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‘Access to the labor market’ for non-EU citizens

by Marta Pietrzak 

According to the Polish immigration law, any foreigner who is a citizen of a country outside the European Union, needs to get the proper authorization to work in the territory of Poland. Currently, there are two basic types of licenses:

1. The employer’s declaration of the intention to employ a foreigner (other name: the employer’s declaration of employment) – this type of work permit can be obtained only for a citizen of one of the following countries: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Moldova and Georgia, and for maximum 6 months period of time. Of course the procedure for obtaining this type of declaration is much more easier than obtaining the traditional work permit, that is why most foreigners from the above mentioned countries, firstly have decided to obtain the discussed ‘declaration’ and then after 6 months, they have started procedures of getting a traditional work permit.

2. Traditional work permit – a permit that every non-European Union citizen sooner or later must obtain. This procedure is also required for citizens one of the six above mentioned countries. Currently, the minimum period for which can be obtained a work permit is one year. The maximum period of time is three years.

As above, each foreigner coming from outside the European Union is required to obtain one of these documents to start work in Poland. Otherwise, his work in Poland will be illegal.

It should be also noted that every non-European Union foreigner is obliged to legalize both things in the territory of Poland: stay and work. However, legalization of employment is not tantamount to legalization of stay. The employment’s legalization is associated with obtaining one of aforementioned documents such as: the declaration of intention to employ a foreiginer or the traditional work permit. In contrast, legalization of stay is a completely separate process, which in the case of foreigners from outside the European Union, needs to apply for the temporary residence permit and further also for the temporary residence card – that is the main document legalizing non-European Union citizen’s stay.

The temporary residence card, as well as the permanent residence card, contains very useful, personal information about each foreigner, such as: full name, date of birth, place of birth, the address of temporary stay in Poland (if foreigner has that address), parents’ names and any other personal information. Unfortunately, most residence cards contain one information, which significantly misleads everyone, especially foreigners and their employers. This information is a short phrase located on back of the residence card, called the access to the labor market (Polish name: Dostęp do rynku pracy).

It should be very clearly emphasized that according to the Polish immigration law, the phrase access to the labor market does not mean that foreigner has legalized an employment and in every time can start a work. This phrase means only that foreigner has the right to apply for one of the above-described work permits. Moreover, from 1st January 2016 the access to the labor market’s phrase is placed on the residence card of each foreigner who has completed 16 years.

Of course, every foreigner residing on the Polish territory, entirely subjects to the Polish law, also in field of employment. Therefore, as well as Polish citizens, foreigners aged 16-18 years – according to the Polish law define as the adolescent workers, may take up an employment, but only on the basis consistent with the Polish Labour Code. One of such bases are for example the below rules:

– prohibition to work between 10 p.m. – 6 a.m.,

– the need for providing an appropriate state of health,

– or also the work which involves a preparation for a specific profession in the future.

Of course, these rules are proper only for the adolescent workers.

With reference to above, many foreigners see on their residence cards a phrase such as access to the labor market, think that it is a permission to take any job, at any time on the territory of Poland. Obviously this is very wrong thinking, because even if foreigner’s residence document contains that phrase, a foreigner also is obliged to apply for a work permit at the proper employer.

Before 1st January 2016, the phrase the access to the labor market was placed only on the residence cards’ of persons who already have a work permit and have completed 18 years. Unfortunately, at present time this phrase has a completely different meaning, because it is not a ready acquiescence to start a work by a foreigner, but only gives him the right to apply for a proper work permit. Furthermore, the phrase is placed on the residence cards’ all foreigners who are 16 years old and therefore, according to the Polish labor law, they can be legally employed in Poland.

Final conclusion: The access to the labor market will please all foreigners, but only until they start to know and understand its real meaning…

Marta Pietrzak
Lawyer, journalist, traveler. She loves Italian cuisine and oriental dishes. Specialist in Polish immigration law. Assistant of the Legal Aid Department at Papug.pl