On Tuesday 3rd March 2020, The Polish Office for Foreigners and British Embassy in Poland co-hosted a Brexit Information event. This meeting was part of a series of Brexit information events, but notably was the first to take place since Brexit happened on 31st January 2020.
Presentations were given by Jason Rheinberg, Deputy Ambassador, British Embassy, Poland and Tomasz Cytrynowicz, Director of the Urząd do Spraw Cudzoziemców, (Polish Office for Foreigners) with Agnieszka and Andy from the Embassy together with representatives from the Małopolska Voivodeship Office for Foreigners, on hand to answer the more difficult or technical questions.
The event consisted of an introduction and welcome from Tomasz, then Jason spoke briefly to set the political context relating to the background and current negotiations.
Tomasz took the floor once more, to provide information on the rights and requirements for UK Nationals in Poland, with much practical advice and guidance on where to find more information.
Jason then spoke again, on a number of key aspects from the perspective of the UK Government, notably, Returning to the UK, Pensions, Education, Health Care and Driving Licences.
The evening concluded with an open Q&A Session, followed by an opportunity for those present to benefit from one to one Q&A’s for more specific or personal issues.
Tomasz, from the Polish Office for foreigners has been kind enough to share his PowerPoint presentation which is included later in this article, with links to official information and advice resources from the Polish and UK Governments together with more local information from the Voivodeship office.
The following is a detailed account of the meeting, taken from my recording, whilst not verbatim it includes notes, in full, from the presentation and discussion. If you would like to skip this lengthy transcript, you can jump to the summary and information sections below.
UPDATE: The date for the Warsaw meeting has just been announced:
18th March 2020
Part 1 – Jason Rheinberg
BACKGROUND & POLITICAL CONTEXT
There are two key dates, the first 31/1/2020, which of course has already happened, Brexit Day.
We are still in the transition period so you may feel, not much has changed. In the transition period, we are outside the EU, but have exactly the same rights & obligations.
The second date and most important date, is 31/12/2020, when the transition period ends and when we completely leave the EU.
Negotiations started this week, when David Frost, the Governments chief negotiator travelled to Brussels to begin negotiations.
The UK governments aim is to have a relationship based on:
Friendly Co-operation between Sovereign Equals centred on Free Trade
The UK government are looking for a new agreement like the EU Canada or EU Australia deals. The government are seeking one of those 2 outcomes by end of this year, there will be no extension of the Transition Period.
There are lots of intense negotiations to come, but the thing that matters to most of us has already been negotiated i.e. the withdrawal agreement, which covered how we leave the EU, finances, Northern Ireland and citizen’s rights
In essence the Withdrawal Agreement set out your rights to live, work, travel and claim benefits remains same as now, essentially. This is true for the approximately 3 million EU nationals in the UK and the 1 million or so UK nationals in the EU
Poland are of course a signatory, as An EU member state, to the Withdrawal Agreement, therefore are responsible for protecting rights and providing a simple procedure to formalise stay.
Part 2 – Tomasz Cytrynowicz
RIGHTS AND RULES APPLICABLE TO UK NATIONALS AND THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS IN POLAND AFTER 31.01.2020
Tomasz set out to “Try to show what to do in the coming months”
Firstly, and most importantly, Visit the dedicated Brexit section on the Polish Office for Foreigners website at:
Pay particular attention to the FAQ section, which is probably the best part based on previous enquiries, sometimes the answers are quite technical and legalese, but you can of course still get essential information.
The website will be updated whenever new information is available, for example, towards the middle or 2nd half of 2020, there will be new information as the Polish government are updating their legislation regarding free movement of EU citizens.
The new law is currently drafted so some of the principles are known, but keep in mind the law has not been passed. Things may change.
One thing which is certain, is that the UK withdrew from the EU on the basis of the Withdrawal Agreement.
The part of the Withdrawal Agreement, most affecting UK residents is Pt 2 of the agreement which contains citizens’ rights, relating to UK nationals in EU host countries, and EU nationals in the UK.
The withdrawal agreement has a couple of dozen articles. Many references to EU law.
There will be a guidance note issued by the EU in the future, date unknown. The note is intended to give more in depth explanations of the articles. The guidance note will be made publicly available, and when published will be included on the website.
The presentation was intended to be in practical terms, not in legal language.
Before starting Tomasz highlighted two very important acts;
First, the EU Commissions Executive decision agreement on the format of documents issued to UK citizens after the Withdrawal Agreement adopted last week (21/2/20)
Secondly, the upcoming Polish legislative changes, mainly the law on free movement of EU citizens, intended to regulate the future status of UK residents in Poland.
It is necessary to understand certain aspects and terms within the Withdrawal Agreement.
First the transition period has started and will end on 31st December 2020.
But, before the end of this period, all the free movement principles, legal status and rights etc have not changed, and will not change until the end of the transition period, you will continue to be treated as EU citizens.
The HOST STATE in our case Poland, is the member state of the EU in which the UK national exercises their right of residence and after the end of the transition period will continue to reside.
You will be BENEFICIARIES of the Withdrawal Agreement, if you exercise your right of stay in PL
This applies to right of residence, permanent right of residence or frontier workers.
