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To live in Poland for a temporary amount of time, foreigners in Poland(mostly non-EU citizens) need to apply for a temporary residence permit also called a Karta Pobytu.
To apply for a permit, you need to have a reason to stay in Poland.
In my case, that reason is work.
In this article, you’ll see the process that I, a non-EU citizen, went through in order to live and work in Poland and obtain a karta pobytu based upon work.
NOTE: This is not a how-to guide. This article is nothing more than the process I went through to get my work and living permissions in Warsaw. This process is different for everyone and the rules vary between Polish cities.
Step 1: What is a karta pobytu?
A Karta Pobytu, or residence card, is a crucial document for non-EU nationals wishing to reside in Poland for an extended period.
It serves as official proof of legal residence, allowing holders to live, work, and access services in the country.
The process to obtain one involves submitting specific documents for Karta Pobytu to the voivodeship office, the regional administrative authority in Poland. These documents validate the applicant’s purpose and duration of stay, be it for work, studies, or family reasons.
A common query among applicants is, “Can I leave Poland while waiting for a residence permit?”
The answer varies based on individual circumstances, but it’s essential to be cautious, as leaving might impact the application’s outcome.
Acquiring a Karta Pobytu ensures a smoother experience in Poland, eliminating potential legal hurdles and solidifying one’s status in the country.
Step 2: The Value of Hiring a Lawyer for the Karta Pobytu Process
I strongly suggest using a lawyer for this process. Yes, it is costly, but as someone who doesn’t speak fluent Polish and isn’t familiar with Polish bureaucracy, this was the best option.
Although my lawyer took care of a majority of the process, I am familiar with what happened, and that’s what you will see in this article.
My lawyer, Piotr Sawicki, speaks fluent English, is incredibly thorough and kept me updated throughout the whole process.
He and his team speak fluent Polish, English, Ukranian, and Russian and are very very nice people.
If you would like to get in contact with him and his team to see how they can assist you, check out their website here.
Please note that I do not make any money or earn any incentives by recommending him and his firm. I’m mentioning Piotr because his team helped me a lot, and they may be able to help you if you need it.
Getting a karta pobytu (temporary residence permit) in Poland
So as I mentioned, my temporary residence permit is based on work. I’m a digital marketer for Packhelp. I won’t bore you with the details of what I do, but that’s where I work.
In order for me to work there, I needed to get a work permit. I needed a work permit because I am not Polish.
Of course, the government wants to keep unemployment low, so why would they let a foreigner have a job if an unemployed Pole could do the same job?
This is why you need a work permit.
Step 3: Securing a work permit
Some employers apply for them on your behalf, but some require you to do it yourself.
In my experience, work permits look like this:
- You find a job, and you’re given an offer (contract – umowa o pracę, umowa o dzieło, something like that)
- You take this offer and use it in your application for a work permit. (documents here)
- The job description has to be included in the application, and the vacant position has to have been advertised for more than 6 weeks
- The job description cannot be tailored just to you. eg, ‘We’re looking for an Australian male digital marketer with 2 years living in Poland and work history in startups’
You’ll also need to provide your qualifications that are relevant to the work permit your going for, and any recommendations from previous employers where you did a similar job to the role you’re applying for now – again, all of these documents must be in Polish.
Want to become a qualified English teacher and relocate to Poland? Click below to take the online course that I used to get myself a karta pobytu in Poland!
Once the work permit has been submitted, there will be a ‘labour market test‘. This basically means that the government will try and find if any unemployed Poles can fill the role, rather than you.
If the labour market test is passed, you (should) get your work permit!
You’ll see a lot of Polish Eagles in your application process!
Congratulations, you can now work and be paid while you continue to apply for your karta pobytu!
Note: You cannot legally work or be paid until you have been granted your work permit. Simply submitting it does not give you the right to work in Poland.
Step 5: Essential Preparations Before Your Karta Pobytu Application
So once you’ve got your work permit, you’d think it gets easier, right?
