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:
- 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...)
- Lack of indian and chinese take-aways.
- Did I mention the bureaucracy?
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.
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....