Well, it’s different for everyone and depends on what you count as part of the visa process. When you arrive in the Schengen Zone (not just Czech Republic), you begin your 90-day tourist visa, and it’s best to get started making arrangements as soon as possible. There are a number of unknowns time lengths – when is the soonest available visa application appointment at the embassy? How long will they take to approve your documents?
Officially, 90 days is the processing limit for your application. If they choose to take the full 90, and they certainly can, you can see how this might be risky to apply after arrival in the Schengen Zone. I met many people who had a gap in legality between expiration of their tourist visa and approval of their long term visa, from several days to several weeks. This is, of course, illegal. If caught, it’s likely you’ll be deported and banned from Schengen for around 180 days. So it’s best to get started as soon as possible in order to avoid this circumstance.
Keep in mind:
- Embassy appointments might not be available for a few weeks from the date you first inquire
- You must travel to a Czech Embassy to apply for your visa. This means leaving Czech Republic if you are already there
- Applications take anywhere from 30 to 90 days to be processed
- You must register with the Foreign Police within 3 days of picking up an approved visa
With all this hanging overhead, you may wonder why anyone waits until after arrival to get started. The biggest factor is probably the required Proof of Accommodation – proof that you have a legal long-term residence in Czech Republic. It can be arranged from overseas, but it’s a bit hard to prove you live somewhere that you aren’t yet in. It must be signed and notarized by the legal owner of your flat or home, and depending on your landlord this can be very simple and done in a couple hours – or, like in my case, can lead you down a rabbit hole of middlemen when your flat is owned by a company rather than an individual. It took over two months for me to get the Proof of Accommodation signed by the correct person. So if possible, when looking at places to live, bring up the paperwork early on to make sure it’s done timely.