Collating all of the necessary documents, arranging the proper stamps and double-stamps, waiting in a six-hour line at the foreign police only to be told that one of your documents is wrong for some reason that may or may not have to do with a recently changed law, waiting in the same line again – this time for seven hours – only to be told that something else is wrong.
It is enough to confirm the old saw that Kafka wasn’t a novelist, but a journalist. Either that, or it’s enough to send you to your local arms dealer to buy several high-caliber assault rifles on credit, and then return to the foreign police building on Olsanska namesti to re-enact the police station scene in the first Terminator film.
This is the scene where Arnold Schwarzenegger walks calmly through the halls making fresh spaghetti out of every living thing in sight. Forget about ‘going postal’, the chance of ‘going foreign’ during the visa acquisition process is real. The laws, which have undergone two major changes in recent years, are once again in the process of being reviewed. Although the new rules are supposed to be easier, one can never be sure. In any case mistakes are inevitably made by the novice; the waits inevitably long. Enter one Mr. Edmund Watts.
A former sixties radical and self-described utopian anarchist, Edmund arrived in the Czech Republic several years ago at the end of a zig-zag line that took him from the high seas as a merchant marine to the hippie squats of Haight-Ashbury (as a hippie). Since moving to Prague he has been active as a poet, actor, teacher and – most recently – facilitator in the legalization game for foreigners.
According to Watts, expats are “pioneers” who, whether they realize it or not, are here in a similar capacity as the nineteenth century Americans who went west. They interact with the native culture, influence it and, in the best of cases, build things that actually help people.
It is in this spirit that Watts offers his services to foreigners who want to stay here and play by the rules. Whether it’s a business license, an artist’s visa or a standard long-term visa, Watts and his Czech colleague Eva have the skills to pay the bills when it comes to the (understandably) grumpy people behind the glass door at the end of the long lines in the big scary foreign police building.
The rates charged by Watts’s small firm Step by Step depend on the services rendered. The most basic package is a consultation and guidebook for do-it-yourselfers; the most extensive package includes everything from getting documents stamped to waiting in line for you. Time is always money, but Watts works with each client to find a contract that suits the organizational and financial needs of individual clients. (The toll-free number will appear at the bottom of your screen at the end of this article.)
As of now, the laws require that an applicant submit certain papers ‘outside the country,’ and Step by Step arranges day trips to Dresden for this purpose. If started in the morning, the trip is over by mid-day, and is also a good reminder of why you are applying to live in the CZ and not Germany. (Shazzamenschweitengurst! )
When he’s not legalizing foreigners, Watts is also involved in a project to bring free language instruction to the vast majority of Czech children who cannot afford private lessons. Pointing to the 97% percent of Czechs who make under 30,000 Kc per month, Watts wants to use television and computer technology to provide free English lessons to everybody who deserves them – which is everybody.
Although his foundation doesn’t yet have legal status or corporate backing, he is optimistic about the prospects of the project, and all interested parties are encouraged to contact him.
Whether you want to find out more about the Language Project or get info on Step by Step, the legalization service, Edmund’s blog is at http://blogs.myspace.com/edmundiwatts. Tell him Think sent you and receive a free smile and a maybe a donut.