When a former Slovak Spectator editor decided to move to another EU country after some 10 years of living in Slovakia, we took the opportunity to trace the bureaucracy he encountered on his way out. What we have put together is not a comprehensive manual but a compilation of the most educational and representative moments of the experience.
This is the story of a foreigner and his guide, who together spent several weeks making desperate phone calls, exchanging emails with authorities, and running from one office to another.
In this article you will find advice on dealing with
- Public transport company in Bratislava
- mobile phone operators
- health insurance company
- social insurance company Sociálna Poisťovňa
- Foreigners’ Police department
Little help from helplines
In an attempt to reduce the number of visits to government offices and the amount of time spent waiting in seemingly-endless queues (often just to be told we were missing a required form or document), we first opted for making phone calls and sending inquiries via e-mail.
However, even some of the people stationed at helplines were not able to answer our questions. We called on multiple days to double-check the answers and often heard completely different instructions from another helpline assistant. In such cases, we turned to the institutions’ press departments, but even the official statements were sometimes ambiguous.
Questions about foreigners’ issues are surprisingly rare. Having to dig for the answers to our questions was at first frustrating, but we later understood that it was the best thing that could have happened to us. We were forced to look more actively for the right answer among the various responses, and this led us to some of the most unexplored corners of the bureaucracy.
Easy things first
If you have a travel card for the public transport in Bratislava, you can ask for the reimbursement of the part of the ticket that will go unused. First, hand in a request in writing together with your travel card, which you can do at the public transport company sales points around the city.
The amount of returned money will be calculated as follows: X = C - (C * d * k) where: X is the reimbursed amount, C is the original price of the ticket, d the number of days you have used it, k is coefficient, which value may differ, depending on the ticket: 0.200 000 for seven-days tickets, 0.051 282 for 30-days ticket, 0.019 048 for 90-days ticket, and 0.004 709 for 365-days ticket.
Do you want to keep your Slovak phone number? You were probably asked to show your permanent residence permit from the Foreigners’ Office when you got your SIM card. When you no longer have the residence permit, operators usually want you to change your personal data with information from your passport. You are supposed to do this in-person at one of their shops, though there do not seem to be any negative repercussions for not doing this.
If you had a bank account in a Slovak bank while you lived here, you will likely be required to close the account before you leave. You can do this in-person or with a written notice. In the latter case, your signature on the document will need to be notarized and apostilled.
Social insurance and the mystery form
When closing your social insurance, your employer or business licence office (Živnostenský úrad) are obliged to inform the social insurer, Sociálna Poisťovňa, that you are no longer working for them or have closed your business licence (živnostenský list). You can request documentation of your past payments to Sociálna Poisťovňa and the information necessary to apply for unemployment benefits (PDU1).
Here is where the process became more complicated.
The instructions that we received through e-mail from Sociálna Poisťovna directed us to the office that keeps the record of a client’s social insurance. In our case this was the office at Záhradnícka 31. We made the queue just to find out that the receptionist could not confirm the record for us and had never heard of the PDU1 form. We were directed to visit the main Clients’ Centre at Tomášikova 46.
There, we were also able to close the business licence at the Živnostenský Úrad. We realized that if we wanted to close it as of May 31, the last day of our business activities would have to be the day prior. We considered declaring it closed as of June 1 but were unsure whether that would complicate the social insurance and decided to stick with May 31. This decision was going to later generate some problems, but we did not know that at the time.
At the Sociálna Poisťovňa branch at Tomášikova 46 we received a confirmation about the social insurance record, though the PDU1 form remained a mystery. No one knew what it was or where to get it. We were sent to Záhradnícka 153 - a different branch on the same street we had gone before.
Again, the receptionist we met had never heard of the form and said we were certainly at the wrong place to get it. Undeterred, we asked another person at the office, who told us that we need only to go to the fourth floor to find the person who deals with PDU1 forms.
At last we learned that that, in our case, the PDU1 was not needed at all: the form applies only for persons moving abroad who are going to be immediately unemployed. We were told that it has no relation to the pension and that the pension confirmation is likewise only applicable if a person is going to immediately go to pension.
According to the office, there is no way to get a paper that one could use to go to pension some 20-30 years in the future. We were told to simply hold onto every record from Slovakia to use as documentation when asking for pension in the future. Apparently the office in the country of residence will contact the office in Slovakia.
Lots of questions remained unanswered. How can we ensure that the data will last for 30 or more years, and what will happen if the system changes in the meantime? (The UK leaving the EU comes to mind here.) But it seemed there we could do about the pension now, and after several hours of PDU1 chasing, we left empty-handed.
One day lost in the space-time continuum
We figured we must have been through the worst, and with that small relief we moved on to the health insurance office.
Before visiting the Union, we had been instructed to get a confirmation on payments and notify the Union that the health insurance contract would be ending soon.
But it was not that easy. Their first questions: where is your contract with your new employer, and do you have confirmation that you are going to pay an insurance elsewhere? Second request: bring the confirmation from the Foreigners’ Police (the immigration authority) that you are leaving.
We were not prepared for these, but the receptionist helpfully suggested that we submit a scan of the insurance confirmation. No document from the Foreigners’ Police would be needed.
But when the receptionist looked more closely at the date of the closure of the business licence (Živnostenský List), we ran into a problem. Even though the client’s health insurance has already been paid for the entire month of May, she explained, the business activities have to end on May 30. For the one day that the health insurance does not cover the business activities (May 31), it was necessary to become a “voluntary unemployed payer”. We were told it would be less costly than “normal” insurance, so we did another bit of paperwork for that a single day of health insurance.
As for other health insurers: Dôvera requires a proof that you are starting to pay health insurance in another state or a confirmation that your residence in Slovakia is ending. Všeobecná Zdravotná Poisťovňa wants you to fill out a form, Odhláška Poistenca , which can be downloaded from their website.
Foreigners’ Police: The best for last
The Foreigners’ Police is notorious for its long queues, but in this office we found that the way out of Slovakia is easier than the way in.
You can cancel your residence permit and return the plastic ID card via mail. No special form is needed. The director of the Foreigners’ Police Department at the Office of Border and Alien Police, Branislav Červenka, advised us to keep the residence card until reaching the next country. There, you can then simply return it to the Slovak Embassy. Whichever way you choose, be sure to never cut or damage the card in any way!
That last warning may sound strange, but it needs to be stressed. We asked the Foreigners’ Police about this over the phone and were told that we should cut the card on the edge and mail it with an announcement that we wished to cancel our stay in Slovakia.
Luckily, our foreigner was stopped from cutting his card at the literal last minute, when a person working at the post office told him he is unauthorised to destroy an official document.
The lesson we learned at the post office, and throughout the whole process, is that a lot of what you will learn depends on the person who you are speaking to. Double or triple-check your information. If one person tells you that you to go somewhere else, ask one more person before you leave. Know what “obligation of announcement” means and – be prepared for anything.