Poland Expands Support For Ukrainians – Work Visas

Over the past two months, approximately 5 million Ukrainians
have departed their homeland due to the escalating military
conflict with Russia. Poland has received the majority of these
individuals-taking in more than 2.8 million people according to the
latest estimate from the UN High Commissioner
for Refugees. 

Provisions to Welcome Ukrainians

To support the country’s humanitarian response, the Polish
government adopted a series of amendments to the
country’s immigration laws, including changes directly related
to the influx of Ukrainians. The changes are expected to provide
increased flexibility for Ukrainian nationals in terms of residence
permits, work authorization and access to public benefits. In
addition, the Polish government set up a dedicated website for Ukrainian citizens that provides
detailed help on a range of issues-from how to obtain a national
identification number (known as a PESEL), access support services
such as legal aid and medical care, and obtain a three-year
temporary residence permit to how to navigate traffic rules,
participate in cultural activities, and change the language of the
keyboard on a smartphone. 

Legal Framework

The Polish legislature (known as the Sejm) adopted a law to create special pathways to
legal status and work authorization for Ukrainian nationals. In
particular, the law provides 18 months of legal residency to
Ukrainian nationals who left Ukraine as a result of the Russian
conflict, came to Poland, and declared their intention to stay. The
law initially applied only to Ukrainian nationals who entered
Poland directly from Ukraine but was soon modified to include Ukrainian nationals who
entered Poland after transiting through third countries (e.g.,

Under the law, Ukrainian nationals are authorized to apply for a
PESEL identification number, which is key to accessing numerous
benefits, including family care support, nursery school subsidies,
and other forms of social assistance. The law also grants these
individuals full access to the Polish labor market (without first
obtaining a work permit) and the Polish healthcare system. Further,
Ukrainian students are permitted to attend Polish schools and
universities. The law also provides for a small, one-time
subsistence payment to Ukrainian nationals who have fled to

These measures have been implemented in addition to the European
Union’s adoption of a Temporary Protection Directive,
which enables individuals who have left Ukraine to apply for a
temporary residence permit valid for one year in any EU member
state, with the potential to renew for an additional two

Specific Changes to the Immigration System

Changes to the visa process. Under the amendments,
certain foreign nationals will be able to obtain new Polish visas
without having to leave Poland and apply for a visa at the Polish
consulate in their home country. Instead, the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs will process visa applications through third-party visa
centers in Poland. Forthcoming regulations will specify which
foreign nationals may take advantage of the new system, but
Ukrainian nationals are expected to be among them. 

Changes to the residence permit process. Upon
implementation, the new amendments will prohibit individuals from
filing acceleration requests in connection with residence permit
applications filed with the immigration authorities through the end
of 2022. Immigration authorities will also not have to inform
applicants about potential delays in the processing of residence
permit applications. While no official reason was stated for these
provisions, it is believed that the move is intended to enable the
immigration office to focus on processing an expected influx of
residence permit applications from individuals who have fled
Ukraine. Under a separate set of regulations, Ukrainian nationals
may submit residence permit applications nine months after their
arrival in Poland. 

In addition, the amendments temporarily simplify the criteria
for Ukrainian entrepreneurs to obtain a residence permit.
Specifically, through December 2022, Ukrainian nationals who run a
business will not be required to provide proof of sufficient income
or intent to hire employees in order to receive a residence permit.
Of note, this provision is targeted toward Ukrainian nationals who
were already in Poland at the time the crisis began, rather than
those who have arrived in Poland since late February. 

Finally, the amendments also make it possible for humanitarian
visa holders to obtain a three-year residence permit on simplified
terms. Separate regulations will be issued to determine precisely
which foreign nationals will be eligible for this benefit, but, in
practice, humanitarian visa holders in Poland are mostly citizens
of Belarus. The new residence permits will allow individuals the
right to work and will be issued free of charge. The permit
application will not require certain documents confirming
employment in Poland, health insurance, and funds for

Changes to the PESEL process. Under the newly adopted
amendments, the deadline for registering for a PESEL identification
number will be extended from 60 days after arrival in Poland to 90
days after arrival. Registration is not mandatory for Ukrainian
nationals who can document their entry through the Polish border
but is recommended if individuals wish to take advantage of the
special provisions applying to Ukrainian nationals. 

The new changes also confirm that a Ukrainian national who
previously received a PESEL can still register as a Ukrainian
refugee. The changes provide alternative pathways for individuals
with health problems to complete a PESEL registration. In addition,
the law clarifies that children over age 12 must be present during
PESEL registration, but children under age 12 are exempt if their
parents can provide the children’s identity documents
(including their birth certificates). 

Confirmation of work authorization. The amendments
confirm that Ukrainian nationals who have fled to Poland are
authorized to work even without a Polish work permit. The
amendments also remove any fines that might otherwise be imposed on
Ukrainian nationals for failure to notify the local labor office
after commencement of employment. 

Revocation of EU Temporary Protection Statements. Some
individuals who fled Ukraine for Poland were not initially covered
by Poland’s refugee protection provisions, but were separately
covered by the EU’s Temporary Protection Directive. As Poland
has now amended its framework to provide protection to Ukrainians
who arrived in the country indirectly (e.g., through Slovakia), EU
Temporary Protection statements will be revoked in favor of the
corresponding Polish provisions. Ukrainian nationals will be
notified of the revocation and obliged to return the EU Temporary
Protection statements within 15 days. 

Visa Requirements for Russian Nationals

Some countries, including Poland, have suspended the processing
of Schengen visas for Russian nationals except in humanitarian
cases. Poland has called on Schengen Area countries to halt issuance of
visas to Russians for short-term stays (90 days or less) as part of
the sanctions imposed due to the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Before
the coronavirus pandemic, Russia citizens accounted for the highest number of Schengen
visas filed worldwide-filing approximately a quarter of the total
number of applications in 2019. 

Many governments have suspended their consular services within
Russia and have designated their embassies and consulates in other
locations, such as Poland, to process visas for nationals and
residents of Russia. Thus, the temporary suspension of Schengen
visa processing for Russian nationals presents a significant
challenge for those Russians seeking to temporarily travel to
Warsaw for a third-country visa. For instance, the United States
designated the US Embassy in Warsaw as the immigrant visa
processing post for nationals and residents of Russia; however,
cases may be transferred to other locations upon acceptance by the
alternate post.


The new legal provisions are expected to bring important changes
to Poland’s immigration framework and, in particular, support
the temporary resettlement of millions of Ukrainian nationals by
helping them in securing work authorization, residence permits, and
other benefits in the months ahead. Poland’s framework provides
an option for clients relocating their Ukrainian staff who wish to
leave the region.


Mayer Brown is closely following the Ukraine-Russia crisis for
clients, their employees, and their families. We will continue to
monitor and advise on these and other issues related to the
conflict. Please follow updates on our dedicated Ukraine Crisis Spotlight page and blog The Mobile Workforce.

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Mayer Brown article provides information and comments on legal
issues and developments of interest. The foregoing is not a
comprehensive treatment of the subject matter covered and is not
intended to provide legal advice. Readers should seek specific
legal advice before taking any action with respect to the matters
discussed herein.


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