Legal framework for employing foreigners
The condition for a foreigner to take up a job in Poland is obtaining a work permit, which is issued by the office of the provincial governor (wojewoda). This applies to employing a foreigner under an employment contract (umowa o pracę) as well freelance contracts under a civil-law agreement (contract for specific work – umowa o dzieło, contract of commission – umowa zlecenie).
Depending on the circumstances related to the planned employment of a foreigner, the employer may apply for one of five types of work permits (identified with the letters from A to E). The standard work permit is type A, which concerns foreigners working in Poland under an agreement with an employer that operates in Poland. Type B permit can be issued if the foreigner is to serve on the management board of a commercial company (a private limited company or a joint-stock company). The other work permit types concern various forms of rendering work for a foreign employer by an employee posted to work in Poland.
The future foreign employee will be the party submitting the application to legalise their employment in Poland if they is already staying in Poland. The application will be for a stay permit and a work permit (a so-called joint permit), which means that it is possible to obtain, as part of one administrative procedure, a work permit and a permission to stay in Poland for a period of not more than three years (with a possibility of extending this period).
The key element making it difficult to employ foreigners is the necessity of completing the so-called consultation procedure before the district's chief executive (starosta powiatu). Under this procedure, the starosta has 21 days to verify if the employer’s need for personnel can be satisfied by anyone on the local unemployment registers and those looking for work. If the starosta issues an opinion that there are no domestic candidates for the position planned for the foreigner, which is usually the case for specialised skilled employees, the work permit can be proceeded.
The procedure to obtain a work permit entails the need to pay official fees, which are between around a hundred and several hundred zlotys.
Employing citizens from eastern Europe
There are special legal regulations concerning employment of citizens of Armenia, Belarus, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine. An employer can employ citizens of these countries by filing with the relevant district labour office a declaration that he intends to entrust work to such employees (the so-called simplified procedure). This is the quickest, cheapest, and least formalised way to employ citizens of the above countries in Poland. Registering the declaration at the labour office usually takes around two weeks. The employer picks up the registered declaration document and sends it to the foreigner. Using the registered declaration, the future employee can apply for a visa to work in Poland. This procedure is free of charge.
The unfavourable aspect of the declarations on the intention to entrust work to a foreigner is the above-mentioned need to complete the consultation procedure before the starosta. And on the basis of a registered declaration, a foreign employee cannot work for more than 180 days within a period of 12 consecutive months (after which they can re-register).
Special procedural facilitations
Due to noticeable personnel shortages in particular professions, the Polish legislature has developed a tool that simplifies the procedure of employing foreigners. On the basis of regulations issued by provinces, lists of jobs classified as being in short supply in particular provinces are published. With respect to these jobs, no consultation procedure before the starosta is necessary. This maximally facilitates the registration of the declaration on the intention to entrust work to a foreigner. This facilitation also applies to the procedure of obtaining a standard work permit.
Foreigners in the IT sector
The statistics of the Ministry of Family, Labour, and Social Policy show that there is a growing need for the work of foreigners having high skills, experience, or knowledge of foreign languages. There has been a significant increase in the demand for IT specialists, health care professionals, and teachers. As regards IT, the number of foreigners employed in this sector in Poland increased threefold in 2015 versus 2014. In the economy sector classified in the Polish Classification of Activity as 'section J' (IT and communication), the number of registered declarations on the intention to entrust work to a foreigner doubled in 2015 (see table below).
IT professions have been placed on the list of jobs in short supply in the Małopolskie and Łódzkie provinces. These include programmers, application programmers, computer software testers, computer system analysts, designers (architects) of IT systems, and IT systems software development specialists. Foreign employees having such specialisations can quite easily be employed in Kraków or Łódź by registering declarations on the intention to entrust work to a foreigner, without having to consult the starosta. This is one factor determining the current dynamics of the demand for the work of foreigners in the IT sector. Employers will be watching out for new instruments facilitating the recruitment of employees in specialist sectors.
Due to the need to implement Directive 2014/36/EU, legislative works are currently under way in Poland to change the system of employing foreigners there. A separate and open issue is the future of employing UK citizens in Poland once the UK leaves the EU.