I spent two weeks in the Czech Republic in July. I had been in the country for a week when I was informed that British residents have to change their ID, to a biometric one, before the end of August. This was a problem for me as I only had a week to go before I flew back to the UK!
With more and more people moving around the globe and wanting to work abroad, residency and ID are very important issues. Whenever you move to another country, the first thing you should do is register with the local authorities. Then whenever you leave or move, you have to keep them updated. For example, I have several addresses stamped and written in my Permanent Residency booklet.
Following the advice of my friends, I headed to my local Foreign Police office the next day. I arrived at 1pm and was greeted by a member of staff, returning from lunch. She said that the department was closed now and I need to come in the morning, the next day.
This time I made sure I arrived just before the office opened. Not such a good idea as it seems everyone else had the same idea. There was a long queue of people in front of me..
As soon as the doors were opened we all piled in. We were confronted with a machine, where we needed to choose the service we required. I chose English, as the language, and non EU as my origin. Then I had to enter the last 3 digits of my passport and finally I could choose my service. I chose "update an ID document". The machine printed out a ticket with the number 210 on it. That was a large number! I was worried how many people had been in before me in that queue.
I found a seat and sat down. There were 5 desks in total, but only 3 of them were manned. They called number 2. I thought that was strange, but it must be different codes for different services. Then they called 201. That's better. A large family huddled around the window and papers were passed. After a while they left the window and were guided to another section. They had a very young baby with them and a member of staff laid the baby on a white blanket. I wonder if they were updating their ID and needed photos...
They called 202. Two girls went to the desk. After a little while they left the desk and went back to the machine. A police officer showed them how the machine worked. good to know for future. You can ask how to use these impersonal machines.
A man walked into the room who looked very familiar. I was sure that he was a Brit. A teacher that I had worked with, a few years before. He took his ticket and sat down quite close to me. He didn't say anything to me so, being British, I didn't say anything to him either ;)
I watched him, however. They called number 7. He stood up and went to the EU citizens window. Interesting! I was starting to get an idea of how this works. Although I am British, and the UK are now out of the EU, citizens who already had residency in European countries are somehow stuck in the middle. Are we EU or are we not?
I had run out of time. I needed to go. I dropped my ticket in the bin and left.
I came back the next day, but this time, instead of joining the rush when the doors opened, I arrived at 10am. When I saw the machine, this time I chose EU citizen. I was called within 10 minutes. However, this still didn't solve my problem. I was told that I needed to have photos taken and then I needed to come back, within 60 days, to collect my new biometric ID.
This wasn't possible. I didn't plan to return to the Czech Republic until November. The nice lady, behind the glass, apologised and told me that we couldn't start the process today without a concrete appointment to collect the new ID. Nobody else would be able to pick up my ID as I needed a thumb print to release it.
In the end I had to call the Ministry of the Interior and I have now agreed a date in August to start my application. I will fly into the Czech Republic the day before, but I still haven't booked a date to fly back to the UK. It's a bit expensive at the moment, so I'm leaving my options open....