aThe foreign police are starting to make checks on foreigners who have lived and worked for a long period of time in Slovakia. Expats who try to avoid the law may be coerced into co-operating.
All foreigners who carry a permanent residence card or a long-term stay permit are already familiar with Slovakia's bureaucratic trial by idiocy. It begins with the police records, school diplomas and medical records you have to assemble in your home country. It continues with visits on Slovak soil to police offices and hospitals, to deliver job and residence permits, to have blood and rectal swabs taken. It goes on for up to four months, this carousel of tedium, frustration and humiliation, until you finally acquire the generous permission of the foreign police to dwell in Slovakia.
The good thing in the past has been that once you're in, you're in - renewing the long-term stay permit every year requires only confirmation that you have somewhere to live and work, and that you pay your taxes.
Now, however, the foreign police have announced that they are going to be checking up on every foreigner who holds a long-term or stay permit, and making sure that each person's papers are in order. After the police have verified that you live where you say you live, and that you work where you say you work, you will be called down to the police station to have a sticker rather than a rubber stamp placed in your passport. This is the ostensible purpose of these checks - to eliminate forgery of the rubber stamps, and bring Slovakia's visa policy in line with the EU.
What's wrong with these people? Do the police really have nothing better to do than hassle law-abiding guests in their country? One is tempted to think it might be somebody's idea of a joke, but the dour faces of the foreign police in the Bratislava I precinct banish any notion of frivolity.
The biggest objection to the promised police sweeps is that they are discriminatory. One never sees police knocking on doors in Snina or Šahy to make sure the Slovak inhabitants tally with their records. What's more, the residence law for foreigners says that your landlord has to be the 100% owner of the dwelling where you live, and that he or she has to pay taxes on the rent you pay. Every foreigner knows that if they insist on those terms, they will either pay through the nose for a flat or end up living in a dreary, crumbling student hostel. Many expats, in a word, do not live where the police think they live, for the very reason that the residence law makes it either impossible or unattractive.
The second problem with the planned checks is that they will inevitably not catch the people who are living here illegally or engaged in crime. After all, you only get checked if you had the patience to go through the process of acquiring a residence permit in the first place. This order of patience is not to be found among Albanian drug traffickers, Serb extortionists or Ukrainian assassins.
Finally, the checks are bound to be counterproductive, as many foreigners may decide either to leave Slovakia or not to come at all. Given that expats tend to fill jobs that cannot be filled on the domestic labour market, such as foreign language teaching, financial advising or investing large sums of money into the economy, it hardly seems credible that the government wants to increase rather than cut the bureaucratic hurdles to acquiring a green card.
Nevertheless, teams of police investigators will be forming up at each of Slovakia's eight regional police headquarters in February to administer this discriminatory, ineffective and counterproductive policy. If nothing else, they are glaring evidence that there are far, far too many civil servants in this country with nothing constructive to do.