Refugee status is granted for an unlimited period of time. Recognised refugees obtain a 3-year residence card (karta pobytu). The first card is issued ex officio and is renewed after this period for another 3 years upon request.
Subsidiary protection is also granted for an unlimited period of time. Subsidiary protection beneficiaries obtain a 2-year residence card (karta pobytu). The first card is also issued ex officio, and is renewed after this period for another 2 years upon request.
Humanitarian protection (zgoda na pobyt ze względów humanitarnych) is granted for an unlimited period of time. The beneficiary of humanitarian protection obtains a 2-year residence card (karta pobytu). The card will be renewed after this period for another 2 years. The first and subsequent card are issued on the foreigner’s demand.
As of 1 January 2022, there were 1,565 persons holding a valid residence card for refugees, 2,239 persons holding a valid residence card granted to subsidiary protection beneficiaries and 1,750 persons under the humanitarian protection scheme.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the validity of those residence cards was prolonged by law until 30 days after the end of the epidemiological state in Poland.
An application for the renewal of the residence card should be submitted 30 days before the expiration date of the current residence card. Foreigners are often not aware of this rule.
The issuance of the residence card is paid and costs 50 PLN / 11 € for the card. Only the first residence card is issued free of charge. The fee can be diminished by 50% if a beneficiary is in difficult material situation (only if he or she obtains social assistance benefits) or is a minor up to 16 years old. There is no possibility of full exoneration from the payment. The obligation to pay even only 25 PLN / €5 sometimes prevents foreigners from obtaining a new residence card. Moreover, in case of culpable loss or damage of the card, a new one will be issued subject to a higher fee of no more than 150 PLN / €32.
The Office for Foreigners, which is responsible for the issuance and renewal of the residence cards for refugees and subsidiary protection beneficiaries, is situated in Warsaw. In the case of humanitarian protection beneficiaries, an authority responsible for a residence card renewal is a Border Guard unit having jurisdiction over the foreigner’s current place of stay.
The residence card has to be received in person. A card for a child under the age of 13 should be received in person by his or her legal representative. There is no possibility to receive a card by other representative or by post. Moreover, foreigners are obliged to give their fingerprints any time they renew a residence card. If they refuse to give their fingerprints, the residence card will not be issued. The obligation to give fingerprints and mandatory personal presence to pick up the card means that every time the foreigner has to obtain a new card, he or she has to travel to Warsaw in case of refugees and subsidiary protection beneficiaries, or another town in case of humanitarian protection beneficiaries, twice, even if he or she lives far away. This can be time-consuming and costly. The Office for Foreigners informed, however, that in case of a serious illness the obligation to collect fingerprints from an applicant is lifted, but it happens rarely (1-2 times a year, no such cases in 2021 though). The lack of a legal possibility to exempt the foreigner fully from the abovementioned payment, the obligation of personal presence twice – upon application and collecting the document, and the possibility to be issued a residence card only in one place may postpone the receipt of new residence cards by foreigners.
During the pandemic COVID-19, refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection had to make appointment in advance (by phone or e-mail) in order to give fingerprints and pick up the residence card.
Failure to renew a residence card can be punished by fine, but this does not happen in practice. There have been no such cases in 2015-2021.
Moreover, Polish law requires presenting – as a condition to issue or renew the residence card – recent photographs. Photos presenting face with covered hair are not allowed (hair has to be visible on the picture), which is often problematic for Muslim women.
By law, all residence cards should have the annotation “access to the labour market”, if the foreigner is entitled to work in Poland. In practice. cards issued for refugees as well as humanitarian and subsidiary protection beneficiaries do not have such an annotation, which can impede their access to labour market and to some social benefits, such as the ones in the framework of the “Family 500+” programme. However, the Supreme Administrative Court as well as the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw held that such lack of annotation cannot be interpreted as excluding the foreigner from receiving social assistance, if he is in fact entitled to work in Poland. Consequently, the Polish authorities changed their practice and no longer refuse the special financial support under the 500+ Programme on that basis.
 Article 89i(1) Law on Protection.
 Article 229(2) Law on Foreigners.
 Article 89i(2a) Law on Protection.
 Article 89i(2) Law on Protection.
 Article 229(2) Law on Foreigners.
 Article 89i(2a) Law on Protection.
 Article 243(1)(4) Law on Foreigners.
 Article 243(2)(3) Law on Foreigners.
 Article 229(1) and Article 229(4)(3) Law on Foreigners.
 Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 26 January 2022.
 Article 230(2) Law on Foreigners.
 Article 235(1) Law on Foreigners.
 Article 236(1)(a)-(c) Law on Foreigners.
 Article 237(1) and (2) Law on Foreigners.
 Article 238 Law on Foreigners.
 Article 89n(2) Law on Protection.
 Article 245(4)-(5) Law on Foreigners.
 Article 248(1)-(2) Law on Foreigners.
 Article 246(2) Law on Foreigners.
 Article 247 Law on Foreigners.
 Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, inter alia 26 January 2022.
 Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 26 January 2021.
 Article 465(4) Law on Foreigners.
 Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, i.e. 26 January 2022.
 Ordinance of the Minister of Interior of 29 April 2014 on the documents issued for foreigners, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/3LFYMp6.
 Article 244(1)(11) Law on Foreigners.
 European Website on Integration, ‘Poland: social benefit ‘500 PLN per child’ not for refugees?’ 29 February 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2lLCBFK. M. Sadowska, ”Świadczenia ‘Dobry start’” in Stowarzyszenie Interwencji Prawnej (SIP), SIP w działaniu. Prawa cudzoziemców w Polsce w 2018 r., 2019, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/31HyL2O, 52.
 See judgments of Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw No I SA/Wa 1997/16, 7 October 2016, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2l8Mj26 and of the Supreme Administrative Court no. I OSK 1164/16, 14 March 2018.