Before working at Packhelp, I had a previous job with a work contract, a previous work permit, a previous karta pobytu and had worked with a previous lawyer.
So before I could submit my new application, I had to submit documents that said:
- My old work contract had been cancelled
- My old work permit had been cancelled
- My previous karta pobytu had been cancelled
- My power of attorney with my old lawyer had been cancelled.
This is not something they tell you when you submit your application. If you have had any form of employment or worked with another lawyer previously, you need to submit paperwork showing that all previous contracts have been cancelled.
If you don’t, and your karta pobytu application manager sees that there is evidence of you working here in the past, your application will be denied.
Step 6: Comprehensive Document Checklist for Karta Pobytu Application
Ok, so once you’re certain that you’ve cancelled all other contracts and agreements in Poland, it’s time to get everything that you need for your karta pobytu application.
You obviously need to fill out this document. You also need:
Fun fact about passports: My passport expired a few months before my application. I applied for a new passport at the Australian embassy in Warsaw and got it in a few weeks. My case handler thought it was suspicious that I didn’t need to go to Australia to get a new passport (as Polish passports can only be issued in Poland) and thought it even more suspicious that my 2-month old passport didn’t have a stamp saying that I entered the EU. If you’re in this situation, take your old passport, too.
✅ Passport photocopies
You need to scan every single page of your passport, whether it has a stamp or not. Front cover, back cover, all of it. To apply, you will need to submit two copies of every page of your passport.
✅ 4x passport photos
These are kept on record and used on your actual card. Make sure you look pretty.
✅ Work permit
Remember that one? You need to show them that you’ve got a job offer and proof of income. The length of your work permit may also dictate the length of your residence permit.
✅ Bank statement
You don’t need to have millions of złoty in there, a Polish bank account with 1000zł will prove that you have money to live off.
✅ Health insurance
Many employers have health insurance benefits. If that’s the case with your job, you’ll need to show that your employer will cover your health insurance. Either way, it’s a good idea to buy 6 months of basic health insurance, and provide proof that you have yourself covered regardless.
✅ Proof of somewhere to live
I rent an apartment by myself, so I provided a copy of my rental contract between my landlord and me to show that I have somewhere to live. If you’re living with a friend, you need to sign an agreement with them showing that they give you permission to live there. This is necessary whether your friend is renting or owns the place.
✅ Tax return
The first time I applied, I supplied my Australian tax return, showing that I owed no money in Australia (just to be safe). The second time around, I supplied both my PIT-11 and PIT-37 to show that all my taxes were paid up.
✅ Birth certificate
This one was by far my favourite. I needed to get my birth certificate translated into Polish by a sworn translator and submit the Polish version of my birth certificate.
❗ Important note:
Some of these documents need to be the original and not copies. Some of these documents can be printed out copies. Be safe and take both the original of everything as well as a copy of everything. They will pick what they need.
Step 7: Submitting Your Karta Pobytu Documents
Anyone that’s been to Urząd Mazowieckie knows that it’s a soul-crushing house of stress and anxiety.
That’s why, when you submit your application, you’re able to book online. At least, you can in Mazowieckie. You can also call and make an appointment.
If you’re doing this with a lawyer, the lawyer will take care of it all. If you’re doing this by yourself, you’ll need to do this.
On your day, you wait until your name is called (because you made an appointment earlier). You’ll sit an uncomfortably cramped desk and hand over the documents that the person asks for.
If you don’t have something don’t stress – it just means you have to come back at a later date (that’s not fun).
Once you’ve handed over all your documents, you’ll be asked to put your fingerprints on a little machine, where they take your prints onto the record.
Then, you need to go pay (180zł I believe) and then return with the receipt.
Now, if you did forget something, you can, as you just read, resubmit it at a later date. However to do this, you don’t get to make an appointment – instead, you have to get to Urząd mazowieckie at 5 am, wait in line and as the doors open at 8 am, race to get a number.
You think I’m joking, but I’m not.
