Residence permit in Poland – practical guide

From time to time we write on our blog about things that are not related to travels but to our Polish Egyptian life. It’s difficult not to do it, there is no doubt that two different cultures influence our travels and our way to see the world. Two different citizenships make organizing our trips more complicated. There aren’t many places outside Europe that we can both visit without applying for visas. Apart from that, we live in Poland so from time to time we need to extend the residence permit for our Egyptian half. That means collecting documents, going through formalities and a lot of stress. Every time we applied for residence permit was a very nervous time, we couldn’t find reliable information and the office wasn’t always helpful. Because of that I decided to describe how it looks like and explain everything we have always asked about ourselves.

You can apply for residence in Poland based on different reason for example if you study or work here. The reason may be also, as in our case, being married to a Polish citizen. I’m going to write everything about this case because in other situations the required documents are different.

At the moment we already have permanent residence, before we had two temporary ones. There were a lot of changes in the procedures and the work of the office so I will be able to present you different cases. The process may also differ a bit in different office. We had to go to one in Warsaw, called Mazowiecki Urząd Wojewódzki.

Before you apply you need to make sure you have a lot of time to prepare all documents and even more patience to wait for the decision and don’t get crazy 😉

1. When should I apply?

Few years ago you had to apply at least 60 days before the other document’s, a visa or a residence card expired. Now you can apply even on the last day when you permit is valid. Nevertheless I don’t recommend that. It’s much better to collect all documents before and go to the office 3 months earlier. Why? The office has 90 days to make the decision for temporary stay and 120 days for permanent one. It may happen (and in Warsaw it does quite often) that everything will take more time. It’s not worth to have more problems and more stress. It’s better to have more time to finish everything.

You can apply for permanent residence after being married to a Polish citizen for at least 3 years and after at least 2 years of continuous stay in Poland based on temporary permit.

2. Required documents

When you apply for the temporary residence you need to attach:

the application for temporary residence filled 3 times

4 photos, the same type as our passport photos, that will be attached to the first page of the application

2 copies of document of travel and the original to check it (usually it’s just passport)

the marriage certificate not older than 3 months (it’s usually given in the office right away but last year they did some changes in the systems of the office and we had to wait for a few days. It’s better to get it earlier).

copy of the ID of a spouse

confirmation of registration (zameldowanie). The office doesn’t put this document on the list but it’s worth to give it to them. First of all, a foreigner has to be registered in the office with the address where he lives. If you are not registered you may pay a fine. Secondly, if you bring this registration paper you address will put on the residence card. Not having the address on the card may cause problems in many other situations. Another office may ask you for registration document to prove where you live. It’s better to register for temporary stay for the time when visa or residence card is valid and attach this document to the application of residence. When you get residence card you can extend the registration.

confirmation of payment for the application 340zł (temporary) 640zł (permanent)

Apart from all these documents for permanent stay you have to bring:

– a document that prooves that you have paid taxes (usually given right away by a proper office called Urząd Skarbowy)

documents that confirm continuous stay in Poland. The continuous stay in Poland means that none of the stays outside the country exceeded 6 months at once and all together was not longer than 10 months in the period of time that allows you to apply for the permanent residence.

3. Where to apply?

The best option is to submit the application in person in the office. In order to do it you have to book an appointment for certain day and time on the phone. Here you need a lot of patience, first of all to manage to contact the office and secondly to wait till the next free date. We had to wait a month for the nearest appointment. Still it’s a better solution than what was few years ago when you had to wait in the queue in the office and waste a whole day there and you didn’t even know if you manage to submit the application before they close. Now it takes 20 minutes with a booked appointment 🙂

Applying in the office has also many advantages. The application will be checked right away and if there is something missing or there is a mistake you will be able to fix it. What’s more, they will ask you to leave fingerprints and give you a paper with date of taking the decision. You will know right away how long you will have to wait for the decision. You will also get a login and password to a website where you can check the status of your application 🙂

If you send the application and other documents by post or submit it in another office they will ask you to come another day to leave the fingerprints. Also if something is not correct they will ask you to bring missing documents. That will be more problematic and will take more time.

4. How to fill the application?

Apart from the instructions attached to the applications we have always had many doubts about some parts of the application.

Name and last name

No, it’s not a joke. With the Egyptian system of giving names it’s a problem. In the application there is place for name, previous name, surname, previous surname and family name. The office worker explained that we have to put everything as it is in the passport and in Egyptian one everything is put as “name”. So all 5 names and surnames in the application you put as name. You leave the rest empty.

Foreigner’s stay on the territory of Poland

You have to mention all stays in Poland, those based on visas and residence permit. You need to put dates of stay and the ground of stay, if it was visa or residence permit.

Current stay on the territory of Poland and its purpose

Here you have to say that the purpose is being married to a Polish citizen because this is why you are applying of the permit.

The date of the last entry into the territory of Poland

It has always been a problem. We didn’t know if we should put the date of moving to Poland or the date when we came back from the last trip. And if so if we should take into account trips by bus or car if there is no sign of them in the passport… You should put the date of the last entry regardless transport you used. The date should be also the same as in the next point where you write about travels abroad.

Foreigner’s travels outside Poland in last 5 years

You have to mention all travels with dates and country where you went to. Here the date of last entry into Poland should be the same as the date of your last trip.

Justification of the application (permanent stay)

Which is why do you apply for the permanent stay? You can put information that you have been married to a Polish citizen for more than 3 years, that you work in Poland etc.

