Reaching the Immigration Office - DIGITALLY
Love it or hate it, every expat needs to contact the MOI (Ministry of Interior) from time to time. It’s still possible to visit their Immigration Office personally, by booking an appointment via frs.gov.cz or calling +420 974 801 801, but the waiting lines there remain too long.
Alternatively, in some cases (applying for the extension of your residence permit, reporting a change of address, or submitting additional documents in response to the MoI request, etc.) you can reach the authority using Czech post – sending your request, applications, and supporting documentation on paper. This still means spending time at post offices, plus it takes time before the letter gets delivered and processed.
To avoid the discomfort of these options, the Czech government is offering another way of contacting the MOI. You can do it by using a data mailbox, datová schránka.
The data mailbox is your personal email client designed specifically for communication with the state administration. It can really help you in many ways. Most importantly, to receive and read important mails from the MoI. We know of expats who have been expelled from the country just because they missed an important letter in the mailbox. When you set up datová schránka, you don’t need to watch your physical mailbox like a hawk anymore, hunt down the postmen or trudge to your local post office every time there’s an official letter that has to be delivered to your person.
Set up your data mailbox
This is a step-by-step manual, all in English.
How to use the data mailbox?
Here are also some FAQs we answered. This article is focused on communicating solely with the MOI as it has some specific features, different from the other agenda.
Log in to your data mailbox
There are several ways to log in. We recommend opting for basic “Identita občana” (Citizen Identity). Despite its name, anyone with a temporary residence permit, long-term visa or residency can apply for it. Here is how. The registration procedure is relatively easy and you can use it for applying for various documents (Czech criminal record, report form the land registry, etc.).
You can also choose “Bankovní identita” (Bank Identity) but we do not recommend it as each bank has its own procedure and some don’t even offer it at all.
If you want to provide the office with a document that would physically require only your own signature, the matter is simple – you do not need to sign it at all, simply attach it to the message you’re sending through the data mailbox. You just write your name where is the signature, send it and it is considered signed by the sender. It is possible because datová schránka is unique for every person and only the owner can log in – by law, it is considered as signed if you send it.
However, if you need to provide the MOI with a document containing a stamp or signature of a third party (for example, your accommodation contract signed by your landlord), it gets trickier.
You first have to go to your local CzechPOINT and ask for the conversion of the original document into the system. The clerk will scan the paper, attach an e-stamp to confirm the conversion, and send it to your existing data mailbox. Only when you have this finished, you can attach the converted document to the letter to the MOI.
On top of that, bear in mind that this confirmation/signature must not be older than 6 months.
Similarly, when you ask the MOI via your data mailbox for a document (the history of residence confirmation, to name one) that you need in paper copy to deliver it to another office (the Labour Office for instance) by post or in person, you have to convert it again. When it arrives at your data mailbox, you cannot simply print it out. You need to click on the Convert button in the UI, the system will generate a PIN code that you will bring again to the CzechPOINT office to have the document officially printed. Nevertheless, you can just simply digitally resend it to the wanted office from your data mailbox.
The only document which does not need such a procedure is your passport or an ID document. As it is against the law to make a certified copy of it, you will only scan the card and it is considered as filing an original.
Other properties to bear in mind
Another difficulty lies in paying the fees by revenue stamps kolek. It is not possible to pay online simply with your credit card. If a fee is required, you need to ask for banking details “Prosím o zaslání čísla účtu a variabilního symbolu do datové schránky pro zaplacení správního poplatku”, and you will receive the answer back through the data mailbox and can pay it directly from your bank account.
If it seems a little bit too complicated, you should know that the government is currently working on updating the law to make the process easier. However, since the changes are not expected to be put into effect any time sooner than 2025, this is the only way to use the data mailbox in order to contact the MOI for now.
Adding to that, when you start using your data mailbox, you as well as the authorities are, in fact, obliged to use only this mail client for all communication, so you should check the inbox regularly and set up notifications for new messages.
Yet, as not every clerk always checks whether you have the data mailbox (it is new for them too), we recommend adding a note containing the address of your data mailbox to any application.
Lastly, we also recommend adding one more sentence to any new application, requesting the case number: “Prosím o zaslání čísla jednacího do datové schránky.” The office numbers all their proceedings (cases), and you can ask for your number. This number can come in handy whenever you want to check the current status of your application.
As you see, online communication with the MOI is far from perfectly smooth just yet. After listing all these complications, let’s remind ourselves of the advantages: it’s generally much quicker, you avoid queuing at the office (and the travel), and you can check the application’ status from anywhere in the world.
All in all, we recommend creating the data mailbox, whilst saying you don’t need to use it every time you need to reach the Immigration Office (in some cases, going to the post office remains easier). The main advantage lies in easily keeping track of all the official letters from the authorities, so you cannot miss a single one anymore.
By the way, from January 2023, using a data mailbox will be compulsory for all freelancers (OSVČ).
The digitalization of the Czech offices is still a work in progress. Let’s hope that it’ll only improve in the coming years.
Photo courtesy: Canva.com