In case you missed it, Colin and I (and Ellie!) are moving to Prague! We fly out on June 1st and will be living and working in Prague for one year. How are we doing this? With the Czech Youth Mobility Visa!
Applying for the Czech Youth Mobility Visa, figuring out how to get Ellie to Europe (more on that in a future post) and doing everything else we need to do to move abroad has been quite the feat. When I started researching the Czech Youth Mobility Visa, I realized there wasn’t a lot out there about how to actually go about applying. Sure, the website has the basic info, but I still had a lot of questions.
So to help future people like me, I’m going to walk you through exactly how to apply for the Czech Youth Mobility Visa.
What is a Youth Mobility Visa?
A Youth Mobility Visa (YMV), also known as a Working Holiday Visa, is a special visa that allows young people (generally 18 – 30 years old but some are extended to 35) to live and work in a foreign country for a short period of time (most are one year, but some have the option of two years). As Canadians, we are super fortunate to have YMV agreements with over 30 countries all over the world. So if your dream is to live and travel around the world, and you’re under 30/35, this is the perfect opportunity! Check out all the Canadian YMV countries here.
Generally speaking, the visa fee isn’t too high and the application process isn’t too tedious. Most YMVs only allow you to participate for that country once – meaning once your time is up, you can’t extend or re-apply on a YMV again. You may be able to stay in the country or return long-term if you get a work visa, student visa, marriage visa, etc.
The idea is that these visas will encourage young people to see more of the world, without needing to make permanent moves. And to help you fund your travels, the visa allows you to work while in country. Some visas have restrictions on the type and duration of work, so do note that during your research.
Okay, let’s get into the specifics of the Czech Youth Mobility Visa.
Note: This is from the perspective of a Canadian applying for a Czech Youth Mobility Visa. I assume it will be similar for any country that has a Youth Mobility Agreement with the Czech Republic, but do check your own country requirements. As well, I’m not an immigration lawyer so everything I say here is just from my own experience. Check with the embassy if you have any questions and for the most up to date information.
When to apply for the Czech Youth Mobility Visa
For some YMVs, you have a certain window for when you can apply. For example, for the UK, the earliest you can apply is six months before you want to arrive. But for the Czech Republic, there is no maximum date out that you can apply – you can apply as many months before you want to arrive as you’d like.
But there is a minimum. As per the embassy website, the average processing time is 40-50 days and the legal deadline is 60 days. There is no way to expedite this process; no rush fees you can pay to hurry things along.
Our applications arrived at the embassy in Ottawa on March 12th . Our flight is June 1st, so we needed a decision (and our passports!) by then. 40 days from March 12th would be April 21st and 60 days would be May 11th. So even leaving time for the passports to arrive back by mail (more on that below), we figured we would get them back before our flight on June 1st.
However, I would recommend applying earlier than we did. Originally, we had planned to leave Canada on July 7th, so applying mid-March gave us lots of time. With our timeline moving up to a June 1st departure, applying by mid-March should still work, but it is cutting it close, especially if there are any problems with the application. For the Czech Youth Mobility Visa, I would recommend applying three months before you intend to leave.
So we mailed our passports and applications off on March 10th. They arrived in Ottawa on March 12th (thanks, expedited mail!). And we got our passports back on April 11 (they left Ottawa on April 9 in another expedited package)! So not even a full month between the time they arrived in Ottawa and when we got them back. We were super happy to have our passports back and our visas all ready to go nice and early. However, I would still recommend applying earlier than we did just in case!
How to apply for the Czech Youth Mobility Visa
For the Czech Youth Mobility Visa, you can apply in person at the embassy in Ottawa or by mail from anywhere else in Canada. If you are applying by mail, you need to provide a letter stating why (more on this below). You’ll also need to provide an envelope for the embassy to return your passport, or you can pick it up in person in Ottawa.
If you are applying by mail, factor this into your timeline. Colin and I decided to pay for faster shipping when we mailed our application; we sent it off on a Sunday and it arrived in Ottawa on Tuesday. We also paid to track the envelope – which I would highly recommend since this envelope holds your passport, money and other important documents.
What you need to apply for a Czech Youth Mobility Visa
Following the instructions on the embassy website, you’ll need to provide quite a few documents/things in order to apply for your YMV.
