Poland > Moving

How To Move To Poland - The Definitive Guide

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Apply For A Visa
Find A Job
Rent Property
Buy Property
Register For Healthcare
Open A Bank Account
Learn The Language
Choose A School

Apply For A Visa

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If you have dual citizenship with Poland and another country, you must enter and exit Poland using your Polish passport.

For the duration of your stay, you must have a valid passport. It is not necessary for the passport to be valid for longer than your stay.

For the duration of your stay, you must have a valid passport. It is not necessary for the passport to be valid for longer than your stay.

Anyone visiting Poland for no more than 90 days during any 180 day period may enter the country without a Visa if they are citizens of a country that has a reciprocal agreement with Poland.

Poland shares a border with seven countries. Four of them - Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Lithuania - are members of the EU/EEA and the borderless Schengen Agreement area. Border guards have the power to complete random identity checks along the borders, although most travel between these countries and Poland is unchecked.

Anyone entering Poland from the borders shared with the other three countries - the Ukraine, Belarus and Russia - must complete immigration paperwork.

A family member of an EU citizen has the right to live in Poland for up to 3 months, as long as they have valid documents. The family connection must meet one of the following conditions:

• Spouse of an EU citizen
• Direct descendant of an EU citizen or his/her spouse, no older than 21 years
• Direct ascendant of an EU citizen or his/her spouse, who stays with an EU citizen

Anyone looking to settle in Poland for more than three months is advised to seek advice on this official website. There are many other websites which are designed to look like official application sites, which charge unnecessary ‘processing’ or ‘management’ fees and obtain a lot of information about you. It is easy to get tricked by these other sites.

If you are an EU citizen and wish to stay in Poland longer than three months, you are required to register your stay. You need to present yourself in person at the voivode (local government) of the area you are settling in. This must be within one day at the end of your first three months in the country. No application fees will be due but a stamp duty tax is payable.

You must satisfy one of the following conditions:

• You are an employee or self-employed in the territory of the Republic of Poland, with sufficient financial means to support yourself and your family members, including possession of proper health insurance;
• You are studying or participating in vocational training in the territory of the Republic of Poland, with sufficient financial means to support yourself and your family members, including possession of proper health insurance,
• You are the spouse of a Polish citizen.

You will need to bring documentation confirming who you are, where you work or study, proof that you have sufficient means to support yourself (including credit cards and bank statements), evidence of your private health insurance, and proof of your marriage to a Polish citizen (if it is applicable).

If you wish to live and work in Poland, you must apply for a temporary residence and work permit, or a temporary residence permit for the purpose of work in a profession requiring high qualifications. These permits are obtained from the Staroste. The employer offering you work must prove that they cannot fill the post from within the country. This means they must advertise the vacancy and complete paperwork in conjunction with the District Labour Office. As a result, work permits are rarely processed within three months. If you employer is dealing with this they will have knowledge of the system or employ an agency to manage the process. The initial permit will only last for one year, but the renewal the following year will last for two years.

An EU citizen can obtain right of residence in order to seek employment. This requires valid documents and you must demonstrate that you are actively seeking employment and have realistic chances of obtaining it. If you wish to claim unemployment benefits you must have worked for 365 days in the last 18 months, received at least minimum wage, and register with a district labour office. They will then investigate whether the social security payments you have made in other countries will lead to entitlement in Poland.

If your family member is not an EU citizen and will be staying with you in Poland for longer than three months, they must obtain a residence card. The residence card will confirm their status as a legal resident by rights of being a family member of an EU citizen.

Once an EU citizen has been living in Poland continuously for five years, they have the right of permanent residence. The only acceptable breaks in residence are:

• breaks less than six months
• breaks of 6-12 months for compulsory military service
• breaks of 6-12 months for important personal situations such as illness, childbirth and training

Once the right to stay has been confirmed, the EU citizen who has acquired permanent residency will be issued with a document confirming the right of permanent residence.

If you are not an EU citizen, you will normally only get permission to stay if you obtain work and a work permit. The exceptions are as follows:

• you have the status of a family member of a EU/EEA/Switzerland citizen
• you are a recipient of international protection in Poland (i.e. you have the status of a refugee, or are a recipient of subsidiary protection)
• you have a permanent residence permit in the Republic of Poland
• you have a residence permit for EU long-term resident in the Republic of Poland
• you have a residence permit for humanitarian reasons
• you have a permit for a tolerated stay in the Republic of Poland
• you are a spouse of a Polish citizen with a temporary residence permit on the territory of the Republic of Poland given as a result of marriage
• you have a temporary residence permit in order to join the family
• you have a permit for residence in order to receive higher education
• you have a valid Pole Card
• you are a graduate from a Polish upper-secondary school, full-time studies or a full-time doctoral course at a Polish university/college

A family member who is not an EU citizen acquires the right of permanent residence when they have five years of continuous residence in the territory of the Republic of Poland with an EU citizen. When their right to stay has been confirmed, they will receive a permanent residence card of a family member of an EU citizen.

If you enter Poland without necessary documentation, you will be deported. A fine can also be levied if you have been working illegally, and the employer may be charged with a criminal offence.

Find A Job

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Poland is a model of political and economic stability. It is a republic with a multiparty democracy. In 2003 it joined the European Economic Area (EEA) and has been a member of the European Union (EU) since 2004. Whilst the country has a sizeable and growing internal market, and is the eighth largest economy in Europe, labour costs in Poland are about a third of that in nearby Germany.