The withdrawal agreement also pertains to family members who may or may not be EU citizens, it is important to know that family members will only be benefit if they were family members before the end of the Withdrawal Agreement, with one exception future children.
ie If you have a spouse now they will be benefit, however if you marry after the end of the transition period, they will not benefit, however a future child will be a beneficiary.
However, in Poland, as across the EU, it is expected that the principles of family unity will usually prevail.
There are many categories of family members, such as core family members i.e. spouse, direct descendants and extended family members.
Dir 38 of 2004 defines free movement of EU citizens and family members within the EU.
There are more potential complications, i.e. Poland does not recognise any other personal union than marriage, but there are plans to ensure family unity is respected.
You will retain residents rights up to the end of the transition period, if you had the right to stay before it and if you continue to reside here after.
Travel within the transition period is allowed, that is to say , you can go on holiday in December and return in January and you retain the right of residence in Poland even though you were not physically resident at end of the transition period.
You have a right of stay, if you live here, are resident here and have registered or have gained the right of permanent stay.
Right of stay is different to right of permanent stay, right of permanent stay is gained after 5 years.
What happens if you have not been here for 5 years?
You will obtain the right of stay after the end of the transition period, if your stay started but you hadn’t achieved 5 yrs by the end of transition period, however whenever you reach 5 yrs you will gain the right of Permanent stay and will be able to apply for your documents.
There will be a special document issued at the end of the transition period.
The recent executive decision of the EU commission dealt with this issue, it will be a new document, which will be a plastic card for all 3rd country nationals including your picture, fingerprint etc.
This will be issued in 2021, you will have one year to exchange your existing documents, to the new document.
It is important to note:
First, The Withdrawal Agreement benefits are limited to the host country only, ie you will no longer enjoy free movement, your rights will apply only in your host state.
You will not be able to go to another country to work without any special permit, unless of course some agreement is reached within the ongoing negotiations. In general you will be treated as a 3rd country national.
Schengen rules will apply for travel within the EU, ie the 90 in 180 days rule.
A change in your status is possible, for example, student to worker at completion of studies , ie a change of purpose of stay in the host country also, from worker to pensioner or worker to entrepreneur etc.
The rights holder can change status without restrictions, but family members cannot change their status – with certain exceptions. In some cases, a family member can become an individual right holder, in their own right.
Family members are not he ‘right holders’, in come cases family members can become independent, but not after the transition period.
Posted workers are not covered by the withdrawal agreement, as a posted worker is someone employed by their company in the UK but performs tasks here in Poland, so there will be no more posted workers after the transition period, they are excluded from the withdrawal agreement.
The withdrawal agreement provides for life long protection but only if you continue to fulfil the conditions you were granted the rights for.
If you have right of Permanent Stay, the only way to lose it would be if you leave PL for more than 5 years or if you are a dangerous criminal!
WHAT TO DO NOW?
Visit the Office for Foreigners Brexit website
For further information, email Foreigners office or call the info line
22 60 175 75 (not dedicated to Brexit, it is for all clients of Foreigners office)
If you have not registered your stay DO IT, DO IT NOW before the end of the year.
Go to your voivodeship office, fill in an application give your photo and fingerprint.
After the end of the transition period, you can exchange your document for the new one, which will certify that you are the beneficiary of the withdrawal agreement and have a right of stay or right of permanent stay.
It doesn’t matter what document you have now at the end of the transition period you will be given the new document.
There will be no fees, there are no fees now
You shall not queue with other 3rd country nationals.
Part 3 – Jason Rheinberg
INFORMATION FROM THE UK GOVERNMENT PERSPECTIVE
Before starting his own presentation, Jason summarised the key take away points from Tomasz’s presentation:
1. During transition period nothing changes
3. Next year you have a whole year to go to voivodeship office to exchange old document for new; right of stay, if resident less than 5 yrs or right of permanent stay if resident more than 5 yrs
4. Rights only apply to Poland, travel within EU only under Schengen 90/180 rules
Jason then went on to speak on 5 important issues from the UK Government perspective:
RETURN TO UK
RETURN TO UK
if you are British National, you can simply return to the UK.
If your family member is not a British National, in our cases, most likely Polish, then the following rules apply:
If your relationship existed before 31 1 20 and you return to the UK before 29/3/2022 then that family member/person can access the EU settlement scheme.
If you are in a new relationship, started after Brexit (31/1/20) and you return before the end of the transition period then the same applies, but only if you return before the end of the transition period.
If your family member returns after 29/3/2022 then normal immigrations rules will apply.
Relationship = spouse, children, unmarried parents of children, living together for more than 2 years.
Nothing changes. if currently the British Government pays your healthcare, essentially S1 certificate holders. S2 should also be covered.
EHIC will continue through the transition period for students.
Future of EHIC not known, will be part of negotiations
If you currently get pension from UK it will continue nothing will change.
Private pension regulations will be part of ongoing negotiations.
If you are planning to go back to UK to study.
