Applications for international protection should be submitted to the Border Guard (SG) which will then transfer them to the Head of the Office for Foreigners. The Head of Office for Foreigners is competent to examine the claim, so the SG cannot refuse to receive the application.
If the application is lodged at the border or in detention, the relevant authority receiving it is the SG unit responsible for the border check point or the detention facility. If the application is lodged in the territory, it can be submitted to any SG unit. There is also a possibility to declare an intention to apply for international protection by post for i.e. elderly persons, persons with disabilities, pregnant women, persons in hospitals or imprisoned.
Due to COVID-19 pandemic, direct customer service in the Office for Foreigners was suspended on 16 March 2020. Personal visits in the office were possible only in matters ‘absolutely necessary’ and only after a prior telephone appointment. Foreigners were asked to contact the Office for Foreigners in writing (by post and e-mail) or by phone. In the building of the Office for Foreigners in Warsaw, there is also a Border Guard unit, where applications for international protection can be submitted. The direct customer service was resumed by the Office on 25 May 2020 and since then service is provided in accordance with the sanitary rules resulting from the pandemic in Poland.
When applying for international protection, one has to submit their travel document (e.g. passport) to the SG. Travel documents are kept by the Head of the Office for Foreigners. Asylum seekers are issued a temporary ID document entitling them to stay on the territory of Poland, the Foreigner’s Identity Temporary Certificate (Tymczasowe Zaświadczenie Tożsamości Cudzoziemca). The document is initially valid for 90 days – 10 days in case of Dublin returnees – then for 6 months and can be prolonged every 6 months by the Head of the Office for Foreigners until the end of the asylum procedure. Due to COVID-19 pandemic, the validity of temporary ID was prolonged automatically until 30 days after the epidemic state in Poland was terminated.
The SG is entitled to inform an asylum seeker that it is impossible to lodge an application for international protection on a day when said individual comes to the SG unit. However, the SG must then set a date and place when it will be possible. In such a situation (e.g. when there is a need to ensure an interpreter is available), the intention to apply for protection is laid down in a protocol and registered and the Border Guard has 3 working days to ensure the application is lodged and registered (in case of massive influx it is 10 working days). During this time decision on return cannot be executed.
According to the Office for Foreigners (OFF) in 2019, 165 persons declared their intention to apply for international protection, which was eventually registered subsequently. NGOs report that the waiting period to lodge an application at the OFF in Warsaw was usually a couple of days in 2019.
In 2020, when the applications for international protection could not be lodged, mostly the ‘declarations of intention to submit the asylum application’ were accepted and registered by the Border Guards. However by law, the persons who ‘declared the intention to submit the asylum application’ are not covered by the medical and social assistance since they are not considered yet as applicants under national law. In a letter to the Ministry of the Interior and Administration, the Consortium of NGOs raised the need to include these persons in the social system for asylum seekers. According to the Office for Foreigners, there were 298 persons who declared the intention to apply for international protection in 2020, compared to 165 in 2019.
 Article 28(2) Law on Protection.
 Letter from the Office for Foreigners to HFHR no BSZ.074.3.2021/RW received on 26 January 2020.
 Article 55(1) and (2) and Article 55a(2) Law on Protection.
 Article 15z3 COVID Law.
 Article 28(1) Law on Protection.
 Article 330(1)8 Law on Foreigners.
 Letter from the Office for Foreigners to HFHR no BSZ.074.2.2020/RW received on 22 January 2020.
 A. Pulchny, M. Sadowska, Dostęp do procedury [in] Legal Intervention Association, SIP w działaniu. Prawa cudzoziemców w Polsce w 2018 r., May 2019, 9, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2S507LV.
 Article 70 (1) Law on Protection.
 Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 26 January 2021.