Numerous changes to the law came into effect on the 1 January 2018 or will be implemented soon. Among other things, Polish lawmakers allowed all foreigners to automatically obtain their PESEL numbers while registering their addresses of residence. Due to that it is no longer needed to apply for a NIP number. Some information contained in this article may be no longer up-to-date. Work is ongoing to update and rebuild the blog by the end of January.

You’ve just stepped off the plane. Now – what to do upon arrival in Poland? It’s not a silly question, and definitely one you shouldn’t think about for too long before acting. This is why I would like to present you this short list of what to do upon arrival in Poland. Follow all these steps to make sure that you have done everything that you were supposed to do.

This article is meant to be only a starting point for your research. I have attached useful links with further explanations from reliable sources on every point.

Please remember, that the order of the steps that should be taken depends on your particular situation. For example: if you’re a non-EU citizen who’s just gotten off the plane to Poland and you want to study and work, you should first apply for a residence permit for studies and then sign an employment contract. But if you still have 10 months of your visa for work you may apply for a residence permit in the end, after all the previous steps. If you have a visa for tourism but you want to work in the future, you should start from signing a preliminary contract and then you should apply for a temporary residence permit. Feel free to ask me for the proper order of steps to take in your particular situation.

Non-EU citizens

  • Join expat groups on social media
  • Take care of you insurance
  • Make sure to sign a tenancy contract
  • Take care of the legality of your work
  • Register in the municipality office (complete ‘zameldowanie’)
  • Choose between a NIP or a PESEL and apply for it
  • Apply for the residence permit

EU/EEA citizens

  • Join expat groups on social media
  • Take care of you insurance
  • Make sure to sign a tenancy contract
  • Take care of the legality of your work
  • Register as an EU citizen in the Voivodeship’s Office
  • Register in the municipality office (complete ‘zameldowanie’) and get a PESEL

Join expat groups on social media

For almost every big city in Poland there is at least one group of so-called “expats” on Facebook. There are some pros and cons to these groups. Not all the answers there are accurate and true. Not all the members are kind and helpful. Still, the positve value of the groups outweighs the negatives.

In order to find these groups search on Facebook for the combination of the name of your city, both in Polish and in English, and for words “foreigners” and “expats”. Facebook groups are usually much better than forums and articles on the international websites for the expat community. Feel free to contact me if you cannot find anything.

Take care of your insurance

If you needed to apply for a visa before moving to Poland, you must have gotten the insurance matter taken care of already. In case when you came here on the base of the visa-free traffic, make sure that your national insurance covers eventual costs of healthcare in Poland.

If you’re going to stay here for longer than three months and you have no insurance for Polish territory, make sure that you get Polish or European insurance in the near future.

Most of the time your employer pays for your insurance when you work. When neither you nor your family members work in Poland and you don’t have any European insurance, get some insurance on your own: in NFZ (Polish National Health Fund) or in any insurance company. It’s especially important for international students. Besides NFZ, most of the people in Poland use the company called PZU. There are some pros and cons both for NFZ and private insurance companies. If you wish to learn about the differences and get the guidelines on how to buy your insurance, send me a message.

Make sure to sign a tenancy contract

One necessity for most foreign residents from outside the European Union include providing proof of residence. This is why you must make sure to sign an employment contract for the flat that you’re intending to rent. Without a tenancy contract you won’t be able to follow the next steps.

Contact me if you wish to learn how to find a flat in Poland.

Register in the Voivodeship’s office

The real adventure begins when it comes to the Voivodeship’s office.

This is the regional office led by the government which is responsible for the legalisation of stay for foreigners in Poland. Right now these offices are terribly overcrowded and it’s a real headache to deal with any official matter there. To make the matters worse, not much can be stated with certainty regarding the procedures in the Voivodeship’s offices. The approach differs from the office to the office: the rules may slightly differ in Kraków, Warszawa, Wrocław, or Rzeszów. So you should get prepared for the visit to the Voivodeship’s office by reading the guidelines published on the official websites of each office. It should help you, but not 100% of the time, because the content on many websites in no longer current and clerks may interprete rules differently, so be prepared for suprises each time you’re in the office.

