My latest run-in with Czech bureaucracy

Our Lady before theTyn Church 2

Our Lady before the Tyn Church, Prague © Ricky Yates

Today I had yet another Kafkaesque experience.

Ever since coming to live and work in the Czech Republic, I have been driving my car here on the basis of holding a valid UK Driving Licence. I had been told previously that, if I was here for longer than six months, I should really exchange it for a Czech Driving Licence. I have had the completed form & new photograph to do so for some time, but have never got around to doing anything further about it. After all, my UK Driving Licence declares that I live at The Rectory in my former group of parishes in North Oxfordshire, which is the address the Czech Foreign Police firmly believe to be my permanent address because they insist that every foreigner living here, must have a permanent address outside of the Czech Republic. So, for better or worse, that was the one both Sybille and I put down when we registered with them in 2009.

However, whilst my UK Driving Licence is valid until 25th February 2022, the day before my seventieth birthday, the photocard part needs to be renewed every ten years, to include a more up-to-date photograph. My current photocard is due to expire in early March 2013, which has therefore prompted me to act and seek to exchange it for a Czech Driving Licence.

So this morning, I went to the Magistrát hl.m. Praha / the HQ of Prague City Council, together with a fluent Czech-speaking member of the St. Clement’s congregation, to apply for the exchange of my UK Driving Licence for a Czech one. Along with my completed form & photo, & both the photocard and counterpart of my current UK licence, I took my passport. This contains my Povolení k prechodnému pobytu v CR, my certificate of temporary residence in the Czech Republic which is neomezený / unlimited. And I took my Potvrzení o prechodném pobytu na území / Proof of temporary residence, which confirms that my address is Pat’anka 2614/11A, Praha 6-Dejvice

The lady who we saw, kindly informed me that the law changed in March 2012. Despite my passport with my Povolení k prechodnému pobytu v CR, valid ‘neomezený‘, in it, and my Potvrzení o prechodném pobytu na území, being perfectly acceptable documents to enable me to register my car and for Bishop Dušan to get me recorded by the Ministry of Culture as the person who can sign on behalf of Farní obec Starokatolické církve pro verící anglického jazyka v Praze, the legal entity of the Prague Anglican congregation, they are not now sufficient to prove that the Chaplaincy Flat at Pat’anka 2614/11A, is my ‘family home’.

To prove that the Chaplaincy Flat at Pat’anka 2614/11A is my ‘family home’ where I live, I must also produce Sybille’s passport with her Povolení k prechodnému pobytu v CR, valid ‘neomezený‘, in it, and her Potvrzení o prechodném pobytu na území. That is not a problem as I can easily do that. But I also have to produce a document in Czech, by the owners of the flat, that declares Sybille & I live in the flat and have the permission of the owners to do so.

The flat is being purchased in the name of Farní obec Starokatolické církve pro verící anglického jazyka v Praze and the Church are just over seven years through paying off a twenty year mortgage. I am the person who can sign on behalf of Farní obec Starokatolické církve pro verící anglického jazyka v Praze and I have a notarised copy of our registration with the Ministry of Culture which says that I am.

Therefore it appears that if I produce a statement in Czech, on a letterhead with our correct Czech congregational name and registered number and registered address, saying that Sybille and I have permission to live in the flat, and sign the statement myself – and most importantly stamp it – that will be sufficient proof. In other words, beyond the necessity of getting a statement written in grammatically and legally acceptable Czech, I will be writing and signing a statement which gives myself permission to live in the flat that my wife and I have lived in for nearly four and a half years. I wonder if Franz Kafka is listening or reading this?????

The other problem the lady raised was the question of having ‘Rev’ or ‘Rev’d’ as the title in front of my name. This despite my UK Driving Licence declaring me to be ‘Rev Warwick John Yates’, (‘Ricky’ comes from the diminutive of ‘Warwick’ for those who don’t know), and my UK passport stating on the page reserved for official observations, that ‘The holder is the Reverend Warwick John Yates’. She claimed that the only way my title could be included on a Czech Driving Licence is if I had a document, translated into Czech, explaining that the title had been awarded to me!

As I’m sure most of my blog readers are aware, ‘Reverend’, usually abbreviated to ‘Rev’ or ‘Rev’d’, is the normal title given to an ordained priest/minister throughout the English-speaking world. I do have two documents, both signed and sealed by the Rt. Rev’d John Taylor, Bishop of St. Albans, one confirming my admission and ordination to the Holy Order of Deacons on 2nd July 1989, and a second, confirming my admission and ordination to the Holy Order of Priests on 1st July 1990. What I do like about both of these documents is that they say about me ‘of whom sufficient learning and godly conversation We were assured’ 🙂 🙂 🙂 But neither document states that my title now is ‘Reverend’.

