9.54% of decisions regarding temporary residence permits in Poland in 2016 were negative. These responses did not come out of nowhere. Throughout the application process it is possible to notice several signals that something wrong may be going on. When you know how to interpret letters from the office you will be able to properly react to them.
Tips and instructions from this article are based mainly on my experience from Krakow. I’m sure that there are differences in internal procedures and customs in the offices all over the country, so please remember that this text can give you a general idea of what to expect, but it can’t be applied to every case and it’s no substitute for consulting with a professional and experienced clerk or lawyer who can check your documents.
Braki formalne = Formal defects
Formal defects are the first serious problem that can happen to you after you apply for your temporary residence permit. They occur when your application doesn’t meet the basic requirements described by law. If you don’t correct formal defects on time, your case won’t be further examined and you will need to apply all over again – and that’s only possible if your stay in Poland will be still legal after that time. The most frequent reason for formal defects is when foreigners do not provide the office with all the necessary documents.
Necessary documents vs. typical documents confirming the circumstances
Although it’s much better to submit all the documents at once on the day of your application in order to shorten the process and keep everything in order, you should know that only several of them are obligatory to have the procedure started. Of course, all other documents are important too and without some of them you won’t obtain a positive decision, but you have much more time to bring them to the office, because clerks can start the process without them.
Which documents are necessary?
In order to avoid formal defects and have your process started you need to be sure to have between 4 and 7 documents – depending on the type of the residence permit that you’re applying for.
To find out which documents are necessary for your type of residence permit application you should visit the website of your Voivodeship Office and look for the list of all the required documents. After the first 4-7 items there should be a note like this one from Krakow:
“Note: Not submitting any of the above-mentioned documents shall cause a request for the alien’s appearance in order to provide such document within 7 days from receiving the request, otherwise the application shall not be processed”.
Before you go to the website of your voivodeship office, check out these two lists that I modified based on my own experience.
Most types of temporary residence permits
- The application form + the required number of copies
- Four photographs not older than 6 months, taken according to the requirements for Polish passport or ID pictures
- A copy of each page of your valid travel document (with the original document to check against) – except for extraordinary situations when you don’t have it
- Proof of payment
Temporary residence and work permit
1. 2. 3. and 4 as above
5. So called “Information from the staroste about the inability to satisfy the employer’s staffing needs” – usually referred to as the labour market test by English speaking expats (although the actual market test in only a part of the procedure)
You don’t attach it if you’ve been exempt from this requirement or you’re intending to work in a profession excluded from this rule
6. Attachment Number 1
7. Power of attorney for the person who signed the Attachment Number 1 if required
The trickiest part is Attachment Number 1 – a document describing your employment position that should be signed and stamped by your employer. Generally this attachment is part of the form so offices don’t mention it separately on their websites. However, many people are not aware of that and only take care of the core part of the form. You cannot sign Attachment Number 1 on your own, so if you don’t have it prepared prior to the application, you won’t be able to give it to the clerks. As far as I could see in Krakow, problems with Attachment Number 1 were one of the main reasons of formal defects.
It’s obvious that in bigger companies Attachment Number 1 cannot be signed by the most important people in the organization, so it can be done by any authorized person, for example someone from the HR department. In this case, however, you must submit this person’s power of attorney as well.
One of the most serious problems is when you don’t have Information from staroste (let’s call it Labour market test) prepared for your employer. Make sure to read about it long before your legal stay expiration date here.
Warning signs for formal defects
As I have already written, formal defects are quite serious and you should give them high priority in order to avoid the situation of your case closing two weeks after you apply. So what are the telltales that show that something is wrong with your application process at this early but crucial stage of the procedure?
No stamp in the passport
When it comes to submitting the application form, some people choose to make an appointment online or over the phone (depends on the region), while others prefer to send their documents via post or submit them at the Lodgement of Documents Office. In the first case your documents are received directly by clerks from the foreigner’s affairs unit and you have your fingerprints taken right away. When you use the correspondence method of application (via post or the Lodgement of Documents Office) you receive a request to appear in the office on the indicated day and then you can have your fingerprints taken.
