5 Tips to Avoid Long Queues at the Foreigner’s Office

The Foreigner’s Office has a bad reputation among expats in Poland as the land of the waiting. Not only in terms of how long it can take them to issue documents – a temporary residence permit sometimes takes up to one year – but even in terms of the long, physical waits that everyone must endure on a trip to the office.

Going to the Urzad at the wrong time, or with the wrong documents, can mean the difference between a quick half-hour office visit and giving up your entire morning to the hands of Polish bureaucracy.

Here are five tips on how to spend the least amount of time possible at the dreaded Foreigner’s Office queue.

1. Go Early – Like Really Early

Go on Google and look up the opening hours of your city’s Foreigner’s Office. It’ll usually be around 8 or 9 in the morning. Now I know what you’re thinking:

The early bird gets the worm! I’ll set my alarm, check the bus schedule and be there at EXACTLY 9am so I’m the first one in line!

NO!!I This trick might have worked a decade ago, but now it seems like every foreigner in Poland has the same idea as you do. Nowadays, showing up to the Urzad at opening time is about as likely to get you a front position in line as showing up to a sold-out concert just in time for the headlining band.

Just to give you an idea, this picture was taken outside the Krakow Foreigner’s Office a full 15 minutes before the doors opened.

If you want to actually be one of the first in the door, get there are least 20-30 minutes before the office opens. This has a lot to be said for – if waiting 20 minutes outside means waiting only another 20 minutes inside, you’re out of the Urzad in less than 40 minutes!

Waking up at the crack of dawn to stand outside on a crisp Polish winter morning might not be for everyone. But, if you’ve got plans in the afternoon and absolutely must be finished with the Urzad by 10, queueing up outside may be your best bet.

2. Find the Golden Hour

As we just mentioned, there will inevitably be a whole crowd of people who arrive right when the office opens thinking they’re the earliest folk around. Then more people will file in during the next couple of hours, likely still thinking they came early and not realizing that they’ll be waiting 2-3 hours to get called.

But there comes a time as mid-morning approaches that the queue starts to (ever so slowly) die down. As most foreigners in Poland are working regular jobs or are full-time students, most people will try to go early in the morning before school or work. By 11am, there will be far less people joining the queue.

It’s hard to say exactly when the golden hour for Urzad queues is as it changes day-to-day, but it isn’t uncommon at all to arrive between 11:30 and 13:30 and be out in less than an hour.

Keep in mind that the Foreigner’s Office usually closes early, often around 3pm. They will typically stop issuing numbered tickets for the queue at some point up to two hours before that. This is always a well-intended decision to avoid giving false hopes to a last minute arrival, but may end up working against you if you arrive at the wrong time.

3. Show Up Late – Just Not Too Late

Foreigner’s Offices typically work in such a way that at some point in the afternoon, the decision will be made by someone somewhere in the depths of Polish bureaucracy to not issue any new tickets for the rest of the day. This means that everyone currently in line will (hopefully) get called, and everyone else who shows up will turn around and come back another day.

But here’s the secret: The Urzad doesn’t close when the last ticket holder gets called – the booths will continue servicing patrons until the office’s scheduled closing time. But the machine still won’t issue any new tickets!

This often turns the Foreigner’s Office into a bit of a free-for-all in the last half an hour, with ticket-less foreigners forming old fashioned single-file lines hoping to get served.

So if you play this game (and get a little lucky), you might end up in and out in in just a few minutes! But play at your own risk: You never know when the lady behind the desk might pull out the “closed” sign.

4. Do What You Can Online

Most foreigners don’t seem to be aware that a huge number of Urzad procedures can be taken care of online.

A great example is fee payment. The application fee, the fee of printing the Residence Permit, and everything else. Most foreigners will pay this fee at the cashier’s desk in the Foreigner’s Office – which will require waiting on another line! Perhaps this is because few foreigners know that there is a simple way to pay Urzad fees online or via direct bank transfer.

Just make sure to print out confirmation of your fee payment to bring with you in lieu of the physical receipt!

When possible, always schedule an appointment! With a scheduled appointment, you won’t be waiting in any queues. Just show up at your appointment time and they’ll call you when they’re ready!

Many Foreigner’s Offices such as the ones in Warsaw, Wroclaw, and Gdansk provide an online scheduling system for foreigners to schedule their Temporary Residence Permit appointments. In Krakow, you can schedule an appointment by emailing rezerwacja.opt@muw.pl.

5. Go With a Friend (or 2)

Most expats living abroad tend to stick together, so if you’re living in Poland and applying for a Residence Permit the chances are you know someone else who’s also going through the same process as you are. Perhaps you know many other people.

Unfortunately it isn’t possible to have a friend (or even an attorney in most cases) submit an application or documents on your behalf, you’ll have to present your passport for identification anytime you submit documents. But you don’t have to present ID in order to collect a ticket! Nor is there a limit to how many queue tickets one person can collect.

So, if you’re lucky enough to have a friend who’s applying for the Residence Permit and has too much time on his hands, as him to go early in the morning and grab two tickets. One for himself, and one for you. And maybe a few more for your other foreigner friends. With the ease of instant communication in 2020 and the efficiency of Poland’s municipal transportation, it shouldn’t be hard for you to coordinate this to avoid a long wait.

Or maybe you can be the one to go early and grab a ticket for your fellow Residence Permit applicants. With any luck, they’ll at least treat you to lunch and some Polish vodka to say thanks.

So there you have it! 5 clever ways to avoid at least some of the queues in any Urzad in Poland. Of course none of these methods are foolproof and the risks of error will always fall on you. This is why that we recommend every foreigner applying for a Residence Permit in Poland consult a professional for assistance.

Krakspire has been assisting foreigners legalize their stay in Poland for several years and have managed hundreds of successful cases. Drop us an email at sylwia@krakspire.com and we’ll see what we can do for you!

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