Analyzing the issue of the presence of foreigners in Poland in the context of the institutions' operation, it can be safely said that sooner or later every Polish institution will come across the topic of migration. Just as each of us at different stages of our lives uses different state institutions, so do migrants in different situations need to contact various Polish institutions. The frequency of this contact will be naturally varied. Most often foreigners will be confronted with institutions established to service them, less often, but also often those that serve Poles in various matters of everyday life, most rarely those the average Pole also has to deal sporadically.
The long experience of working with foreigners makes us think that there is practically no such situation, even the most unusual one, that would not become the part of a foreigner. As the number of migrants increases, it should be expected that they will appear more and more often in institutions and offices that previously had no experience in working with migrants. Situations which have so far been unusual will appear more often.
In the first part of this material, I will briefly discuss Polish institutions according to such a key: from institutions established to work with foreigners - in Poland such institutions deal only with the legalization of foreigners' stay, through institutions for which service of foreigners is one of the tasks. The catalogue will not be exhaustive - my goal is rather to indicate the diversity of matters that foreigners need to regulate in Poland. The division into central and voivodeship institutions will not be strict - legalization procedures connect central and voivodeship institutions.
General characteristics of central institutions
The basic issue with which foreigners report to Polish institutions is the legalization of their stay. The Polish administrative system provides for two separate paths of action in this matter. First path - the legalization of the stay of persons applying for international protection (refugee status) in Poland - it is conducted at the central level, by the Office for Foreigners. The second path - the legalization of the status in Poland of people who come for purposes not related to the need for protection: students, people coming to work, accompanying families and in other situations. These procedures are carried out at the voivodeship level.
The procedure for applying for international protection in Poland involves several institutions. It may result in granting the person refugee status or other protection: subsidiary protection or tolerated stay. It is also possible to grant foreigners temporary protection or asylum (the first form has not yet been used in Poland, the second is rarely used).
The entities involved in the procedure for the protection of foreigners are as follows:
- Border Guard – its task is to accept an application from a foreigner, which usually takes place at the Polish border, as well as to take fingerprints and verify this data in the European data system in terms of security and identity verification.
- Office for Foreigners – it is one of two offices in Poland established exclusively to service foreigners. In the context of the asylum procedure, the UDSC (Office for Foreigners) has two main tasks: examining applications for refugee status (this involves conducting interviews with foreigners and determining whether they need protection) and running a network of specialized centres for people who are waiting for their case to be examined. There are currently 10 such centres in Poland. There are about 3000 places in them. To implement these activities, UDSC also has a department for collecting information on countries of origin of foreigners (these data are necessary, in order to assess whether a given person's application for protection is justified). Another UDSC department collects statistical data on migration and analyzes migration trends in Poland.
- Foreigners Council – it is an appeal body against the decision of the UDSC regarding granting refugee status. It may grant refugee status by changing the decision of the first instance, maintain that decision or refer the case back to the court. This is the second entity established solely to service foreigners.
- Voivodeship Administrative Court – it is the third instance in the asylum procedure. The court only determines whether the previous procedure was carried out properly. It does not examine the case on its merits. It can therefore keep previous decisions in force or refer them for reconsideration.
- Supreme Administrative Court – the final instance, which unfortunately is currently not used in practice.
The vast majority of foreigners coming to Poland do not apply for protection, but come to Poland voluntarily, looking for broadly understood life opportunities, development opportunities, earnings or education. Legalization of their stay is carried out at the voivodeship level - which is discussed later in the study.
However, central entities also participate in legalization procedures - as entities verifying the foreigner's data or providing necessary documents.
In the context of legalizing the stay of foreigners, the role of Consuls of the Republic of Poland abroad should be mentioned - they deal with the processing of visa applications, issuing visas and, depending on the country, are responsible for confirming the authenticity of foreign documents (e.g. marital status). Consuls also conduct proceedings regarding the granting of the Polish Card. Such a card can be issued to people who have ties with Poland and come from countries of former post-Soviet republics. It confirms belonging to the Polish nation, although it is not a document legalizing the stay. Polish Card holders can apply for permanent residence in Poland, which requires a separate procedure.
Diplomatic posts: Embassies and Consulates of other countries in Poland also help migrants, e.g. when they need to renew the validity of a passport, obtain a passport for a child or obtain the documents necessary to get married in Poland. It is worth remembering that those applying for international protection or those already protected cannot benefit from the help of these institutions.
An important role is played by the Border Guard - it verifies the correctness of documents held by foreigners when crossing the border, draws consequences from persons who violated Polish migration regulations (e.g. by extending their stay in Poland beyond the validity of the visa), it also verifies the dates of entering/leaving Poland by persons, who apply for further permits to stay in Poland.
The Border Guard also operates a network of deportation arrests or for expulsion - facilities where persons awaiting deportation from Poland are placed, arriving in Poland without valid documents, those, who are suspected of threatening the security of the state. In some cases, asylum seekers are held in detention facilities - the fact that small children are also held in custody is controversial.
Foreigners also have the opportunity to come into contact with the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland - the President has the power to grant foreigners Polish citizenship (although the procedure is conducted through the Voivodes).
In practice, foreigners rarely have direct contact with the Ministries that formulate regulations concerning them: the Ministry of the Interior and Administration (MSWiA), the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy (MRPiPS), the Ministry of National Education (MEN) and the Ministry of Health. Still, it's worth mentioning that:
MSWiA is responsible for the development of the state's migration policy. The Department of Analysis and Migration Policy is responsible for this (currently Poland does not have such a document, the last one was canceled in 2015). It also supervises the process of distribution of European funds that Poland receives from the EU to support foreigners (the Department of European Funds - a fund dedicated to supporting migrants and serving migrants is called FAMI - Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund). The handling of grants allocated to entities within this fund is handled by COPE - European Project Implementation Centre.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs supervises the functioning of the Polish Embassies and Consulates (Consular Department) and visa issuing procedures. It also has the right to issue documents legalizing the stay of diplomatic staff and auxiliary persons in Poland (e.g. cleaners at embassies who came to Poland from the country of origin of diplomats).
MRPiPS – is responsible for the integration policy of the state - i.e. the inclusion of foreigners in Polish society (Department of Social Assistance and Integration), as well as in the Polish labor market (Department of the Labor Market).
MEN – developes foreigners' education programmes. It is responsible for legal regulations related to education (introduction of the institution of an intercultural assistant in schools, concepts of preparatory units for foreigners, additional Polish language classes – at least 2 hours a week and compensatory classes for foreign students).
All other ministries are less involved in migration issues.
It happens that foreigners use the institution of the Ombudsman. They can ask for help when their rights are not respected in Poland. On the other hand, they rarely use the help of the Ombudsman for Children, the Ombudsman for Patients or central institutions responsible e.g. for helping people with disabilities.
The National Labor Inspectorate has competence to control the legality of employment of foreigners. It has the right to punish for the illegal employment both a foreigner and an employer who entrusts work illegally. The National Labor Inspectorate often cooperates with the Border Guard in this respect.
It is also worth mentioning that foreigners working in Poland are clients of the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS). According to ZUS data, there aree over 500 thousand ZUS payers registered in Poland who are foreigners. Migrants therefore need contact with both ZUS and all institutions related to the subject of insurance and health care, pensions, insurance and benefits resulting from the rights arising from employment in Poland.
Script „Work with a foreign client” Author: Agnieszka Kosowicz