The website for critical discussion about migration in Central and Eastern Europe.
8. 6. 10
Zdroj: migrationonline.cz

Calm in front of the Lviv Consulate

This report depicts the situation at the Czech Consulate in Lviv in December 2009. In comparison to the state of affairs in 2007, the Consulate is functioning smoothly: There are no long queues outside the Consulate, the number of applicants is acceptable, and the system for applications works transparently. But what is the cause of this new quiet?

A surprising picture: In early December 2009, there are very few people waiting outside the Czech Consulate in Lviv; only occasionally in the afternoon hours does someone arrive to pick up their visa[1]. The red display screen on the Consulate wall announces who is next in line, and applicants move towards the counters in an orderly manner. Examples of properly filled-out applications for Schengen Area visas hang on the bulletin board and there are even notices warning against using paid agency services.

Andrej Lepak[2], the director of the NGO Lviv Legal Society, which collected Lviv’s data for an assessment of the management of Ukraine’s EU offices[3], finds the recent developments at the Czech Consulate positive, especially in comparison to the Polish Consulate, where the situation is dramatically worse.

Even the Czech Consul-General of Lviv, David Pavlita, is mostly happy with the performance of the Consulate: “The number of applicants is set so that we are not entirely full, with possibly the exception of the months before summer or in September when seasonal workers arrive.”[4]


The area in front of the Consulate, morning, Winter 2009.

The second Czech consular office in Ukraine

The current Czech Consulate is historically the second of Czech Consulates in Lviv; the first Czechoslovakian Consulate existed in the then-Polish Lviv between 1921 and 1939[5]. After a more than sixty year hiatus, the Czech Consulate was reopened in 2004 in response to the continually rising number of applicants for work visas from western Ukraine[6]. In the past years, the Lviv Consulate was among the busiest Czech consular offices with a host of accompanying problems: long waits, chaotic lines, line skipping, selling of spots, lack of information, etc. Just a glance at photographs from 2007 reveals a lot[7].


A line in front of the Lviv Consulate, Summer 2007.

In reaction to the unbearable situation at the Lviv Consulate, there was a call centre set up operating between June 2008 and February 2009; a system by which appointments for applicants for long-term visas were made by telephone. Nonetheless, even this did not lighten the problems linked with the busy Consulate[8]. The overall image[9] of the Consulate managed to win it long-term first-place standing in the Ukraine media poll “Golden Muzzle” as the worst consular office of the EU.

From the 1st of April to the 11th of November 2009, the Czech Consulate in Lviv stopped issuing long-term work visas[10]. In spring and again in autumn 2009 there was a media-initiated case against the call centres and corruption at the Czech consulates; in connection with this a group of 181 Ukrainians submitted a complaint against the Czech State in the autumn of 2009[11]. In the summer of the same year, the internet-based Visapoint system for registration for application for long-term visa was put into effect and, in June, David Pavlita was appointed the new Lviv Consul-General. All these factors supposedly led to the overall improvement of the situation faced by the Consulate in 2007.

We submitted two identical applications

In December 2009 in front of the consulate building several guards walk about while several agents dressed in black loiter nearby. It is a grey and chilly morning. The Consulate opens at nine; a group of applicants is already waiting – according to the Consul, it is about the longest line that will form during the day.

The general gloomy atmosphere still empowers the behaviour of the guard: “Photography? No, that’s not allowed. Are you journalists? No? Why? Just no! Show your documents! Show the photos! Erase the photos!” Every newcomer is constantly watched.


Morning, before the opening of the Consulate – applicants, agents. Opening of the Consulate at nine in the morning (on the right).

The Consulate is surrounded by intermediaries and agencies offering advice and services related to visas. According to the statement of one of the present agents, there are about eight functioning in the neighbourhood of the Consulate.

Anyone stopping at the Consulate is soon offered consultation. “Do you need advice on how to fill-out the document? Do you have insurance, copies of the documents? No? You are really sure you know where to write what and how to act in the interview? Do you know everything that is necessary?”



Many of the applicants use the services of the intermediaries. There are many reasons; it is not only due to the suggestions of the agents. The preparation of the requirements for application for a long-term visa is, for the applicants, a burden on their time, organization and, in particular, finances.

