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Getting legal in the Czech Republic as a young Canadian

Stewart Delo completed the Trinity CertTESOL course in Prague in October 2015. Here, he explains what brought him to Prague and what it is like for a young Canadian to begin living and working legally in the Czech Republic.

I remember the day when, sitting in the call centre where I once worked and accumulating ever more insidious back problems, I noticed a picture of Prague in the sidebar of a website and had the idea that it might be nice to go there. I’ve lived in Prague for almost a year now, teaching English, and it was the best decision I ever made.

teach english prague

If you’re considering making this decision too, I applaud you. And if, like me, you had the good fortune to be born among the rugged wastelands and shining Tim Hortons outlets of Canada, you’ll have a leg up in the struggle for a visa. A lot of governments want Canadians to travel and/or settle in their countries, presumably to spread Canadian cultural practices like using ‘sorry’ pervasively and knowing every Rush album. Presumably.

This extends to the Czech Republic as well. They have a one-year ‘youth mobility visa’ for Canadians between the ages of 18 and 35, which can be obtained before you leave Canada and which exempts you from needing a work permit.  When you get to Europe and your new American expat friends tell campfire stories about their visa process, you’ll be even prouder of your heritage than you are now.

tefl course Prague
Stewart with teacher friends in Prague

A list of what you need for the visa application is here. The process is straightforward enough. Have those documents translated and send them to the Czech embassy in Ottawa, then wait for the visa to come 60-90 days later. But things rarely go as planned. You will probably make several phone calls to the embassy. You will have to cultivate persistence, as they keep strange hours. You will grow to despise the tinny, synthesized concert music that plays while the embassy keeps you on hold. I think it was a selection from The Barber of Seville, but I might be mistaken. All in all, though, the visa is the easy part. (Read here to find out how Oxford TEFL can help you obtain your visa).

This brings us to taxes, one of two widely-avowed certainties in life, the other being death (which, if you ask me, will be conquered by human genius long before taxes will).

For Canadian English teachers, there are a few tax possibilities. If you’re lucky enough to be employed full-time by one school, you’re golden. You’ll be a legal employee, the school should deduct taxes directly from your paycheck and you won’t need any additional documentation. Most of you, though, will take part-time jobs at multiple schools to build a full schedule. In that case, you’ll be legally considered a contractor, and you’ll need to avail yourself of the infamous živnostenský list.

This sinister document has been the cause of many a rage-fuelled tirade in Prague’s expat bars. Its purpose is to give you a social ID number, allowing you to pay taxes directly to the government every month. That part is easy, since bank transfers in the Czech Republic are much simpler than in North America. But the process of getting the živno is a testament to the Central European bureaucracy that inspired Kafka and generations of his imitators. If you’re staying in Prague, however, to quote a common mistake made by my students, ‘I might can help you.’

To get the živno, your employers will direct you to the Municipal House in your neighbourhood (Prague’s divided into numbered areas: Prague 1 constitutes the Old Town, Prague 6 is the vicinity of the Castle, etc.). This is great advice, if you speak flawless Czech. Otherwise, you’ll want to visit the one Municipal House in the entire city where one employee speaks English. You can find this in Prague 7, off the Vltavská subway station, overlooking the Vltava River.

In all, you’ll need your passport and ID, a signed form from your landlord, a criminal record check from the Canadian embassy and a stamp on the criminal record check to ‘superlegalize’ it. The last step requires a visit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (where, contrary to the name, nothing but Czech is spoken) and a post office, but this can be done in one visit to the glorious Prague Castle, where both can be found.

The Prague 7 Municipal House is the thing to remember. If you forget all my other sage advice (which, to be honest, people usually do), the workers there will help you. Schools tend to be forgiving if the živno takes a while. They’ll typically agree to deduct taxes themselves or pay you in cash for the first month or two.

Anyway, navigating the bureaucracy is one of only a few conspicuous downsides to living in the Czech Republic. In general, it’s a beautiful country of rich art history, grand buildings, incredible food and wicked beer. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Oxford TEFL can help you obtain your visa, find work, arrange your accommodation and advise you about how to become legal in the Czech Republic. For more information about our TEFL courses in Prague contact us or apply here.

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