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migrationtothecentre › Prospects after the third abolition in Poland

Prospects after the third abolition in Poland

Karolina Grot | 12. 3. 13
Within the third Abolition Action in Poland in 2012, 9521 illegal migrants submitted the application for a temporary residence permit. According to available statistics the number of migrants who benefited from this opportunity was twice bigger in comparison to two previous ones. How does this phenomenon reflect existing loopholes in the Polish law and what does it entail in the Polish case? Could the occasionally conducted Amnesty be perceived as a way to avoid bureaucratic barriers faced by immigrants?

Legalization of stay in Poland may be obtained in several ways, for example by naturalization, under the right to family reunion, or through the residence permit. Among the various possibilities abolition for immigrants is seen as wide open way to legalize their stay. In the light of the Polish Abolition Act adopted in July 2011[1], a temporary residence permit could have been granted to applicants if they prove:

  • continuous illegal residence in Poland since December 2007 or earlier, or
  • continuous illegal residence in Poland since January 1, 2010 with an expulsion decision and rejected refugee-status application received prior to that date, or
  • continuous residence in Poland with an ongoing refugee status application submitted on or after January 1, 2010

Those regulations were much more liberal than in former years. Previously, it was necessary to be in Poland at least 10 years and prove possession of work permit and submit a certificate of accommodation. What is also worth to be mentioned, within the Act of abolition it was possible to use two regulatory tools by granting permission for undocumented foreigners to reside legally, or through enable them to leave the country without consequences such as in the form of an entry in the list of undesirable persons on Polish territory (so-called “Little Amnesty”[2]). The second of outlined options confirms the low restrictiveness of the Act, which provides the opportunity to return to Poland lawfully on the basis of a visa.

Among key factors determining the decision about conducting the Abolition action 2012 in Poland is definitely a growing number of illegal migrants. According to recent estimations number of illegal migrants in Poland ranges from 50 000 to 80 000.[3] Although the scale of the issue is difficult to verify, the problem of the large number of illegal migrants is given as the main reason for carrying out the action.

Following the statistics[4] compiled by the Office For Foreigners in order to analyze the post-abolition situation – in Poland applications for a residence permit are most frequently submitted by residents of Vietnam (2 189 applications) and Ukraine (2 013 applications). This numbers are determined by the cause of illegal stay of individual migrant groups. The main problem of the largest of above-mentioned groups is the lack of legal migration channels, what beside a strict rules of Vietnamese migration policy towards Vietnam citizens, pushes them to choose an illegal way to entry the territory of Poland. What about our Eastern Neighbors from Ukraine? Most often they struggle with expiration of legal permit obtained on a basis of a tourist visa. The other substantial group living in the territory of Poland are Armenians. (713 applications). A significant majority of them came to Poland some time ago. In the absence of action to extend the visa, Armenians are struggling with expired residence cards and often live in the country without the valid document. Due to the lack of actions to change this situation they are in the country without the approval of the stay for many generations.

Following the data collected by the office for foreigners, more than 4.5 thousand applications within the regularization were approved[5]. Positively considered request on amnesty is associated with obtaining a residence permit for a period of two years. It mostly affects the areas of individual and macroeconomic dimension from both perspective: foreigners’ and the country.

But what next? Does immigrants have favorable perspective for the future after receiving the residence permit? By taking the process of amnesty it is necessary to deliberate the effects of this action.

What was about to be considered as one of the main advantages of the action was granting the work permit to foreigners, who legalized their stay during the action and at the same time decrease the illegal employment of migrants.

Analyzing amnesty we cannot forget about advantage of the output of the grey zone. Taking up the job entails a long-term effects. Legal work allows access to previously unavailable institutions such as the police, health services, and civil protection. In this case we assume that one can count on decent working conditions, insurance and medical care. It is very important for foreigners, but also has a positive effect on the host country. Following this path it brings a positive impact for Poland. Not only entails a lower risk of criminalization, but it also contributes to strengthen the national economy.

However, to a significant group of migrants this opportunity could also cause some difficulties as those who legalized their stay in this way are able to work just on a basis of a contract of employment while in Poland (similarly to other EU Member States) migrants are mostly employed on the basis of civil law agreement. So, in this case the abolition fails as a measure undertaken to counteract the growing gray zone.

It is worth to emphasize that abolition is only a temporary action which at the same time constitutes a field for reflection on the entire Polish migration policy[6]. There is a need to underline that in 2011 took place very important turning point in the field of unified migration policy in Poland – the adoption of a strategic document entitled ‘The Polish Migration Policy: current state of play and further actions’[7]. Although, the assumptions of the strategy outlines the vision of a coherent immigration policy, it does entirely solve a several important issues such as access to nationality or labour market. However, the idea of ​​regularization hides a lot of benefits, equally important is what awaits immigrants after the Amnesty. Repeating the question – what entails the amnesty? The answer is still ambiguous. One thing is certain, Poland needs further work in the name of systemic change.

The article has been written as part of the project Migration to the Centre supported by the by the Europe for Citizens Programme of the European Union and the International Visegrad Fund.

This article reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.


[1] Act of 28 July 2011 on legalization of stay of some foreigners in the territory of the Republic of Poland and on amendments to the Act on granting protection to foreigners in the territory of the Republic of Poland and to the Act on Foreigners

[6] For more information about migration policy see the article “An overview of the migration policies and trends - Poland”, written by Karolina Grot

[7] The Polish Migration Policy: current state of play and further actions:

Karolina Grot
Karolina Grot – project coordinator and analyst in the Migration Policy Programme at the Institute of Public Affairs, one of the leading Polish think thanks. She graduated from the Centre for Europe, University of Warsaw and Warsaw School of Economics, where she completed the specialization in negotiations and project management. Her fields of expertise are emigration of Poles, integration of migrants in Poland and the EU, functioning of the Schengen area and visa policy.
The project has been generously supported by the European Commission The "Europe for citizens" programme, International Visegrad Fund and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.
Funded by the Europe for
Citizens Programme
of the European Union
Visegrad Fund. Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Daniela Pěničková, project coordinator
Phone: (+420) 296 325 345, E-mail:

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