As a result of these conditions foreign investment has been significant, from small businesses to large multinational companies.

Foreign business owners and managers require work permits to legally stay in Poland. For some, the process will be between 6-12 weeks and fairly straightforward if a lawyer or agency is assisting the applicant. It will not be less than 6 weeks because the company must advertise the job in order to prove that a foreign worker is essential in order to fill a vacancy. If you are taking on this process yourself, however, it may seem cumbersome and take several months. The first work permit only lasts for one year, and then the application begins again. However, the subsequent work visas will be valid for two years.

Unemployment in 2016 hit a 25 year low and then continued to fall further. Historically rates have been as high as 20% but it is now is roughly 8.5%. Youth employment has increased significantly and has dramatically affected the overall rate.

Unemployment is not evenly spread. The Mazowieckie Voivodeship has very low rates of unemployment whilst the Warmińsko-Mazurskie Voivodeship suffers from very high rates. The labour offices, which are part of the Public Employment Services, offer job seekers support with advice and workshops. The entitlement to unemployment benefits depends on the individual meeting strict criteria, and the amounts paid will be dependant on the individual’s work history and personal circumstances. The Public Employment Services are able to help with this.

Teaching jobs are widely available in Poland, but it is not usually the first country of destination most people look at. If you have a TEFL certificate or teaching qualification then your salary is likely to be slightly higher than the local average. Some language schools will offer less salary but free accommodation and health insurance. You would normally be expected to start in September, and stay for a minimum of one academic year. A normal working week in a full time job would be about 30 hours a week, though part time contracts are more likely to be offered to new arrivals.

Go abroad finds placements for students wishing to pay for a TEFL certificate course.

Poland’s main industries are centred around production: machine building, coal mining, iron, steel, chemicals, glass, textiles, shipbuilding and food processing. But this is not where most of the employment is. The service sector, which has rapidly increased over the past few years, now employs the majority of the Polish workforce.

Given the level of education most Polish people have received and the need for employers to demonstrate that a vacancy cannot be taken up by a Polish citizen, jobs for expats outside of teaching are not so easy to obtain. However, there are a number of key industries where any special skills you have may be of interest to potential employers.

Poland has a thriving financial industry dominated by banking. There are a small number of Polish state owned banks but most are privately owned. Foreign banks operating in Poland now hold about 60% of all assets. The conservative practices of banks in Poland meant the industry did not require the levels of government support and intervention needed elsewhere during the 2008 global financial crisis, and was the only EU country not to go into a recession at that time.

The recruitment agency Hays advertises its banking vacancies on its Polish website.

Both Polish oil companies and international oil companies operate in the country. These include BP Polska, which is Poland’s affiliate of the oil multinational company BP, and the Polish state-controlled firm Polskie Górnictwo Naftowe i Gazownictwo (PGNiG). The first oil well in the world was discovered at Bóbrka Field in 1853, and Poland became home to the world’s first oil refinery in 1854. There is little opposition from the public to oil fracking, but attempts to extract fuel in this way have yet to reach success.

A website called Oil and Gas Jobs lists a range of vacancies in the sector, including support and front line roles.

You may find Polish residents reserved and unsmiling if you do not know them. However, people will be happy to get to know you and it is important to be courteous, especially to work colleagues. If you are invited to someone’s house, shake hands. Hugging and kissing is only for very close friends and relatives. As flowers are popular gifts for special occasions, you may wish to take some as a gift for your hosts. Usually casual clothing is suitable for social occasions, but do not appear at someone’s house looking scruffy. If you are joining new friends at dinner or the theatre, dress smartly.

When dining with others, say ‘smatchnago’ (bon appétit) before eating and ‘na zdrovye’ (cheers) before drinking.

When attending a meeting, dress smartly and take your business cards. If you have been in negotiations and a handshake is offered, it means “we have finished talking”. It cannot be read as “we have agreed a deal” as it would be in the UK or US.

If you are at a doorway, politeness means you will hold open the door for the other person while they go through.

Most of the population are Catholic and their religious views should be respected. When in church, take off your hat and make sure your shoulder and legs are covered.

The British Polish Chamber of Commerce is based in Warsaw. They organise a number of regular events and assist networking opportunities for local business people. They offer help to those seeking information about importing to and exporting from Poland.

Rent Property

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In many areas of Poland, it is possible to cheaply rent a room in someone’s home or in a flat shared with other tenants. Gabino Home has a number of listings, in English, showing the opportunities available. The photographs give a sense of the decor and condition of the property, and the listings often detail nearby transport links. Unfortunately the listings cannot tell you much about the owner or tenants, and you will have to live with these people. Make sure you have a written tenancy agreement that you fully understand before you sign it, and that it has a reasonable termination clause that allows you to leave should you discover that you really do not like the other residents.

If you wish to rent a property in Poland for the sole use of yourself or your family, tenancies will typically be available for either a short term (temporary) lease or long term lease. The latter may be anywhere from 6 months to many years. Most tenancies will last between six months and a year. Make sure a termination clause is in the agreement before you sign, in case you need to return to your home country earlier than expected for whatever reason.