You or a child returning to the UK for study – will benefit from a special agreement if you go back to study within 7 years starting Jan 2021, then you can access home fees and home support as a UK citizen
In the future it is hoped that UK licence will still be recognised in the EU, but keep in mind that if you have been living in Poland for more than 6 months then you must legally exchange your driving licence for a Polish one.
OPEN Q&A SESSION
Q: What is our right of burial now?
A: Every person has the right to be buried with dignity and anywhere. Consular diplomatic protection includes after death & burial. In case of death contact consular office.
Q: Wills – Where to make will UK or PL? What is effect on wills, where to write will if you have property in both countries?
A: At the moment, during the transition period, all EU nationals have rights to hold a will in the EU State where they live or at home in the UK. There is some debate on what will happen after the transition period, if that will continue. It will be part of the negotiation. At the moment, a UK will is valid here and in the UK.
Inheritance tax applies to the country of residence of person benefiting from inheritance and where they would normally pay tax.
Seek legal advice.
Q: Do I need a PESEL?
A: if you have registered your address at the municipality then you will have a pesel. It is useful to register your address, in fact, you should do it.
Q: Should I carry my other documents when travelling?
A: Yes – If travelling back to Poland, you should you carry other docs proving rights of resident –
Keep in mind that you will still enjoy Schengen right of entry for 90/180 days.
YES you should carry your docs, Border guards (Straz Graniczna) have indicated that they will take a soft approach as they understand there will be some confusion, but if you have a document take it with you when you travel.
Q: Rights to Open a Company?
A: Beneficiaries of the withdrawal agreement will continue to enjoy their rights to open a company etc. UK residents arriving in Poland after the transitions period, will have to abide by general rules unless something changes in the negotiations.
Q: Rights to purchase property?
A: You should enjoy same rights as you do now. If you buy or sell in future you will be treated as 3rd country nationals. However very little real difference with exception of agricultural land, Seek advice.
Q Boyfriend is coming to Poland later this year from UK how early can he apply?
A: Any time after he arrives.
Q: How late??
A: Up to the end of the transition period but must show some evidence that he exercised the right to reside.
Q – Posted workers – Can we clarify that as a British National working for a foreign company you can be posted elsewhere, but a single person company cannot post themselves elsewhere?
A: Yes, correct.
Q: Does the 90/180 rule apply for posted UK workers.
A: Probably yes.
Worth remembering that the ongoing negotiations may include rights of UK nationals for free travel in other EU states. The UK tried to have this included in the withdrawal agreement, but EU didn’t agree.
A: Again part of negotiation looking at bilateral agreements for the future. At the moment we do not have any rights, as we left the EU as we are no longer EU citizens.
Looking in particular at a bilateral agreement with Poland, will post more information when known.
Q: When to apply for right of permanent stay, if resident more than 5 yrs?
A. Your choice, whether to go now and get document or wait until end of transition period,
Advice is to do it now. (then exchange for new document in 2021)
Q PENSION RIGHTS for those retiring in the future?
A: So long as you remain a beneficiary, ie still resident in UK or PL, then you continue to have the same rights.
Q: Registration of Address?
A: Only valid for term of rental contract (for those renting) and may be useful if you’ve been here for 5 years. It is not only useful, but it is also your obligations to register, if you have a new address & rental contract, then it is an obligation to do it, otherwise there may be a fine.
Comment by attendee:
That the number of UK residents in Poland seems incredibly low, Embassy responded that they can only go by official numbers, and added that we all may know many people who are not registered, they stressed that this was an important point, spread the word, encourage people to register.
Comment by attendee:
Person had problem trying to exchange DL in Tarnów was sent away & told he didn’t need to do it!
Response: Law states, if resident longer than 185 days, must exchange driving licence.
The meeting was then closed with Tomasz again stressing:-
Important to spread the word that people who have not registered should do so now, to avoid problems at the end of the transition period.
Polish Office for Foreigners Presentation
Tomasz, Director of the Polish Office for Foreigners, gave a presentation on the rights & requirements for UK Nationals in Poland. Details of their presentation are included below.
Department for Exiting the EU on Twitter: @DExEUgov
UK EMBASSY POLAND – CONTACT & UPDATES
Sign Up for UK Embassy Warsaw Newsletter
General Enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Consular Enquiries: www.gov.uk/contact-consulate-
Polish office for Foreigners (Urząd do Spraw Cudzoziemców) BREXIT PAGE Locations of Foreigner Information Centres in Małopolska Ministry of the Interior and Administration (MSWIA) Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MSZ)
Previous Kraków Expats Directory articles on presentations by Ambassador Knott, UK Embassy in Poland:
Brexit Event 21/2/19
Exchanging UK to EU Driving Licence – Step by Step guide.
Brexit Discussion 28/11/17 – Summary of Ambassador’s Presentation
Brexit Discussion 28/11/17 – Interview with Ambassador Jonathan Knott
Please get in touch if you have any other useful resources we could include in this article.
The founder and editor of Kraków Expats Directory, and our sister site Kraków TV www.krakowtv.pl. David fell in love with Kraków 20 years ago, and made it his home in 2011.
We’re always looking for interesting stories, events, characters or groups to feature. Likewise, if you’d like to join us, as a contributor, please get in touch.