Information about foreigner’s means of subsistence and medical insurance (temporary stay)

If it’s your next residence card and you already working it’s enough to write that your means of subsistence come from your work contract and the employer pays your insurance. If it’s your first card and you are in Poland based on a visa, you can just say that you have savings or your spouse maintains you and you bought the insurance for the period of the visa.

5. How long will I wait for the decision?

The time for the decision for temporary permit is 90 days and for permanent is 120 days. It often takes more time though. In Warsaw they have lots of applications so it’s not surprising that everything takes more time.

We applied for the residence at the beginning of August and the decision was supposed to be made the last day of November. The interesting fact is that back than it used to take 90 days to make the decision and they still counted us 120 😉

Don’t expect that you will know the result exactly the same day as they told you it would be. Add at least one more week, as it was in our case. Yes, you can check the status of application on the website now but it doesn’t mean it appears there right away. One week after the date of decision the information that the decision is ready appeared on the website. Few days later my husband got a text message with exact date and time for picking up the card and decision 🙂 Later that information appeared also on the website. To sum up, it took 4,5 months since submitting the application till picking up the card.

If you get information on the website that the decision is ready to pick up from the office that means it’s a positive decision. The negative ones are still sent by post 🙂 They will text you with the date and time of picking up the card. Before doing it, remember to pay for issuing the card: 50 zł for both temporary and permanent one.

6. How long do I get the card for?

Now the temporary residence permit is issued for up to 3 years. From what I have observed I can say that the first one is usually issued for only one year based on short time of marriage. In special cases it may be more than one year. The second card is mostly issued for longer period of time, mostly 3 years.

The permanent residence permit is issued for 10 years which means that after 10 years you just have to exchange the card as we exchange ID. You don’t have to apply again and go through same procedures. The permit is actually valid forever unless the reason of issuing it has changed. For example the permit was based on being married to a Polish citizen and the couple divorced.

7. Interviews and inspections

The biggest nightmare and the most famous part of applying for the residence 😉 When you submit your application you get a written information that the foreigners’ office asks other services for an opinion about the foreigner. Because of that you can expect police, border guards and ABW (Internal Security Agency) to visit you at home.

When we applied for residence for the first time we heard from our neighbors that someone came and asked about us. No one was home so they just talked to neighbors to check if we live where we said we live on the application. I don’t know if it was police or border guards. When we applied for the second card there was also an inspection but again we were not home and they only talked to the neighbors. Before getting the permanent permit no one came or we don’t know anything about it. Did the fact that we were never home influence the decision? No. It would be rally strange if it did, they make inspections at 12am or 13pm when a normal human being is at work. It’s not surprising that we weren’t home then 😉

Interviews

The foreigners’ office during the process of making the decision often calls a foreigner and the spouse for an interview. You have to come for it on the certain date and time with a translator. You don’t need a sworn translator, you can come with a friend that speaks the language well.

I observed that there is always an interview if you apply for the first card. When you apply for the second one it’s rare to be interviewed. For permanent residence they usually make an interview.  We had only one when we applied for the first time. When we were getting the second card and the permanent one we didn’t have any interviews. I have to admit that we are the only ones among our friends that didn’t have the interview for permanent residence. Every time I ask someone, it turns out everyone was interviewed for permanent one. Seems we were lucky 🙂

How does the interview look like?

We had only one together but I went several times with my friends to translate for them. I did it for both temporary and permanent residence. The questions always repeated and were basic. They asked for example when and where did you meet, when did you get married, who was present during you marriage, where do you live, what is the color of your house, who else lives with you, what are the names of other family members, what did you do in the morning, what did you have for breakfast, what did you do last weekend, what time do you start and finish work or university, where do you work, how do you get to work.

Many other questions depend on the answers you give and on the time of your interview. Our was more or less a month after Christmas so they asked us how many Christmas trees we had, who decorated them and what other Christmas decorations we had 🙂

Sometimes the questions are a complete nonsense like they ask about the color of the toothbrush or how much do you pay for electricity bill. Those are things that Polish couples have problems with too because usually one person takes care of paying bills 😉 It happened as well that the questions are a too personal. They asked us how our engagement looked like. Seems nothing but I decided that it’s not one of the things I want to share with a strange office worker. I just said where it took place.

I also heard that recently the offices ask for proofs for the duration of the relationship for example photos. They never asked us for anything like this and if they ever did I would refuse to do it. There is no obligation for me to show my private  pictures in an office to prove how long we have been together. No way.

The interview should check if you know each other and if you marriage is not only to get the residence permit. Questions are not complicated and if you live together and know each other since some time you won’t have any problem 🙂 If you don’t answer the same way for one question if won’t influence the decision either. Sometimes they ask about thing that are hard to remember. They asked us at what time I have classes at the university which was a bit complicated. It was holiday time and apart from that every day I used to start and finish at different time. I wasn’t able to remember that myself, not even mentioning my husband.

Remember to answer the questions frankly. Tell the truth and you have nothing to worry about 🙂

8. What do I need the card for?

The residence permit is indispensable for a foreigner to have a normal life in Poland and live here. The card issued for a spouse of a Polish citizen gives also the work permit without having to apply for another permission. That makes life much easier. What’s more, the residence card allows you to travel within Schengen zone without applying for visas 🙂 The permanent residence permit also gives you the comfort and helps to avoid stress and problems that you suffer from when you have to apply for another temporary permit. You are free for 10 years and you don’t have to worry about anything 😉

It took me really a lot of time to prepare this text but I hope it will be useful for many people. If you have any other questions about the residence permit I will be happy to answer and help you 🙂 If you want to share your impression related to applying for residence permit I would like to read it 🙂

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