For those who like to live in buildings with character and high ceilings (up to 3.5m), a ‘Kamienica’ may be a good choice. There will be several apartments within the building, but it will not be a large development. The cost will depend on the location and condition of the building, and they can be an affordable choice for those on a budget. However, the cost of heating will be higher because the high ceilings and construction (including poorer insulation) means the heat easily leaks out. Winters are long and cold so the potential size of the heating bills should not be ignored.

The apartment blocks known as a ‘blok’ are more modern. The developments can vary in size.

The most expensive apartments available are those with additional facilities provided within the development. Typically provided are on-site security staff or monitored CCTV cameras, secure parking, and possible leisure facilities such as a gym or a swimming pool.

Most apartments for rent in Poland are fully furnished, sometimes with a washing machine and a TV included. When visiting, it is acceptable to ensure appliances work and to inspect the crockery that is to be available for your use. If the property is not connected to the internet, it will take 7-20 days to complete an installation. Check the condition of the windows, which will need to withstand long, cold winters. Establish whether the property is connected to electric heating systems or not, because these are more expensive to run.

Apartments will normally have administrative or management charges in addition to the advertised rent. These can be anywhere from 100 PLN to 700 PLN a month. Sometimes these charges may include some or all utility bills (heating, water, electricity and internet charges) and sometimes they do not. It is up to you to ask if these charges exist, and to make sure that the tenancy agreement specifies the amount and purpose of the charges. Be aware that these additional costs exist, because you will see properties advertised at the basic rental cost and if you base your budget on these figures alone then you may be looking at homes you cannot afford.

Finding properties available to rent via the internet is easy. There are websites available in English, which include listings and photographs. These include Rent Flat Poland, Property Krakow, and Property Warsaw. If your new employer is arranging your accommodation but you have to pay for it, these sites will provide a good check that you are not being overcharged.

There are many estate agencies across Poland; many of them will have staff who are very good or fluent English speakers. If you are seeking a tenancy via an estate agent, you will receive help in locating available properties in an area convenient to your needs and within your budget. The estate agent will negotiate with the landlord on your behalf, and talk you through the rental process.

Some estate agents offering properties for rent may also be engaged by the landlord as managers of the property. This means that should anything go wrong with the property, your enquiries and dealings will all be with the estate agent who acts in a professional capacity.

Since 1st January 2014 the estate agency profession has been fully deregulated in Poland; they do not have to be registered but must have professional liability insurance. This means anyone who has purchased the insurance can practice as an estate agent. Make sure that you see the insurance certificate as this will be your only protection if anything goes wrong. If you are already working in Poland your colleagues may be able to recommend local agencies which their friends and relatives have used. If you have yet to arrive then advice may be found in an internet forum, but do be aware that someone may be recommending an agency they run.

When viewing properties, be careful not to pay cash for anything. No fee should be charged to view a property, and do not agree to a tenancy if you have had problems with viewing access. A security deposit equivalent to the first month’s rent is normal, but this must be made by a traceable bank account transaction which, in the event of any dispute later, confirms the fact and the amount of your payment. This also applies to all your payments once you have moved in. Rent, administration and management costs, utility payments must all be made via your bank account and never in cash.

Normally you will not be asked to provide evidence of your work contract or income when agreeing to rent an apartment. You are taking on the legal responsibility to make payment, so it will be left to you to organise your finances accordingly.

The tenancy agreement will be in Polish. You may be given an English translation, but it is advisable to ask a friend or colleague to check the translation accurately reflects the conditions in the agreement before you sign. If you move in without a tenancy agreement, you may be charged unexpected fees against which you have little legal protection.

The tenancy agreement should contain, as a minimum:

• Details of the property to be leased
• Landlord’s details
• Tenant’s details
• Contract start date and end date
• Conditions under which the contract can be terminated
• The rent - including amount and date
• Other costs - including amount and date
• The Security Deposit required and when it will be returned
• The Inventory listing every item in the property
• The water and gas meter readings

When you sign the contract, you should provide your passport as ID. Polish residents are required to provide their PESEL, which is the Polish National Identification Number, but foreigners who don’t have one must leave the number blank.

When you move in, make sure you check everything is on the inventory and is in working condition. Take photographs of anything that is not in perfect condition, in case you are later asked to pay for something to be replaced.

Signing up to the electricity, gas and water companies is often a cumbersome affair for which you must have your paperwork in order.

If you get into dispute about repairs in the property, or other issues, make sure you follow due process via an estate agent or in writing to the landlord. If you lose your job, discuss this with the landlord and come to an agreement (in writing) about what to do. You cannot just decide to stop paying the rent. However, the landlord must also follow due process with tenants. They are not allowed to enter a property without a court’s consent if the tenant is not there, although they do have the right of inspection or right to undertake repairs with adequate notice of 48 hours. The landlord must not confiscate the tenant’s possessions until twelve months after the rent was last paid.

Buy Property

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Anyone may inherit an estate of any size or location in Poland. If you have citizenship of an EU country and wish to buy a property in Poland without seeking official permission, you may only buy an apartment or plot of land up to 0.4 hectares, which is about an acre. If you wish to buy a larger property then you must obtain written permission from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. All non-EU citizens must obtain permission for all purchases. This restriction also applies to companies who are purchasing property, where the controlling interest of the company is held by non-EU citizens.

It is possible, and a frequent practice, for a property to be sold in Poland after direct negotiation with the seller. However, expats are open to an array of problems taking this route so the services of an estate agent are highly recommended.

