Citizen Me

I applied for dual Czech citizenship almost 2 years ago – hopefully these notes will help others going through, or thinking of starting, the same process. This is a long post, because the process is a long one…


Since January 1st 2014 it has been possible for foreigners living in the Czech Republic to apply for Czech citizenship without having to forfeit their existing nationality, i.e. to obtain dual citizenship. This possibility arose out of European Union standards, which the Czech government was among the last to implement – which tells you something about just how keen on the idea they really were.

In theory, the process of applying is simple. You leave an application with your regional council, who after contacting your local council to make sure you’re not some kind of antisocial delinquent will forward it to the Ministry of Interior in Prague. The Ministry will ask the security services to do a quick background check to make sure you’re not some kind of terrorist, and then make a decision.

According to the Czech Citizenship Act (no. 186/2013 Sb), the Ministry has 6 months from receipt of your documents to get back to you with an approval, a refusal or a request for more information; you can safely ignore this timeframe, as it will really take much, much longer before they do – it’s not like the government were enthusiastic enough to actually appoint extra staff for this new task, after all. By the way, if they ask for more documents, they get another 6 months to respond, so it’s actually in their interest to do so… and if any of your documents expire before they get looked at, they’ll certainly ask you to update/replace them to cover the time since your application.

Assuming all goes well, however, eventually the Ministry will let both you and your regional council know that you’ve been approved, and you will then have to publicly pledge allegiance to the State before the regional governor or their representative. Note that the law doesn’t state how often the regional government needs to hold these ceremonies, so you may be waiting a while… but once the ceremony is over, you are officially a Czech citizen, with all the associated rights and responsibilities. Hurrah!

Now you can go back to your local council and start the paperwork for an ID card and passport…

So, that’s the theory, but if you’ve been living in the Czech Republic for any length of time, you can probably guess that you’re going to need paperwork, and lots of it. Oh boy, is that right.

Been there, done that

The very first thing you’ll need to do is prove that you speak Czech to a sufficient (i.e. B1/Intermediate) standard, and that you know the basics about Czech society and government. You can find lots more information about how to do the standard exams for this on a special website at (which is available in several languages, including very decent English).

You won’t need to worry about this if you’ve spent three or more years in Czech elementary, secondary or higher education, or if you’re under 15 or over 65, or if you have mental or physical problems that make learning Czech impossible. Equivalent, recognised B1 qualifications are also accepted.

Don’t feel too bad about this – even Slovaks applying for Czech citizenship need it now.

Identify yourself!

Language and culture qualifications in the bag, it’s time to move on to the real paperwork!

First of all, you’ll need an original, full birth certificate, legalised by the application of an apostille, with a translation of the whole thing into Czech by a court-certified translator who has the infamous kulatý razitko. This may well involve expense and getting documentation from your country of birth – it certainly will if you’re British (in which case you can start HERE). I got mine translated at Manes Translations in Prague, who were quick, inexpensive (!), and gave me copies of everything on a thumb drive.

Note that documents previously legalised by your Embassy and/or superlegalised by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs are probably no longer sufficient; if for example you have some documents from getting married here check to make sure you know how they were legalised!

In addition, simple photocopies of your passport and residency permit are required. (Yes, this means that you need to provide the Ministry of the Interior with a copy of a document issued by the Ministry of the Interior in the first place… go figure.)

If you’re married, you’ll also need your marriage certificate. If you’re in a registered partnership, then evidence of this is required. If this was issued in the Czech Republic, an uncertified photocopy will do. Otherwise, a legalised version accompanied by a translation again.

If you’re divorced or have had a registered partnership dissolved, or if your spouse/partner has died, then documentation of this is needed – legalised and translated as appropriate.

And lastly, if you have children, their birth certificates too – simple copies if Czech (yes, even though these too are issued under the authority of the Interior Ministry…), legalised and translated copies if not.

I’m innocent, innocent I tell you!

You won’t be surprised to know that the Czechs aren’t keen on adopting criminals and ne’er-do-wells, so you’ll need to demonstrate a lack of criminal record.

The good news is that you don’t need any Czech documents for this – the Ministry can look you up anyway. This is almost unique, as it seems unable to look up anything else, as you’ll see later…

The bad news is that if you’ve been here for less than a decade, you’ll need confirmation from every state where you’ve lived more than 6 months at a time in the last 10 years – and these documents must be less than 6 months old.

Guess what? Some states don’t (or just won’t) hand out this information – including the United Kingdom. In these cases, a signed deposition that you have no criminal record will do.

