the reason we decided to apply for permanent residence is, simply, that it’s a longer visa. we have been on the two year freelance visa for ages and as many of you know, our last go-around was rough. it kicked our asses. after five years of residence in the czech republic and passing a basic language exam though, you may qualify for permanent residence. well, this was our first chance to apply (now having lived here for over six years) and the language test wasn’t so difficult, seeing as we have lived here long enough to soak up loads of language and had three full years of czech lessons by that point.
there were a few funny things since i got that phone call from immigration in january that were a bit surprising. the first was that at our biometrics appointment there last month, we were asked if we wanted to speak english or czech.
i have heard from friends that the immigration ladies may be holding out on us, but now i feel like i know they have been! for those that don’t know, it is a well-established fact that all business at immigration must be conducted in czech language. apparently, our czech was just passable enough to apply for permanent residence this past winter (by ourselves! no translators!) but now that we are permanent residents… we suddenly get a choice? shouldn’t that sort of be the other way around? goodness! but i can’t complain…
the second shock was learning that our residence permits are valid for the next TEN YEARS. (!!!!!) we had thought “five years” this whole time, which is still so much better than two years that it’s worth applying, but ten years?! we were walking on cloud nine the entire rest of the month.
so, now what?
some people have been confused how to take the fact that we have permanent residence in the czech republic. i guess, it is one step down from having citizenship, and seems pretty serious. it doesn’t change anything about how we feel about living here, however. we are happy living here for now, and plan to stay until we feel like it’s time to go. so that’s still the same deal.
speaking of going, no longer is this something i want to address. it is every expat’s least favorite question: “how long are you staying?” a question we have been asked countless times, of course, but less lately. all’s i know that we are happy here and are building a life here right now. as much as i love my hometown, i have always wanted something more…. international, cultural. even living in this smaller-sized city, i realized that it has all of that in spades. sure, sometimes the cinema doesn’t play any dang english movies the entire winter (and i still never saw the new mary poppins) but regarding understanding, it’s getting better. i haven’t been happier in ages. no anxiety, no panic attacks, no existential funks. that is far more than i can say for most other periods of my life.
the longer we stay, i realize, the harder it would be to extricate ourselves. almost certainly and rather dauntingly, the harder it would be to rebuild our lives in the united states again. but, you know what? we’ve done what i sort of feel is the near impossible. we came on a schengen visa, not even knowing how legally it would be possible to live in europe. we had many close calls, were really broke at several different points, thought we might get deported (okay, or at least not re-approved). we made it against all odds.
i think we can take the chance to stay here a bit longer. besides, after you’ve successfully navigated your legal residence in a country where you barely speak the langue, i think we can do anything. life is too short to stay in one place too long. for me, right now, it is.
(below, our gangsta-ass mugs in march 2013, having just received our first visas)
just for fun, let’s look back on some high and low points in our journey of legally living in europe…
summer 2011 – cynthia and alex decide they will move to europe in a year’s time. the how is not important. the saving money is.
may 2012 – bought our plane tickets. one way. lots of people warning us and asking “how are you even going to stay there?” we don’t even know ourselves, but trust that we’ll figure it out. clicking that “complete order” button was one of the scariest and craziest things i can remember ever doing.
october 2012 – a couple weeks into our journey during our vagabonding around the UK phase, alex informs cynthia he has, like, no more money, dude. we enroll in a TEFL course in prague as to start thinking about a sustainable way to stay in europe as just work-staying around isn’t going to last us too much longer, especially with the two of us depleting funds meant for one person.
end of november, 2012 – we hire a visa specialist to help us “sort our f–king lives out”. it works.
january 2013 – we officially submit our application for a freelance work visa at the czech embassy in bratislava. about a month and a half later, we go back to pick it up. we feel pretty cool and fancy because we get to stay in europe.
september 2015 – our first reapplication process goes okay, despite having to go to an apology session with the immigration office, telling them how sorry we are that our application was submitted late. (this was due to a variety of factors) after some time, we are re-approved.
september 2017 – it’s time to reapply for our two year visas. we submit our reapplication.
march 2018 – “so, have you heard anything about our application?” “no … have you?”
may 2018 – in true immigration form, a long long long long period goes by and then the first problem surfaces – we have the wrong insurance. cry a bit, spend loads of money, incur debt, but meet their requirements. resubmit. looking back, i am thanking my lucky stars this all happened in the spring and summer. if it were in the autumn, we’d have been ruined.
june 2018 – mere hours before we are to fly out on a vacation, receive a long, scary letter informing us we have days left (essentially) unless we can fix our taxes, which were done improperly this past spring.
july 2018 – month of stress and believing we are going to probably be deported. by some miracle, are granted ability to refile our taxes, one of the best hopes for being accepted.
early august 2018 – waiting, hoping, praying in berlin for a month, hoping the actual stress rash i got last month goes away soon because that thing is itchy. i scratch my legs and arms a lot. alex tells me to stop. scratchscratchscratch.
mid-august 2018: ACCEPTED! we found out while out to ice cream with natalye and family in berlin. we eat our ice cream even harder and with more vigor.
september 2018: during a trip to immigration, our friend and translator suggests that perhaps we should apply for permanent residence as “you guys should be eligible for that by now”! it’s true, we had been eligible since about january of that year. find out we need to pass a czech exam, schedule it for the end of november. (good thing we had 3 straight years of lessons under our belt – definitely came in handy for situations like this one!)
december 2018 – after having passed the A1 czech language exam, we apply for permanent residence… ON OUR OWN… WITHOUT OUR TRANSLATOR… days before christmas. spend the last working days before christmas at social security and the financial office requesting various necessary forms. could be wrong, but i like to think that wishing our dear officers “veselé vánoce” may have endeared us a bit.
early january 2018, literally ten days after our application: ACCEPTED! danced around the room. the rest is history.
i’ll leave you with a quote from cheryl strayed i often think about…. it’s a beautiful way of looking at those big life choices.
“I’ll never know and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”
thanks for your nice words on social media, friends. here’s to never talking about immigration again!