Your new colleagues in Poland may be happy to recommend local estate agencies. They will know if the staff speak English and are aware of the difficulties foreign buyers may face. If you receive recommendations on an internet forum, do be aware that contributors may be recommending their friends or business connections rather than estate agents they have used themselves. The Yellow Pages will include listings for local firms, and a walk down the high street will usually give you a selection of businesses to visit.

Increasingly, however, estate agencies operate online and most of them offer pages in English or translation buttons. Be careful with online businesses as there can be occasional scam sites; never hand over any money. Once you have been to Poland, viewed properties and met the estate agent, payments for the property purchase will be made via your notary, so no direct payments should be made.

Make sure you visit a number of properties. It is not normal practice to have a property surveyed, so sellers can put the property on the market for any price they choose. Many of the properties will not have been visited by the estate agents, who may be relying on what they are told and the photographs sent in by the seller. You need to quickly assess the local market conditions and determine if the property itself lives up to the claims made about it.

Many estate agents who are helping expats to purchase property will be happy to spend a day or two driving you to different properties. This will speed up the viewing process as the estate agent will have organised access to the properties and will take you straight there without getting lost. You will be able to sit in the car, relaxed and calm, taking in the local area. The estate agent will be able to indicate where the local bars, restaurants, schools, transport links and leisure facilities are.

Once you have found the property you want to buy, you must ask a notary to draw up a notarial deed. This is the only legal form of property sale permitted. The notary will start with an initial contract which sets out the completion date, with any conditions which must be set. You pay a deposit of 20% of the purchase price at this stage, via the notary who holds a client account.

Building surveys are not normally undertaken in Poland so you will have difficulty locating a surveyor. You can hire a builder to inspect a property, but it will be for your own information. You will not be able to use the builder’s findings to barter with the seller about the property price.

Your notary should carefully check land registry details. The plans must be accurate for the property as these could form the basis of future lawsuits; make sure all the land is accurately measured and reflect the true boundaries. If you are not given the original plans with an official stamp then check that the planning department holds them..

It is important for all fixtures and fitting to be listed if they are part of the sale. Sinks, kitchens, baths and plug sockets for example, can be legally removed (and very frequently are) if they were not included in the sale. This is not the vindictive act of vandalism it would be in the UK; If they are taken out they will be used in the seller’s new home.

Once everything is in order you will pay the balance of the purchase price, via the notary. The seller’s notary will have prepared a document confirming that there are no outstanding loans on the property. All the parties sign the final contract, and the sale is complete.

A civil transaction tax of 2% will be due on the purchase if the house is not new. Smaller (fixed) amounts are charged for registration fees of land and buildings.

It is normal practice for an estate agent to charge 3% commission to both the buyer and the seller. There may be occasions on which the seller has negotiated that they pay this fee instead in order to market their property in a package more attractive to buyers, but this is not normal and you should budget accordingly.

The notary’s fee will be anywhere between 0.25%-3% of the property value, as agreed when you signed the contract to use the specified notary.

Please be aware that VAT of 22% is payable on all goods and services. This includes the services of notaries, estate agents, surveyors and builders. Quotes which have the word brutto next to the total have included the VAT. Where you see netto next to the total, this means the VAT has not been included in the quote, but you will be liable to pay the tax at the time the bill is paid. Since buying a property is already an expensive time which may eat up most of your resources, you do need to include the VAT in your financial planning.

Some estate agents will arrange connection of your utility services if they are given Power of Attorney to do so. If you are moving to Poland you may even be given assistance finding a local bank. Given that forms and services are usually provided in Polish, the services of an estate agent who can communicate bilingually and who knows how things work can save you hours of hard work.

You need to visit the Gas Office in person, to provide evidence of ownership, sign agreements and set up a direct debit. (Direct debits may be an issue if you have not yet set up a bank account in Poland.) The same process is also required at the Electricity Office, at the Water Office, and at the Sewerage Farm. Local people and your estate agent know where these offices are located. Be aware that houses are numbered in the order they were built rather than their position in a row, so it can be hard to locate them on a busy street. The majority of staff in the offices will be unable to speak English. Most offices will close at 3pm. If your estate agent can get a lot of the preparation done for you, it will help enormously.

Before you get connected to the phone, the previous residents must have closed their account in writing. Normally, a 90 day notice period applies. The process can be made faster if the previous owner comes into the shop with the new owner, but this is impractical for most people. You may prefer to pay a small fee and have a new number allocated, which takes a bit longer and you must still wait as the previous line owner is contacted and asked to revoke their account.

Only once you have your own telephone line can the internet service be connected. The engineer will visit your property for installation and bring a contract to sign at the same time.

TV and radio licenses can be purchased at the local post office. Satellite equipment will normally require permission from the previous owner before it is removed by official channels.

Once you have moved into your new property, you will be liable for local government taxes. These are low compared to the US and UK. If you have a large plot of land you will be subject to a land tax.

Bin collection does not form part of the standard local government services. In most areas the rubbish is no longer collected by private companies and is instead collected by the local council, but you will be charged for the service. Recycling normally forms part of the roadside rubbish collection service, with tins, glass and paper collected in a separate bin. Weekly collections rarely exist.

There are no inheritance or death duties to be paid. However, it is a good idea to keep your will up to date when you acquire property overseas. Probate can operate differently in other countries leaving problems for those left behind. A comprehensive, up to date will, recognising and allocated all assets in a clear manner, can help avoid common problems and delays when people are least able to cope with them.