Two friends, middle-aged men, emerge from the Consulate: “We both have the same work settled in the same bakery in the Czech Republic; there they want us, they know that we work hard, but my colleague did not get the visa; he wrote one letter wrong in the application.” Application for Schengen visa must be filled out using the Latin alphabet only.

Shortly after, two women describe a similar situation: “We handed in two identical applications for visit, but I didn’t get the visa, the official reason being that I wrote my date of birth in the wrong order… but I think that it was really rather because I am not married.”

Another applicant did not get the expected visa either. “I wanted to go to the Czech Republic to visit a friend. I applied for a visa for thirty days but I got one only for ten days. I think it’s because I’m unemployed now.” The consulate has often been criticized for not giving out enough multi-entry visas or that it gives out (apparently for safety reasons) visas for shorter periods then was applied for.[12]

Applying for a visa has other snags. It is necessary to book the interview at the Consulate several days, sometimes even a week, in advance. Furthermore, a great number of applicants do not come from Lviv and the trip to the Consulate is already long for them. “I have been travelling since five o’clock in the evening, I’ve waited at the Consulate since seven in the morning,” describes one of the applicants.

So many applications were not expected

At the Consulate everyone must go for an interview[13] in person. The right to hand in group visa applications and stand in for clients is given only to accredited travel agencies. There is no chance for appeal against the decision for denied visas[14]. The situation for short-term Schengen visas has changed as of April 5th, 2010 with the commencement of the Visa codex, which allows appeals.

Since 2008, the ratio of declined applications has been increasing dramatically (see the table below). Obtaining a visa is fairly difficult and often small details decide whether or not the applicant will travel. Obviously most applicants try to insure themselves in multiple ways, which plays in to the hands of the agents.

Statistics – Consulate-general of the Czech Republic in Lviv


Submitted applications

Granted visas

Denied visas


up to 90 days

more than 90 days


up to 90 days

more than 90 days


up to 90 days

more than 90 days











24.0 %

23.1 %

25.1 %











14.3 %

12.5 %

17.4 %











9.4 %

6.2 %

15.2 %











7.7 %

5.1 %

12.1 %











22.8 %

8.2 %

37.8 %











39.4 %

19.9 %

70.0 %


Up to 90 days – visa for visit up to 90 days – type A (airport), B (transit) and C (visiting), from 21 December 2007 concerns only Schengen visas

More than 90 days – national visa for visit longer than 90 days, type D, or D+C (before 5 April 2010 counted for the first 90 days also as a type C visa) and visiting permit.

For denied visas for more than 90 days the numbers shown indicate applications submitted for the whole period (2004-2009), the ratio of denied applications is therefore, distorted – it is not only about the applications submitted in each given year.

*January – November
Consulate-General Czech Republic in Lviv

Maxim Fyliak[15], of the Western Ukrainian Resource Centre, led the project of Caritas Czech Republic[16] which was directed at the legal employment of Ukrainians in the Czech Republic and which ended prematurely in 2008. He sees the visa issuing procedures in the following way: “The Visa process is actually too complicated. It was not designed with the perspective that there would be so many applications. Applicants therefore lack information and so they require assistance. Nevertheless the system has its own specific logic, so when you go through the process for the third time already, you find it understandable.”

This complicated procedure is one of the reasons why the services of the agents are used so frequently. “The agents are actually the most capable organizers. They do not want people to have information but they also know that the nineties are gone and it is better to do everything legally.” He continues: “Those that offer their services to hundreds of Ukrainians have contacts on the Ukrainian side of the Consulate and, I’d say, even the Czech side.” According to Maxim Fyliak, agents charge around 300 dollars, and some as much as 700 dollars, for assistance with work permit applications. But the chances of that applicant being successful in their application remain a lottery. Visas represent problems even for tourist agencies.[17]

What, is thirty-five euro too much?