 Solvency abuse

Having established that you’re not some kind of lawbreaker, your solvency is the next issue. After all, we wouldn’t want a bunch of parasites turning up and leeching off the state, would we?

You are obliged to produce evidence of your income to demonstrate that you can support yourself. In practice, this apparently means 5 years of tax returns for yourself and your spouse/partner if you are self employed and/or do your own taxes; if you are employed by someone else, then you’ll need official confirmation of your wages from them, along with a copy of your contract of employment or other proof that you’re working legally.

Oh and if you have income from abroad, that will need to be documented too, although it should probably be on your tax returns already.

If you have adult children who are still dependents, then you’ll need to provide evidence of their status, like an affidavit to that effect, confirmation of study from their University or suchlike.

Adventures in bureaucracy, part 1

Now the fun really begins!

Being solvent isn’t enough by itself, you have to prove that you don’t owe the State any money. How do you do that? By pestering civil servants, of course!

First, you need a letter less than 30 days old from your local Finance Office stating that you don’t owe them any money beyond permitted underpayments, and haven’t done so for 3 years. Unfortunately, they will be unable to provide the backdating, so you’ll have to settle for a statement that you owe them nothing now. This is what a lack of joined-up government does for you.

Then you need a similar letter from your regional Customs & Excise Office stating the same (which seems odd, until you realise that the Exciseman is responsible for collecting money owed to the Ministry of Finance). There will be a fee for processing this, paid by tax stamps.

And then you need another similar letter from your district social security office. About 6 months after the Citizenship Act came into force the social security administration actually sent round a standard letter for their local offices to use, so this shouldn’t be too hard to arrange – even though it’s still an unusual request and may require a personal visit.

While you’re there, you should also get confirmation of the amounts of any retirement, disability or other state pensions you receive (if any).

Last but not least, you’ll need proof that you don’t owe your health insurance company any money either. In theory, this should cover the whole time since you received a residency permit in the Czech Republic, but some companies shred documents after a decade, so if you’re a long-term resident this likely won’t be possible. What the Ministry of Interior really wants to see is a stamped printout of your “registrační údaje“, i.e. summary of account. You should make sure this covers as long a period as possible, but fortunately this data is transferred if you change insurance provider, which makes things easier.

Edit: July 2016. Apparently the registrační údaje, while required, are sometimes NOT enough by themselves, and a month-by-month statement may be asked for, despite essentially having been summarised by the registrační údaje anyway… a belt and braces approach, apparently!

Adventures in bureaucracy, part 2

Armed with all of the above, it’s finally application time.

Surprise! There is no standardised, official application form, so if your regional council hasn’t shown some initiative and created one, you’ll need to write a simple letter of application of your own (in Czech, obviously). This should include an actual reason for wanting citizenship; being a long term resident, for example, is not enough by itself, although if you own a business that might be.

(Married couples can apply jointly with any non-adult children. In the event that only one parent applies, the agreement of the other must be attached, notarised unless they come with you to submit the application. Children over 15 must also give their agreement in writing, again before a notary or when the application is made.)

Next up, you’ll need a longform CV, which means a written autobiography. This needs to include details of where you’ve lived in the Czech Republic, jobs held or studies undertaken, and an overview of your family life and participation in society. (Don’t laugh about that last bit – applications have been known to be declined because the applicant works in a different town to the one in which they live, and are thus deemed not to be properly integrated locally.)

Technically you should also include details of where and when you have been abroad during your period of residence. In practice, this seems to mean that you should create a separate document with details of any and all foreign travel over the last three years, and a declaration that you haven’t spent more then 6 months at a stretch abroad in the last decade or since you started living in the Czech Republic.

You need to take all of this documentation in person to the Registrar’s Office of your regional council. They will then check the whole lot, and if you ask VERY nicely give you a receipt for it… (good luck with that).

They may also try to tell you that your language/civics test certificate needs to be an original not a certified copy, but this is a dangerous fallacy. If your application is rejected, you can apply again after 2 years, in which case the certificate is still valid, IF you have it.

The End Game

Assuming that you have everything… you’re done! Congratulations!  Now all you can do is wait (and wait… and wait…) for the Ministry’s response.

Hopefully this post has helped you to get this far without losing too much hair. Feel free to share it with others – and best of luck!

Repairing my online presence

The internet is a wonderful beast, but sometimes needs taming, and my internet pages were getting a little wild and unruly… so I have been slowly forcing them into some kind of order.