1 – Your Canadian passport
This passport must be valid for three months after your intended length of stay. So if your YMV year is June 2019 to June 2020, your passport must be valid until September 2020. However, I would recommend an even longer validity. Many countries require you to have six months validity on your passport in order to enter. So just in case you need to pass through one of these countries on your way home, or if you decide to keep travelling after your YMV time is up, it’s best to have lots of time left on your passport.
Luckily, both Colin and I renewed our passports in 2015 and got 10 year ones, so we’re good until 2025!
2 – Visa application form
You can download this on the website. Note: this needs to be filled out in Czech. But don’t panic! You don’t need to be fluent in Czech to fill this out. Most of the questions are just basic information: name, birthdate, address, etc. – things that don’t need to be translated. For things that do need to be translated, like occupation, you can simply type it into Google Translate.
There are a couple of questions on the application form that are a little tricky. The embassy website helps you out with a few, stating, “In box 28 requesting the purpose of stay, indicate “other” and fill in “YMV – Pracovni pobyt mladeze”; do not fill in the question 21.”
We were unsure about #23, address of stay in the Czech Republic, as we didn’t have an apartment yet. But you do need to fill this part out. We put the address of a hotel. You could put a friend’s address, hotel address, Airbnb address, etc.
While the YMV is good for one year, you can request one for a shorter period of time. But I’m not sure why you would want to. Even if you only intend to stay for a few months, it doesn’t hurt to have the option to stay and work longer. For question #25, the max number of days you can request your visa for is 365. I would recommend putting that number.
Question #26 asks about previous visas you’ve had. We weren’t sure which ones applied. Colin and I had just returned from Southeast Asia and technically had gotten visas for Cambodia, Japan, etc. But after clarifying with the embassy, they said it was mainly visas to the Schengen area that they were concerned about, so we left our Asian visas off the application.
In order to apply, you need to know the exact dates that you will be in country and needing your visa. So while you don’t have to have your flights booked, you should know when you want to fly out. For questions 29 and 30, you’ll need to list your exact entry date and exit date (365 days after).
For us, we’re flying out of Canada on June 1st. But we requested for our visas to start on June 7th, as we’ll be taking the train from Paris (where we land) to Munich and then to Prague, spending a few days in Paris and Munich first. Technically, we could arrive in country before our YMV comes into effect, since as Canadians, we get 90-day visa-free entry into Schengen countries, but it may complicate matters. We wouldn’t be able to start job hunting yet, and officials may question why we’re arriving before our visa.
3 – Two photographs
As per the instructions, these photos need to be 35 x 45 mm. One photo needs to be glued to the front of the above application form, and the other one needs to have your last name on the back. Simple, right? Just head to anywhere that does passport photos (most passport photos are 35 x 45 mm) and get two copies.
We had luckily just gotten photos done for our Cambodian visas and had extras lying around – so this was easy! Note that these photos must be recent (and most photo labs will print the date on the back), so try to take fresh ones.
4 – A return ticket
Or sufficient funds to obtain one. It’s unlikely you’ll actually be able to book a return ticket at this point since most airlines don’t sell tickets until at earliest, 12 months before the flight. So if you’re applying like we did in March 2019 for June 2019-2020, you wouldn’t be able to buy a June 2020 ticket home since they wouldn’t be on sale yet.
Further, you likely won’t know your exact travel plans. You may need to leave the Czech Republic early or you may plan to backpack in Europe for a few more months before heading home. It’s much easier to just provide proof of sufficient funds than to commit to travel plans more than a year in advance.
5 – Proof of financial resources
While the Czech Youth Mobility Visa allows you to work in the Czech Republic, the government still wants to ensure you have some funds to get you going when you first arrive. Being on the YMV, you aren’t eligible for public funds, so you do need to have enough money to support yourself until you get a job.
The minimum requirement is $2500 CAD and an additional $1500 CAD, if you’re using these funds in place of a return ticket (above). To prove this, the embassy suggests getting a letter from your bank stating your available funds (exacting wording for this letter is available on the embassy site). This letter needs to be on bank letterhead, signed by a bank employee and bear the bank’s stamp. It must also be translated into Czech and they warn against using an online translator, as they aren’t reliable.