The overall approach of the employees at the Consulate contributes to the applicants’ misgivings. Several applicants complain about their unpleasant behaviour. “I submitted an application first with my grandmother, they acted condescending and arrogant. We did not get the visas due to formal mistakes… Then our Czech lawyer helped us arrange a new interview; I’m not sure how she managed to do it. My mother came with me, she speaks Czech well – and the behaviour of the clerk at the counter completely changed, suddenly she was polite,” recounted an applicant whose parents have permanent residence in the Czech Republic.

A researcher from Lviv describes her experience similarly. “I asked for the possibility of getting a visa for free, as made possible by the Agreement on Facilitation of Visa Regime. They reacted in an aggressive way: ‘What? Is thirty-five euro too much for you?’… I know both the Czech embassy in Spain and here in Ukraine – and it’s something completely different; the atmosphere, the approach of the employees. It could be different, but there is no interest.”

The way employees at the Consulate treat applicants discourages people who would otherwise like to travel to the Czech Republic for tourism, study or research purposes. A decent space for those waiting at the consulate is also missing – there is nowhere to sit, hide from the rain, or to calmly fill-out the forms.

There is a sort of office where they’ll tell you everything

Maxim Fyliak sees the problem of a lack of information to be significant on the Ukrainian side. “Lots of Ukrainian people do not know how to go about the visa but they don’t even want to know. That is a question of mentality. They don’t believe the State or official institutions and would always rather seek help with their relatives. The people here are used to it; they think that they can buy any sort of service. Especially in the Zakarpattia Oblast (Transcarpathian region), where an elaborate system of agents developed in the Soviet times is still present.”

The activity of the agents is allowed by the lax approach of the Ukrainian state. The area in front of the Consulate and the street do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Consulate and the local authorities tolerate the activity of the agents. Even the Ukrainian media contribute to this by politicizing the problem rather than providing information and deeper analysis of the situation.[18]

As was already mentioned, the notice boards in front of the Consulate provide a lot of important information. More detailed information about the visa procedure is provided mainly on the website of the Consulate. Applicants appreciate the availability of information on the website. Nonetheless, some essential up-to-date information is lacking: even though the availability of working visas was renewed at the beginning of November 2009 in Ukraine, in mid-December the Ukrainian version of the Consulate’s website still stated that these visas were temporarily suspended.

More information is available by telephone, although the number is not published on the notice boards of the Consulate. One of the applicants recounts: “I asked the lady at the counter for information but she didn’t want to talk to me, she kept referring me to the internet. Only after my direct question did she give me a card with the number where to get more information. Those that don’t have access to the internet don’t have much of a chance.”

The conditions for submitting applications often change. In December 2009 it was compulsory for an application for a long-term visa to have a certificate from a doctor, that meant three more documents in addition, each one separately translated and certified by a notary. The requirement of translating the certificate was effective 1st of June 2009. It was a controversial measure criticized for the selection of countries whose citizens it involved and for the fact that such documents can be easily falsified.[19] In the original proposal three certificates were required (HIV, syphilis, TBC), but the HIV certificate was in the end dropped. As of 6 March 2010 citizens of the Ukraine do not have to submit these documents at all.[20]

The information given by the Consulate is chiefly directed at the visa procedure. According to research by the Lviv Legal Society, many applicants are unaware of information concerning the current development of visa politics and their rights in the process; only a few knew about the Agreement on the Facilitation on Visa Regime, which makes it possible for a number of applicants to obtain a Schengen visa for free.

9.JPG 10.JPG

Notice boards and warnings (on the left) on the building of the Consulate

The visa process is challenging and stressful for many applicants. A group of people is standing in front of the Consulate and complains; here there is space for sharing experiences and spreading false information.

Others share their advice willingly: “Go right here nearby, there is a sort of office; there they’ll tell you everything and they’ll advise you. It isn’t expensive; several tens of Hryvnias to fill out one page of the form and it’s sure, believe me. I got the visa; they’ll even arrange insurance for you.” Several of the others who wait nod their heads in agreement.

11.JPG 12.JPG 13.JPG

Insurance, copies, translations, photographs, consultations” – typical advertisement of agencies.

Issuing of visas was stopped from one day to the next without any notice

A small hidden office with three women and folders of documents on the shelves – an agency. The director, quite anxious at the start, later openly describes her experience: the reverse side of the calm face of the Lviv Consulate.