Register For Healthcare

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QUICK LINK: Poland health insurance

Emergency phone numbers in Poland are made free of charge, whether from a fixed phone line, phone box or a mobile phone. The numbers you should call depend on the service you require:

981: Road Assistance
986: Municipal Police
997: Police
998: Fire Brigade
999: Ambulance

If you are ringing from a mobile number, a local area code must be entered before the emergency number. If you don’t know the local code number, then you can ring 112.

In a medical emergency you will be taken to a hospital free of charge, even if you do not have state insurance. Many people in rural areas will be treated at home by local doctors. Alternatively, you may present yourself at an Emergency Department in the local hospital.

If your medical issue is not an emergency, you should visit a General Practitioner. Should you need to see a hospital consultant, it is the GP who will organise the referral. Getting registered with a GP is simple. It just requires the completion of a few forms, discussing your healthcare insurance with the administrator, and showing your identity documents. Many GPs will speak English, and you can ask about this before getting registered.

Poland spends more than 6% of GDP on its healthcare system. Everyone who works in Poland is required to contribute towards the National Health Fund ( Narodowy Fundusz Zdrowia or NFZ), which provides them with a level of health insurance. Employers will pay the NFZ costs for their employees, whilst the self-employed cover their own payments. Close family members in the same household are also covered by the head of household’s NFZ insurance. Refugees and special status foreigners with legal permission to temporarily remain are covered by the state, as are the unemployed regularly attending unemployment centres. If you are staying in Poland illegally, only children who attend school may receive state medical treatment.

If you have moved to Poland from the UK or another country in the EEA, your EHIC card will provide a minimal level of insurance cover. This means you will receive free emergency treatment, but most of the time you will be asked to make a contribution for part of the cost. This cover will include pre-existing conditions and for maternity care, as long as you did not enter the country with the specific aim to give birth there. If you want to be fully covered for all costs, then you either pay NFZ contributions or pay for private medical insurance.

If you don’t qualify for the NFZ scheme and have moved from a non-EEA country, you can arrange to join the scheme and make payments voluntarily. To do this you must file paperwork with the National Insurance Service office and provide proof that you are living legally in Poland. Your family members can also be added to this application. The NIS office will advise you of the payments you must make by the 15th of each month.

There are fewer doctors per head of population than many other European countries, and they are most likely to work in a city. Rural areas can therefore have more limited access to medical services. Doctors and nurses will often have at least a basic working knowledge of English.

There are a number of private hospitals across the country who will provide treatment to fee paying patients, and a higher percentage of Polish residents use private healthcare insurance schemes than in many other European countries. Healthcare insurance covers the full cost of the treatment, without additional costs charged to the patient, although the costs are affordable to most people on a decent income should you not have adequate cover. The private hospitals do not have the waiting lists associated with public hospitals. However, treatment for complicated conditions, such as cancer, will normally occur in state hospitals.

It is normal to pay for dental care in Poland, which is an industry with a good reputation within the country and internationally.

Male life expectancy in Poland is 73.6 years, and for women it is 81.3 years. This is lower than many other European countries but similar to that in nearby Eastern European countries. The average 76.80 years is 41st in the list of global average life expectancy.

On average, Polish women give birth to their first child shortly after they have celebrated their 27th birthday. The size of families is quite small, with an average of 1.34 children for each woman of child rearing age. Infant mortality is at the high end of the OECD averages, but is several places below that of the US.

An important health crisis affecting Poland is the significant rise in obesity levels over the past few decades, especially amongst women and children. Affecting 27% of the population, obesity is now at an equivalent rate of other western nations. Two generations ago obesity was rare, but free market arrival in Poland and the same lifestyle and food changes that have happened elsewhere have made obesity a common problem across the country.

Just over 30% of Polish territory is covered in forests. That makes it the 4th most forested country in Europe. Tickborne encephalitis is therefore a risk. Two out of three people affected by the virus don’t suffer symptoms, and many of those who do will recover quickly. A small minority of those bitten will develop very serious complications and about 1% may die. If you have not been vaccinated against TBE and suffer flu like symptoms, you should seek medical attention urgently.

Approximately 37% of men and 24% of women in Poland smoke cigarettes, and forty billion cigarettes are sold in the country each year. Duty free cigarettes may be brought into the country as long as the personal limits are respected. Since 2010 it has been illegal to smoke in enclosed public places and places where people will gather. You will be fined for smoking at a bus or train station, and for smoking on public transport. Some hotels will offer smoking rooms, and some shopping centres have designated smoking spaces out of the way of other shoppers. Bars, clubs and restaurants can offer smoking spaces if they have separate well ventilated rooms. There has been criticism of the lack of penalty for those establishments which instead create small rooms for non-smokers and dedicate the larger space as smoking rooms, but the majority of these social businesses are completely non-smoking spaces.

Following the ban on smoking in public places, sales associated with vaping increased significantly. In 2016, following concern from a variety of sources, it became illegal to sell vaping products to children, and to vape in public places. Advertising of e-cigarettes, and their sale from vending machines and over the internet, have all been banned.

Nearly all areas of Poland have clean drinking water and good access to sanitation facilities. Some rural areas depend on local water sources such as a well, for which water testing is advised. However, bottled water is readily available for sale to those who would prefer to use it.