When we contacted our bank for this letter, they provided us with something slightly different. They printed off copies of our bank statements, account activity and a cover page with our information. It was on bank letterhead, signed and stamped. Our bank representative told us they have provided this type of document for many visa applications in the past and applicants had no problem with it. So that’s what we sent. We didn’t provide a Czech translation, as most of the details were numbers or proper names (our names, name of bank accounts, etc.).
And it worked! We received our passports back with the visas in them and absolutely no problems. So it seems like the letter from our bank did the trick and we didn’t need a Czech translation. I can’t say for certain this will work everytime, since the website does say, “There is no prescribed way of proving sufficient funds and the visa officer may at his discretion accept various forms of proof of funds.” But it worked for us so I would assume it would work for you!
6 – Declaration to arrange for health insurance
On the Czech Youth Mobility Visa, you are not automatically enrolled in public health insurance. Every country has their own way of dealing with this. For the UK, you pay a health surcharge when applying for the YMV to cover your health insurance while in the UK. Other countries ask you to get your own health insurance.
At this stage in the application process, you are not being asked to get health insurance – you’re simply promising that you will get it before you move to the Czech Republic. As per the website, your health insurance must be obtained, “prior to your entry, for the duration of your authorized stay in the territory of the Czech Republic, to cover medical treatment expenses in case of an injury or sudden sickness, including repatriation to Canada, with the minimum insurance coverage of EUR 60 000 (approx. 85 000 CAD).”
To certify that you will get health insurance, you simply fill out the form on the website. You must fill out the Czech form, though they provide an English form for your convenience. Simply print out the Czech form, and follow along with the English one online so you know what needs to be written where.
As for actually obtaining health insurance, there’s different wisdom on this in the various CZ expat groups. It seems many people have a public-style health insurance called VZP. There’s also a private version of this. Colin and I are looking into travel medical insurance as this may be the cheapest option that still fulfills the above requirements and would allow us to visit the doctor/go to the hospital if needed.
7 – Self-addressed prepaid courier envelope
This envelope is for the return of your passport. You don’t need to provide one if you’re able to pick up your passport in person in Ottawa. Otherwise, you’ll need to send one. We provided one with expedited mail time and a tracking number. I would suggest doing the expedited mail time if you’re cutting it close on the 60 day decision deadline. And tracking is always a good idea when sending something valuable, like a passport.
8 – Consular fee
This is your application fee for your visa. While the fee for the Czech Youth Mobility Visa is much lower than some other countries, it is a little bit more complicated. The fee is listed in Canadian dollars, and is updated every month as the exchange rates change. For March 2019, it is listed as $147. Because the fee can change every month, the embassy suggests sending in apx $10 more to account for any exchange rate differences, especially if you’re applying at the end of the month. Don’t worry – they’ll return any extra money you send.
You may also need to send money to certify translations. Note, this is not a fee for translations. You have to take care of any translating by yourself. But if you do send something translated, like a letter from your bank, you may have to pay to certify that translation. The fee is currently $18 per page, but check the fee page linked above. Oddly, the website says that this fee may be necessary, but not for certain. So you can hedge your bets and send in the $18/page, and they will return any extra money to you.
Unfortunately, you can’t pay by cheque, which would be the easiest way to pay this fee. You can pay in cash, money orders or certified cheques (payable to the “Embassy of the Czech Republic”).
Colin and I decided to pay in cash, as certified cheques cost money and money orders seem like more of a 2003 thing. While it’s a little risky to send cash in the mail, we felt okay about it since we were tracking our package and sending it through expedited mail. We sent in just over $300 for both of us, about $8 more each in case there were any exchange fluctuations. We didn’t send in any extra for certifying translations, as our bank statements were in English. And it worked out fine! We received our passports with the visas in them without problem. And we even got $8 back!
9 – Declaration of your intent to stay in the CZ and work
Just like the declaration of health insurance, this is another form you simply need to print off the website and sign. You’re declaring that you intend to live in the Czech Republic and possibly seek employment while there – basically, the whole point of the YMV! Make sure to print, sign and fill out the Czech version, only using the English version to show you where and what to fill out.
