Permission granted – how to be officially here

By way of spreading the opportunity for an urząd discussion, I follow on from my post on 20 east with an update on the situation regarding my visa to remain in Poland.

In the end it worked and I collected my new “permission to stay in Poland” last week and what a damned impressive piece of paper it is – not.

All that effort for this?

It comprises one sheet of beige paper, roughly A5 size, which has been printed on both sides with a rectangular border (smaller than A5 and not matching one side to the other) inside of which is some writing, an eagle and a red stamp. I’m really not sure what I’m supposed to do with this thing. The urząd lady did make the helpful suggestion of getting it plastic coated and even showed me an example of one that had been thus treated. It looked like a stiff and even more awkward version of the real thing. I asked if they offered such a service at the urząd or if I should venture forth in search of a visa-coating sklep. Silly question. It’s far too big for a wallet. If I cut it to the size of the irregular borders it might just fit inside the passport, and then fall out one day as I’m boarding a plane. It’s too flimsy to carry around on its own so I expect this is going to remain at home in a drawer and I’ll just have to explain all that to a policeman when I’m next stopped or to all those other people who like to see some kind of paper to prove you’re legit. No, that’s going to be a pain in the arse, I’ll have to superglue it inside my passport, which means I’ll have to carry my passport around with me all the time, which is something I don’t like doing. What a joke! Still, for 1 PLN what do I expect?

It's a joke, right?

I should explain that the smeary lines are not part of the official document, although they would fit right in. That’s just me being cautious and not wanting anyone to steal my identity and then go and do something silly with it like donating money to the EU Polish visa department. All it gives is name, date and place of birth, nationality, address in Poland, sex, PESEL, date of registration and who issued it. On the front it has a number – “I am not a number, I am a free man!”.

So, how did I come to have such a magnificent paper and what happened after we left off from the 20 east post? Well, after the initial foray into the meldunek office and to the closed visa office I waited a few days to calm down. When blood pressure stabilised I visited the visa office again, this time they were open. I was given a number, something like D798. I waited outside the D doors, my number came up and I started explaining that I just wanted to find out how this might work as and when I finally get a meldunek. She listened carefully and then told me to bugger off to the EU section because this one was for Romanian gypsies and Belorussian spies.

The EU section was trying hard in a low-budget way to appear ‘sexier’ than the other visa departments. It had carpet, fewer people hanging around and those that were hanging around didn’t look like they were going to steal your wallet. I entered and discussed the issue with the only lady working – everyone else was sick, she was sick too, just less sick than her co-workers. Whilst she didn’t exactly confirm that things were perfect with my situation, she was giving off vibrations that suggested a small amount of flexibility might be granted to EU types like myself and perhaps it might be worth risking an application. She gave me the correct form to fill in and I left.

The appointed day arrived, the very day my old meldunek expired, and so I went again to the meldunek office on Nowogrodska. The lady this time was slightly more human but was nevertheless unable to deliver what was needed – another 5 year meldunek. She could not do this because my visa had expired, on that very same day, which was the reason I had visited the meldunek office a few weeks earlier and been dismissed. If I had been there yesterday she could have given me a longer meldunek but not now the visa has expired! Quelle surprise. The most she was allowed to issue is 3 months. This was annoying because to get a new visa I needed a meldunek that lasts for more than 3 months but then I was getting used to meldunek stupidity. There then followed a very bizarre episode where I was asked when had I last been in England and returned to Poland. Luckily for me, I had done exactly that the previous week for work so I told her the date I entered Poland and she issued a meldunek for 3 months from that date. I could have lied as she didn’t ask for proof and if you are in a similar situation, I suggest you prepare for it and lie your teeth off. What if the last time I’d been in the UK was 6 months ago? Would she issue a meldunek that expired 3 months ago? She knows I live in Poland as she can see my 5 year only-just-expired visa so why should I be visiting the UK? This really was Alice In Wonderland.

She issued the slightly shy of  3 month meldunek. We asked what I should do about getting a longer one. She said to come back when I have my visa and she can cancel this short one and issue a 5 year one. I didn’t bother asking her why her friend couldn’t have done exactly that a few weeks back and avoid me being in this situation at all.

