A rising number of Anglo-American University students have been struggling to get their Czech visas. Although it is not a complicated process, the bureaucracy often makes it impossible.
Students worried about their legal status say they are not getting needed help from the Student
Service Center (SSC). Staff at the center admits they are not aware of many students’ visa problems.
Still, one student who’s visa was denied twice places some of the blame on AAU. “The school is the least helpful institution possible,” said the 22-year-old student from Macedonia.
She had to leave the Schengen zone for three weeks in Spring of 2011. As a consequence, she missed three weeks of school, which caused her problems not only in her personal life but also damaged her GPA. She wasn’t the only student struggling with the Foreign Police, or the Ministry of Interior, which has been processing visas since January 2012.
Mohamed Tighilt, a student from the law faculty, had his own problems: he had to use an agent who took care of the whole process. “Then they would send a reply saying they are not happy with my housing and I need to solve it in 10 days, without any consideration that I am a student and moving around is not as easy.”
It’s especially true for a foreigner who barely knows the city. “They have serious attitude issues at that place and you feel that they are doing you some sort of favor, even though a foreign student brings in money to the local economy,” Tighilt adds.
Dealing with the foreign police is difficult for two reasons, foreign students say. Firstly, their criteria changes quite often so a person who once goes successfully through the whole process will next time face a different procedure. One of the biggest changes that complicated the process was the launch of the biometric visas in 2011.
“It will suppress the flow of immigrants from former Soviet countries,” says Anton Zolotyh, a journalism student. “Before we had paper visas – now we have plastic cards. They scan our fingerprints – that is a serious step. In Russia we don’t do this.”
Secondly, the people working for the Ministry of Interior are not allowed to speak another language besides Czech. “Nobody in the entire facility speaks English to you,” says the Macedonian student. “Nobody. Not the ticket lady, not the information people, officers, nobody. And God forbid if you try to speak another language to them, it’s like you’re insulting their nationality. The reasoning is supposed to be, that the person they are dealing with might have a ‘language advantage over them’ and they might later use it against them.”
So why is it that students can’t find help at school? First of all, the university didn’t have its own visa person who would take care of these problems until very recently.
“I am contacting the embassies and I will be advising the students about forms, documents, deadlines and other information that may help them to follow all requirements right and in time,” says AAU’s deputy COO for HR and student affairs, Lenka Turečková. “We have been in contact with Ministry of Interior, but certainly it is not that easy to co-operate with them and to ensure that visas are processed in time.”
“I did not get any information that someone got a departure order,” she adds. “Also, at the moment I am contacting students who did not come for studies due to various visa problems and helping them to solve them, so that they can come for spring semester.”
Turečková admits that the system is confusing – and often the visa is denied because of small details. That is why she advises students to check their documents and informs them about deadlines and options for translation services.