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Foreigners on the Polish labour market (cultural differences, culture influence on the advisory process, rules and legal regulations)

After the political system changes in 1989 and numerous economic transformations, Poland was flooded by more and more foreigners. At the beginning there were mainly tourists and managers registered. As soon as Poland signed the international conventions relating to foreigners, after permanent economic development and finally after Poland’s access to European Union, there are more and more foreigners visiting our country every year. These are both citizens of EU and citizens of other countries. That growing number of incoming immigrants looks for a possibility of employment and their professional career.

In Poland less than 3 per cent of society accounts for other than Polish. However Polish are still one of the most ethnically uniform countries.  It used to be that way but not always. Before II World War 40 percent were Jews, Germany and Russians. Currently the fact of multi-culture is discouraged in Warsaw. Lots of foreigners come to Poland for many different reasons. There can be following types of people staying in Poland for a longer period every year. We distinguish: students, refuges, economic immigrants, wife or husband of Polish citizens, repatriates. Whereas we are visited by tourists and businessmen for a short period of time. Next to the foreigners legally coming to Poland, there are illegal foreigners in our country. People staying in Poland illegally have very restricted rights and, as a rule, should be deported to their origin country, while foreigners legally staying here have lots of

The current condition of the Polish legislation within the legalization of foreigners stay in Poland has been established based on international and European law. Poland, as a member of European Union, is obliged to create laws including rights and duties, referring to Poland, which follows form its membership to an international society. Polish legislation defines the questions of the foreigners’ stay legalization in two legal acts: the act on foreigners and the act on providing protection to foreigners on the territory of the Republic of Poland. The first act includes regulations referring to foreigners’ stay in Poland, either long or short one. The second document specified regulations concerning refugees. The problem of the foreigners’ access to the labour market is defined by the act of employment promotion and institutions of the labour market as well as the Ministers of Labour and Social Policy regulation. While matters concerning education, are found in the act on the educational system, the act on higher education and other legal acts issued by the Ministry of National Education.

A significant, but also a numerous group of foreigners constitute students who come to Poland. According to the Polish act on foreigners, stay of foreign students in Poland requires a temporary stay permit for a definite time. A possibility to get such permission on a kind of studies a foreigner does. According to this principle, a foreigner receives a temporary stay permit for a definite time (and a temporary stay card), when:

  • takes part in trainings and professional internship under European Union Programmes (art.  53 section 1 pt. 4);
  • stays on the territory of Poland in order to take or continue full-time studies: bachelor, master or doctoral, but also in case a student started their studies in another country of European Union, which are to be continued or completed in Poland (art.  53 section 1 pt. 16);
  • is a researcher, who stays in Poland in order to conduct scientific research on the basis of a contract of admission to carry out a research project, concluded with a research institution and validated by a competent minister for science (art.  53 section 1 pt. 17);
  • got a stay card with ‘a researcher’ annotation, issued by other country of European Union, on the basis of the contract of admission to carry out a research project, concluded with a research institution of that country.

Practical advice for student foreigners:


Application for a temporary stay permit must be submitted in the province governor's office. The application must be filed not later than 45 days before the visa expiry date or before the expiry date of the previous temporary stay permit. It is very important to observe the deadlines.

2.      DOCUMENTS.

When applying for a temporary stay permit in connection to education, studies or participation in  a professional training in Poland, a required documents should be submitted (depending on the type of studies). In the above mentioned situations organ of administration is obliged to issue a permit, if only a foreigners submits an application and the necessary documents. The act provides for a possibility to issue a temporary stay permit in the situations when a foreigner is planning to take or continue their studies on the territory of the Republic of Poland: evening or weekend studies (art. 53a section 1a); professional training (art. 53a section 1b).

In the above cases a permit issue is not obligatory. A competent organ of administration can issue a stay permit to a foreigner, but does not have a legal obligation to do so. A temporary stay permit in order to study is, as a rule, issued for maximum 1 year. After that, a student has a right to apply for the next one in order to continue their education. To extend the card expiry date, a student needs a dean’s signature informing about passing a given year of studies and admission for the next year (or a conditional entry for the next academic year).

The documents required from all foreigners are as follows: 4 completed copies of application; 4 recent colour pictures; valid travel document for inspection (as well as 2 copies of the whole document); temporary stay card; certificate which entitles to rent a room or a flat (e.g. lease agreement, document issued by a dormitory, which states the rental, university’s annotation, rules and regulations of the dormitory’s resident); certificate of health insurance (which covers costs of treatment, not only accident insurance); receipt of the settlement for the permit issue.

