New Foreigners Law: Great if you're European

It's about to get a whole lot easier for citizens of European Union member states to live and work in Slovakia.
An amendment to The Law on the Stay of Foreigners, approved December 13 last year and due to take effect April 1, 2002, gives special exemption to EU nationals from the arduous process of applying for a residence permit.
Under sections 30 to 33 of the amended law (you can find a Slovak language copy on the internet Collection of Laws site, www.zbierka.sk under the title Zákon z 13. Decembra 2001 o pobyte cudzincov) EU citizens can get residence permits quicker and for longer than people holding passports from other countries.

It's about to get a whole lot easier for citizens of European Union member states to live and work in Slovakia.

An amendment to The Law on the Stay of Foreigners, approved December 13 last year and due to take effect April 1, 2002, gives special exemption to EU nationals from the arduous process of applying for a residence permit.

Under sections 30 to 33 of the amended law (you can find a Slovak language copy on the internet Collection of Laws site, www.zbierka.sk under the title Zákon z 13. Decembra 2001 o pobyte cudzincov) EU citizens can get residence permits quicker and for longer than people holding passports from other countries.

The biggest change is one that appears to allow EU nationals to submit requests for green cards at Slovak police stations, rather than at Slovak embassies or consulates abroad, as we have all had to do until now. I say "appears" because the police will set some internal guidelines for who can and who can't.

It also appears the lucky EU foreigners can just show up, give proof of the purpose of their stay (a contract regarding business or work), show they have a place to live and health insurance coverage in Slovakia, and receive a green card within 14 days.

Other foreigners will have to continue giving this information at Slovak embassies abroad, along with police records from their home countries and proof they have enough money to cover their living expenses. Foreigners from non-EU countries can also be asked to prove they have no communicable disease.

Police will now have 90 days rather than 60 days to mull over the applications of non-EU nationals.

Renewing green cards will also be easier for the select few; EU citizens can wait until 14 days before their current permit expires to re-apply, compared to 60 days for the rest.

Before now we all could get a renewal in 14 days, but the police seem to have misunderstood complaints from foreigners who were unhappy they couldn't do it earlier, to make the paper-chase less hectic. Now if you miss the 60 day deadline you can be fined and who knows what else; the police are entitled to reject the renewal application altogether.

Furthermore, to renew cards non-EU passport holders must give proof they have paid all tax and customs dues, as well as money owed to the health system and pension and unemployment funds. EU citizens need only turn in further proof of employment, accommodation and health care.

Finally, non-EU citizens will have to prove their reason for being in Slovakia will last at least three years if they want a three-year extension, while EU citizens have an automatic right to this extended time.

The icing on the cake is that while everyone will be getting stickers in their passports in place of the current photo cards, EU nationals can be issued a special ID card if they ask for it.

Boy, can't wait to get me one of those.

A reminder for people travelling to Slovakia from countries which need visas: permission of entry has to be obtained from a Slovak embassy, and border guards are not permitted to hand out anything except transit visas (up to five days) for humanitarian reasons. You can be refused entry if you can't prove you have medical coverage and ready cash to pay for your stay.

You can also be turned back if there is a reasonable suspicion you are using your residence for other purposes than you stated (i.e. if a student suddenly starts a little translating business) or if you are on record as owing the Slovak state anything. In other words, if you take off without paying those tax dues, the day could come when Slovakia raises the drawbridge to you.

So, a step forward and a few annoying ones back. But don't take anything as writ - firms offering help getting green cards say there is some discussion of the law going on, and that whatever doesn't work in practice will likely be speedily amended. Again.

Foreign Affairs is a bi-weekly column devoted to helping expats and foreigners understand the thrills and spills of life in Slovakia.

The next Foreign Affairs will appear on stands February 25, Vol. 8, No. 7.

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