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28 February 2008

Foreigners in Poland - registration "zameldowanie"

Thanks to Paweł from Polandian for his comments which I have used to update this blog post.

One of the biggest shocks about living in Poland for the average foreigner has got to be the bureaucracy. In fact if I have to list 3 downers about living here they would be:

  1. Unbelievable amount of bureaucracy to do anything in day to day life (register a car, buy a house, get a mobile phone, open a bank account, do anything at the post office...)
  2. Lack of indian and chinese take-aways.
  3. Did I mention the bureaucracy?
Unfortunately if you decide to live here (or already are) you will have to resign yourself to the fact that that is just the way it is and take it on the chin. The Poles don't like it either and allegedly are slowly making things better. In fact because the procedures for doing things are in the process of change that can often add to the confusion - very often you are given out of date information or told different things by people or offices.

Anyway the first thing you will need to do is something called registration (zameldowanie). In what seems to me like an unreasonable breach of civil liberties you are legally required to be registered to an address to live here. If you aren't registered then effectively you are just a tourist in Poland and not living here.

Many expats live in Poland for a long time and don't bother to register - I didn't until I had been here for at least 6 months. I have been told that it is legally compulsory but I don't see how the authorities have any way to check how long you've been here or whether they even care that much about it.

So why register at all? Simply because at some point you might want to work here or buy a car or rent a flat and if you aren't registered then you won't be able to.

[UPDATE - I have been assured that you don't need to be registered to rent or buy property or to work locally. You don't need to be registered to by a car but you do if you want to register it to your name in Poland]

There are two types of registration - temporary (tymczasowy) or permanent (na stałe). As foreigners we aren't currently allowed to register permanently. I know we are supposed to all be in the EU now, but it doesn't feel that way.

[UPDATE - don't listen to the voices! Apparently if you have a karta pobytu then you can indeed register permanently according to the council in gdynia]

You can register temporarily for a maximum period of 3 months. That means every 3 months you will have to re-register. I have been told that I can register for up to 5 years but to do that I have to go to Kraków and frankly I can't be bothered at the moment with the journey.

To register or re-register you will need to:
  • personally go during office hours (usually 8am - 4pm Mon-Fri) to the local town hall (urząd gmina) and find the office where they do registrations (zameldowanie).
  • take your passport
  • take with you the landlord or owner of the address at which you need to register - they need to sign that they agree for you to live there
  • take with you someone who speaks Polish if neither of you do. Don't expect anyone to speak English, but be suprised if they do.
Don't ask what happens if you work during office hours, are ill in hospital or elderly. The concept of dealing with these matters by post or internet is about as remote as me flying into space with a london oyster card.

Also don't ask what happens if you don't have anyone to sign you on to their address. If you are going to be renting a flat then this will be part of the procedure (and this also gives the landlord the power to evict you very easily by revoking your registration).

[UPDATE - an authorative source tells me that you don't necessarily need your landlord or property owner with you in person - if you have written entitlement to the property than that should suffice. In my experience that didn't work at my urząd miasta, but the next time I go to re-register I will try and do it with just my legal documents and will be ready to argue!]

When you do your registration they will ask you lots of apparently random questions such as what your parent's names are. I don't know why. Maybe if you're naughty they will send a note home to them.

Finally expect a queue and to lose at least part of your day (if not all of it). That way if it only takes you an hour or so you will be pleasantly suprised rather than incredibly annoyed.

Let me know if you have anything to add, or what your experience of "zameldowanie" is like....


polandian said...

This is fun to read, unfortunately some things here aren't true:)

Firstly, you don't need registration to buy/rent a flat, buy a car or, if you are a foreigner, for work. Nor for a bank account.

For Polish people registration is needed mostly for ID cards, as you need to be registered to have one. And ID card is a basic document here. Secondly, you vote and pay taxes where you are registered (unless you make other arrangements), and use other services. Also: you can't be evicted from a property to which you are registered to. Therefore some landlords might not want to register you, as then it could be difficult to get rid of you.

PLUS: foreigners do can register permanently. If you were told otherwise, you were misinformed.

And you don't need to bring your landlord to the office unless you have some written title to the property you want to register yourself to (as registration gives you some rights). So you can take your rental contract with you. From your landlord, city council, or building society, or employer.
(Mind you, your landlord should include their income from rent in their Personal Income tax statement. Some landlords don't want to pay taxes, and don't want to register lodgers officially)

Zameldowanie is a communist relic (aiming at controlling strictly who lives where and works where - as then everyone was obliged to work) and there are plans to abolish it altogether in recent future.

A foreigner might need their registration for using their (state) medical insurance, or taking benefits etc. or when engaging in some more complicated legal situations. In most cases you won't need it and I wouldn't bother registering.

It is well possible to get a job being a foreigner and not being registered. Yet it would demand some legal thinking from the side of your employer, who is likely to be lazy and make you register and deal with you more or less like with any other employee.

Pawel from Polandian

polandian said...

PS. More good news: if you don't register you are lawfully required to pay a "tourist tax" (opłata miejscowa nicknamed klimatyczne) for each day of your visit :)

Basically unless you stay in a hotel (which charges this tax automatically) city council has no way to know you're there and need to pay it:) So don't worry:)


BritInPoland said...

Thanks a lot for your comments Paweł - I have updated the post based on that and credited you at the top.



polandian said...

No problem:) Someone has to give information, when public offices fail to do it;))

Warsaw City Council site seems to give clearer info than Gdynia

And here are some instructions on what to do itf you don't feel like re-registering every 3 months and would like to get the 'potwierdzenie pobytu' (confirmation of residence) for your permanent registration (oh my god, it sounds sou bureaucratic)

I said some things criticising the registration, I guess I should say what's the official justification for it still being out there. It is said that registration helps public administration perform its duties for the public. It is the basic record for many purposes - and this is the address state institutions use for communicating with citizens. Court orders/decisions are sent there, communications regarding your national defence duties etc.

Oh, and the thing that some of Brits should remember - in larger cities, especially Warsaw they don't register in Urząd Miasta (City Council, which exists there too) but in Urząd Dzielnicy (Dictrict Council).


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