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Leaving Slovakia? Get your visa first!

Foreigners living and working in Slovakia on a green card (povelenie dlhodobého pobytu - or pobyt) are finding out the hard way that it takes paperwork to get in and also out of Slovakia. Changes introduced July 1, 1995, are catching some of the country's 20,000 foreigners here on a long-term stay unaware that to officially leave Slovakia you must have an exit visa.
The regimen for the exit visa is not quite so taxing, nor as expensive - the cost to enter is about 7,500 Sk, while the exit visa costs 500 Sk. But it requires getting notes from a myriad of municipal bureaus, including the tax office, your employer and notarized notes from your landlord and a general note indicating that you are leaving no outstanding grievances behind.

Foreigners living and working in Slovakia on a green card (povelenie dlhodobého pobytu - or pobyt) are finding out the hard way that it takes paperwork to get in and also out of Slovakia. Changes introduced July 1, 1995, are catching some of the country's 20,000 foreigners here on a long-term stay unaware that to officially leave Slovakia you must have an exit visa.

The regimen for the exit visa is not quite so taxing, nor as expensive - the cost to enter is about 7,500 Sk, while the exit visa costs 500 Sk. But it requires getting notes from a myriad of municipal bureaus, including the tax office, your employer and notarized notes from your landlord and a general note indicating that you are leaving no outstanding grievances behind.

"We must protect our citizens," said Pavol Ňuňuk, director of the Department of the Border and Foreigners Police Corps, defending the exit visa process. "You must appreciate that in Western countries all of this information is on computer. I have only so many staff and there's only so much we can do. We have to rely on the individuals."

Important to remember, according to Ňuňuk, is that no matter what your plans are you must start your paperwork at least 14 days before your green card expires.

Trapped

One British citizen, who wished to remain anonymous since he remains here, said he "felt trapped inside Slovakia for six weeks" when he fell into limbo. His permit had expired, he was unable to satisfy the demands of renewal for another year (which costs 3,050 Sk), and he was not in a position to get an exit visa. "I was terrified," he related. "What would have happened if my mother or father had suddenly gotten sick and I had to go home?"

Ňuňuk said that exceptions can always be made. "We have to be human," the foreigner's police chief said.

But Ňuňuk held firm that authorities are well within their rights to stop foreigners from leaving Slovakia, though he knows of no cases to date where that has happened, he added.

Ňuňuk's office, among other duties, is responsible for policing the borders for illegal transients, many of whom are en route to Germany and other EU countries from the Balkans. It is also common that marriage to a Slovak is

POSS ADDS
The arrival

New arrivals will hardly forget all the steps that are required under the new law for long-term residence and work permit. They include: X-rays, the urine test, bloodtests for AIDS and other diseases, a visit to Urad Prace (work office), checking in at the Ministry of Interior, proving to the police that you don't have a criminal record, verifying through your landlord that you're not living in public housing and, if you're a businessperson, touching base with the Tax Office.

However, the biggest change introduced last year was having to apply for the permit outside the country. Nunuk says that "from practical experience" the former system was leading to corruption of Slovak officials. Now the contact is public servant to public servant.

Asked why his department is compelled to protect Slovakia's public servants from corruption and its citizens from being taken advantage of by foreigners, Nunuk admitted that it is slightly paternalistic, a throwback to Communist times.

It's been an improvement, Nunuk maintained, adding that the Czech Republic is about to follow suit with a law "even stricter than ours." (Indeed, Lucia Haismonova, spokesperson for the Czech Interior Ministry, confirms that such a bill is about to be introduced in the Czech legislature, but would not reveal any details).

More than half of Slovakia's foreign community is actually in the process of immigrating, Ňuňuk said. Ňuňuk told of one Hungarian businesswoman who has been here for 20 years but forgot about applying for renewal 14 days in advance. She had to leave and is now on a transit visa and, technically, isn't allow to continue doing business.

Ňuňuk said that he has the least trouble with native English-speakers. However, Rachel Cooper, first secretary at the British Embassy, said that British citizens are encountering problems with exit visas and the 14-day renewal limit.

If they increase, she said she will have to consider posting a notice on the Embassy bulletin board about how to get the exit visa and how to apply for a renewal permit.

If the application for pobyt renewal is submitted in time, you will get an answer back within three days of expiration, Ňuňuk says. If the answer is no, you are given 30 days to process your exit visa. Of course, citizens from the USA, Canada (as of August 28) and EU countries can use their passport to leave like a tourist.

However, if they decide to come back to Slovakia for another long-term stay they will have to wait at least a year to do so or face fines.

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