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Poland simplified visa procedures for citizens of Belarus

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided to reopen embassy, consulates, and visa centres in Belarus in response to the political turmoil and violent reaction of national authorities on protests all over the country. 

From the beginning of the pandemic outbreak for the period of a few months the work of the consulates was limited. Anti-covid measures also included border crossing restrictions. Only people with residents and work permits, students and holders of Pole’s Cards could apply for visas and enter the country. Ability to submit application for international protection at the Border Guard Posts was also limited. 

Few days after mass protests started all over Belarus, the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki introduced a 5-point aid plan "Solidarity With Belarus”. The plan includes  commitments to provide help to Belarusian victims of repression, simplification of entry procedures for people who needs to arrive to Poland and also insurance of simplified access to labour market. Also Morawiecki mentioned scholarships for expelled students and support for Belarusian independent media and Polish NGO's supporting Belarusian civil society.

The first and most urgent issue was to ensure and facilitate safe mechanisms for border crossings  and arrivals to Poland. For this purpose, the procedure of national humanitarian visa was implemented. According to the information in the Border Guard website, since August 26th the person can enter Poland on the basis of a such travel document. The visa is free of charge and can be issued for the maximum period of one year. Although it is an important step forward to guarantee safety and ability for people repressed in Belarus to arrive to Poland, some further questions arise. Firstly,  the safety of procedure and application investigation should be preserved as, similar to the procedures for international protection, the reason of the issued document should be unknown to the authorise of the country of origin of the the applicant. According to the information on the General Consulate Website, each person who would like to apply for humanitarian visa should contact one of consulates or visa centres online or by phone, what pose questions on safety standards of such contacts. Moreover, according to standard procedure the  purpose of the visa is identified by its type - a letter on a visa sticker for the information for the Polish Board Guards, what makes it easy to be verified also by the Board Guards on Belarus border crossing. Secondly, there are some uncertainties concerning the further status of the person with granted humanitarian visa. According to the current regulation, the person with a visa issued for the purpose of humanitarian reason is not entitled to perform work or apply for temporary residence permit, as soon as such solution is foreseen as an initial step for the asylum procedure.  The problem here is linked to a wide range of implications and challenges related to the character of asylum procedures in Poland - long-lasting processing time and low recognition rates, low public assistance and quite often inability to perform work during the procedure.  All this factors pose challenges to people who face necessity to leave Belarus. And maybe that’s why on the official website of the Polish General Consulate is mentioned that if the person holds a Pole’s Card or has any other documents that entitle to find employment or to be enrolled in university or any other educational facility, should apply for other type but not humanitarian visa? What we know then, is that at least such person will have an opportunity to settle and organise her or his life in Poland. But still there is a question, how far such solutions of the Polish Governments comply with mainstream migration policy oriented towards economical and demographical priorities of the country? 

Kseniya Homel 
NIEM’s National Advocacy Officer
The European and Migration Policy Programme
Institute of Public Affairs


Solidary with Belarus’ plan – Poland to support the repressed [14.08.2020]. 
Informacja na temat zasad ubiegania się o wizy przez obywateli Białorusi [28.08.2020]. 
Koronawirus – przekraczanie granicy [31.08.2020].