Anna Kaźmierczak: Counsellor, on March 12, the expected special act regulating the status and situation of refugees in Poland entered into force. It is extremely important for people who come to us from Ukraine, fleeing the war, as well as for those who help those in need. I have collected some questions for you about the special act itself and those that we receive on our line of the Employee Assistance Program.
First question: Who is covered by the government guarantees provided for in the so-called Ukrainian special act?
Marta Zalewska: The special act mentions three situations in which people covered by aid will be able to take advantage of the fast path of legalising their stay and work. The condition for the person to be covered by the provisions of the special act is that the person enters the territory of the Republic of Poland directly from the territory of Ukraine in connection with hostilities conducted on the territory of that state. In particular, the provisions of the act concern:
- Ukrainian citizens who came to the territory of the Republic of Poland directly from the territory of Ukraine;
- spouses of Ukrainian citizens, who do not have Ukrainian citizenship.
The special act also applies to Ukrainian citizens who have the Pole’s Card (Karta Polaka) and their closest family members who came to Poland, regardless of the border crossing point.
AK: For what period was the stay of Ukrainian citizens legalised according to the provisions of the special act?
MZ: Ukrainian citizens who have legally entered the territory of Poland, crossing the Polish-Ukrainian border (except for Ukrainian citizens who have a Pole’s Card and their immediate family) in the period from February 24, 2022, and declare their intention to stay in Poland, are legally guaranteed to stay for 18 months, counting from February 24, 2022.
AK: What if a Ukrainian citizen gives birth to a child in Poland during this period?
MZ: The stay of a child born on the territory of the Republic of Poland by a mother – a Ukrainian national, during the period of her legal stay will also be considered legal. In addition, a citizen of Ukraine is covered by social insurance and may receive free medical care, including pregnancy management; she may also use family and educational benefits on the same terms and conditions as Polish citizens.
AK: Is there a specific date by which Ukrainian citizens may come to Poland escaping from hostilities, and to which will the special act apply?
MZ: Until March 14, 2022, no such date has been specified, but it will be specified in a separate regulation, issued by the Council of Ministers on the basis of an analysis of the current geopolitical situation, including, inter alia, the prospects of ending hostilities and the number of people who will enter Poland as a result of these warfare activities.
AK: Can a Ukrainian citizen who uses the solutions of the special act go abroad?
MZ: Departure of a citizen of Ukraine from the territory of the Republic of Poland for the period above 1 month deprives them of the rights guaranteed by the special act. It is worth bearing in mind that the citizen of Ukraine is entitled to travel in the European Union countries only with a foreign (biometric) passport.
AK: What to do if the entry of a Ukrainian citizen has not been registered by the commander of the Border Guard during the border control?
MZ: A person who crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border without registration should submit an application within no more than 60 days from the date of entry to Poland in any executive body of the commune in the territory of the Republic of Poland. The application shall be submitted in person at the seat of the commune authority, in writing on paper, with a legible handwritten signature, filled in by the applicant or by an employee of this authority on the basis of the data provided by the applicant. Persons who submit applications will be assigned ex officio a PESEL number and access to a trusted profile (provided that the applicant has a telephone number and e-mail address).
I recommend that Ukrainian citizens who crossed a border other than the Polish-Ukrainian one refrain from any actions, because the government is planning to introduce amendments to the special act in the near future and these persons will also be protected under the special act.
AK: What does a PESEL number offer to Ukraine citizens?
MZ: Citizens of Ukraine with a PESEL number are entitled to many benefits and assistance provided for by the special act. Thanks to the PESEL number, they can easily contact public administration and deal with various official matters. In addition, children and students with a PESEL number can take part in free Polish language courses, as well as take advantage of other benefits. On the other hand, adults can start their own sole proprietorship, which has been impossible so far (available, inter alia, to foreigners with at least a permanent residence permit).
AK: How to legalise the work of a Ukrainian citizen?
MZ: The employer may entrust the performance of work to a citizen of Ukraine (de facto from February 24, 2022, i.e. from the date of application of the special act) and for this purpose is obliged to notify the competent labour office via the praca.gov.pl teleinformation system. Failure to meet these conditions will mean the inability to perform work without a work permit.
AK: Can a foreigner with a refugee status work in Poland?
MZ: Yes, both a foreigner who has the refugee status granted in Poland and a foreigner who has been granted subsidiary protection may perform work without the need to obtain a work permit. Thus, the employer may employ such a person in the same way as a Polish citizen. However, the employer is obliged to verify the documents confirming the foreigner’s status. In a special case, when the procedure for granting international protection is extended for more than 6 months through no fault of the applicant (foreigner), the applicant may apply to the Office for Foreigners for a certificate which, together with the temporary identity certificate of the foreigner, entitles this person to work in the territory of the Republic of Poland.
