As a long-term expat in Poland, I’ve always been a proponent of foreigners moving here. Here on my blog and in real life, I encouraged those seeking answers to questions like “Can I really earn a living as an English teacher in Poland?” or “Is Poland a nice place to live out my retirement?” to take the plunge. Why? Because I truly believe expats create satisfying and fulfilling lives here in a way that they might not be able to in their home countries. Sadly, recently, I’ve found myself compelled to discourage people from moving here. A strange turn of sentiment, right? Well, you’ll find out why in this post.
When I first moved to Poland, getting a residence permit, or as it’s often referred to in Poland, a karta pobytu, the whole process took about 3 months (this is about non-EU citizens. For EU citizens, all you had to do is register your stay. You don’t need to obtain a residence permit). Of course then we thought it was an arduous process, having to run from urząd to urząd collecting whatever documents they demanded we produce. It was annoying, but it was within the realm of sanity. You could survive it and expect to get your permission in a fairly orderly and swift manner. You could to go to Urząd Wojewódzki, take a ticket from the kiosk (or make an appointment for the next day online), wait sometimes 20 minutes, sometimes an hour maybe, have a chat with one of the civil servants (well, through your Polish-speaking comrade of course) and be on your way, feeling like you had accomplished something. Oh, how spoiled we were back then.
Fast forward a few years and the immigration process in Poland looks vastly different. There’s a massive influx of immigrants into Poland, mostly from the east, but not only. There’s a general increase in interest in moving here and I think the Office of Foreign Affairs just wasn’t prepared for it. There’s no longer a chance to show up and take a ticket for the day – not even that week, month, or perhaps even that year. Out of curiosity, I took a look today at the Urząd Wojewodzki in Katowice’s page for booking appointments and randomly saw that there were two openings in October 2019 and nothing it seemed for all of 2020. There were literally 2 openings until December 2020. Perhaps someone cancelled their appointments and it was just good luck? (I checked 30 minutes later and they were gone!) But what if there are none but you need to go there? What can you do? I honestly don’t have an answer to that question.
In the past year I’ve had 2 employees, people I was ready to hire and give work to immediately, just decide to up and leave Poland after coming here to start a new life. Why? Because they couldn’t wait half a year just to get an appointment at the office (looks like it could be longer now), plus the extra who knows how long to wait for the actual decision. One of my employees had to wait 1.5 years in Wrocław to get hers and another guy I know here in my area has been waiting for 10 months – no job, nothing, just waiting in limbo. There are countless posts on the various Expat Facebook groups complaining about extremely long wait times.
Now take a look at the infographic below. There’s also an article on Wrocław Uncut about this exact situation, discussing the average wait times in each voivodeship – and the average of all – 230 days. That’s about 8 months. Yikes. It’s hard to believe anyone can afford to wait that long. How can they expect people to live here and not work? Why not be able to start work after the work permit is issued (usually in just a few months) while you’re waiting for the card? Would that really hurt anything?
There are many questions, frustrations, relationships ended, opportunities lost…the list goes on. Hopefully they can work out how to make the process more efficient so that I can start encouraging people to come here again. I’ve felt so guilty recently telling people who seem genuinely excited at the idea of moving to Poland and who ask me for help and guidance in this area that they might want to reconsider their decisions. I don’t want to dissuade people from moving here, especially as I’ve always considered myself and my blog to be advocates for the opposite, but I just can’t lie to people and tell them to pack their bags when they just might have to repack them again after a few short months, feeling like they’ve failed. It’s not a minor decision to finally take that big step and move abroad, and it should be made with all essential information in mind.
If you have any thoughts on this issue, please feel free to let me know in the comments below.