While you are able to submit documents after you’ve submitted your application, it’s not pleasant to do so. That’s why you should make sure that you have everything ready to go by your first meeting. If you do end up waiting in like, take a good book like The Witcher.
Step 8: Post-Submission: What Happens After Applying for Karta Pobytu?
Once all your documents are submitted, you’ll get a confirmation letter in the mail.
This letter is very important. It’s this certificate that says that you’ve officially applied for a residence permit and are waiting for a decision. If your status is questioned by Police or the authorities in Poland, this letter is important.
If you missed something in your application, you should get a letter saying something is missing. Then, you’ll have to go submit it again and wait in that awful line.
However, if your application has too many ‘holes’ in it, and it doesn’t look overly reliable, your application will be denied.
And now you wait…
I waited 3 months for my first karta pobytu.
I waited 9 months for my second one, and I waited for 14 months for my third.
I’ve heard stories of people waiting up to two years, as case managers resign and the cases are handed over to new people. At the end of the day, the people that process your application are civil servants, and working as a civil servant isn’t known for its great working conditions or its amazing salary. Please keep that in mind.
Common Queries About the Karta Pobytu Application Process
I’ve had many many emails asking me about the process. Here are some of the most common questions (and things I wish I knew) about the application process.
NOTE THAT THESE ARE MY EXPERIENCES AND NOT THE LAW. IF YOU LEAVE POLAND BEFORE THE DECISION IS MADE, YOU DO SO AT YOUR OWN RISK
I have a 90-day Schengen Visa. Do I have to leave Poland after applying for a temporary residence permit?
No, you don’t. Once you’ve applied for a karta pobytu, you’re able to stay until the decision is made. If you have a work permit, you can continue to work and be paid.
Can I leave Poland after applying?
Driving across EU borders, I had no problems with my documentation. I flew within the EU while waiting for a decision to be made. When boarding the plane at the airport, I showed my passport and had no problems.
Can I leave the EU after applying?
As an Australian, I have a 90-day Visa free period. After entering the EU in 2016, I didn’t leave for nearly 3 years. I stayed legally though. If your Schengen Visa expires in the time you’re waiting for your karta pobytu decision, then you’ll need to either stay outside of Poland until it’s approved or re-enter Poland with an EU or Polish Visa.
I went to Australia while the decision for my karta pobytu was still pending, and to reenter, I had to get a Polish visa.
I’ve heard of people applying for a karta pobytu and then immediately leaving Poland and getting a long-term EU visa, enabling them to travel throughout the EU while waiting for their karta pobytu decision.
What happens if I change job/house while waiting?
If your work situation or living situation changes, you need to inform the urząd immediately.
What happens if my application is denied?
If your application is denied, you have two options:
- Appeal the decision and submit a stronger case (better documents)
- Leave Poland in 90 days.
Celebrations in Order: Steps After Your Karta Pobytu Approval
Congratulations, your temporary residence permit has been approved! It’s all finished!
In what feels like a cruel joke, you still need to go to the urząd to actually get the documentation and the card!
Here, you’ll need to show a few forms of identification, and they may take your fingerprints again. You’ll have a few documents to sign, and you’ll leave with 2 things:
- The decision to issue you your temporary residence permit
- The physical card itself
Now, of course, the paperwork is more important than the card itself. Put that document in a very very safe place, and keep your karta pobytu on you at all times!
When do I need to show/use my karta pobytu?
I treat my karta pobytu as the default for of ID here in Poland. I’ll use it when police need some ID or some other form of ID is needed in Poland. Every time I enter and exit the EU, I’ll show both my passport and karta pobytu at customs.
Note: You can use your karta pobytu as ID to board a plane in Poland, but you cannot use it to board a plane outside of Poland. Use your passport for that.
So there you have it – How to get your karta pobytu based on work in Poland.
If you have any questions, please drop them in the comments, but again I urge you to contact a lawyer like Piotr Sawicki and his team.