In the beginning of this year, due to numerous complaints of foreigners and extended time of waiting for work or residence permit, the Supreme Audit Office (NIK) decided to check whether voivodes and officials are ready to provide efficient service to foreigners and what losses the budget suffers due to the inaction of the voivodes or excessively lengthy proceedings concerning residence and work permits.
So, NIK issued a report that emphasizes: An average duration of stay legalisation of foreigners within four years has increased more than three times – from 64 to 206 days. In an extreme case, a person waited more than three years for a decision to be issued. There is a lack of efficient, reliable and timely services, which is caused, inter alia, by personnel problems in the foreign offices and insufficient financing of their activity.
NIK indicates that for several years now the number of citizens of other countries, mainly from the East, starting their work in Poland has been growing rapidly. NIK admits, however, that it’s not easy to estimate the number of foreigners staying in Poland, as the institutions which prepare such data, e.g. the Central Statistical Office of Poland and the Office for Foreigners, collect and present it in a different way. Moreover, a significant part of migration is circular and illegal migration is difficult to measure. At the beginning of 2019, over 372 thousand foreigners had valid documents confirming their right to stay on the territory of the Republic of Poland.
In the years 2014-2018, foreigners submitted a total of nearly 732 thousand applications for legalisation of their stay in Poland, including over 649 thousand for temporary stay, and nearly 69 thousand for permanent stay and nearly 14 thousand for a long-term resident of the EU. Positive decisions were issued in 474 thousand cases (84.5%).
The administration is not prepared to deal with foreigners
As the audit of the Supreme Audit Office showed, in the years 2014-2018 public administration was not properly prepared in terms of procedures and technology to efficiently handle the large number of foreigners coming to Poland.
NIK points out that in the years 2014-2018 the voivodeship offices in Poland received in total over 910 thousand applications for work permits, of which in 2014 there were almost 47 thousand and in 2018 almost 367 thousand. In total over 5.8 million declarations of the intent to employ a foreigner were registered in the labour offices, while their number quadrupled from 387 thousand in 2014 to over 1.5 million in 2018. Due to the change of the law, in 2018 labour offices also received applications for seasonal work permits – in the total number of over 235 thousand, of which over 51% were granted positive decisions.
No common strategy
According to NIK, there was a lack of strategic documents defining the state policy in the area of shaping migration and coordination of the activities of institutions in this respect, despite the fact that the Council of Ministers considered it necessary to draft them already in February 2017.
Lack of adequate supervision
In the opinion of the Supreme Audit Office, the supervision of the Ministry of Interior and Administration over voivodes in matters related to foreigners was insufficient, because, among others, it did not limit the cases of delay in issuing decisions.
Although measures aimed at improving the service of foreigners were taken, mainly by increasing employment, they did not bring the expected results. The average duration of proceedings concerning legalization of stay in the period covered by control increased more than threefold – from 64 days to 206 days.
NIK also pointed out that the Minister of the Interior and Administration has not developed a formalised policy of supervision over the Head of the Office for Foreigners.
No relevant data concerning the return of foreigners to their countries
NIK points out that the Minister of the Interior and Administration issued a total of 12 such decisions between 2016 and 2018. The reasons for this were fears that these people could be involved in terrorist (10 decisions) or spying activities (two decisions). Meanwhile, in five out of six cases examined, there is no actual information whether the foreigners actually left the territory of Poland.
As a result of the NIK control, the Minister of Interior and Administration informed about a change in practice concerning the information on the execution of a decision in favour of a documented transfer of information by the Border Guard.
No employment policy
According to the Supreme Audit Office, the legal solutions introduced by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy were limited to individual measures, e.g. in the case of certain professions, the abolition of the obligation to carry out a labour market test before employing a foreigner. There was no coherent system of tools and mechanisms encouraging and supporting foreigners with stable professional situation to settle permanently in Poland.
Improper assistance to foreigners in voivodeship offices
The audit of 264 cases concerning issuing residence permits, work permits and travel documents to foreigners by voivodes revealed irregularities in as many as 187 cases (nearly 71% of examined cases). – The errors concerned all the voivodeship offices inspected.
The average time of conducting proceedings in voivodeship offices concerning legalisation of foreigners’ stay in Poland is systematically increasing. In 2018, it ranged from 116 days (Lublin Voivodeship) to 328 days (Lower Silesian Voivodeship), although, as a rule, they should be completed within 90 days at the latest.
In the opinion of NIK, improper assistance in voivodeship offices may lead to significant discouraging of foreigners who would potentially take up legal and long-term employment in Poland. The competitiveness of other countries, as well as increasing possibilities of taking up employment there, may lead to the outflow of foreigners from the Polish labour market.
One of the reasons for inadequate assistance to foreigners – points out the Supreme Audit Office – insufficient human resources in voivodeship offices in relation to the number of foreigners.
In all the controlled voivodeship offices the need for additional employment was observed. – In all the controlled voivodeship offices the need for additional employment of employees was pointed out. Reinforcement of staff remains one of the important issues which affect the efficiency of proceedings concerning legalization of stay and work of foreigners in Poland. The human resources of the Office for Foreigners were also inadequate in relation to the number and type of matters dealt with, as there was a significant outflow of the Office’s employees.