If you are bringing medicines into Poland following a trip elsewhere, make sure all drugs and syringes are still in their original packaging, with pharmacist labels that identify you as the patient in the same name as your passport.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts you can seek help from the following organisations, where someone on duty may be able to speak to you in English:

Tupalo Tel: 226 544 041 (depression help)
TVPTel: 116123
• Befrienders Worldwide have international centres, including one in Poland; they help people requiring emotional support.

Alternatively, you could call The Samaritans in the UK on (+44) 116 123 although international call charges apply when calling from Poland.

Open A Bank Account

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Although Poland has been part of the European Economic Area (EEA) since 2003 and joined the European Union (EU) in 2004, it is not one of the 19 countries that are in the Eurozone. This means that Poland does not use the Euro. Some businesses in tourist areas and near the border with Germany will offer prices in Euros. However, the currency conversion rate is usually poor so you will pay more in Euros than you will in the local currency.

The currency used in Poland is the Polish Zloty. Each zloty can be divided into 100 grosze (gr). The denominations in circulation are:

• notes - zl10, zl20, zl50, zl100, zl200
• coins - zl1, zl2, zl5, gr1, gr2, gr5, gr10, gr20, gr50

Using a credit card in Poland should not be a problem, and nor should using VISA/Maestro debit cards. You may come across remote, small businesses which do not accept them, but the majority of businesses will especially in the cities.

Cash is still widely used across Poland, and ATMs should not be hard to find as there are almost 23,000 of them in the country. Look for the “bankomat” sign. Cash machines which have a bank logo on them will not incur withdrawal charges above those specified in the terms and conditions for your bank account or credit card. There are a number of private cash machine networks in operation too, which will make a charge to your card for using the service. You should be advised on screen that the transaction will incur a fee and what the fee is; it should then be shown clearly on your bank statement.

If you need to change cash from one currency to another, it is best to find a “Kantor”, or exchange kiosk. These are privately run businesses which will usually give a better rate than at the bank and much better than at a hotel. You should be asked for your PESEL card (which has your national identity number) or your passport if you want to withdraw cash in a non Polish currency or exchange it for zloty. This is to deter money laundering by criminals.

Personal cheques are not used in Poland. Travellers cheques can be cashed in a bank but you must have valid identification documents with you.

The same tax structures in Poland apply to those who were born in the country and those who move there. Poland has tax treaties with more than sixty countries, including the US, which determine that an individual should not have to pay tax twice, to two separate countries.

VAT is charged on the purchase of all goods and services.

Additional excise taxes are charged on specific goods, including alcohol, cigarettes and petrol (gas).

Companies who have been incorporated or have their headquarters in Poland are subject to Corporation Tax. Polish and EU laws protect businesses located in Poland regardless of who owns the business; these include laws protecting intellectual property, bankruptcy and competition law. Full repatriation of capital, after-tax profits and dividend earnings is guaranteed so that foreign shareholders are encouraged to invest in Poland.

In September 2016 Moody’s published a report maintaining a stable financial outlook on Poland’s banking system. GDP growth was expected to remain sound, with lending growth expected to continue.

All banks in Poland are government regulated. The Polish Financial Supervision Authority supervises the following areas of the Polish financial industry:

• banking
• the capital market
• the insurance market
• the pension market
• supplementary supervision of financial conglomerates
• electronic money institutions
• payment institutions and
• payment service bureaus
• cooperative savings and credit unions.

Banking hours are different according to the bank and its branch location. Most branches open at 9am or 10am, which is after the normal 7am start for manual workers and 8am start for office workers. However, many bank branches will stay open until 6pm on a weekday which means the working public can do their personal banking after they finish their shift. Shops will often stay open until 7pm, shopping centres until 8pm, and some international supermarkets (which also offer internet grocery shopping with delivery to home) will stay open all night.

Whilst most shops will open at the weekend, including Sunday trading until 3pm, banks will close for the whole weekend. Banks will also close for the public holidays: New Year’s Day, January 6th (Epiphany), Easter Sunday and Monday, May 1 (Labor Day), May 3 (Constitution Day, Corpus Christi Feast, August 15 (Assumption), November 1 (All Saints Day), November 11 (Independence Day), December 25 and December 26 (Christmas).

There is a range of Polish banks offering current and savings accounts, as well as a number of international banks offering similar services. Citibank, known in Poland as Citi Handlowy, have a website and a call centre in English, though some people feel the charges are high. Millennium bank is popular for its customer service levels, and again the website is available in English. Mbank was the first fully internet-based bank in Poland and their call centres employs English speakers.

All banks will have a variety of fees and charges, although some will waive them if you pay in a certain amount each month or maintain a minimum balance. Typically the internet-based accounts will have lower costs. Some banks offer multi-currency accounts. Be warned that you will face steep charges for presenting cheques into your account.

Do not go overdrawn without the bank having authorised it, as the penalty costs will be significantly higher if you do so. It is possible to take out a loan with a bank, even as an expat. The bank will often expect you to have been banking in Poland for a couple of years previously, but each bank will assess the situation differently.

You will need to take your passport as proof of identity when setting up an account. Your are supposed to give proof of your home address in Poland. There is anecdotal evidence of PO boxes being accepted, but banking processes have been strengthened in the past couple of years. The bank must satisfy the regulators that you are not a money launderer. Your debit card and internet setup will be posted to your address, and you will then ring to activate the card.

