Most foreigners coming to live in Slovakia discover very early the problems they can expect to encounter when visiting the so-called Alien Police Department, which has developed a reputation, in Bratislava at least, as a place of nightmare scenarios.
Most people have to make several visits, usually involving hours of waiting, as more often than not there is always something missing from their application, with many people receiving vague and conflicting information from different officers. It has also become a numbers game, with people even camping outside the building to get the first numbers from the almost holy ticket machine in the morning. This has led literally to ticket touts and paid place-holders who get tickets for those not willing to wait, and there is always a willing customer.
The name of the department itself was contested before it was finally approved because of the word alien, which although correct from a grammatical perspective, is probably not the best choice. The department in Bratislava covers the whole Bratislava region, a massive catchment area that also draws in most foreigners coming to the country. The building is located in a hidden back street of the labyrinth that is Petrzalka, just to test the foreigners’ orientation skills and ability to combine a few buses to get even close.
Once upon a time, the foreigner police departments were located locally in the individual boroughs of Bratislava, meaning the officers knew all their aliens personally, with no queues, ticket machines or any unnecessary obstructions. That all changed with the centralisation of the whole region to a single understaffed office. Daily SME cites interior minister Robert Kalinak as comparing waiting all night to get served to waiting for a new iPhone. He did promise, though, to look into better or bigger premises for the department next year.
Cases of frustration, confusion, nervous breakdowns can be found all over Facebook, for instance, as many foreigners undergo a true test of patience. One couple with small kids were stuck there for 5 hours, and they were EU citizens who have a separate office that is normally swifter. The problem has recently caught media attention again, especially as the ticket machine has apparently been out of order for over a year. This has led to a self-initiative among the foreigners, who have created their own queue list, taking shifts to keep the list going and even talking about crowdfunding to get a new system.
The dreaded alien police experience is made worse by the fact that most information on the walls is only in Slovak and the officers themselves speak mostly only Slovak. Taking a friend along who can speak the language is therefore par for the course. Despite a new setup put in place last year, the long-wait and missing document nightmare for foreigners registering in Slovakia looks set to continue until somebody takes control of streamlining the whole operation, but best not hold your breath for that one.
In case you are not camping out, here are the new office hours of the Alien Police Department in Bratislava as of today (1 October 2014).
Monday 7.30 – 12.00, 12.30 – 15.00
Tuesday 7.30 – 12.00
Wednesday 7.30 – 12.00, 12.30 – 17.00
Friday 7.30 – 13.00