Firstly and most importantly, I have regained control over the and web domains; as some of you know, I am still dealing with the effects of a (very) near death experience in early 2008, and loss of the domains was part of the collateral damage. With these back, I now have an online base to work from again.

In addition to providing a platform for my business information, I have moved my occasional blog over here from Blogspot (you’re reading it!) – it’s now on WordPress, still has RSS support, and hopefully I shall neglect it less now! I have also imported some creative writing from its old home on Google Pages. Having as much as possible in one place seems sensible.

Sorting out my social media profiles was also necessary. My Facebook page is primarily for personal use, and I didn’t want to change that – it will continue to be used for personal and family info, jokes and funny stuff, and links/commentary on current affairs.

Archaeology, cultural and linguistic posts, though, will in future be going on the new Skriptorium Facebook page – so please follow it! (This new page is obviously more closely tied to my work, but will contain a lot of general interest too).

At the insistence of a friend, you can also now find me on LinkedIn, which again is oriented more towards work than friends and family – but you’re welcome to add me there if I haven’t already tracked you down! 😉

Lastly, I’m experimenting with using Instagram for some of my heritage and architecture photography, so if you’re an Instagrammer don’t forget to follow me there as well.

So there you have it – a new and more organised strategy for the internet. Your comments, ideas and suggestions on any/all of the above would be more than welcome. See you out there soon!

The Rules of the Game

The Rules of the Game


My top 10 tips on how to do expatriate business 
in the Czech Republic and still stay sane…


  1. You can either run a successful/profitable business, or become a social crusader lecturing the locals on ‘how things ought to be’ – not both. The choice is yours.
  1. Remember that business and local communities are small and closely knit in the Czech Republic, so your reputation will go before you! Speaking Czech goes a long way to changing people’s perception of you.
  1. Never assume that because Czechs look like Western Europeans, they will think the same way: the Slavic mentality is very different, and takes time to understand. This was probably the best advice ever given to me when I first moved here.
  1. Always show respect and courtesy for the person you’re dealing with – don’t show your real feelings unless they are positive. Never, ever, under any circumstances, lose your temper in public. This is especially true when dealing with any form of government/bureaucracy.
  1. Always politely request, never demand. Equally, if in doubt, ask for help or explanation – but never argue openly.
  1. You will be more successful if people can feel good about helping or doing business with you. Remember that most people will in any case assume that they are doing you the favour, even if you are the customer/taxpayer…
  1. When people try to help, always be appreciative, even if the help was not as helpful as it might have been. Don’t take other people’s failures as a personal insult, and remember – no-one is under any obligation to help you at all.
  1. Remember that while the business tempo is slower in Central Europe than it is in Western Europe… it’s still faster than it is in Russia or the Balkans!
  1. Remember that if you once offer or pay a bribe, whether in cash or kind, you will always be expected to do so thereafter. Strings exist to be pulled, however, and there is a social expectation that favours be reciprocated.
  1. When listening to opinions and receiving advice, remember that most expatriates have not been in the Czech Republic long enough to understand how Czechs think, and have their own prejudices anyway. Even fewer speak a reasonable amount of Czech, and fewer still have spent any time outside Prague or business circles.


Russian Trip Roulette

In Czech politics, as in the infamous Russian roulette, it’s all about the spin…

The Czech Republic has been in the international spotlight again after President Miloš Zeman announced plans to attend the 2015 Victory Day military parade in Moscow, to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe and acknowledge the huge Soviet loss of life arising out the liberation of what is now the Czech Republic.

At first sight, this might seem to be a no-brainer – after all, the Czech War Graves commission registers 97,325 Soviet war graves (compared to 279 American), which is a considerable sacrifice by anyone’s standards. Why shouldn’t these fallen be remembered?

The problem, of course, is that Russia today is receiving the international cold shoulder, thanks to its  annexation of the Crimea last year and Moscow’s continued military support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. It doesn’t help that Victory Day tends to be where new Russian hardware appears first – this year will allegedly see new design howitzers, APVs and tanks on display.

It was left to the US Ambassador to Prague, Andrew Schapiro, to express the exasperation felt by other nations at this apparent attempt at rapprochement with Vladimir Putin. Speaking to Czech Television, he said that “standing on a platform reviewing a military parade at a time when that military is destabilizing a European nation is not really a good message to send.”

