On the way to joining the EU membership, the Czech Republic is busy harmonising its legislation with that of the Union, and this includes the country's so-called foreigners' law. Under legislation passed two years ago, all those wanting to extend their residence permits had to, at their own expense, travel to the nearest Czech embassy outside the Czech Republic to hand in their application. This is one clause that has been dropped. The old law also required all foreigners applying for long-term visas to prove that they have accommodation with a notarised signature from their landlord. That too is no longer necessary. Earlier today, I spoke to Ivana Sverakova of the Foreign Ministry's Human Rights department and asked her what some of the other important amendments were:
"It is no longer necessary for a foreigner to add his or her photograph to the state border crossing report. This obligation remains only when the report is submitted through a Czech embassy abroad. There is also a new short-term visa of which, in special cases, the validity can be prolonged by up to 180 days."
For example, if the foreign national in question is a minor - or dependent on someone - and their legal guardian is a Czech citizen, then applying for an extension of a visa will no longer be a burden. Those foreigners already resident in the Czech Republic, and staying with a family member, will be able to apply for a long-term visa if they intend to work or do business in the country. And, the time it takes to process applications has been reduced from 180 days to 120 days. But, as Mrs. Sverakova tells us, the visa application process is not the only problem the amendment tackles:
"It is not necessary to prove that you have health insurance at the time you submit your application. Of course, the obligation to have health insurance remains and the police have the right to check it at the borders or on Czech territory but it's not necessary to show it the moment you submit your application."
The new law also stipulates that all children of foreign nationals possessing health insurance will automatically be insured as well. And if you're a foreign national living in Prague and have committed a crime, you may be in luck, as the amendment also extends the range of offences punishable by only a fine.
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