This blog is being resuscitated…….and I am applying for Czech citizenship

Stará Oleška 44 © Ricky Yates

My sincere apologies to everybody who has come visiting my blog during the past five months, looking for a new post and not finding one. Throughout the ten years that this blog has existed, I have always promised myself that I would never allow it to die. Yet since I last posted here on 14th September 2018, that is effectively what has happened. But ‘Ricky Yates – An Anglican in Bohemia and Saxony’ is not dead. Today it is being resuscitated!

Several times over the past few months, I have written the first few lines of a new post and then ground to a halt. Part of the problem can best be described as experiencing ‘writer’s block’.

But the other thing that has discouraged me from writing is the continued uncertainty about my own situation, brought about by the behaviour of the current government of Absurdistan, also known as the United Kingdom. I have had this uncertainty for over two and a half years – I wrote about it here in July 2016. But it has become far worse as the dreaded 29th March 2019 draws ever closer, the date when Brexit is due to take place. I still have no idea what my status will be after that date because the Absurdistan government doesn’t have a clue as to what it wants or what it’s doing.

If the worst case scenario were to happen – a so-called no-deal Brexit, then the Czech government are seeking to be helpful. The following paragraph is taken verbatim from an expats website.

On January 7 the Czech government adopted a draft law protecting the position of British citizens in the Czech Republic in the event of no-deal. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said the bill will mean the estimated 8,000 Britons living in the country are exempt from normal immigration laws until the end of the December 2020. During this 21-month exemption period ‘British citizens will be guaranteed the same treatment as if they were citizens of the European Union,’ Babiš said, according to Radio Praha. However, it will only come into effect if the U.K. reciprocates and guarantees the rights of about 40,000 Czechs living in Britain.

There are two problems here. The first is that this arrangement will only last for less than two years, until the end of 2020. What then? The second is the last sentence. This legislation will only come into force, ‘if the U.K. reciprocates and guarantees the rights of about 40,000 Czechs living in Britain’. And what guarantee of that do I have?

Ever since the ill-thought out referendum of 23rd June 2016, which was won by a leave campaign which has since been shown to have broken electoral law, the Czech government have always said that their first priority is for the well-being of Czech citizens living and working in the UK. Would that a similar priority would be given by the UK government, towards the approximately 1.3 million British citizens living and working in the other 27 EU member states. Instead, we are the last of their priorities and at various times, have been referred to as ‘cards’ and ‘bargaining chips’, by ministers past and present.

Therefore I have decided that the only way to be certain of my future living here in the Czech Republic, and being freely able to move across national borders within the EU, is to apply for Czech citizenship. So on Monday 21st January, in the company of Martina, a fluent English-speaking Czech friend, I visited the Krajský úrad/office of the regional government, in Ústí nad Labem, to ascertain exactly what documentation will be required to support my application.

There is no question that I am completely eligible to apply as I have lived here for over five years and hold permanent residency. But of course, it is ‘Permanent residency as an EU citizen’. The officer we spoke to also confirmed what I already knew, that, because of being over 65, I will not be required to pass a Czech history/culture test, nor a Czech language test.

But I do have a lovely long list of documentation that needs to be put together. I have to prove that I’ve paid my taxes, both to central government and local government. That I have paid social insurance – I was assured that my papers granting me my Czech pension which I had with me, would be deemed proof of that. That I have health insurance and also owe nothing to customs!

Then I also have to show that I have sufficient income to live here and will not become a liability to the Czech state. All of these financial documents need to be no more than thirty days old at the time of submission.

As well as all this documentation, I also have to write a covering letter like an essay, telling my life story, my education, my travels, and how I came to live in the Czech Republic. I also then have to explain why I am applying for Czech citizenship. It will need more than the one word answer, ‘Brexit’!

Despite having permanent residency and holding a valid passport, the authorities also want my birth certificate. And as it is a foreign document, it has to be apostilled to prove that it is legal and then translated into Czech by an officially registered translator. So as a first task in putting all of this together, two weeks ago, I sent off my nearly 67 year old birth certificate to the Legalisation Office of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in Milton Keynes, UK, in order for it to be apostilled. Cost, CZK 85 to send it to the UK by registered post + £30.00 for the service + £14.50 for it to be returned by courier. But this first task is now complete. My duly apostilled birth certificate was delivered back to me two days ago.

