The European Commission has announced its decision to extend temporary protection for Ukrainian citizens fleeing the war in their country. The temporary protection granted by the European Union was originally intended to last until March 2023, but it has now been extended to March 2024.
Currently, more than 4.2 million Ukrainian citizens are benefitting from temporary protection in the European Union. This protection gives them the right to enter the EU, to reside in the EU, to access the labour market and to obtain housing and medical support, as well as the right of access to education for their children. It also allows them to open a basic bank account.
In addition, the Act on Assistance to Ukrainian Citizens in Connection with the Military Conflict on the Territory of that Country (the so-called Special Act), which entered into force on 13 March 2022 and introduced additional measures to facilitate residency for Ukrainian citizens, is still in force in Poland. Under the Special Act, they are permitted to stay in Poland for 18 months, starting from 24 February 2022, i.e. until 24 August 2023.
It is not known at the moment whether the Polish government, following in the footsteps of the EU, will decide to extend the legal stay of Ukrainian citizens on the basis of the Special Act. However, a bill amending the Special Act, published on 21 October 2022 on the website of the Government Legislation Centre, proposes a number of changes.
Firstly, if a visa, a residence card, a Polish identity document of a foreigner, or a ‘consent for tolerated stay’ of a Ukrainian citizen expires after 24 February 2022, it will be extended until 24 August 2023, instead of until 31 December 2021. Similarly, Ukrainian citizens residing in Poland on the basis of a Schengen visa or under the visa-free regime whose validity expires after 24 February 2022 will be allowed to stay in Poland until 24 August 2023.
Another change is the proposed repeal of Article 38 of the Special Act, which means that Ukrainian citizens will no longer be able to apply for a one-off temporary residence permit for a period of three years.
Another of the changes concerns the Act on Specific Solutions Related to the Prevention, Counteraction and Combating of COVID-19 (the “COVID Act”) and how it relates to foreigners currently residing in Poland. It is being proposed that within 30 days of the bill being passed into law, articles in the COVID Act referring to the extension of the deadline for submitting residence applications or applications for the extension of the legality of residence of foreigners will be repealed. This means that foreigners whose residence permits have expired will have 30 days to re-legalise their residence or leave the country.
Please note that these changes are currently only part of a bill, and this bill may be amended before it is finally passed into law.
Our article on temporary protection rights can be found here (link) and our blog is updated on an ongoing basis with information on further amendments in immigration.
Justyna Helbing, Paralegal