In her opinion, of the several agencies working in Lviv only a few – three, maybe four – function legally. “To act as agents for visa is not our main source of income, in four years of existence we’ve sent out only about four hundred people. We focus mainly on specialists. Now it’s hard here to get capable people – those who work hard and wanted to go have already left. I don’t want to feel ashamed of the people that I have sent to the Czech Republic. Especially at the beginning there was a lot of pressure from other agencies, we have always had more frequent and stricter state controls than the rest of the agencies.” In this agency Ukrainians do not pay for arranging a work placement in the Czech Republic; the company is paid for the procurement of workers by the Czech businesses.

However, between April 2009 and December 2009, no person left for the Czech Republic using their services. “In April they really closed the Consulate from one day to the next without any warning. We had people who had arranged interviews for the beginning of April – and none of them left. At this moment there are eighteen people, specialists, for whom actual work places have been arranged in the Czech Republic. They have everything ready, their Czech employers have been waiting several months for them, but it is not possible to apply through the Visapoint system, there aren’t any free spots.”

Even repeated telephone calls to the Czech Consulate did not provide clear explanations or information about possible developments of the situation. The fact that such information is not available has a strong impact on the agency. “We cannot plan anything, we cannot sign a work contract, we can’t tell anyone anything. I don’t know how long the present situation is going to last,” comments the director.

According to her words, the Consulate does not consider them partners in the capacity of work intermediaries: “Already in December 2008, I approached them with a letter, in which we asked them for a special meeting with agencies dealing with work visas. We never got a reply. They could have at least written that they were not interested.”

The several month long suspension of issuing working visas and the continuing restrictions is not only a problem for Ukrainians. With regard to the fact that she has full proof of a persisting interest in Ukrainian workers from Czech employers, this approach will not benefit the Czech state either, according to the director. “It’s true that Schengen visas are issued, but for our Czech partners it is usually not worth it to accept people only for ninety days. It doesn’t even pay off for people to go there. And if they do go, there’s a higher chance that they’ll stay there longer, without permission, illegally, entering into the grey economy.”

Close oneself off and be at rest?

From the discussions with people living in the city and applicants for visa it is apparent that Czech visa, or any other Schengen visa, can be bought in Lviv, provided the person has good contacts and enough finances. However, the situation in front of the Czech Consulate has overall improved remarkably. The calm in front of the Consulate is, however, paid for by the restrictive approach, especially as far as long-term visas are concerned. It is rather the state itself than the Consulate that is responsible for such restrictive approach.

On the one hand there is the question of the strategy of Czech migration policy. Is its goal to stop labour migration completely? Is this goal realistic? Are these people unnecessary and unwanted on the Czech market? What are the consequences of closing the legal path of migration of workers? These are questions that migration policy-makers should not only put forward, but also provide answers to.

On the other hand stands the question of the consequences of these restrictions on Ukrainian’s relationship with Europe. If we want to see Ukraine in the future as a democratic country and eastern partner, the present visa issuance policy of the Czech Republic is of an opposing nature - no matter whether it is about relations on a personal level or about scholarly and economic cooperation. Problems connected with travel abroad, lead without a doubt to the isolation of this country and its inhabitants.

The interviews and photographs were acquired in Lviv from 1 to 5 December 2009

This article was written as part of the project entitled “Migration Politics in Crisis”, carried out by the Multicultural Center Prague with the support of Open Society Fund Prague and the project “Visawatch” with support from CEE Trust.

[1] For application for long-term visa it is necessary to make an appointment online, for application for short-term visa it is enough to make an appointment by telephone using the Ukrainian telephone line.

[2] The interview with Andrej Lepak took place on 2 December 2009 in Lviv.

[3] Public Monitoring of the EU Member States Visa Issuance Policies and Practices in Ukraine. Available online: http://eu.prostir.ua/library/235087.html (visited 22 March 2010).

[4] “I put quality above quantity.” Interview with the Consul-General in Lviv, David Pavlita. Available online in Czech: https://migraceonline.cz/e-knihovna/?x=2215058 (visited 22 March 2010).