The apostille on the back of my birth certificate © Ricky Yates

16 comments to This blog is being resuscitated…….and I am applying for Czech citizenship

  • Pauleen Bang

    I know just how you feel, Ricky, as do many of us in the Diocese in Europe. I have applied for Danish nationality, but it is a very long process. No exemption for pensioners, but I did pass both the culture and the language exams. Lots of paperwork required (as with you) but it has been submitted (end of December 2018). However, the whole process takes up to 19 months, so there will be a long wait for me. Still, I am now “in the system” so there is hope yet.
    Good luck with your application and please keep your fingers crossed for mine.

    • Ricky

      Hello Pauleen! Well done for passing your culture and language tests and for getting all your paperwork together and submitting it. I’m sorry you now have such a long wait. Here it seems that most people hear back from the Ministry of the Interior within six to eight months. As well as the information given to me & Martina when we visited the office of the regional government in Ústí nad Labem, I’ve also been helped by members of a Facebook group I’ve joined called ‘Applying For Czech Citizenship, anebo kde domov muj’.

      The good thing is that most EU governments are quite sympathetic to our plight. It would be nice if Mrs Mayhem & her followers were too. However, all that she & they seem concerned about is remaining in power for as long as possible.

  • Kath

    What a nightmare the Bullingdon Boys have put us all through, with their own power-games their first and only priority. Are you able to keep your British citizenship alongside the Czech? I am awaiting the Lithuanian referendum on dual citizenship this May in order to find out if I can claim dual citizenship based on my grandfather’s citizenship. How completely crazy that we are all having to clutch at these straws. I’m surprised in a way that you’re not heading off to Spain at this point. If it weren’t for needing to earn a living that’s where I would be headed, as there seem to be positive noises coming from that direction. Best of luck with your application and congrats on the resurrection!

    • Ricky

      Nightmare indeed, Kath! It is all about being in power & staying in power without caring at all for the well-being of the country let alone, people like me. Fortunately, both the Czech Republic & the UK allow people to hold dual citizenship. Spain doesn’t, which is why the position of Brits living there is more difficult. However, the Spanish government have been making positive noises about helping Brits already there, to remain living there.

      I realise I am more fortunate than many people, being able to apply for the citizenship of another EU member state, courtesy of having lived here for over ten years. I hope the referendum in Lithuania goes in your favour & that you are successful in your quest for citizenship. Thank you for your good wishes & congratulations. Thank you too, for commenting here again & so promptly.

  • Sean Mccann

    Hi Ricky,
    Congratulations on a successful resuscitation! I must admit I thought your blog was ‘done and dusted’ and I hoped it wasn’t because of ill health or injury to yourself; glad to see you are back in the blogosphere.

    I can totally understand and empathise with your discouragement at the actions of the British Government, I can’t imagine any thinking person finding encouragement there! I have to agree with the EU Spokesperson who asked the UK Government to ‘Tell us what you want, what you really, really want’; a la ‘Spice Girls’. Unfortunately I doubt anyone even in the UK Cabinet could answer that question. Mrs. Mayhem and her Myopic Ministers don’t seem to be able to find the bottle much less the evil Genie they’ve released.

    Good luck with your quest for Czech citizenship, it is a sad thing to feel yourself more sympathetically received by a ‘foreign’ country than you are by your homeland. May you soon be able to proudly declare ‘Mezi Cechy domov muj’ in response to the title of your Facebook group. Thank you for updating us all again, you have been missed; God bless, Sean.

    • Ricky

      Hi Sean,
      Thank you for the congratulations & welcoming me back into the blogosphere.

      Thank you too, for your empathy and understanding as expressed in your second paragraph. Until relatively recently, what the UK government wanted was to ‘have their cake and eat it’. This is what the Brexiteers told the British electorate that they could have. It has taken a long time for the current UK government to accept that they cannot & now they can’t agree among themselves what they do want. The Brexit definition that I posted, sums up the situation perfectly.

      I also appreciate your kind words about my citizenship quest. People here have been very sympathetic & I’ve already had people asking whether I’ve yet been successful! As I explained earlier in answer to Pauleen, once I get everything together & submit my application, it probably will be 6-8 months until I hear the outcome. So I’m probably looking at the end of 2019 before knowing whether I have become Czech. Welcome back to commenting here which is much appreciated by me.