After you have your fingerprints taken, the clerk should ask if you wish to have your passport stamped. The stamp confirms that you’ve applied without formal defects and that your case is pending.
If the clerk refuses to stamp your passport, ask them for the reason. I know that in some regions there is a rule that only an inspector responsible for the case can analyze the documentation and decide that there are no formal defects, so you won’t receive a stamp from the clerk who receives your documents even if you do everything correctly. In such cases you don’t need to worry. However, in some cities, like in Krakow, if clerks refuse to give you a stamp it means that your application has formal defects.
Wezwanie do uzupełnienia braków formalnych – Request for correction of formal defects
The office is required to send you a written request for correction of formal defects. It should be sent via a registered letter to the address indicated in your application form unless you have a proxy, so it’s crucial to give them the right address in the form and then to regularly check if there are any attempted delivery notices in your mailbox or near the front door. In the letter you will find a list of problems to solve. The office will either give you 7 days to correct formal defects, or they will request that you appear there on the indicated day. Make sure to do everything on time, because it’s very difficult (often impossible!) to reinstate the deadline at this point.
Brak zawiadomienia o wszczęciu postępowania = No notice of initiation of the proceedings
Let’s say that you’ve carefully checked the list of basic, obligatory documents, you provided the office with all of them and the clerks confirmed that there were no formal defects in your application or they stamped your passport.
The next indicator that something wrong may be going on with your application process is when you don’t receive the letter called “Zawiadomienie o wszczęciu postępowania” = “Notice of initiation of proceedings“.
This should be the first letter that you receive after you correctly submit all necessary documents. It’s quite important, because it not only confirms that your case is pending and gives you the first date when the decision should be issued, but it can be also the first letter with your case number, and the name and email address of your inspector.
If this is supposed to be your first letter from the office and you don’t receive it, that’s the next sign that something may be wrong with your application process. Maybe you put the wrong address in your application form, in which case you won’t have access to the next official letters from the Voivodeship Office if you don’t correct it. First ask fellow expats who applied recently how long they waited for the notice of initiation of the proceedings. Right now in Krakow (October 2017) it takes about 8 weeks. Also, make sure to check the copy of your form in order to confirm that you’ve given them the correct address. Then go to the information point at the Voivodeship Office, show the clerks your stamp in the passport or tell them the date of your application, and ask them for your case number, the name of your inspector and their email address. You can try contacting your inspector via email, and then (if they don’t respond) request access to your files to check what’s going on in there.
Ashmeet from Poznań told me that the system is different in Greater Poland Voivodeship. Their immigration office is modern enough to have an online system where you can track your case’s status. You receive your username and password on the day of application.
Wezwanie do uzupełnienia brakujących dokumentów – Request for completion of documents
Let’s say that you’ve already got a notice of initiation of the proceedings and now you’re simply waiting for your decision. Then one day you receive the next letter from the office: “Wezwanie do uzupełnienia brakujących dokumentów” – “Request for completion of documents“. Is it the next warning sign? It depends.
For example, if the office asks you for a new proof of insurance (because you are insured in ZUS and your last ZUS RMUA report was issued several months ago), or a new flat rental contract (because the old one expired a month ago and you haven’t submitted the new one yet), or new confirmation from the university because there was an exam session and you could be crossed out from the list of students, you have nothing to worry about. However, there are situations in which a request for completion of documents says a lot. Like when the office asks you for the documents which you’ve already submitted even though they didn’t expire, for example Attachment Number 1. Or when you applied for a TRP for conducting business activity on the basis of a contract with your only client, and the office asks you for your business plan. Or when you apply for an EU blue card and the inspector wants to see a diploma confirming your higher qualifications with a supplement even though you’ve submitted your diploma already.
