On March 12, 2022, the Sejm (parliament) of the Republic of Poland adopted the Act on Assisting Citizens of Ukraine in Connection with the Armed Conflict in the Territory of That Country.
This act provides for special procedures and rules to deal with the mass influx of displaced Ukrainian citizens fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine and establishes the legal grounds for providing immediate assistance, protection, benefits, and rights to Ukrainian nationals who have come to Poland since February 24, 2022, when the invasion began.
Rules of Entry and Stay
According to the newly adopted act, the stay of Ukrainian citizens in Poland must be considered legal if they entered Polish territory on or after February 24, 2022, and they declared their intention to stay in Poland. (Act on Assisting Citizens of Ukraine art. 2, para. 1.)
Under this act, every citizen of Ukraine who has come to Poland from Ukraine because of the hostilities there can legally stay in Poland for a period of 18 months, with an option to extend their stay for up to three years. (Art. 2, para. 1.) Ukrainians who were legally in Poland before the Russian invasion may stay until December 31, 2022. (Art. 42, paras. 1 & 2.)
These regulations apply to individuals who crossed the Polish border under the visa-free regime, have a biometric passport, or hold a visa issued by Poland or any other country in the Schengen zone. (Art. 3, paras. 1, 2; art. 42, paras. 1, 10(1)–(3).)
However, Ukrainian citizens lose their right to stay in Poland if they leave Poland for a period exceeding one month during their stay. (Art. 11, paras. 1 & 2; art. 3, paras. 1 & 2.)
The act introduces the time frame for Ukrainian citizens to apply for a temporary residence permit. (Art. 38, para. 1; art. 42.) If granted, the permit is valid for three years and allows Ukrainian refugees to work in Poland without the need to have a work permit. (Art. 38, paras. 2 & 3; art. 39.)
The new legislation obligates the refugees to obtain an individual identification number (PESEL) within 60 days of entering Polish territory. Possession of this number automatically authorizes them to receive benefits from the social protection services and the rights associated with them. In cases where the refugees have no identification documents, the PESEL number must be granted on the basis of a declaration of identity. (Art. 4, paras. 1 & 2.)
Regulations on Employment, Aid, and Benefits
The new act grants the right to work in Poland to those individuals from Ukraine who legally reside in the country. (Art. 22, para. 1.) Employers of these Ukrainian citizens must notify the competent district labor office that they have hired a Ukrainian citizen. (Art. 22, para. 2.)
Furthermore, this act allows Ukrainian citizens whose stay in Poland is considered legal to undertake and pursue economic activity under the same terms and conditions as Polish citizens, provided that the Ukrainian citizens have obtained a PESEL number. (Art. 23, paras. 1 & 2.)
Under this act, local government authorities must provide Ukrainian citizens with a wide range of assistance, including accommodations, full-day collective meals, free transportation between places of accommodation and places where medical care is provided, a supply of sanitary and personal hygiene products, and other products. (Art. 12, paras. 1(1)–(5), 17 & 18.)
Ukrainian citizens are also entitled to medical care provided in the Republic of Poland, including basic health-care services and free psychological help. (Art. 12, para. 3; art. 37, paras. 1 & 2; art. 32, paras. 1 & 3; art. 25, para. 3(3b).)
According to the act, Ukrainian citizens are eligible to receive different types of social benefits, such as a family allowance and supplements to the family allowance; a municipal allowance; one-off-childbirth, childcare, and parental allowances; a start-up allowance; family care capital; and a subsidy toward fees for a child’s stay at an educational institution. (Art. 29, paras. 1–3; art. 28, paras. 2 & 3; art. 41, para. 1(2)–(3); art. 45, paras. 1 & 2.)
In addition, Ukrainian citizens who are legally in Poland are entitled to receive aid in the form of a single monetary payment of 300 Polish zlote (about US$70) per person. This amount is intended for living costs, particularly to cover expenses for food, clothing, and footwear. (Art. 31, paras. 1, 2 & 6.)Poland, a country of 38 million people, has already taken in more than 2.9 million Ukrainian refugees since the Russian invasion at the end of February.