There are a few banks which work with expats who will allow the bank account to be set up in advance of arrival in the country, but many bank accounts will only be available to those already living in Poland. Some expats arrive at a bank branch to open an account and are told that they do not have permanent residence cards so cannot be accepted. If this happens, ask the clerk to check with the manager or with Head Office to make sure this is correct.

If you wish to open a business account in Poland, there are a number of steps that must have been completed before you make an application:

• Own your own company
• Pay taxes in Poland, including social security and income tax
• Register the company for VAT

Learn The Language

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More than 96% of residents in Poland identify themselves as Polish, whilst 1% of residents say they are Silesian. Other ethnic groups are even smaller, with German, Ukrainian and other origins amongst the census responses given for the remaining 2% of the population.

It is therefore not surprising that more than 98% of the population speak Polish as their first language, with a further 1% speaking Silesian at home.

Poland ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in 2009:

• Kashub is now recognised as a regional language
• Czech, Hebrew, Yiddish, Belarusian, Lithuanian, German, Armenian, Russian, Slovak, and Ukrainian are now recognised as national minority languages
• Karaim, Lemko, Romani (Polska Roma and Bergitka Roma), and Tatar are recognised as ethnic minority languages

Poland is a Slavic nation. This is an umbrella term encompassing many different ethnicities, cultures and languages. More than half of Europe’s land mass is populated by Slavic communities. However, not all Slavs are united and the wars in the former Yugoslavia show how ethnic identity can divide different slavic communities. Religious associations are also different within Slavic communities. Western slavic nations often follow the Roman Catholic church, whilst Eastern slavic communities often adhere to the Eastern Orthodox Church, with some small communities identifying as muslim. In Poland, more than 87% of the population say they are Catholic.

The lower secondary schools (for ages 9-13) in Poland teach two foreign languages to their pupils. The first is English, for which three lessons a week are delivered. A second foreign language is taught twice a week. Exams in foreign languages are taken by all pupils, with higher and lower levels of exam paper allocated according to the candidate’s ability.

As a result of the language teaching in schools, there is a significant percentage of younger Polish people who can speak basic conversational English. It will not be spoken perfectly if they have not used these language skills since school or travelled abroad much. It could perhaps be compared with the level of French spoken by most UK citizens, for whom French has been taught in schools for decades but is usually limited to conversational basics. That said, popular culture means young people in Poland do get more exposure to English outside the classroom.

Because of the trading links with nearby Germany, employees who can speak German well are in high demand. This is leading to a lot of opportunities both for German speakers and those who can teach German to others.

Many expats living in Poland manage to live comfortably without a working knowledge of Polish. This is particularly easy in the big cities, where sizeable expat communities exist and foreign companies allow the workspace to be dominated by English or German. Anecdotal evidence suggests that those who do make the effort to speak Polish will be rewarded by greater friendliness and helpfulness by the customer service staff in shops and offices.

However, if you are intending to live in Poland for a length of time, or wish to experience life there beyond the confines of the expat bubble, you will need to obtain a working knowledge of Polish.

IKO have 20 years experience of teaching Polish to foreigners. They run short courses, standard courses and intensive classes to a variety of ability levels.

The University of Warsaw runs the “polonicum”. This is the oldest centre in Poland for teaching polish as a foreign language. It is run not just for for the University staff and students, but for anyone who wants to access its Polish courses. The range of classes include all ability and progression levels.

Online courses include supermemo, which offers a variety of levels and teaching methods.

Free online resources are also available at duolingo and memrise. Whilst the emphasis is on vocabulary, the programme also speaks the words which is useful for picking up listening comprehension skills.

TV in Poland is aired in Polish. For those who wish to watch TV in English, there are a few options with most requiring access to TV via the internet. Apps for BBC, ITV and Channel 4 can be downloaded and the programmes watched on a PC, tablet or phone. The BBC will ask if you have paid for a TV license. FilmOn is popular for free-view channels. Netflix is available on subscription, as is Adtelly.

There are plans for a news channel in English, called ‘Poland24’, to be launched in Poland in 2018. It will focus on events in Poland, and the aim is to show the world the characteristics and culture of Poland. It moves on from the current channel TVP Polonia, which broadcasts news about Poland to the Polish diaspora. TVP Polonia is a Polish speaking channel with optional English subtitles.

In addition to accessing radio stations via the internet, residents in Poland can listen to English radio stations produced in Poland. The most popular is Radio Poland, part of the state broadcaster’s portfolio.

Western newspapers in English are usually available in big cities on the day of publication, and are sold at kiosks. The titles include The Financial Times, the Herald Tribute and The Economist.

There are also a number of magazines available in English. They are popular with advertisers trying to break into the Polish market as expats often have a higher disposable income and may be more willing to try new products, especially those marketed in the right way. Some examples of magazines are:

• Poland Today: A bi-annual magazine read by politicians, opinion leaders and business leaders
• BizPoland Magazine: A bi-monthly magazine aimed at the business community and distributed to all the international chambers of commerce in the country
• Warsaw Business Journal: Also produces a range of other publications including those aimed at businesses investing in Poland, and the daily update Poland A.M.

The Warsaw Voice is a weekly English language magazine. Its printed edition sells over 10,000 copies a week, and it has a comprehensive website.