Go over the list of required documents once again and compare them to the files that you’ve submitted. When you don’t understand why the office has requested the completion of documents, ask the clerks in the information point, try to ask your inspector for explanation through an e-mail, or go over your case with a lawyer.
It is very possible that you’ve simply made a mistake in your files, for example there are no dates for flat rental period, or you’ve submitted a copy of some document that hasn’t been checked against the original, or your employer didn’t stamp Attachment Number 1 and clerks couldn’t verify it based only on the signature. However, an experienced lawyer can easily guess when the request for completion of documents is the first sign that the office is not able to issue a positive decision.
Przedłużenie terminu załatwienia sprawy z uwagi na prowadzone nadal czynności wyjaśniające – Extention of the procedure due to the pending investigation
There are many people on Facebook expat groups who complain that they’ve been waiting for their residence permits over a year. These procedures really shouldn’t take that long, even today when we’re facing this real crisis in the Voivodeship Offices.
How long should it take and how can you control it? You will find the first date when your decision will be issued in the Notice of initiation of the proceedings, however, you shouldn’t rely on this date too heavily, because your inspector will probably prolong the procedure and inform you about this via the next registered letters. Make sure to check the reason of every prolongation. If it’s being extended because the Police, Border Guard or Internal Security Agency still need time to work on your case, it’s all right. If it’s extended because you were requested to bring some additional documents, it’s also fine as long as you know why you’re being asked for those documents. However, if the process is extended due to pending investigation and you don’t know what the problem is, you should contact a lawyer who will verify your documents or request access to your files and check why the case got blocked.
Wezwanie do złożenia wyjaśnień = Order to show cause
In the ideal situation the office should be able to solve your case based only on the documents provided by you and information from collaborating public institutions in Poland, except for some types of residence permits which require obligatory interviews at the office. If your inspector doesn’t have enough documents to issue a positive decision, he or she will send you the request to bring additional documents. They can also call you to come to the office in person together with a translator in order to show cause during a face-to-face meeting. From the point of view of a clerk it’s an additional effort, since it’s a time-absorbing procedure. This means that it’s used in rather extraordinary situations, so you can interpret it as a signal that something may be wrong with your TRP application process. Unfortunately you won’t be informed what the clerks will ask for exactly. At this stage of the application process it’s very important to avoid misunderstandings, so it’s worth using the assistance of an experienced lawyer who will check your documents and predict which condition you haven’t met yet.
Wezwanie do zgłoszenia się w celu zapoznania się z materiałem dowodowym – Notice to appear in order to review the evidence
The letter entitled Wezwanie do zgłoszenia się w celu zapoznania się z materiałem dowodowym is the last call to take action regarding your temporary residence permit application process.
According to the Article 10 of the Code of Administrative Proceedings: “Public administration bodies are required to ensure that parties are actively involved in each stage of proceedings and they shall allow the parties to express an opinion on the evidence and materials collected and the claims filed, before any decision is issued”.
It’s very rare that people get a notice to appear in order to review the evidence on the basis of the Article 10 of the Code of Administrative Proceedings, because in practice clerks do not call the parties when decisions are going to be positive since the decision will comply with the request of the applying person. It means that when you receive the notice to appear in order to review the evidence based on the Art. 10, you can expect that the decision will be negative. It’s very important to get a lawyer who will go to the meeting with you and plan further steps.
Almost 9 out of 10 decisions in 2016 were positive
You might be a little bit anxious after reading this article, especially if you’re about to submit your first TRP application soon. However, please remember that in the last year only 9.54% of the decisions were negative. Relatively few cases were terminated without either a positive or a negative decision. After all, 87% of decisions in 2016 were positive.
In order to avoid any serious problems, make sure to read the list of required documents and try to understand the purpose of every of them. Make extra copies of each document that you submit for your own records so that you’re able to check them later on during the procedure and consult them with a lawyer in case of any problems. Keep all your documents and letters from the office in order. Finally, consider using paid support of an experienced agency run by Polish speakers, ideally a lawyer.