In a fit of pique at what he saw as unwarranted interference in his affairs, Zeman responded by barring the ambassador from making official visits to Prague Castle – a gesture that is perhaps more symbolic than practical given that the Czech head of state does not have an active role in government. The president took some criticism from both the Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and the Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky over the incident, and the Czech press too was generally unsupportive; there were even calls for him to apologise to the ambassador.

Zeman has however been a divisive figure for quite some time. He was regarded as a risky choice by foreign observers even at the beginning of his tenure in 2013. Over the last six months or so he has been criticised for using vulgar language to describe the Russian band Pussy Riot in a live broadcast, failing to invite certain university rectors to state occasions because of personal disputes, and claiming that the handicapped should not be integrated into regular schools. He is, then, no stranger to controversy, and his actions or personality have even stirred some Czechs into direct action – he was pelted with eggs on last year’s anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, and protesters holding red cards regularly turn up at his public engagements. 

This time around, however, the president didn’t get the last word. His trip to Moscow will be paid for not from Prague Castle’s budget, but from the Foreign Ministry’s, and the government is far more interested in preserving the country’s reputation in the West. A meeting was held, and the decision deferred… giving enough time, no doubt, for a compromise to be hashed out behind the scenes. Lo and behold, Zeman decided that he would not attend the parade after all, but would use his time in Moscow to lay a wreath and meet the Slovak president instead.

So in this particular game of Russian roulette, everyone seems to have dodged the bullet – Sobotka kept other EU leaders happy and his government’s reputation intact and Zeman garnered praise from the Russian Foreign Ministry, while Schapiro, despite the Czech president’s petulance, got what his government wanted. Privately, the Prime Minister is no doubt furious about having been put on the spot, the President annoyed about having his trip plans thwarted, and the Ambassador fuming by the sheer ridiculousness of having had to speak out publicly on such an issue… but publicly, at least, everybody wins.

Convoy Politics

Around 500 soldiers of 3rd Squadron, the U.S. 2nd Cavalry Regiment, are currently participating in the “Dragoon Ride“, a 13-day, 1,200 mile road trip from the Baltics back to their home base in Vilseck, Germany. It’s being billed as the longest such movement the United States Army has made across Europe since General Patton diverted his Third Army to relieve Bastogne, Belgium, in 1944. They’re on their way back from NATO’s Operation Atlantic Resolve, part of the effort to show that the alliance is properly committed to its easternmost members given the regional tensions arising from the Russian annexation of Crimea.

The 115 vehicles involved – primarily Stryker APCs and Humvees, with a smattering of tractor-trailers and other tactical trucks – entered the Czech Republic via three different border crossings on March 29th. Each of the three columns spent a night at a different host base before moving on to rendezvous in Prague on March 30th, with the aim of leaving the country with staggered departures on April 1st. The Czech Ministry of Defence has published a handy map of the route.

There’s no denying that it’s been good press. Although something of a debate preceded the convoy’s appearance, with some worried about provoking the Bear, the vast majority of people who turned out have been supportive. Around 2,000 people turned up at the Náchod border crossing to welcome the troops, with thousands more waiting in the rain for hours on highway bridges and along the route to watch the armour roll past. The anti-war and/or anti-American contingents – which may or may not be funded from Moscow, depending on whom you believe, were small by comparison, the only one of note appearing in Prague.

As Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commanding general of U.S. Army Europe, had hoped, there have been plenty of pictures of “kids crawling over those vehicles”, and hundreds have turned up to see the hardware on display in Prague.

In purely practical terms, Dragoon Ride is demonstrating – both to Russia and to NATO members – that it is in fact possible to move troops around Europe by road, and cope with the logistical and mechanical issues that will invariably arise during any operation of this scale.

The opportunity is also quietly being taken to test the effectiveness of cooperation with air support units, too – the aerial reconnaissance element of Dragoon Ride is being provided by helicopters of the US Army’s 12th Combat Aviation Brigade. This is not something the press coverage is stressing.

Lastly, of course, it’s proving that it’s possible to overcome the nightmare of having to coordinate a large scale movement across all the different countries and militaries concerned.

Politically, in addition to the obvious and stated aims, there is also some subtle downplaying of historical Russian involvement in the region going on. Visiting Plzeň (Pilsen) today to highlight the American liberation of that city in 1944 carefully overlooks the Soviet liberation of the vast majority of the country, for instance, which is guaranteed to annoy Moscow, so presumably from NATO’s perspective there is no actual downside.

It remains to be seen whether Dragoon Ride will leave any long-term legacy, unless it intended just as the first of many such exercises.