  • Hello Ricky! It’s interesting that you feel you might need more than a trvaly pobyt to “be safe” from Brexit, I would have thought it would be enough, is it not? As I am not an EU National, it seems to be enough for me to live here, but if you qualify for citizenship, why not? I was under the impression that for Czech citizenship, you must take sort of a “Life in CZ” test as well as a B1 level language exam, or is that not the case?
    Good luck with your application! We have recently been granted trvaly pobyt so I know what a big relief these things can be!

    • Ricky

      Hello Cynthia! I have trvalý pobyt, but as an EU citizen, a citizenship of which Mrs Mayhem & her cohorts may well have stripped me on 29th March 2019. As I wrote, the current Czech government have made promises about the rights of UK citizens living here, until the end of 2020, but it is dependent on the UK government being equally kind to Czech citizens in the UK, something that is far from guaranteed 🙁 As I also wrote, ‘because of being over 65, I will not be required to pass a Czech history/culture test, nor a Czech language test’. If you are aged 15-64, yes, you do!

      I’m very pleased for you both, that you’ve been granted trvalý pobyt, thus making your situation here much more secure. And I do promise to very soon resume commenting on your blog too!

  • Jonathan

    Hi Ricky,

    I’m a bit curious in the same way as Cynthia as to why you should feel it necessary to acquire Czech citizenship as an extra firewall against Brexit. Not that you don’t have the perfect right to do so, of course.

    As the worst-case scenario, should the UK not reciprocate the Czech government’s offer, I imagine British nationals will assume third-country status at some point, which is not in itself a barrier to residence. Lots of nationals from non-EU countries have permanent residence, albeit via a tedious application procedure. I would have thought your time spent in the country and the work you’ve done would stand you in good stead in the event of any potential change in your status.

    I also imagine the procedure to apply for Czech citizenship must be extremely frustrating, and I know how you hate bureaucracy!

    Do you know of any other people who are considering the same move?

    • Ricky

      Hi Jonathan,

      For some reason I’ve received your identical comment three times. I have approved the first of them & am now replying to it, but will delete the other two.

      My main reason for applying for Czech citizenship is to remain an EU national with free movement within the remaining 27 EU member states, after the UK has drifted off into the North Atlantic. You are quite correct, if Brexit goes ahead, at some point in the future, possibly as early as the end of next month, British citizens living here will become third country nationals(TCN). It is possible to gain permanent residence as a TCN here but there is, as you say, a tedious application procedure. And that would only be for the CR, not elsewhere in the EU.

      Yes, I do hate bureaucracy, but courtesy of my visit to the Krajský úrad/office of the regional government, in Ústí nad Labem, I now know exactly what I need to submit in support of my application & I’m currently in the early stages of putting this all together.

      To answer your final question – Yes, I do! I am a member of a Facebook group ‘Applying For Czech Citizenship, anebo kde domov muj‘ & I know several of the group members. The British organist who plays for the English-language Anglican service at the Frauenkirche for which I have responsibility, has applied to become German & my friend Janet, living in Zagreb, married to a Croat & a Lay Reader in the Zagreb Anglican congregation, has recently received Croatian nationality. I certainly am not the only one!

  • Stephen Morris

    Good luck with your citizenship application Ricky!?

    I’m glad that you are alive and well. I was afraid the lapse in blog posts meant something dire had occurred. Looking forward to reading future posts.

    • Ricky

      Thank you for the good luck wishes, Stephen!

      With regard to your second paragraph, in the famous words attributed to Mark Twain, ‘reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated’ 🙂 More posts will be forthcoming.

  • Robert E. Doolittle

    Congratulations on the resumption of your blog. I especially like the picture of your home blanketed with snow. That snow probably will remain quite clean since the air in your area is most likely quite clean. residents of Florida love to look at pictures of snow.

    I followed with interest your quest for Czech citizenship. We have a friend living in Prague who has permanent residency, he is a U.S. citizen. He is the son of a Czech citizen (his father was born in Bohemia) but moved to the U.S.. His name is John Novotney. Since John plans to remain in CR until his death, he wished to be buried in the CR, and in the small town where his father was born and is buried. I think his father( who never gave up his Czech citizenship) either moved back to CZ prior to his death, or had his remains shipped to CR for burial. John had to go through a complicated procedure to get permission to be interred in C.R. as a non-citizen. With the help of a kind Czech lady he got that permission. I told John about 10 years ago not to return to the U.S since he had not lived here for since his retirement and he would not recognized his home country because of the changes it had undergone.

