In connection with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began on 24 February 2022, and the constantly increasing number of people fleeing Ukraine to Poland, the Polish legislator has prepared a special law, aimed, inter alia, to regulate issues related to residence and employment of Ukrainian citizens in Poland.
The act entered into force with effect from 24 February.
What is the final shape of this regulation?
Application of the new law
The arrangements provided for in the new law apply to
- citizens of Ukraine, who came to Poland directly from Ukraine due to war
- spouses of Ukrainian citizens who are not Ukrainian citizens themselves, if they came to Poland directly from Ukraine due to war
- Ukrainian citizens holding a Polish Card (Karta Polaka), who, together with their closest family members, have also arrived to Poland due to war
The solutions provided for in the new law will not be available to:
- citizens of other countries who left the territory of Ukraine due to war (including those who were under international protection in Ukraine), as well as
- Ukrainian citizens and their families who did not come to Poland directly from the territory of Ukraine, e.g. they first entered Slovakia and then crossed the Slovak-Polish border.
These persons will have to legalise their stay in Poland (and work) on general terms. However, some of these persons may be entitled to benefit from the mechanism of temporary protection implemented by the decision of the EU Council of 4 March.
Residence in Poland
According to the new law, the residence of a Ukrainian citizen who:
- crossed the Ukrainian-Polish border legally on or after 24 February 2022 and
- declared his/her intention to stay in Poland
will be considered legal for a period of up to 18 months counting from 24 February 2022. However, the departure of a Ukrainian citizen from Poland for a period exceeding one month will deprive him/her of this entitlement.
Legally crossing the border the Polish border means:
- an appropriate stamp in the passport or a document of approval of the commanding officer;
- filing of an appropriate application by the citizen of Ukraine already in the territory of Poland (no later than 60 days from the date of entry into Poland).
The latter will apply in particular to those who crossed the border without a valid passport.
The above does not apply to Ukrainian citizens having:
- permanent residence permit
- a long-term EU resident's residence permit
- temporary residence permit
- refugee status
- permit for tolerated stay
- - or who have applied for international protection or declared their intention to do so, unless they withdraw their application or declaration.
Granting of a unique personal identification number in Poland
Ukrainian citizens will also be assigned an identification number on the basis of an application submitted to a competent municipality authority in Poland. A passport-standard photograph of an applicant will have to be attached to the application and his/her fingerprints will be taken.
The municipality authority will confirm the identity of the applicant on the basis of a passport, the Polish Card (Karta Polaka) or another document with a photograph enabling identification. In the case of children – also with a birth document. It will be permissible to confirm identity even on the basis of an invalid document, if it allows the person's identity to be established.
According to the official announcement, applications for assigning identification numbers under the new law may be filed from 16 March. From this date the IT system will be adjusted to the new procedure.
Ukrainian citizens will also be allowed to have an electronic document containing their current data in a Polish mobile application.
Status of persons staying in Poland on the date of the invasion
On the basis of the new law, there will be an automatic extension of the legal stay of Ukrainian citizens residing in Poland on 24 February 2022 on the basis of, e.g.:
- visa-free movement
- Schengen visa
- visa issued by another Schengen State, or
- residence permits
If their stay began before that date, the residence titles will be automatically extended by 18 months. However, new permits will not be issued.
However, if the citizens of Ukraine are staying in Poland on the basis of a national visa, and the last day of the period of stay on that basis falls on or after 24 February 2022, the period of stay is extended until 31 December 2022. A new visa sticker will not be issued.
However, persons who benefit from the extension of the legality of their stay on these grounds will not be permitted to cross the border.
Further residence in Poland
Persons who have benefited from the solution introduced by the new law will be able to apply for a temporary residence permit in Poland valid for 3 years. The application should be submitted not earlier than within 9 months from the date of entry to Poland, and not later than within 18 months from 24 February 2022.
A citizen of Ukraine holding a temporary residence permit will be entitled to work without a work permit.
Work without a work permit
On the basis of the new law it will be possible to perform work in Poland without a work permit. The employer will only be required to report this fact to the employment office within 14 days from the date of taking up employment by the Ukrainian citizen.
The citizens of Ukraine will be permitted to register as unemployed and benefit from services provided by the unemployment offices, such as:
- job placement
- vocational counseling
- different kinds f trainings.
Running a business
Citizens of Ukraine will also have the right to undertake business activity similarly to Polish citizens. However, if their stay in Poland ceases to be legal they will lose their sole trader status.
Benefits for persons providing accommodation and alimentation to Ukrainian refugees
The new law also stipulates that any entity, including in particular an individual, who provides accommodation and alimentation to Ukrainian citizens may be granted a cash benefit in this respect on the basis of an agreement concluded with the municipal authority. However, the benefit will be due no longer than for 60 days (in particularly justified cases, this period may be extended).
The entity applying for the benefit will be obliged to submit a statement that for the period for which he/she provided accommodation to Ukrainian citizens he/she did not receive any payment in this respect.
Details on the granting and amount of benefits will be regulated in a separate regulation. The amount of the benefit is not explicitly provided for in the special law.
Other benefits and entitlements
The new law also provides for a number of other entitlements for Ukrainian citizens legally residing in Poland, such as:
- entitlement to certain social benefits and subsidies to reduce the fee for the stay of the child in the nursery and alike institutions
- entitlement to a one-off lump-sum cash benefit covering expenses for food, clothing, hygiene products etc. and aid under the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived
- entitlement to free psychological assistance
- access to public medical care in Poland
Additionally, Ukrainian citizens, who are students, will be able to apply for social scholarships and student loans.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.