If you live in Kraków you may always ask me for consultation. I visit the Voivodeship’s office with the blog’s followers several times per week and I may go there with you as well. If you live in any other city make sure to go to the office with a Polish speaker. Most of the time the officials from the office try to be kind and helpful, but many of them don’t speak English well enough to explain all these complicated procedures.

a. Make the registration of the EU/EEA citizen in the Voivodeship’s office

If you’re an EU/EEA citizen and you’re intending to stay in Poland for longer than 3 months, you must be registered in the Voivodeship’s office. I have met people who haven’t been registered there even after years of living in Poland. If you don’t register you won’t be expelled from the country, but you may be punished financially. Also, you may have problems with other official procedures in future and you won’t be able to obtain a PESEL number.

b. Apply for the residence permit

If you’re a non-EU citizen and you want to stay in Poland for longer than your visa allows you should go to the Voivodeship’s office to apply for a residence permit.

In the old good days it usually took only a month and a half between the moment when a foreign resident applied for the residence permit for work, and the moment when he or she obtained a positive decision. Right now many voivodeship’s offices are overcrowded, clerks are overworked, and – at least in Kraków – the procedure takes 3-4 months in the easiest cases.

There are many different types of resident permits, and procedures depend on the chosen type.


Take care of the legality of your work

Most non-EU foreign residents need a work permit to work in Poland. However, there are many exceptions.

In order to legally employ you in Poland your employer needs to go through several procedures. First he needs to have a labour market test conducted (although there are some exceptions for each region). Then it’s his duty to apply for a work permit for you.

If you wish to learn about situations in which you don’t need a work permit, when you can avoid a labour market test, and if your employer followed all the required procedures – send me a message.

Websites describing how to work in Poland legally:

Register in the municipality office (complete zameldowanie)

It can be quite confusing that there are two types of registration for foreigners in Poland.

  1. The registration in the Voivodeship’s office: to make your stay legal – the one that we’ve already discussed.
  2. Registration in the municipality office for the place of living: so called “ZAMELDOWANIE“.

Each foreigner has a duty to register for a place of living. To do so, you’ll need to go to Urząd Miasta (city hall = municipal council). Here you’ll need to show your tenancy contract.

Oficially you should complete the zameldowanie within 4 days if you’re a non-EU citizen, and within 30 days if you’re an EU citizen. Unfortunately in practice many foreign residents don’t do that at all.

If you’re an EU citizen you need to be registered in the Voivodeship’s office first. Only after that can you complete the zameldowanie. The clerk who will register you for zameldowanie should also give you your own PESEL number.

If you’re a non-EU citizen with a visa or a stay card, you can complete the zameldowanie as soon as you get a tenancy contract.

I described the whole process in detail here: Registration in Poland. Zameldowanie for foreigners in Krakow . This article should help you a lot.


Upon arrival in Poland: choose between a NIP or a PESEL and apply for it

When you work in Poland your employer has to pay personal income tax (PIT) contributions for you. This is why each employee in Poland needs to have some number for identification. Most Poles use a PESEL: a number that we use for taxes, identification, and insurances all in one.

Unfortunately most non-EU foreign residents with visas and temporary residence permits are not allowed to obtain a PESEL automatically. It’s still possible, but it requires some extra steps (click!). This is why most of the non-EU residents decide to apply for a tax identification number: NIP. That’s still good, but this number can be used only for taxes, so it’s not as useful as a PESEL. I described in detail how to apply for NIP in the article NIP for foreigners. NIP-7 form in English.

Contact me in order to analyze which number will be better in your situation and to discuss if you can apply for a PESEL number.

We’ve gone over many different topics and it’s a lot of new information for one article. I hope that this will be useful for you in the long run. It should help you both in starting the whole process of settlement in Poland and to review a checklist when it’s over.

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