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February 09, 2023

Poland: Employment of foreigners in Poland – new challenges

Izabela Florczak, PhD

For almost a decade, the structure of labor migration in Poland has been changing dramatically. From a country of emigration, Poland has become a country of immigration. It is estimated that before February 2022, there were between 1.5 and 2 million foreigners actively working in Poland.

Immigration law in Poland is complicated, due to being subject to frequent changes. New regulations are introduced into existing laws, unfortunately – often introducing legislative chaos.

Recent years have seen numerous challenges to the employment of foreigners in Poland. First, it was necessary to implement procedures aimed at facilitating foreigners’ access to the labor market during the COVID-19 pandemic. The solutions introduced led to the extension of the legality of foreigners’ residence and work until the states announced in connection with COVID-19 were revoked or the regulations were repealed. These regulations are still in effect – although at the end of October 2022 a draft amendment to the regulations was announced to repeal them. This means that multitudes of foreigners who currently enjoy extended legality will have to legalize both their residency and work. Paralysis of the offices processing the application seems guaranteed.

February 24, 2022 was a day that changed the fate of the world forever, affecting the situation of migrants in Poland. Poland has become a major center of flight for Ukrainian citizens. Due to the increasingly frequent phenomenon of so-called circular migration (Poland-Ukraine-Poland…), it is difficult to estimate exactly how many war-migrants from Ukraine have found refuge in Poland. Approximate numbers speak of more than 7.5 million arrivals from Ukraine to Poland (as of early November 2022). Even taking into account that the same people may have crossed the border several times, this number is striking.

Poland, applying EU regulations (Council Directive 2001/55/EC of July 20, 2001 on minimum standards for giving temporary protection in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons and on measures promoting a balance of efforts between Member States in receiving such persons and bearing the consequences thereof and Council Implementing Decision (EU) 2022/382 of March 4, 2022 establishing the existence of a mass influx of displaced persons from Ukraine within the meaning of Article 5 of Directive 2001/55/EC, and having the effect of introducing temporary protection) allowed displaced persons into the domestic labor market without restrictions. The Polish legislature has expanded access to the labor market – in fact, the Law of March 12, 2022 (on assistance to citizens of Ukraine in connection with the armed conflict on the territory of that country) opened the Polish labor market to all Ukrainian citizens legally residing in Poland. The condition for legal work is the notification of employment. Notification is made by the employing entity through the IT system, and it has to be done within 14 days from the start of work. Given that Ukrainian citizens have been the largest group of foreigners on the Polish labor market for years, the current regulation should be considered a revolutionary step in opening the labor market to foreigners.

The war in Ukraine has also led to depriving citizens of the Russian Federation of the opportunity to apply for legalization of their residency under simplified rules. These rules currently apply only to citizens of Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The tense geopolitical situation in the region has also resulted in legal changes applicable to Belarusian citizens – they can now apply to stay in Poland on humanitarian grounds and extend their visas without leaving the country. Such stays entitle them to work without further legalization.

Another challenge that Polish lawmakers will soon have to face is the planned revision of an EU directive – Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on a single application procedure for a single permit for third-country nationals to reside and work in the territory of a Member State and on a common set of rights for third-country workers legally residing in a Member State (recast). It assumes (among other things) the possibility of applying for a single residence and work permit in the country of origin. Currently, such a possibility exists only in the host country.

Given the record-low unemployment for several years (5.1% in September 2022), the Polish government is working on changes in access to the domestic labor market for foreigners, which are expected to remove the barriers that currently exist. It is planned (among other things) to remove the requirement for a prior examination of the labor market situation by a relevant authority at the request of an employer who intends to hire a foreigner. Now, when such an entity is to hire a foreigner, it must obtain a negative result of the so-called labor market test. This result confirms that there are no persons in the official records who meet the employer’s staffing needs. Its removal opens the labor market to foreigners.

Izabela Florczak, PhD

Head of Employment Immigration Desk at C&C Chakowski & Ciszek (Poland), Assistant Professor at the University of Lodz

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