    Please keep up your blog, it is such fun reading.

    P.S. I was confident that the lapse in your blog was not due a mishap. Don’t ask how I knew, I just did.

    • Ricky

      Thank you for the congratulations, Bob & for commenting here once more. I thought you would like the snowy photograph of my house. It was taken on the first weekend of this month when we had what I think is the heaviest snowfall in the nearly two years I’ve lived here. But it has now all melted & the first signs of Spring are beginning to appear – my snowdrops have just started flowering.

      I promise to write more about my application for Czech citizenship as I make progress in putting together all the documentation that I need. I’m glad you enjoy what I write & I promise to start posting more frequently once again.

  • Monika

    I am so happy to see you back Ricky! I missed your blogging, and checked back ever once in while to see if inspiration had hit. I find everything you write about interesting, but for some reason, got the sense that you had writer’s block. I am thrilled that you have found some things to write about!

    I have been thinking about you and your situation with Brexit looming, and wondering what you would do. As a Czech, albeit one currently living in Canada, I am happy that you are applying to be a Czech!

    I am doing something similar from Canada… My 15 year old daughter dreams of studying in France and living in Europe. She grew up in Switzerland, and finds Europe so rich in terms of her interests that she has decided she wants to make it her home. In order for her to qualify for EU citizenship, I have to renew my Czech passport (which expired in the ’90s), and get all sorts of documentation I never had — like my Czech birth certificate. So I wrote to the Czech consulate here in Ottawa, and received their reply yesterday. I wrote in English, explaining that I do not have in hand most of the documents I will need as I was a 3 year old child when I arrived in Canada (as in, I never studied in Czech, can’t write in Czech, and don’t understand Czech bureaucratic language). Of course, they saw my Czech name and wrote to me in Czech. A long list of things I need to procure, linking to many long lists of things I have to do, all exhorting me to read very carefully.

    I practically fainted at the site, and have been daunted ever since.

    Dealing with my father’s death and estate were difficult enough, and I had the kind lady from the funeral service who helped me get started with his death certificate, and the lovely nurse at his senior’s home who helped me navigate the system at the hospital. In the end, it took us almost 2 years to close bank accounts and deal with the inheritance. My husband flew to Prague on his way to a meeting in Geneva, dealt with two Czech bureaucracies (superlegalization and a notary), ate some goulash and drank a Pilsner at the Prague airport, arrived in Geneva during a snowstorm, ran for a tram, and like Dr. Zhivago, promptly suffered a heart attack. So I find Czech bureaucracies intimidating to say the least! (My husband’s heart attack was serious, he wasted time googling his symptoms and the snowstorm delayed the doctor and ambulance, but he eventually got to the good Swiss hospital and was able to come home two weeks later.)

    I think that hearing of your bureaucratic travails will give me hope and encouragement!

    But you are already way ahead of me — I have no idea whatsoever how to get a copy of my Czech birth certificate. I have lived my whole life without ever using it or having a copy!

    I am eagerly awaiting your posts!

    • Ricky

      Thank you for your kind words, Monika, and my apologies for the lack of blog posts over the previous five months.

      I’m sure the Canadian Embassy in Ottawa should be able to tell you, hopefully in English, how to apply for a birth certificate. Fortunately, my parents were careful about important documents & passed on to me when I was a teenager, the birth certificate issued to my father the day after I was born, when he registered my birth. I have now had it translated by an officially recognised translator and his translation attached to a notorised photocopy of the English document. His translation is very good and even includes the note in small print at the top left-hand corner of the certificate. ‘Statutární poplatek za tento doklad je 2s. 6d. The Statutory Fee for this Certificate is 2s. 6d’ 🙂

      Dealing with Czech bureaucracy when you don’t speak fluent Czech is NOT easy – I know! But it can be done & I wish you well in yours, and your daughter’s quest. And I sorry to read about your husband’s heart attack & trust that he has made a good recovery & is obeying doctor’s orders. I say that as someone who is now taking statins, in order to reduce the level of cholesterol in my blood.