I have guests coming into town tomorrow from South Africa, and what it took to get them an entry visa was comical at best.

1) We had to write an invitation letter.
2) We had to take the invitation letter to the Foreigners’ Police, along with their personal info, and wait in line for half a day for a rubber stamp.
3) We had to DHL the rubber-stamped paperwork to South Africa, where
4) My guests had to travel 8 hours by car to Pretoria – the nearest consulate – for the official visa.

This, of course, is for a five-day visit.

Which is why I was glad to see an article in today’s Hospodarské noviny titled “We Are Losing Money Due to Bad Visa Policy,” an interview with David GladiÅ¡, the director of the Czech Tourism government agency. One interesting fact that I didn’t know: Although the Czechs will see 96 billion CZK in tourism revenues this year, it’s still less per capita than Hungary.

“The really big barrier, which is still waiting for improvement, is in our visa policy,” GladiÅ¡ said. “First, we require visas from citizens of countries that are completely unnecessary: Canadians and Australians. Second, in countries where a visa is required and necessary, the method of issuing visas discourages primarily serious tourists and businessmen. This is true of Russia, rich Arab nations, China and similar countries.”

I actually know a Canadian woman who lived in Prague, and flew back after spending Christmas at home one year, only to forget her visa. She was not only refused entry, but she was marked “persona non grata,” which meant she could never return to the Czech Republic.

One can only hope for a streamlining of visa requirements as part of EU membership next year.