Pull out two other photo options, which are also too small.
13) Get told that you can go take another photo, or try with this one. Decide to try it. May or may not be a bad idea.
14) All documents are copied and returned to you.
15) Get another sheet with a new appointment in six weeks, where hopefully you can pick up the new permit.
16) Leave after 20 total minutes.
17) Hit Starbucks on the way home.
Now, because I’m writing this, and because I’m basically in awe of how much more organized/civilized the whole process is here, I think it’s safe to assume that my photo won’t be okay and I’ll get kicked out of the country.
Meh. It’s my own fault for signing that two-year cell phone contract.
And in case you’re thinking that I’m exaggerating about the F.P. in Prague… have a look….
They opened a second office to try and help this situation. As a resident of Prague 2, I went to the new office, and let me assure you that it was no better.