Studying in Czechia: The visa process

Czechia is becoming increasingly attractive for international students, and numbers are growing fast, but the bureaucratic challenges faced by prospective students can be daunting.  To make it easier for prospective students, we take you through the visa application process step by step.

If you are not an EU citizen, getting a visa to study in the Czech Republic can be daunting, especially if you speak no Czech. From relentless delays and confusing lists of requirements to unexpected requests for “supporting” documents and unavailable appointments, the Czech bureaucracy can be confusing to foreigners and locals alike.

The difference between visas and residence permits in the Czech Republic is the duration of stay.

“Bureaucracy is bureaucracy, and wherever you go it’s not going to be easy. But I think the language barrier is something that can really have a profound impact on how you process what you have to do. I don’t think it is better anywhere else, but I think that the added layer of the language is tricky,” says Elizabeth Zahradníček Haas, Editor in Chief for Expats CZ.

The difference between visas and residence permits in the Czech Republic is the duration of stay. A long-term visa is granted for more than 90-days and up to a year while a long-term residence permit (or temporary residence card) is issued for up to two years, according to the Ministry of Interior’s (MOI) website. The former is a sticker in your passport while the latter is a card with biometric data imprinted on it. The long-term residence permit is usually granted by the ministry after the applicant’s arrival in Czechia and once they have applied for a visa extension from within the country, according to the Czech Consulate in Los Angeles.

Photo: Ondřej Tomšů,  Radio Prague International

These terms are often mixed up. The residence permit is a valid form of ID in the Czech Republic, and foreigners with a long-term or permanent residence card do not need to carry around their passport as well as this ID. This article uses the term “visa” broadly, meaning the documentation and process one needs for long-period stays in Czechia and the Schengen area.

First Time Visa Applicants

Most students’ first attempt at a Czech visa is met with mixed success. This can depend on how early the student starts compiling the list of requirements (which can be found on the Ministry of Interior’s website in confusing legal language or in simpler terms on other consular general websites). It also depends on how far the student has to travel to get to the nearest Czech embassy—with a consular section that accepts visa applications.

Agencies providing visa services for those applying to come to the Czech Republic warn that you should start working on your application a good six months in advance. Start by trying to get an appointment, because some consulates do not give appointments from one month to another. Once you submit the application, you cannot assume that it will be decided within the legal deadline as the Ministry can request additional information.

Immigration office | Photo: Karolína Burdová,  Czech Radio

Embassies tend not to take questions about visas over the phone and take a while to respond to the emails they receive. US students have it easier. They do not have to go in person to submit their application, but the documents still need to be original and legalized. The confirmation of study and accommodation and other necessary documents are sent to the visa seeker from Czechia to the US. Once the student has all the required documentation for the application, it is sent back to the Czech Republic from the consulate in the US.

All of the documents must not be older than 180 days (except for documents such as photo and passport which have longer lifespans) and, in some cases, documents must be notarized or have higher legalization, or might require further verification after translation depending on the country of origin. It is important to note that none of the documents submitted will be returned or can be reused for other applications that are in process, according to Veronika D’Evereux, a lawyer from the Integration Center Prague (ICP).

Students from other countries might encounter stricter requirements, such as a criminal record check or penal register record, whereas citizens of the US are only required to print, sign, and notarize an affidavit (if their record is clean). The process of acquiring a criminal record check from the government of one’s respective country can take up to three months.

Another delay can be because of a lack of sufficient funds in the bank account of the visa-seeker. The amount needed for the long-term visa purpose “study” to be issued for ten months (September 1 to June 30) is 103,290 CZK, i.e. about 4,861 USD depending on the exchange rate, according to the Ministry of Interior.

Illustrative photo: Filip Jandourek,  Czech Radio

Visa experts point out that when it is a joint bank account the required amount must be doubled. These funds need to be in the account throughout the whole application process because the Ministry has the right to request a more recent bank statement and transaction history at any time.

