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Getting a green card - some things never change

Despite the current government's pro-investment, pro-EU, pro-western avowals, getting a license to live and work in Slovakia remains as formidable a hurdle as ever for foreigners. The most frustrating thing about the whole green card ordeal is that it is so pointless - it deters investment rather than criminals, wastes man-hours and exacerbates Slovakia's banana republic image.
Here, in a nutshell, is what you have to do to get a Slovak green card. First, you have to obtain police and medical records and university diplomas in your home country, fill out a form and submit everything to the Slovak embassy in your home country.

Despite the current government's pro-investment, pro-EU, pro-western avowals, getting a license to live and work in Slovakia remains as formidable a hurdle as ever for foreigners. The most frustrating thing about the whole green card ordeal is that it is so pointless - it deters investment rather than criminals, wastes man-hours and exacerbates Slovakia's banana republic image.

Here, in a nutshell, is what you have to do to get a Slovak green card. First, you have to obtain police and medical records and university diplomas in your home country, fill out a form and submit everything to the Slovak embassy in your home country. Then you have to wait for everything to be sent to the Foreign Police Office in Slovakia, after which you must undergo medical tests at a hospital in this country, obtain a work permit from the Labour Office, secure residence confirmation from the owner of your accomodations, have all foreign documents translated into Slovak, pay a fee of 3,000 to 5,000 crowns, and then turn everything back in to the Foreign Police in your district.

This protocol was first announced in July, 1995 and has changed very little since then. Its objective was to halt the flow of undesirables - criminals and economic refugees, mostly - from countries to the east and south of Slovakia. But with Ukrainian, Russian, Albanian and Yugoslav mafia groups well established in the country and apparently happily engaged in a bloody turf war, it would appear that the green card policy has done little to keep killers and their guns out of Slovakia.

On the other hand, long-term stay bureaucracy has been cited by foreign business representatives as a significant barrier to investment - not as significant, perhaps, as the absence of a functioning bankruptcy law, but still a nagging thorn in the side of people who want to move to this country and invest, teach or advise in it.

Yes, as we are told by every official with a foreign corporation trying to do business in Slovakia, the government is Trying Its Best and should be congratulated for its Jolly Good Progress So Far. Here, then, are a few suggestions for improving the green card process beyond even its present state of sublime perfection.

Take the top-20 list of countries ranked by the amount of foreign investment they have brought to Slovakia, and simplify the green card process for nationals of those countries. Then decide which foreign languages are taught most widely in Slovakia, and offer similar exemptions to teachers who instruct in those tongues.

Then, because the Foreign Police are under the wing of the Interior Ministry, ask Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner which countries are the biggest exporters of organised crime to Slovakia, and slap a stiff visa regime on those nations.

As for the current green card law, get rid of it. Four years after its implementation, organised crime flourishes while Slovakia remains at the back of the regional pack in terms of FDI per capita.

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