Foreign students in PolandDawid Cegiełka | 8. 10. 13
Nevertheless, many scholars claim that migration to Poland won’t compensate for negative demographical trends. Without considering all aspects of Polish migration policy in detail, it is worth analysing the advantages Poland offers to incoming students (including solutions in the upcoming Law on Foreigners), and describing the problems that this category of migrants has to face in their everyday life.
24 253 foreign students from 141 countries studied in Poland in the year 2012/2013. This is 1.39% of the total number of students in Poland. The main countries of origin are as follows: Ukraine, Belarus, Norway and Sweden. 19% of foreign students have Polish roots. In the Strategy of Developing Human Capital in Poland, the goal is to increase the percentage of foreign students in Poland to 5% by 2020. To accomplish this, Polish governmental institutions are planning to simplify procedures concerning obtaining necessary permissions and documents, and to broaden the rights of foreign students in Poland. A new Law on Foreigners will come into force in May 2014.
At the moment, we may distinguish several factors not connected with studied subjects which may, at some point, influence a student’s decision to choose Poland as a study destination: access to the labour market, possibilities of opening one’s own company, access to the social security system, healthcare, social support during studies, chances of prolonging legal stay, finding a job and settling down after finishing education.
Students who have been issued a residence permit on the basis of full-time studies, and also those who have proven Polish roots (possessing a Pole’s Card issued by Polish consulates abroad) are entitled to work in Poland without a work permit. Different rules apply to categories of foreigners residing in Poland who have a student visa or residence permit, but who are not full time students. It is necessary for them to obtain a work permit beforehand. However, (providing several additional conditions are fulfilled), this requirement doesn’t relate to citizens of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Georgia and Moldova (they can work for six months during the year on the basis of an employer’s declaration registered in the Labour Office).
Regulations for students concerning opening their own business in Poland also vary depending on the legal basis of stay (visa or two types of residence permit). As in the previous case, bearers of the Pole’s Card and full time students or PhDs with a residence permit have equal rights to Polish citizens. Others may open only several types of companies (joint stock companies, public limited companies, and limited partnerships).
While working or running a company, a student (except on a contract of mandate) is covered by social insurance. This results in a situation where employers are keen to hire students on a contract of mandate and contract for specific work.
Access to free medical services is also guaranteed only for specified categories of students, which is why the rest either need to buy medical insurance at a private company or pay monthly contributions to the Polish National Health Fund.
Social assistance in Poland is not designed for foreign students unless they have one of the types of permanent stay, such as permanent residence, EU residence, refugee status, subsidiary protection or tolerated stay. As a general rule, this also concerns social scholarships.
The new Polish Law on Foreigners that is going to be introduced in May 2014 will also make it easier for international students to deal with formalities concerning their stay in the territory of Poland. The first residence card for students will be issued for 15 months, which will allow a student to pass his/her exams in the second term. Furthermore, it won't be necessary to apply for this permit 45 days before its expiration (as previously), but even on the last day of legal stay in Poland. If all exams are not passed successfully in an academic year, a Voivode will still have the power to issue a residence card. After finishing studies, a graduate will have the right to obtain a residence card for one year in order to find a job in Poland.
The above regulations simplifying bureaucratic procedures together with the catalogue of students’ rights and other factors will help to increase the number of foreign students in Poland and in the future strengthen the Polish economy, Polish science, and the competitiveness of Polish universities. At this moment, it is impossible to assess the effectiveness of these solutions, but the tendency of facilitating access to higher education for non-Polish citizens is justified.
The article has been written as part of the Migration to the Centre project, supported by the European Commission - the "Europe for citizens" programme, and the International Visegrad Fund.
This article only reflects the views of the
author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be
made of the information contained herein.
 C. Żołędowski (red.), M. Duszczyk, J. Godlewska, E. Jaroszewska, J. Łukaszewska, Studenci zagraniczni w Polsce..., op.cit., s. 196.
 Report "Foreign students in Poland 2013" based on GUS for years 2012/2013, OECD, UNESCO and Eurostat data for 2010, and on research carried out by the “Perspektywy” Foundation
 Article 87 sec.2 pt 1, Act of 20 April 2004 on the promotion of employment and labour market institutions: http://www.psz.praca.gov.pl/main.php?do=ShowPage&nPID=867685&pT=details&sP=CONTENT,objectID,873075
Dawid Cegiełka, Member of the Warsaw Bar (independent body of lawyers). He completed Law Studies at the School of Law and Commerce in Warsaw, and since then he has worked in the field of migration issues. At present he works as a lawyer at the Association for Legal Intervention, a Polish NGO whose mission is to help refugees and migrants by providing them with legal support. His task is to provide legal advice to foreigners, as well as supporting their integration process and motivating them to improve their legal awareness.