Situation of foreigners in Poland in view of COVID-19
The situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly affected the status of foreigners remaining in Poland, and in particular the legality of their residence and employment. This is particularly important for those whose documents legalising work and residence have expired during the pandemic, or for those trying to obtain new such documents.
Extension of legality of stay
The Anti-Crisis Shield (regulations mitigating the adverse effects of COVID-19) automatically extends the validity of temporary residence permits and national visas authorising foreigners to remain in Poland. If a temporary residence permit (e.g. a single residence and work permit) or national visa expires during the state of epidemic threat or state of epidemic, its validity will be extended to the 30th day following the revocation of the later of such states.
This enables legal stay in Poland to foreigners whose legality under the documents above expired after 14 March this year (the date on which the state of epidemic threat in Poland was announced). This group may remain in Poland until the end of the state of epidemic threat/state of epidemic, without the need for the next 30 days to obtain new permits or extend their visas.
The Anti-Crisis Shield also extends the legality of foreigners remaining in Poland under, inter alia, the so-called visa-free travel regime or Schengen visas. The legality of their stay in Poland is extended until the end of the 30th day following the revocation of the state of epidemic threat/state of epidemic (whichever comes later), even beyond the period resulting from visa-free travel rules if those persons were staying in Poland under the visa-free travel regime on 14 March this year. This regulation will therefore not apply to foreigners who, for instance, enter Poland now.
Please note that the extension of legality of stay does not require any additional annotations or certificates, and therefore foreigners do not need to obtain e.g. passport stamps to this end.
Along with the extension of legality of stay in Poland, regulations have been introduced on the extension of validity of, inter alia, residence cards issued to foreigners in connection with obtaining a temporary residence permit in Poland. The validity of the documents and legality of stay under temporary residence permits have been extended by operation of law (until the 30th day following the revocation of the state of epidemic threat/state of epidemic), provided that such validity and legality period ends during one of the states.
Submission of applications
In connection with the pandemic and the resulting limitation of activity of offices handling matters of foreigners relating to their stay in Poland, the Special COVID-19 Act has also extended deadlines for applying for a temporary residence permit in Poland, and the validity of national visas or legality of stay in Poland under the visa-free travel regime (for citizens of specific states).
Therefore, if the last day of legal stay, i.e. de facto the latest date for applying for a temporary residence permit in Poland, falls during the state of epidemic threat/state of epidemic, the deadline for submitting the application is extended until the 30th day following the revocation of the states. However, if a foreigner applies for a temporary residence permit in Poland during this period (extended application deadline), his/her stay in Poland is considered legal until a decision on the application is made.
Extension of legality of work
Similarly to the extension of legality of stay in Poland, the legality of work in Poland by foreigners, holding work permits or declarations of intention to entrust work to a foreigner, has been extended.
Pursuant to the Special COVID-19 Act, if the last day of validity of a work permit falls during the state of epidemic threat or state of epidemic, the validity of that permit will be extended by operation of law until the end of the 30th day following the revocation of the later of the states.
The period of legality of work set in a declaration on entrusting work to a foreigner has also been extended – if the end of that period falls during the state of epidemic threat/state of epidemic, a foreigner may continue to work in favour of the entity indicated therein by the end of the 30th day following the revocation of the later of the states.
These regulations enable foreigners to further legally perform work in Poland in favour of the entities indicated and under conditions specified in the permit/declaration above, even if the period of legality of work set out therein has expired, provided that the end of that period falls during the state of epidemic threat or state of epidemic. Importantly, an additional period of work arising from the extension regulations above is not counted against the limits of the period of work provided under a seasonal work permit or a declaration on entrusting work to a foreigner.
Change to foreigner employment conditions
The main rule is that foreigners in Poland need to be employed under the conditions set forth in their legalisation documents. As a rule, any changes to foreigner employment conditions require the obtaining of a new work permit or declaration on entrusting work to a foreigner.
Previous regulations were not clear about employers willing to use support under the Anti-Crisis Shield. This required changes to employment conditions, e.g. a reduction in working time, but did not specify if foreigner employment conditions could be changed in such cases without the need for new work legalisation documents to be obtained.
This has been addressed in the Shield 3.0 regulations amending the Special COVID-19 Act, which entered into force on 16 May this year.
Pursuant to the new regulations, if the use of the Anti-Crisis Shield mechanisms by an employer results in a change to foreigner employment conditions, a foreigner may perform work under these changed conditions without the need to change or obtain employment legalisation documents for the new conditions. This applies to, inter alia, remote work, a reduction in working time in connection with applying for salary subsidies from the Guaranteed Employee Benefits Fund (FGŚP) or introduction of an equivalent working time system. Thus, the change as such to foreigner employment conditions is permissible and does not require changing e.g. a work permit.
Electronic legalisation of employment
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, electronic applications for legalisation of employment have also been allowed. Undertakings may use the electronic procedure to apply for work permits and register declarations on entrusting work to a foreigner.
Advocate, Senior Associate
T: +48 728 432 417