Additionally, foreigners who apply for a permission on the basis of full-time studies in Poland have to put forward: a certificate of admission for studies or continuation of studies issued by the university (according to the valid draft); receipt of the tuition settlement, if needed (persons studying under the state scholarship have to put forward a certificate issued by the university); proof of sufficient funds to cover the costs of living and travel back to the foreigner’s native country).

Some of the refugees stay in Poland due to the persecution they encountered in their native country. Those persons submit an application for granting a refugee status to the President of Repatriation and Aliens’ Office in Poland. A foreigner is granted the Temporary Certificate of Foreigner’s Identity, for the time of administration procedures, carried out to examine whether a foreigner qualifies for the status of a refugee. The certificate entitles to a legal stay in Poland until the end of the procedures. It is legalizes the stay only for the time of procedure which defines whether a foreigner will get a permit to stay in Poland. Therefore, a stay permit does not depend on a foreigner themselves, but on a fact of application for the refugee status. Foreigners using the Temporary Certificate of Foreigner’s Identity, as a rule, do not have a right to take a job in the Republic of Poland. Exception is a situation, if for over a year from the application submission by a foreigner, the decision on granting a refugee status has not been issued in the first instance. Moreover, the reason for that was independent of the foreigner.

Foreigners who gained a status of a refugee, in Poland are entitled to a protection in connection to the persecutions they suffered in their motherland. Those persons hold two documents issued by the authorities of Poland: a temporary stay card issued for 2 years, a Geneva travel document issued for 2 years as well. Furthermore, the refugee status is issued permanently. That means that within 2 years both stay card and a Geneva travel document are prolonged automatically without a necessity to apply for them again. A stay card is a document, which legalizes a foreigner’s stay in Poland, in this case a status of a refugee. Whereas the Geneva travel document is issued only to foreigners who got the refugee status. It allows refugees travel outside Poland.

Foreigners, who are granted a refugee status in Poland, have the same rights to enter the labour market as Polish citizens, except for access to job positions, which require Polish citizenship. The same concerns relatives of persons with a refugee status. People with a refugee status have a right to establish and run their business activity on the same basis as Polish citizens in every form, including commercial partnership.

Foreigners who are planning to stay in Poland for over 3 months, and came here because of being persecuted in their motherland, can apply for one of the legal statuses giving them a permission for longer stay on the territory of Poland. Polish law provides to possibilities: temporary stay permit, permit for settle and long term stay permit of a European Unions’ resident.

Not all of foreigners, who have a temporary stay permit for a definite time, have also right to work on the same basis as Polish citizens. Among persons of such entitlements are foreigners – members of the families of Polish citizens, e.g. a married couple. However, that is not vested to students. They can work on the same basis as Polish citizens, but only during the summer holidays. The other foreigners, who have a temporary stay permit for a definite time on the territory of the Republic of Poland, must apply for it in order to take a job.

Issues concerning recognition of diploma relating to education or skills acquired by foreigners are a crucial problem under the foreigners’ rights to education and work in Poland. In particular, that relates to will to take up studies by a foreigner. Here a necessary condition is to show a document which certifies secondary school graduation with a right to apply for a position of a student in a university. An employer has also a right to require documents certifying skills and competences gained by a foreigner, which let him take a job. In Poland foreign documents on education as well as occupation are recognized by the international agreements on education recognition.

Iwona Kuc


Useful links:








  1. Klaus W. (ed.), Prawne uwarunkowania integracji uchodźców w Polsce: komentarze dla praktyków, SIP, Warszawa 2006.
  2. Piegat-Kaczmarczyk M., Rejmer-Ronowicz Z., Smoter B., Kownacka E., Podejście wielokulturowe w doradztwie zawodowym. Praktyczny poradnik dla doradcy zawodowego pracującego z klientem odmiennym kulturowo, KOWEZiU, Warszawa 2007.
  3. The Geneva Convention – Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of 28 July 1951 (Journal of Acts of 1991, No. 119, item 515, 516)
  4. New York Protocol – Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees of 31 January 1967 (Journal of Acts of 1991, No. 119, item 517, 518).
  5. The Act of 13 June 2003 on Providing Protection to Foreigners in the Republic of Poland (Journal of Acts No. 128, item 1176 with later changes).
  6. The Act of 13 June 2003 on Foreigners (Journal of Acts No. 128, item 1175 later changes).
  7. The Act of 20 April 2004 on Employment Promotion and Labour Market Institutions (Journal of Acts No. 99, item 1001 with later changes).
  8. Regulation of the Minister of Science and Higher Education of 12 October 2006 on undertaking studies and courses and participating in research and development work by foreigners (Dz.U. No.190, item 1406 of 2006).