JP Weber

The legality of foreigners' stay in Poland, extended by the covidien regulations, may soon come to an end

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The legality of foreigners' stay in Poland, extended by the covidien regulations, may soon come to an end

On 23 January 2023, the President signed the Act of 13 January 2023 amending the Act on Assistance to Citizens of Ukraine in Connection with the Armed Conflict on the Territory of Ukraine and Certain Other Acts. One of the changes that the Act introduces is the deletion from the so-called Covid Law of provisions extending the legality of the stay of foreigners residing in Poland until the end of the epidemic emergency. Foreigners should therefore take care of their immigration status in order not to lose their right to legal residence in Poland.

Legal provisions governing the legality of residence and the COVID-19 pandemic

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the regulations on the submission of residence applications clearly specified the deadlines by which the relevant documents for a temporary residence permit in Poland should be submitted. Foreigners had until the last day of their legal stay in Poland at the latest (e.g. on the basis of visa-free movement, a visa or a previous permit) to submit a new application. Otherwise, the voivode could refuse to issue a new residence title, arguing that the application had already been submitted during the illegal stay in Poland. This entailed serious consequences, including the threat of an order to leave the country and a ban on re-entry into Poland for a specified period of time.

Legislation passed in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic changed this. At the beginning of the pandemic, many offices were completely closed, making it impossible to apply in person. The legislator therefore extended by law the validity of all residence titles (including visas and Residence Cards) until the 30th day following the day on which the state of epidemic or state of epidemic emergency was revoked. The latter is still in force and, as announced by the Ministry of Health, will not be lifted any time soon.

Amendment of the law on assistance to citizens of Ukraine

Many foreigners take advantage of the provisions that are attractive to them by remaining in Poland only on the basis of residence titles with extended validity by law. However, this possibility will soon be restricted. All this is due to a law passed by the Sejm amending, inter alia, the provisions of the Law on Aid to Citizens of Ukraine and certain other laws. Among the changes enacted was the deletion from the covidium provisions extending the validity of residence titles of foreigners residing in Poland. What does this mean for them?

Foreigners, but also the employers who employ them, should take a renewed interest in their immigration status in Poland. For soon, the legality of their stay will no longer be linked to the validity of an epidemic or a state of emergency. According to the text of the law passed, all residence permits with extended validity will lose their validity on 24 August 2023 at the latest, as on that day - in accordance with the text of the law adopted by the Sejm - the provisions on the extension of the validity of residence permits will cease to be in force. Thus, the legal situation regarding the period of legal stay of foreigners in Poland will return to the situation before the pandemic - foreigners will have to carefully count the permitted period of stay. Delaying the submission of a new application or leaving Poland beyond the permitted period may result in serious consequences.

The end of August could therefore mean a revolution for all those foreigners who wait until the last minute to submit their applications. The number of foreigners taking advantage of the automatic extension of the legality of their residence titles seems to be quite high. Many of them did not want to incur the additional costs associated with applying for new residence titles, hence they postponed this decision until the last minute. August, however, will be a limiting moment for them. Foreigners who do not take care to submit their application on time may lose the legality of their stay in Poland and thus also the legality of their employment.

Impact of the new law on assistance to citizens of Ukraine on employers

The issue of meeting the relevant deadlines after the entry into force of the Act should therefore also be watched by employers who employ foreigners. It is worth making sure in advance that the foreigners employed by the company are aware of the upcoming changes. Exceeding the period of legal stay by a foreigner also means potential problems for the employing employer. The employer is obliged to keep copies of documents confirming legal stay of a foreigner employed in the company in his/her personal files. Moreover, an order issued to the foreigner to leave the country will mean the sudden loss of the employee.

The covid prolongation of the legality of residence titles in Poland has given a great deal of comfort to foreigners. It is worth remembering, however, that the provisions governing the extended validity of visas or Residence Cards apply only on the territory of Poland. Foreigners have already had problems proving the legality of their stay on many occasions, e.g. when travelling within the Schengen Area. The change in regulations will certainly increase queues in voivodeship offices and lengthen the waiting time for residence permits. However, it is worth remembering that the correct submission of a complete application for a residence permit extends the legality of a foreigner's stay until the voivodeship office issues a decision on the matter. A longer waiting time for the decision itself is therefore not a problem in this respect.

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