Work permit - does a foreigner have to have one?


A foreigner who wants to work in Poland must undoubtedly stay legally in the country, however, it is not always necessary to have a work permit. Certain professional groups may work in Poland without obtaining it. The provisions determining the situations in which a foreigner is required to have a work permit are scattered in several legal acts, which does not favor the transparency of the situation. Undoubtedly, simplifying the regulations in this area and covering with one legal act all cases in which a work permit is or is not required, would facilitate the employment of foreigners, and the interested ones themselves, and thus having a complicated situation in connection with the language barrier, they would not get lost in the maze of complicated regulations, they could better know and understand their rights and obligations.

Which group of foreigners can work in Poland without a work permit? You will find the answer to this question in this article.

What is a work permit?

A work permit is a document that entitles a foreigner to work legally in Poland, provided that they have a visa or a temporary residence permit allowing them to work in Poland.

For more information on legal work performed by a foreigner, for which a work permit is required, see the next article.

Who does not need a work permit?

On May 1, 2016, a new act on foreigners entered into force, which was intended to facilitate their employment in Poland, i.e. to provide a clear and only procedure for employing foreigners, so that interested parties could rely on only one legal act. Unfortunately, despite the assurances of politicians, the Act on Employment Promotion and Labor Market Institutions of April 20, 2004 is still valid, and employers must refer to it and use it. Of course, it should also not be forgotten that the cases in which foreigners may work without a permit are also specified in the executive regulation of the Minister of Labor and Social Policy.

Pursuant to Art. 87 sec. 1 of the above-mentioned act, a foreigner is entitled to work in the territory of Poland - and does not need to have a work permit - if:

  • has a refugee status granted to them in Poland;

  • received subsidiary protection in Poland;

  • has a permanent residence permit;

  • has a long-term resident's EU residence permit issued in Poland or, in exceptional circumstances, granted by another EU Member State;

  • has a permit for tolerated stay in Poland;

  • benefits from temporary protection in Poland;

  • benefits from humanitarian protection in Poland;

  • is a citizen of an EU Member State or an EEA country or a country not belonging to the EEA whose citizens may exercise the freedom of movement of persons on the basis of an agreement concluded by that country with the European Community and its Member States or members of its family;

  • is a victim of trafficking in human beings if he / she meets certain conditions;

  • has a temporary residence permit in Poland granted in connection with entering into marriage with a Polish citizen or a foreigner with refugee status, subsidiary protection, permanent residence permit or long-term resident's EU residence permit, tolerated stay or temporary protection granted to him in Poland;

  • as a result of a life situation - such as the death of an EU citizen's spouse or divorce from an EU citizen - he retained the right to stay on the basis of a temporary residence permit in Poland;

  • submitted a complete application for the extension of a temporary residence permit on time, if he or she had the right to work without a permit immediately before submitting the application;

  • has a valid Pole's Card, i.e. a document confirming the foreigner's belonging to the Polish nation. However, it does not mean granting Polish citizenship to a foreigner, granting the right of temporary or permanent residence in Poland or the right to cross the Polish borders without a visa;

  • conducts trainings, participates in professional internships, performs a function in programs implemented as part of EU activities or other international aid programs;

  • is a foreign language teacher working in kindergartens, schools, institutions, centers, teacher training establishments or colleges;

  • works up to 30 days in a calendar year as a scientist or artist;

  • is a full-time student in Poland, studying in Poland on the basis of a visa;

  • is a full-time student in Poland, studying in Poland and residing in Poland on the basis of a temporary residence permit issued for studies for the entire period of validity of the residence permit;

  • is a graduate of Polish upper secondary schools, full-time university studies or full-time doctoral studies at Polish universities and scientific and research institutes;

  • is empowered under the Agreement establishing an association between the European Economic Community and Turkey;

  • belongs to other groups, ie foreign language teachers, delegated to work in cultural institutions, members of the armed forces, regular correspondents of the mass media, athletes, clergy.

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A work permit is also not required in the case of foreigners delegated to the territory of Poland by a foreign employer (provided that they retain their permanent residence abroad) for a period not exceeding 3 months in order to:

  • perform assembly, maintenance or repair of delivered devices, structures, machines or other equipment, if the foreign employer is their manufacturer;

  • collecting the ordered devices, machines, structures or other equipment made by the Polish entrepreneur;

  • training of employees of the Polish employer who is the recipient of devices, structures, machines or other equipment in the scope of its operation or use;

  • assembly and disassembly of exhibition stands, care for them, if the exhibitor is a foreign employer who delegates them for this purpose.

A work permit is also not required for foreigners from Armenia, Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. These citizens may work in Poland without a permit for up to 6 months within the next 12 months. However, the procedure for their employment requires certain conditions to be met. Employment contracts of a foreigner from these countries must be in writing, and prior to commencing work, the employer must notify the local employment office of the intention to entrust work to such a person. Before a Polish employer entrusts a specific job to a foreigner from these countries, he must perform the so-called local labor market test. In practice, he has to publish a job offer at the local PUP for the position, which - if there are no applicants - he will entrust it to the foreigner.

It is worth noting that under the above-quoted Art. 87 sec. 1 of the Act on Employment Promotion and Labor Market Institutions, citizens of all European Union countries, the European Economic Area (apart from EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland can perform work in Poland without a permit.

The above list presents the basic rules related to the right to work without a permit and exemption from the obligation to have a work permit by certain categories and groups of foreigners.

In order to obtain comprehensive information, please contact the competent voivodeship office, where the employees will explain in detail and help in case of doubts.

Undoubtedly, it is not easy to be a working foreigner in Poland - despite the existence of regulations allowing certain groups of foreigners to undertake work without the need to obtain a work permit, there are still many controversial problems that do not always result from legal clutter. Still foreigners in Poland face mental problems resulting from a sense of fear and lack of appropriate social knowledge.