Monday, August 12, 2013

Polish Immigration Procedures: And You Thought the Line at the DMV was Bad...

-not actually evil, but bad-tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous. They wouldn't even lift a finger to save their own grandmothers from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal without orders signed in triplicate- Douglas Adams.

You have done your research and you have crunched your numbers and you have decided that you want to move your operations to Krakow. Now, you will have to deal with what the Economists call “the Vogons of the East”, the wonderful institution known as Polish bureaucracy. You have some choices. You can either do it yourself or have a relocations agency take care of all the paper work for you. Although I can cover every facet of the relocation process, I will only focus on the immigration aspect.

Relocation Agencies

The benefit of having the relocation agencies do things for you is that they do all the footwork and all you do is pay the bills. I would recommend it for firms that do not have the time to waste tracking down all the offices and standing in endless lines, not to mention dealing with unpleasant bureaucratic officials. On top of that, most officials speak only Polish. It is a good option when you would rather spend your time doing constructive and money-making activities and you have the money to spend. These firms offer a range of services including:

  • Looking for a flat or house and organization of paper work with the landlord or the local authorities
  • Moving your things
  • Setting up a bank account
  • Looking for schools for your children
  • Culture orientation
  • Household utility and furniture aquisition
  • And all the bureaucratic paper work dealing with immigration
Here is a list of local companies in and around Krakow:

Doing it all by yourself

The first thing I will say to you is “Good luck!”

The second thing I will say is “Do not panic!”

Getting everything done is possisble.

This is super important

You need to do all this within the first month of your arrival, or 45 days before your tourist visa expires!

Step 1
Go to the website of the Foreigners Department of the Malopolska Voidvoship Office in Krakow and yes it is in English.

Step 2
Read all the information connected to you. For EU nationals, things are a bit easier. Go to the part under Residence Permits for EU nationals. For non-EU nationals things are a bit more complicated. Go to the section under Residence permit for a fixed period.

90 days in a 180 day period? What does that even mean?

This means that once you have entered the Schegen Zone, you may stay a total of 90 days with in a 180 day period in a given country. For example, you might enter Germany and stay 45 days there and go to the Czech Republic for another 45 days and then go back to Germany for the remainder of the 45 there before going back to the Czech Republic for another 45 days. So after all that, you have spent 90 in Germany and 90 in the Czech Republic, all within the 180 day period in each country. So basically, the meter starts running the moment you enter a particular country, but pauses once you exit that country and restarts once you re-enter the country. After your 90 day allowance, unless you apply and are granted a permit to stay an extended amount of time, you are required to leave for 180 days before you can re-enter the country.

Step 3
Download, print out, and fill out the forms needed. Here is a list of documents needed according to your situation. (Documents needed) Remember all the information have to be in Polish. You might want to consult a Polish friend or the google translator for that. Use a blue or black ink pen and make sure you make copies of anything you might want to hand in. Hand in only the copies, never hand in the originals of anything other than the official application form. I cannot emphasize this enough. As in any bureaucratic office, documents get lost!

Step 4
Gather up all the documents needed based on your particular situation and if there are any documents that is not in Polish have a “sworn translator” translate it into Polish. A google search will return a nice list of qualified service providers in the Krakow area. Here are some instructions for you. ( Instructions )

Step 5
Get medical Insurance. The website of PZU has a range of products suitable for foreigners of non-EU nations. EU nationals can go to the NFZ to get your EU insurance card. Unfortunately both websites and most service providers at their officies speak only Polish. It is best to bring a friend to help you. If you want to pay something, you man either pay in cash or at the post office. They do not take credit cards.

Step 6
Take all your documents as well as their copies to the Foreigners Department.(FD) In Krakow it is at ul. Przy Rondzie 6 (ground floor, foreigners' affairs room). Take a number and wait until your number is called. Although some of the workers speak adequate English, it is still best to bring a Polish speaker with you as they might need to ask you some questions and require you to fill in more information. Based on personal experience, they are generally quite pleasant. As in any offices of this kind in any country, if you are confrontational and unpleasant, they might make your life a quite a bit more complicated. In most cases you will need to pay a 340 PLN application fee. They will tell you where to pay it. Keep the money in your pocket until you need to pay. They get a bit weird if you start to flash the cash in front of them.

Step 7
So you have submitted all the required documents and you did this 45 days before your tourist visa expires. Congratulations! They will ut a stamp in your passport. With this stamp, you are legal until they have made an official decision, even if the decision occurs after your visa expires. Now you have to wait for their decision. They will send your information to the border guard, the local police and the voidvoship police for a conformation of what you have stated in your documents. If they should require any more information or documents, they will send you a letter in Polish. It is important to get the requested documents to the FD within a 7 day period.

Step 8
  • Congratulations the decision is positive: You will need to take the letter to the FD and pay a 50 PLN card issuance fee and wait until you can go back and pick it up in person.
  • Sorry, they turned you down: You can follow an appeals process listed on the FD website.

So after everything, well done! You can start doing business here and the best part? You can pay taxes and ZUS. What is this ZUS thing anyway? That is a discussion for another day.

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