Extending the Long-Term Visa for a Resident Permit

After a successful first application, foreigners are confronted with the daunting Extension. Most students view this as a normal re-application for their visa with either the same purpose of stay they had before or the updated purpose of stay if they completed nostrification. However, there are a few differences, the greatest being that all required documents must extend their previous stay with no missing days in between.

A typical problem is that students often receive proof of accommodation for six-months, which means that the visa will only cover the same period.

A typical problem is that students often receive proof of accommodation for six-months, which means that the visa will only cover the same period. This is a reason why it can be a big advantage to get a proof of accommodation covering at least one year.

Some experiences are different, and lucky students will be granted the visa for the full period of their confirmation of studies which can be given to them for a year or up to two years in the case of some Ph.D students. The same applies for a visa extension, but students still need to have a confirmation of housing for the whole duration of their stay with no gaps.

Photo: StockSnap,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

If you are trying to get an extension and your visa expires in June, you must make sure that you have proof of accommodation in July and August, even if the next term starts in September and you will be traveling through the summer. You also need to have health insurance for the entire period.

Some agencies or home-owners issue “virtual” housing contracts to fulfill the confirmation of the housing requirement. However, this is illegal and carries risks.

Card payment | Photo: Tima Miroshnichenko,  Pexels,  CC0 1.0 DEED

One of the most frequently asked questions is if students must leave the country if their visa extension is being processed after their visa expires. Foreigners who complete the application for an extension before the visa expires, do not need to leave the EU while waiting for the decision, according to Veronika D’Evereux.

Those who do not apply in time, might choose to overstay their visa or the 90 days that some have as tourists in the EU, when waiting to reapply or for their new visa to arrive. Alternatively, they request an emergency passport from their home country’s embassy, so that it does not have a stamp indicating how long they have stayed in the Czech Republic. In both cases, this is illegal.

Another problem for those applying for extensions is related to the confirmation of study. To acquire a student visa, the individual needs a confirmation of study from their university. However, because the school year ends in June and starts in September, visas are usually issued to the end of the school year (i.e. June), leaving some students scrambling to apply for extensions mid-semester, according to visa experts.

Photo: Václav Pecháček,  Czech Radio

Students are often surprised when they reach the office to submit their applications at the Ministry of Interior, because they cannot make the payment for their visa in cash or by card. Revenue stamps equal to the value of the visa application which can be bought at Česká Pošta (Czech Post Office) are required.

Changing The Purpose of Stay

An issue that creeps up on some students is the sudden termination of their long-term resident permit because they have not been fulfilling their corresponding purpose of stay. This can happen for several reasons: the completion of nostrification that allows the student to study under a Czech-accredited program which would change the purpose of stay from “other” to “study”, or the termination of studies or absence from university classes in the case that the purpose is “study”. The Ministry of Interior may request a confirmation of attendance, according to Veronika.

The solution is to change the purpose of stay right after completing nostrification through the same visa extension process.

The solution is to change the purpose of stay right after completing nostrification through the same visa extension process. Apart from the hassle of having to renew a visa early due to the change of purpose of stay, this is a beneficial solution. Students who are studying under an “other” visa are not legally allowed to work, whereas the “study” visa or long-term residence permit allows one to have a part-time or full-time job along with full-time university studies, according to the ICP lawyer.

With the correct information, visas and permits are doable tasks, however difficult, though there are ways and people to help with the process. For a fee, private visa agencies can help you overcome the language barrier and other challenges, such as checking documents, meeting deadlines and communicating with the ministry. They can also help with registering your driving license, getting health insurance, communicating with landlords, etc.

Illustrative photo: fauxels,  Pexels,  CC0 1.0 DEED

The Integration Center Prague (or equivalent organizations around Czechia) is also an option for those who are seeking professional help or do not have the means to pay an agency. The ICP is a non-profit organization that is financed from the funds of the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, Czech Ministry of the Interior, and the Prague City Council.

Author: Ela Angevine


  • Studying in Czechia

    Czechia is becoming increasingly attractive for international students, and numbers are growing.

  • The five best universities in Czechia

    Why is Czechia a good choice to study? Will you get a high quality education? Is the study program available in English? Find out in a new mini-series on Radio Prague Int.