I do find it ironic that here in the Czech Republic, where titles are deemed to be so important, a topic that I shall be referring to very shortly in a planned future blog post, Czech bureaucracy is doing its utmost to deprive me of mine. However, rest assured that I will somehow find my way through this latest example of Kafkaesque Czech bureaucracy. But there just might be a few strangled Czech bureaucrats en-route 😉

14 comments to My latest run-in with Czech bureaucracy

  • Tim Taylor

    Ricky, when I read your first sentence I thought perhaps you had turned into a beetle. Look on the bright side – it could have been worse.

    Best wishes

    • Ricky

      Tim – I assure you that I am still a human being – but a very fed up & frustrated one! Courtesy of a native Czech lawyer friend, I now have an appropriate wording to print out, sign & stamp, to declare that Sybille & I have the right to live where we do. But I still cannot see any good reason to do so other than to help keep numerous Czech bureaucrats in jobs 🙁

  • Bill

    Hello, Ricky, stop looking for reason, its bureaucracy. If it requires something, do it without thinking about it. It’s useless! My mother needed to connect her drain to the sewer system and she needed almost 20 different stamps for it. Czech Republic spend hundreds of millions crowns for cross-connection different offices each other /files will be running, not citizens, they said/, but it was my mother who had to run! 🙂 It is easy – take it with humor and don’t think too much!

    • Ricky

      Hello Bill & thank you for visiting & leaving a comment. Sadly, I’ve heard many stories similar to the experience of your mother. Whilst I will do what is required, I find it very difficult to do it with humour but I will try 🙂

  • I agree that it is silly to sign a document that states you have your own permission to live in the apartment! LoL! But in the USA, it is also difficult to have REV or FATHER as a title on a driver’s license. Better to choose your battles…

    • Ricky

      Indeed Stephen – I find it ludicrous that I have to sign & stamp a document saying I have permission as Chaplain, to live in the Chaplaincy Flat. But as I said in reply to my nephew Tim, I do now have the appropriate wording in Czech.

      And yes – my good American friend Rev’d Dr Karen Moritz explained to me last night that her titles are not allowed on her US passport. She doesn’t hold a driving licence. But as I am just trying to exchange my UK Driving Licence for a Czech one – a transaction between two member states of the European Union, and my UK Driving Licence has ‘Rev’ on it, I was most surprised to find it challenged, especially knowing the Czech people’s love of titles – ‘Ing this’ or ‘Pane Dr that’ 🙂 But I agree, I do need to choose my battles.

  • You couldn’t make it up, Ricky! 🙂 Having also read your linked post about registering your car, I’m sure you’re right that this convoluted and rigid bureaucracy is so deeply embedded in the Czech psyche that none of your protests are going to affect it. You may just have to revert to lay status on your driving licence….

    • Ricky

      You are right Perpetua, you could not make it up! Whilst I shouldn’t speak too soon, getting my driving licence sorted out is hopefully going to be my last major battle with Czech bureaucracy. We shall see!

      I can well imagine a Czech person trying to what I am trying to do at present in reverse. If the Czech persons driving licence said they were MUDr so-and so, the title would be reproduced on a UK Driving Licence with no questions asked. However, reciprocity seems to be an unknown word in the Czech language!

  • I think the problem of your title is the problem of the secularity of the Czech society. Our ministers are usually “Mgr”. Or “ThDr”, if they’re Doctors of theology. We don’t have Reverends, so Czech bureaucracy does not know how to deal with a title it does not recognise. There! One more paper to sign!

    • Ricky

      I think you’re right Hana – in fact I’ve been told that only academic titles are officially recognised by the Czech authorities. However, as I said in answer to Perpetua, if a Czech person moved to the UK & tried to do what I’m doing in reverse, if their academic title such as MUDr was on their Czech driving licence, there would be no question of also appearing on their replacement UK licence. It is a lack of reciprocity.

      As you say – one more paper to sign, and of course, to stamp! And another visit to the offices of Prague City Council.

  • Yes, there is nothing more frustrating than bureaucracy, unless it is automated computer forms that don’t recognize differences between countries.
    At least the lady told you what you need. In Greece each bureaucrat just tells you what they need from some other bureaucrat in a different location.
    Which reminds me of county government in the USA: One time I was applying for something in Planning and Zoning and needed a signature from Roads and Traffic. I was advised to come back the next day to hand carry the document between the departments or it might get lost or delayed–even though they were on opposite sides of the same lobby.

    • Ricky

      Hi Michael,

      Yes – the lady did tell me what she wanted and I’m going back on Monday morning to resume battle 🙂 My fear is we’ll get a different lady, (you take a numbered ticket & wait until your number comes up), who will decide that what I now have isn’t what she wants! Watch this space 😉

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