When the Czech Republic enters the Schengen zone on December 21, it will bring in an era of passport-free travel for Czechs abroad. But not everyone is looking forward to the change. Entry to the Schengen zone could spell trouble for the sizeable number of Americans who have, up until now, been living and working in Prague without a visa.
Up until now, it was possible for Americans to live in the Czech Republic without a visa. It maybe wasn't all that kosher, but required nothing more than a trip to one of the Czech Republic's neighbours, like Germany or Austria, to get a stamp in the passport every 90 days. […]
But things are about to get more complicated: as of December 21 visa-less US citizens will only be allowed to remain in the Czech Republic, or any other part of the Schengen area, for a maximum of 90 days over any six-month period. Living here without a visa will no longer be an option for American citizens.
And what's more, anyone wishing to apply for a visa will have to do so outside of the Schengen zone. The closest consulates will be in Kiev, Bucharest or Zurich.
In the early 1990s American YAPs at first would be conscious of touching the nearby German border every three months, but then quickly realized that the government was too busy with other tasks to give a shit about whether the North American hippies were following the letter of immigration law (including, if memory serves, some absurd requirement to spend like $80 a day).
As a result, not only was I an illegal immigrant for five years, but an illegal immigrant who employed plenty of other illegal immigrants for as little as $100 a month. If we had been Mexicans running a Spanish-language paper full of "illegals" in the modern-day U.S., we'd have been deportable criminals eligible for a 10-year "do not entry" stamp.