[5] In: History of the Consulate-General. Available online in Czech: http://www.mzv.cz/Lviv/cz/generalni_konzulat/historie_generalniho_konzulatu.html (visited 22 March 2010).

[6] It was the second of three Czech consular offices in Ukraine. Beside the embassy in Kiev, the third Consulate in Donetsk Oblast has been in operation since 2007.

[7] C.f. Čaněk, Marek. Enlargement of the Schengen area and possible consequences for the visa regime towards Ukrainian citizens. A comparative analysis of the Czech and Polish cases. Available online: https://migrationonline.cz/e-library/?x=2054732 (visited 22 March 2010).

[8] The functioning of the call centre (non-transparency, high prices, charging for services) was, among other things, criticized in the 2008 report of the Public Defender of Rights addressed to the Parliament, see The general report concerning the operation of Public Defender of Rights for 2008, s. 73. Available online in Czech: http://www.ochrance.cz/documents/doc1239792209.pdf (visited 21 December 2009).

[9] “The biggest problem is that the Consulate has closed in on itself.” Interview with the representative of the Lviv City Hall about the functioning of the Czech Consulate. Available online in Czech: https://migraceonline.cz/e-knihovna/?x=2224335 (visited 11 April 2010).

[10] Similarly, visa issuing was stopped at representative offices in Bangkok, Hanoi, Chisinau, Ulan Bator and Lviv. With the exception of Bangkok, where issuing was reinstated a month earlier – it took until 26 September, 2009 for visa issuing to be reinstated. In Lviv, with the reason of the flu epidemic in the given region, visas were not issued until 11 November 2009. The Consulate was closed several months until June 2009 due to reconstruction.

[11] See also: The State can change the laws, but then it cannot break them.” Interview with Jan Kopřiva, a lawyer who on behalf of Ukrainian citizens sued the Czech State. Available online: https://migraceonline.cz/e-knihovna/?x=2215059 (visited 21 March 2010).

[12] “We will bring whatever certificate is required.” An interview with a Ukrainian journalist about the Lviv Consulate. Available online in Czech: https://migraceonline.cz/e-knihovna/?x=2224342 (visited 11 April 2010).

[13] The interviews are not officially documented; the Consulate employees make notes only for their own use, applicant do not authorize their replies. The information gained during the interview along with the translated documents constitutes the foundations for the decision to award or deny a visa. For the long-term visas, they are handed to the Czech Foreign Police, who decide further about the issuing of the visa.

[14] Interviews with applicants and their rights to appeal are discussed in detail in the interviews with David Pavlita and with Jan Kopřiva– see notes above.

[15] Interview with Maxim Fyliak took place on 2 December 2009 in Lviv.

[16] For more on the project see: Kočárková, Eva. The System of Assistance for employing Ukrainians. Available online in Czech: https://migraceonline.cz/e-knihovna/?x=2067163 (visited 22 March 2010).

[17] See “As soon as a tourist gets a visa, we are relieved.” Interview with the director of a travel agency about the Lviv Consulate. Available online in Czech: https://migraceonline.cz/e-knihovna/?x=2224337 (visited 11. 4. 2009).

[18] See “Reflection on EU Visa Policy in Ukrainian Mass Media.” In: Public Monitoring of the EU Member´s States Visa Issuance Policies and Practices in Ukraine. p. 66 – 81. Available online: http://eu.prostir.ua/library/235087.html (visited 22 March 2010).

[19] “We will bring whatever certificate necessary.” Interview with a Ukrainian journalist about the Lviv Consulate. Available online: https://migraceonline.cz/e-knihovna/?x=2224342 (visited 8 April 2009).

[20] Information by the official speaker of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 5 April 2010.

Lucie Trlifajová
Lucie Trlifajová studied Anthropology at the Faculty of Arts of the Charles University; her diploma thesis was focused on the current Ukrainian migration to the Czech Republic. She is currently a PhD student in sociology at the Faculty of Social Studies at Masaryk University in Brno. Within the migrationonline.cz project she focuses on the visa issues.
8. 6. 10
Zdroj: migrationonline.cz

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