And so, armed with a now expired visa and lots of papers including an invalid marriage certificate (apparently they only last for a few months at a time and then you have to go get a new one!) and a meldunek valid for less than the stipulated amount of time I went straight from meldunek office to visa office. This time I remembered to ask for an ‘A’ number and eventually sat in front of the same lady as last time. She went through all the papers carefully while I shuffled nervously in my chair. “Have you got 4 copies of the application form?” – no I hadn’t. It didn’t mention that on the form. She downed tools while I went downstairs and got the form copied 3 more times as well as copies of all the other key papers. I returned and had lost my place so I waited 15 minutes and eventually got back in.

She checked everything again. I think she must have had experience of people switching papers around after visiting the copier because she went back over everything carefully and wanted to see the originals of the copies I had just made. She gave me a sly look when the marriage certificate came up and I sort of shrugged, I think that was the right thing to do. She didn’t even mention the meldunek but I had told her it was the best they could do, I have a feeling they are used to meldunek idiocy. Eventually she started stamping things and looking like everything was alright. She gave me a piece of paper that said “This guy’s alright! He’s picking his visa up on 21st October” and with details of the account I need to pay 1 PLN.

That was it. I returned on the 21st with proof of having transferred 1 PLN and all the papers I had before. She took from me my very nice credit-card sized plastic-bound old visa, swapped it for the crappy piece of paper you see in the photos and I was a free man! Well, not quite as I still have to go back to the meldunek office and get a longer one.

In total, this process will have taken seven weeks and involved three visits to the visa office and another three visits to the meldunek office. I can’t help thinking that for a man who has already been a very obvious part of the Polish system for many years, that’s a little excessive.

HANDY VISA TIPS FOR EU CITIZENS

  • If you apply for the thing I have “Registering your residence”, there are three valid reasons for doing so: 1/ a job, 2/ studies or training, 3/ married to a Polish citizen. There is also a 4/ other circumstances, which requires an explanation. If you tick the 1/ box you need copies of your employment contract in Polish and a letter from the company to say you’re working for them. Also worth taking a copy of the company’s KRS to prove the letter is signed by an authorised person. If you tick 3/ you need a marriage certificate. You will probably get away with the original one even though it is not legally valid but to be safe you need to go get a new one that will remain valid during the visa process.
  • This “residence” visa, in my case at least, is valid for an indefinite period. Not that the scrappy paper will last that long. Not sure what happens if I get divorced and lose my job.
  • If you want something better you can apply for ‘permanent residence’, which only lasts for 10 years! I think this is because it has a photo and changing the photo is the only reason you need to renew it. You have to have been resident in Poland for five years to apply for this. I saw the document they give you for permanent residence and it’s not much better than what I’ve got.
  • If you want the 5* treatment you can apply for citizenship and get a Polish passport and the holy grail of a handy wallet size dowód osobisty (ID Card). Again, you need to have been resident for five years and you need to already have permanent residence status (see above).
  • If you go to Długa, get a number beginning with A.
  • Don’t trust anyone to give you the right advice or the right forms other than the urząd ladies. I had bad stuff on both counts from a so-called ‘expert’.
  • Don’t trust the meldunek ladies to give you the right answer. If you think they are being awkward, go get another number and try someone else.
  • Have four copies of the application form even though it doesn’t mention this. This will save you 30 minutes at least.
  • Try to apply for your new visa while your meldunek has four months left to run.
  • If asked when you were last in the UK, lie and say “last week”.
  • Take multiple photo copies of every paper you need to present them with.
  • Expect a ton of crap from the meldunek office. The least reason an urząd has for existing, the more trouble they will cause!
  • Allow a couple of months to get a new visa
  • You need to be able to transfer 1 PLN to their bank account and prove that you did so.
  • Don’t expect this to be as easy as it should be.
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17 thoughts on “Permission granted – how to be officially here

  1. […] For anyone who does not read both blogs, you can find an update to my earlier post about trying to renew my residence visa over on Polandian. […]

  2. bob says:

    Wow – an epic post!

    You have been in Poland too long when you say:

    “It’s far too big for a wallet.” – Remember, you are a problem solving Brit – either get a bigger wallet or take the doc to the office and reduce the size on the copy machine, or better yet since this is 2010, take a photo of it with your cell phone and store it there and show it to the cop

    “She listened carefully and then told me to bugger off to the EU section because this one was for Romanian gypsies and Belorussian spies.” – AND AMERICANS LIKE ME – good company we keep; probably a conspiracy to humble us.