Online magazine The Krakow Post includes local news, culture, events, history, opinion and expat resources. The articles, produced in English, are written by local and expat contributors.

Choose A School

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Prior to compulsory education, many children in Poland attend nurseries or day care centres. These are privately run, with the fees paid by the parents. Children usually attend these venues once they are at least six months old.

Poland spends almost 5% of its GDP on education, and almost everyone aged over 15 in the country can read and write. Education is delivered through:

• free public schools funded by the state
• private schools for which parents pay fees
• association schools for which parents pay fees
• a 2010 amendment to the Education Act removed restrictions on homeschooling

Compulsory education begins with kindergarten for six year olds, and ends at the age of eighteen.

• Pupils attend primary school “szkola podstawowa” from the ages of 7 to 13
• Pupils attend middle school “gimnazjum” from the ages of 13 to 16
• Pupils attend high school “szkola srednia“ from 16 to 19

The standardised tests at 16 determine which high school the pupils attend. Academic, technical and vocational pupils will be sent to different institutions which cater to their different strengths.

The school year starts on the first weekday of September each year, and ends on the last Friday of June. There are no half term holidays. The break at Christmas is approximately one week, and the break at Easter is typically a long weekend. A winter holiday of two weeks will happen between February and March, with each area having its own holiday dates. This winter break separates the two semesters of the academic year. Schools are closed for the last week of June, all of July and the whole of August.

A typical school day will start at 8am, and end between 2.45pm and 3.30pm. The pupils attend Monday to Friday, with the weekends free. Pupils do not wear a school uniform. Anecdotal evidence suggests that schools in Poland have a less relaxed atmosphere than found in English state schools or US public schools, with more emphasis on discipline and a lot of pressure on pupils to do well in tests.

Outside of school, children participate in many of the dancing, sports and creative hobbies enjoyed in the UK and US. Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Poland and many people continue to play even when they are adults. Ballet dancing and drama are also very popular.

At the end of high school the pupils take the matura certificate exams. This allows access to higher education. Academic grades are awarded from a numerical scale of 1-6, with 1 being the lowest grade and 6 is the highest. High performing pupils will often take the International Baccalaureate (IB) in addition to the matura.

Between 2000 and 2012, Poland’s results in the Pisa tests improved dramatically. These tests compare the performance of children in different countries. Children in Poland perform well in science, maths and reading tests at a higher level than many other OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. Equity of achievement between girls and boys, and equity of achievement between children of different socio-economic backgrounds is at an average level for OECD countries.

Over the past twenty years Poland has undergone Educational reform, implemented standardised tests at key points in a child’s educational life, an overhaul of the curriculum and investment in teacher training and development. Pupils now spend longer being taught core subjects as vocational education is now delayed until the age of 16.

Everyone who is lawfully resident in Poland may send their children to public schools for free. However, the teaching will be in Polish. The 2010 amendments to the Education Act requires schools to provide support to pupils with a language barrier. Since additional funds were not provided the anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that children must pick up the language themselves as quickly as they can. However, there are a number of initiatives such as that in Wroclaw where many activities take place to integrate non-Polish speaking children including those of the sizeable Ukrainian community. Additional teaching hours in Ukrainian, Polish language lessons and recruiting volunteers to support language learning for adults are all part of the Wroclaw education and inclusion initiative.

There are several private schools in Poland which will teach in both Polish and English, or just in English. These include the international schools, which will teach in English and will offer a variety of qualifications if pupils do not wish to take the Polish matura certificate. Applications for a place should be made by the May preceding a September entry, as places are frequently hard to find. Placement tests in mathematics and English language skills are normal. Some of the international schools available are:

The International American School of Warsaw
The British School Warsaw
The British International School of Krakow
The International School of Krakow

Pharmaceutical Studies, Psychology, Veterinary Medicine, Medicine, Dentistry and Law are studied at Universities in a two stage system of a Master’s degree followed by a Doctorate. All other subjects were restructured in the 2007/08 reforms into a three stage system. The Bachelor’s degree (Licencjat, Inżynier) is followed by a Master’s degree (Magister), and then a Doctorate (Doktor).

In addition to using formal qualifications to select students, some University courses will also ask applicants to demonstrate their aptitude in further tests. Teaching, art and drama, physical education and medicine are the areas most likely to closely assess an applicant’s aptitude and potential at a practical level.

Polish students studying on a full time course taught in Polish at a Higher Education Institution do not have to pay tuition fees. This also applies to other qualifying students, such as those who are citizens of the EU/EEA and those who hold the Polish Charter (Karta Polaka).

For students who do not qualify for free tuition, fees will be charged as follows:

• EUR 2000 per year for a one year Polish language course prior to commence studies in Polish
• EUR 2000 per year for first, second and long cycle studies
• EUR 3000 per year for doctoral, postgraduate and medical postgraduate internships as well as scientific, arts, specialist and post-doctoral internships
• EUR 3000 per year for vocational courses and apprenticeships

There are a number of public and private Higher Education Institutions which set their own fees levels, ranging from EUR 2000 to 6000 per year. The cost of an MBA can vary from EUR 8000 to EUR 12,000 per year.

There are a number of university courses which are taught in English. However, this will require living in Poland for several years so students should learn some basic language skills. This will be useful when interacting with the local community, and will help students settle in if they have recently arrived in the country.

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