I’ve been avoiding writing this post because I have such a bad taste in my mouth about it. Getting a Polish residence card is, by far, the most unpleasant thing about living in Poland. I’d like to give my advice to those who may feel in over their heads. It’s daunting, but a few tricks can help the process of getting a karta pobytu go more smoothly.
I’m on my 3rd karta pobytu and I dread the thought of having to do it again. Which funnily enough I have to do one more time even though I’m married to a Pole. I have my current one for about 2.5 more years and I can’t get permanent residence until we’ve been married at least 3 years. So that’s cool. (edit: I now have permanent residence and will be obtaining citizenship soon. Read my post on How to apply for Polish citizenship.
So you’ve decided to live long term in Poland? You might be wondering how to get a Polish residence card. Here’s a few tips to help you maintain your sanity:
- Find a job or another reason good enough to get you a residence permit. First, you’ll need to find a job if you’re not married to a Pole, a student in Poland, or a refugee seeking asylum. That’s the problem, you need to find someone who wants to hire you, but you can’t work until you have the residence card. That’s why you need to find work as soon as possible so you can get the ball rolling. If you plan to open your own business and work that way, it’s also not reason enough to get a residence card. You have to prove that your business actually offers something (re: paid taxes) to the Polish economy before they’ll give you that. So first you need a company to sponsor you and then maybe after a couple years you can get the card because of your company. Depending on your reasons, you may get it for 6 months up to 3 years.
- Start as soon as possible. The process can take a few months depending on how quickly you’re able to collect the necessary docs and how diligent you are. The sooner you get started on that, the better. Each time I’ve done it, it took about 3 months from start to finish. If you’re telling yourself, “ok but there are no foreigners here so it ought to be quick”. To you, I suggest going to the Urząd Wojewodźki, Wydział Spraw Cudzoziemców (Cudzoziemców being a very hard word…obviously) on any given day. It’s full of Ukrainians, Spaniards, Turks, Koreans, Russians, and probably me. I’m there a few times a month for one thing or another. EDIT: Find out how it works at your Urząd Wojewódzki. I went to mine recently and you have to have a reservation and the earliest you can make one is in three months. So that means if you live in Sląsk, you’ll be over your 90-day limit by the time you can even apply for your residence permit. This is because of the huge influx of foreigners in Poland nowadays.
- Take a Polish speaking person with you. Irony of ironies, absurdity of absurdities, the people who work in the Office of Foreign Affairs usually don’t speak English. Even if they do, they probably won’t offer up that info. Go figure. In that case, you have to go take someone with you. Also, it’s a pretty important thing so even if you’re like me and can do things by yourself, sometimes it’s hard to understand because you don’t know the names of documents, etc. This way, it’s safer. I’ve seen some humiliating situations involving people who don’t speak Polish at all and I wouldn’t want to be that person. Pani urzędnik says something to the poor, sad soul in Polish. He shrugs, looking uncomfortable, not understanding a word. She says the same thing again, in Polish of course. Poor, sad soul shrugs again, despairing. He now understands how this works and that he’ll get nothing done today. After about 2-3 minutes of this, the woman finally says something in English, at her extreme reluctance, and it’s not half bad. Satisfied that she’s humiliated the guy and knows she could have said some that from the very beginning. Doesn’t care.
- If you think it could be necessary, take it with you. The idea is to have more documents than you need. You have to prove many things like you don’t owe taxes or that you have enough money to live. You never know what they might require to it’s better to have it than go back again and again…. and again. Make sure to write everything down the first time or get one of those handy books that they have with everything translated into English. That thing will be like the bible for you. I’ve discovered a number of life changing proverbs in it.
- Go early. If you don’t want to wait in long lines, I suggest going as early as possible or reserving a spot online. Reservations are a must. I assure you. I only discovered it this year and I feel like a fool! It’s gold. You can reserve a spot every 30 minutes and you never have to wait in line. Without a reservation, just go at 7:30 when they open. The one time you go there at 10, you’ll regret it. They don’t pick up the phone regularly so even if you have one little question, you’ll have to go there and ask. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone, waited over an hour and had to leave because the wait was too long or gone and received information that could have easily been given via phone. I hope you like wasting time.
- Keep calm. Fortunately, as long as you turn in everything they need, you’ll get the card. Even if it seems impossible, the civil servants are rude and you’re at your wits end, they’re not going to refuse you. It’s just part of your induction into the Dark Side.
If you’re like me, it’s also a good idea to take someone with a cool head. Whenever someone is rude or tells me I need just one more document, I immediately get bitchface. This is not wise since these people hold your future in their hands. The whole thing is so damn unpleasant that it’s hard to warp my facial expressions into something nice-ish. Just grit your teeth and bare it and eventually all will be good…until it expires 🙂 Best of luck to you!
Necessary documents for a Polish residence permit:
- photos – you can get those taken at the office but it’s cheaper elsewhere. I’d recommend Passport Photo Online. Take and choose your picture at home and they’ll send you the printed photos by mail or you can print them yourself. No need to leave the house!
- proof of payment – about 400 zł + 50 zł for the card
- copies of your passport
- translated birth certificate
- lease proving you have a place to live
- confirmation of residence from city hall (potwierdzenie zameldowanie)
- work permit – takes a couple months to receive from Urząd Wojewódzki
- example work contract or intention to hire from your potential employer stating how much you will earn and for how long
Possible necessary documents:
- current status of your bank account – (seriously, you have to show you have money to live)
- proof of health insurance
- company documents
- past invoices from your company
- proof that you don’t owe taxes (zaświadczenie o niezaleganiu)