Download MIPEX III Poland in Polish (pdf)



Poland is a country of emigration, though fewer Poles have left since the global recession. Non-EU migrants, a rare sight in the country and its major cities, are increasingly needed to fill labour shortages. The growing number of international students can now apply for work permits, as can seasonal workers, especially from neighbouring Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and also Moldova.

That Poland lacks an integration strategy for its non-EU residents is reflected in its low MIPEX scores in most areas. High scores on family reunion and long-term residence reflect laws that were low political priorities and thus modelled on EU directives. Migrants should have a secure family life and future in Poland – at least according to the law.

Since 2007, Poland’s minor improvements (+1 on MIPEX scale) were not enough to keep up with other countries catching up on integration (-3 on MIPEX ranking, behind AT, CZ, GR). The 2009 Citizenship Bill and Draft Act on Equal Treatment were hard to negotiate. But, if passed, they would substantially improve integration by providing basic protection from discrimination (recently EE) and entitlement to naturalisation (recently GR, LU).

Timeline - What's Changed

0 September 2007
Access to nationality
Act on Polish Ethnicity Card.
0 March 2008
Creation of Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment.
+1 November 2008
Prohibition of victimisation in discrimination cases broadened in labour code.
+3 2009
Labour market mobility
Act on Freedom of Self-Employment: access to self-employment is improved for spouses of legal residents.
0 January 2009
Family reunion; Longterm residence
Minimum income amount changed for family reunion and longterm residence permit.
0 April 2009
Access to nationality
New Citizenship Bill adopted by Parliament but vetoed by President – currently examined by Constitutional Court.
0 April 2010
Ordinance of Education Minister: possibilities for migrant children to learn Polish and their own language/culture.

Key Findings

  • Draft Equal Treatment Act needed to comply with EU law: Poland one of last needing basic protections. 
  • Only country without an equality body to help discrimination victims. 
  • Path to Polish citizenship long and insecure: entirely depends on the President. 
  • 2009 Citizenship Bill, if approved, would bring Poland closer to European average. 
  • Better labour market access? Some temporary migrants can now open businesses, but many sectors still closed. 
  • Family reunion and long-term residence: Poland at European average. 
  • Immigrants lack key civil rights, as in 9 Central European countries. 
  • Migrant children can now study until age 18: education still poorly addressing their needs, despite 2006 Ordinance on Polish and immigrant languages. 

Score Changes

Areas of Integration

  • Show Labour Market Mobility

    Add to MyPdf

    Starting a family business

    Several types of temporary migrants and their family members may not have equal access to the labour market, but they can now go into business for themselves, following enactment of a law on freedom of self-employment in 2009. Poland increased access because it had to comply with EU directives on family reunion (2003/86/EC) and free movement (2004/38/EC).

    Poland’s policies are as contradictory as most Central European countries, since non-EU newcomers with the right to work are both encouraged and discouraged to integrate into the labour market. They can use training and public employment services, but cannot change jobs and careers like EU citizens can. They also cannot enter the public sector, as in only 9 other MIPEX countries. Targeted support is limited, as across Central Europe (see EE). The main reason that temporary migrants gained equal access to self-employment was to fulfil Poland’s EU obligations (see box). In contrast to Poland, countries recently attracting labour migrants (e.g. CZ, ES) tend to grant newcomers and families equal access to all parts of the labour market. 

  • Show Family Reunion

    Add to MyPdf

    Conditions and procedure: from law to practice

    Many Central European countries create few legal obstacles for non-EU citizens to apply, but maintain very discretionary procedures with many grounds for authorities to reject them. Poland does not follow this trend. While the length and cost of the procedure may be burdensome, there are few additional grounds for rejecting their application or withdrawing their status (as in CA, IT, ES). Families learn why authorities took the decision they did, and can appeal (as in 24 other countries).

    The law in Poland encourages family life among immigrants slightly better than in most countries. The eligibility criteria recognise the importance of reuniting non-EU residents with their spouse, children and, under conditions, extended family. Still, sponsors cannot apply for 2 years, even if they have the clear means to support their family. Only 8 others of the 27 EU Member States kept families separated for that long. According to the law, the procedure should be less discretionary than in other Central European countries (see box), while conditions for sponsors are average for most European countries. Conditions and time delays also impede family members from acquiring their own autonomous residence permit. 