If you already have a job lined up, you can also provide a letter from your place of employment. More details on the website for the specifics of this letter. No need to worry about this if you don’t have a job yet.
10 – Letter explaining why you’re not applying in person
If you’re applying by mail, and not in person at the embassy office in Ottawa, you need to provide a letter explaining why you’re applying by mail and asking to be excused from a personal appearance. This is just a formality – and living far away from Ottawa is a totally valid reason to apply by mail.
You do need to provide this letter in Czech, and again, they suggest not using online translators as they aren’t reliable. So what do you do? Czech isn’t commonly spoken so it’s tough to find a friend or family member to help out (unless you’re Czech, of course). And paying for a translator is expensive, especially when it’s only for a very short letter of a few sentences.
So I turned to the expat groups. I joined a few Prague expat groups to learn more about the expat community, rentals, jobs, etc. I posted in there asking if any Czech speaker could help me out and within minutes, someone sent me back a translation. It was awesome!
And I’m going to provide it here for you. If you’re applying for your Czech Youth Mobility Visa by mail, you can use this in your letter. Simply swap out “Vancouver” for your city.
Tímto dopisem vysvětluji proč žádám o Youth Mobility vízum prostřednictvím pošty a nikoli osobně. Žádám prostřednictvím pošty, protože žiji ve Vancouver u v Britské Kolumbii a nebudu v Ottawe, abych požádala osobně. Žádám o udělení vyjímky, abych se nemusela dostavit osobně.
Questions about the Czech Youth Mobility Visa
So after you prepare all 10 of the above documents, you’re ready to go and able to send off your visa application. Any last questions?
Can two people apply together?
Each application is looked at individually. So while Colin and I both applied, we applied as two individuals. However, you are able to apply in the same envelope to save on mailing costs. Colin and I put both of our applications in one expedited tracked envelope off to Ottawa. We did keep them separate within the envelope (we put two smaller envelopes into the bigger one). We also only included one courier envelope for the return of our passports, with a note stating that we’d like both passports to be sent back in that one envelope. And they did send both passports back together.
How many people get their applications approved?
There’s a max quota for the number of people who can receive the Czech Youth Mobility Visa in a single calendar year. In 2015, it was 1150 people; there’s no new data since then. As per the website, if the quota has been reached, there will be an announcement at the top of the webpage.
As far as I know, the quota is very rarely met. So you shouldn’t have to worry. However, I would suggest applying earlier in the calendar year as the quota is per year, so your odds are better in January than in December when more spots have already been taken. If the spots for the current year are full, the embassy will offer you a visa for the next year.
Generally speaking, the only reason you would be denied the visa is if the quota has been met or there’s a problem with your application (which hopefully you should be able to fix so you can re-apply). If you have anything else you’re worried about, like a criminal record or previous immigration issues, I’d consult a lawyer first or contact the embassy.
What if I leave for the Czech Republic before my visa application is processed?
For all visas, it’s really important to apply early. If you’re planning to move abroad and live/work there for a year, you should do your homework and plan ahead. This isn’t really something you can decide on and make happen a week later.
That being said, if the circumstance arises where your flight to the Czech Republic comes up before your visa is processed, you can request for your passport back from the embassy. You’ll then fly with your passport to the Czech Republic and be there on the usual 90 day Schengen zone tourist visa. From there, you’ll need to re-submit your passport once the embassy has approved your visa application. You can also submit your passport to another Czech embassy in Europe.
What if I have more questions?
Contact the embassy. My experience with this was great. I emailed the embassy (contact info on their website) when we had a couple of questions about the application form. They responded quickly and even called to help us walk through our questions. We also got our passports back way faster than they said we would and they had no problems with our application. I’ve read in some of the expat groups that this isn’t always the case, but in my experience, reaching out to the embassy went well.
And that is how you apply for the Czech Youth Mobility Visa, specifically for Canadians. I know this guide won’t be for everyone. But it’s exactly what I wanted to read when I was applying and researching the Youth Mobility Visa for the Czech Republic, so I hope it helps a future applicant out there.
We are so excited to have our visas in hand and to be heading off to the Czech Republic in less than two weeks!
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