It is worth remembering that Ukrainian citizens are not automatically granted the refugee status, despite the fact that it is commonly said. A person who wants to obtain the refugee status should apply for it, which automatically excludes the possibility of using the solutions of the special act.
AK: What should a person do if they crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border with a minor child who is not their own child and over whom they do not have legal guardianship?
MZ: In the first place, such a person should submit an application to the competent guardianship court, in accordance with the child’s place of residence, to appoint them as a temporary guardian for this child. A temporary guardian should be appointed primarily from among relatives, in-laws or other persons who guarantee the proper performance of the guardian’s duties. Supervision over the implementation of the rights and obligations of a temporary guardian is exercised by the social welfare centre or the social services centre. In the absence of a person as a temporary guardian, at the request of the court, the candidate is indicated by the above mentioned entity, within 48 hours. The court decides in non-contentious proceedings after the hearing has been held (in special cases – in closed session). The court hears the candidate for a temporary guardian and the person who actually takes care of the minor, and hears the minor, if the minor’s mental development, health condition and degree of maturity allow it, taking into account as far as possible the minor’s reasonable wishes. The court examines the case immediately, not later than within 3 days from the date of receipt of the application by the court or obtaining information about the need to appoint a temporary guardian. Resolution on the appointment of a temporary guardian is effective and enforceable upon its announcement, and if there was no such announcement – upon its release. Subsequently, after obtaining the above-mentioned provision, the temporary guardian may submit an application for granting a PESEL number to the minor, enrol the minor in school and receive childcare benefits.
AK: What benefits can Ukrainian citizens count on?
MZ: One-time support in the amount of PLN 300 per person. Parents will receive PLN 500 per child per month (under the “500+” program), PLN 300 layette per child (i.e. the “Dobry Start” benefit) and the right to family care capital, which is granted to children aged 12 to 36 month of age (parents receive PLN 500 for 24 months or PLN 1000 for 12 months for a child), or a subsidy for the child’s stay in a nursery, children’s club or with a day carer.
When determining the right to family benefits depending on the income criterion, when determining the family income per person, the account will not be taken of a family member who, according to the declaration of the person applying for these benefits, is not staying in the territory of the Republic of Poland.
The right to these benefits will be established starting from the month in which the application was submitted, not earlier than the month in which the citizen was entered in the register, and in the case of benefits due to a child – also when the child was entered in the register. The application for granting benefits is to contain the applicant’s PESEL number and – if any – the type, series and number of the document constituting the basis for crossing the border, and in the case of benefits for a child – the child’s PESEL number and – if any – the type, series and number of the document constituting the basis for crossing the border.
A citizen of Ukraine who is a child’s temporary guardian is also to be entitled to benefits or co-financing due to a child.
AK: Do Ukrainian workers fall for the same rules of calling for active military service as Polish workers?
MZ: No, Polish regulations do not regulate the status of an employee who is a citizen of another country, who was called up for military service. In the case of employees – citizens of Ukraine, the employer should apply general rules related to granting leave from work and continuing employment.
AK: Can an employer grant a leave from work to an employee who wants to return to Ukraine to fight in its defense?
MZ: Yes, the employer may grant unpaid leave. The application for unpaid leave should be in writing, but an e-mail or text message from the employee is also sufficient to document the application.
AK: Can the employer and employee enter an agreement about temporary termination of employment?
MZ: Yes, the employment relationship can be terminated by agreement. However, there is no obstacle for an employer, for example, to guarantee an employee who is now leaving for Ukraine that a place of work will be waiting for them after their return. Such a guarantee may take the form of an obligation to conclude another employment contract when the employee declares that their are ready to work upon return.
AK: Should a Ukrainian citizen receiving a donation pay the tax?
MZ: Ukrainian citizens will be exempt from tax on donations received, regardless of their form and cost.
AK: What help can persons who host Ukrainian citizens fleeing the war count on?
MZ: People who host Ukrainian citizens in their apartments or provide them with shelter in their home will receive benefits for this purpose in the amount of PLN 40 per person per day, i.e. about PLN 1,200 per month for a maximum of 60 days.
AK: Counsellor, thank you very much for the detailed explanation of these issues. I would also like to express my appreciation for the legal assistance you provide on the ICAS EAP line in Polish, Ukrainian and Russian to all those who call us and need support.
MZ: Thank you very much.