  • Show Education

    Add to MyPdf

    Like most Central European countries, Poland does not prepare its schools well to integrate immigrant students into the classroom. Access is halfway favourable. All migrant children, regardless of their status, are treated the same as Polish students until they turn 18. Despite projects here and there, Poland’s education policy cannot meet the needs and opportunities of a diverse student body. Students may not become academically fluent in Polish because the free but weak language courses have limited duration and quality standards. Schools may or may not obtain special teaching assistants and organise immigrant language and culture courses with embassies. Intercultural education is largely absent from the curriculum and school life (see CZ, EE, PT).

  • Show Political Participation

    Add to MyPdf

    A non-EU immigrant in Poland has very limited opportunities to participate in political life. Poland scores second to last with CZ, just above RO. No attempt has been made to improve this score since 2007. They cannot vote in any election at any level nor have their voice heard through an immigrant consultative body, despite trends in new countries of immigration (e.g. IE, ES, PT). They cannot form their own association or join a political party. These serious restrictions on basic civil liberties are also found in 9 Central European countries. Immigrants do not get structural funding to represent their new communities in public debates.

  • Show Long Term Residence

    Add to MyPdf

    Long-term residence is a slight area of strength for integration in Poland, thanks to EU law. A non-EU resident waits 5 years on a particular permit without leaving Poland for over 6 months. The conditions follow the basic requirements set down in EU law. Applicants should be relatively secure in their status according to the law. Most Central European countries have greater problems with discretionary conditions (e.g. HU, SK, LV). While a long-term resident can travel back and forth to their home country, they cannot stay for more than a year. In Poland, like in most EU Member States, they should enjoy equal access to employment and social benefits but must follow a special procedure to finally get their qualifications recognised.

  • Show Access to Nationality

    Add to MyPdf

    President vetoes Citizenship Bill

    Poland’s 2009 ‘Citizenship Bill’ would have provided a clearer path to citizenship for its settled foreign residents. The procedure, based on the rule of law, would justify decisions and provide scope for judicial review. Those meeting the legal conditions and background checks would be entitled to citizenship. Permanent residents, stateless persons, refugees and spouses of nationals can apply after fewer years of residence. In April 2009, the President vetoed it, largely to keep Poland’s voivodeships (administrative provinces) from diminishing his role in the procedure. The Bill is being reviewed by the Constitutional Court.

    As in most Central European countries, access to nationality remains an area of weakness in Poland, with the former President vetoing a significant attempt at improvement (see box). Only the President of Poland can withdraw citizenship, which leaves immigrants relatively secure in their status as new citizens. But only he can approve a naturalisation, which leaves applicants entirely insecure about the procedure. Their application can be refused on numerous undefined grounds, with no legal guarantees. The current path to citizenship is long for the first generation (10 years) and ignores the situation of the second and third generation. While the conditions mainly involve assessing Polish language, their criminal record and income level can be assessed in practice. 

  • Show Anti-discrimination

    Add to MyPdf

    Despite some recent improvements, Poland still offers its residents slightly unfavourable protection against discrimination, well below the European average. Residents are protected against discrimination on grounds of nationality, ethnicity and religion but only in employment. 15 countries extend protection to all other areas of life. Because Poland is breaching the EU Racial Equality Directive, residents are not explicitly protected from any of these forms of discrimination in education, social protection or access to goods and services. Such protection against discrimination is found in nearly all of the 31 MIPEX countries.

    The procedures to enforce these weak laws are themselves slightly below average. If an action is brought, victims can access various legal procedures and benefit from legal aid. Since 2009 they are protected against victimisation in employment and vocational training. However, they must in general take the action themselves, with no independent advice or investigative assistance from a specialised agency. The ‘Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment’, created in 2008, helps the government with anti-discrimination policy, but not victims with their cases. Poland is now the only EU Member State that has not created an independent equality body as required by EU law. The government’s commitment to equality is very weak within its own functions and much weaker than most EU Member States.

    Victims may benefit from a few recent attempts to implement the Equality Directives and to pass various drafts of the Act on Equal Treatment. The current draft (May 2010) adopts a minimum standard approach, as in CZ and EE. Even so, all residents in Poland would be protected from various forms of discrimination in all areas of life. The Ombudsman would also have the competence to hear their individual discrimination cases.