  3. Name says:

    Having been through most of this process recently (re-registering under a new address this time), I can sympathise… However, I won’t sympathise too much, as I will probably be facing all the same crap again in future.

    I’ve had a fair few of those ‘Computer says no!’ moments with urząd and meldunek ladies also. In one particular example, I had one of them flat out refuse to help me, not even advise what the next step could be, if I was following the wrong procedure by talking to her. It was seriously frustrating…

  4. scatts says:

    It is stretching the boundaries of attention, I admit, but as it serves as a sort of “user guide” I thought the value might justify the length!

    I am mulling over the options available to carry it around with me in one way or another. So far I’ve come up with copying it and then folding so it fits inside the car registration document.

  5. bob says:

    scatts – have you thought about laminating and carrying around your neck – a nifty way to be noticed on the street and perhaps get a free beer or to in sympathy.

    By the way, I have had very similar experiences over the years – ugly at best but better now than years ago – they are improving albeit po woli

  6. Malcolm says:

    Wow. You had it so easy!

    I think you should move your last point “Don’t expect this to be as easy as it should be.” to the top.

    I have just been through the same process (actually I’m still technically going through it because my visa should be arriving this week). Mind you I’m not an EU Citizen so we probably had completely different experiences.
    You were very lucky to not have to produce another marriage certificate.
    One thing I have learnt though, is that if you show the people at the windows of Urzad that you are annoyed (which is pretty much guaranteed), then they are less likely to help you.

    I think you would have to pay for the small plastic visa card. I have a small plastic wallet sized karta pobytu that only lasted two years. But I had to apply for it separately and it cost 50PLN. It was well worth the money because it looks almost like a Dowod and most Urzadites seem to trust it without question.

  7. Paddy says:

    I am getting an instant headache every time I think about beginning this process! Thanks for the info.

  8. scatts says:

    Malcolm, they didn’t give me the option of paying for a nicer one. I think this thing is all they’ve got, for the moment at least.

  9. Iota says:

    Here’s a tip (but use it at your own risk):

    I have to lug around a piece of paper that says I’m officially disabled – basically a large piece of paper. I could try to make a document of more manageable size but that would involve a lot of hassle, so I carry around the less manageable one.

    What can be done in such circumstances is: find a “notariusz” and pay him to make an “odpis” (certified copy), or a few of these, while your are at it. Then put the original somewhere safe and start carrying around an “odpis” – because it is an extra copy, wear and tear is not a problem – fold it up as many times as you like.

    The downside is it costs money. The upside: an odpis is, for most official purposes, just as valid as the original document. Which is not true of photos, self-made copies, etc. Nothing can stop the hypothetical policeman from ignoring a photo and demanding the document but he should honour an odpis. Additionally, you may at some point actually NEED to make an odpis, for some urząd or other (because they might want to not just see but also keep a document).

  10. odrzut says:

    Americans should be assigned special Z room and required to lay on the floor for 3 days before they are given VISA.

    You know you deserve it.

  11. Funny. My temporary residency permit is a regular, laminated card. It even looks official (unlike that piece of paper). I’ll show it to ya when I’m in Warsaw in November.

  12. Jacek says:

    Totally agree!

  13. zarazek says:

    Really? EU citizens have to go through all this?
    Stupid Polish bureaucracy.

  14. My document is on blue paper, which looks pretty neat and I cut the huge border off and now it fits handily into my wallet, hey presto! ;)

  15. It is not a visa. It’s a residence registration that substitutes an ID card. EU citizens can live in Poland without it, even if there is a theoretical duty of having it after 3 months of stay (then, in theory you can receive a 100 zł fine for not being registered, but it doesn’t happen indeed).

    That pseudo-document may be necessary for some formalities, but not for staying in Poland for EU citizens.

  16. PMK says:

    I’m going through this exact same process. It’s such a bitch!

  17. Ang says:

    If there’s any story that resonates with frustration and relief… it’s document processing in Poland, doesn’t matter even if it’s procedure to ensure you ‘take a shit!’. I’m also non-EU so this is basically a tedious process to say the least. After some time though, you know how to handle it and work your way through… heck you ‘have’ to.
    It’s interesting though… but most personnel in the Urzad (at least in warsaw) are women. Doesn’t that say something? lol

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