The democratic transition that occurred in the early 1990s brought about many changes in Poland and in the lives of Poles. Many of these changes were positive, such as the opening of borders and the ability to travel freely. However, the transition also spurred negative conditions, such as unemployment and poverty.

This kind of situation has prompted many individuals to choose to leave Poland, with the intention of working and earning better wages abroad. Oftentimes, people believe that by moving abroad, work will be easier to find and pay will be higher. However, this is not always the case.

 

     In fact, during this time of worldwide economic crisis when unemployment is on the rise, many countries in Western Europe have begun taking action to secure their workplaces against the influx of immigrants. Thus, oftentimes legislation concerning the hiring of foreigners is unfavorable.

 

Looking for work abroad

 

     Looking for work abroad is a big decision. If you are indeed considering moving and working abroad, your decision ought to be well thought-out. This is not a decision to be made lightly, or while in an emotional state. Bear in mind that a quick decision to move abroad is not conducive to solving any problems that you may currently be dealing with. Do not look at the option to move abroad as a means of escape! Many people think that by moving abroad, they can leave their problems behind in Poland. However, this kind of mentality is mistaken.

 

     Before making the decision to move abroad, it is worthwhile to ask yourself the following questions: Do I really want to move and work abroad? Why do I want to work abroad? Do I want to work short-term to earn enough for the time being, or do I imagine myself emigrating permanently? Do I want to find work in my field of training, or will I be satisfied with a job that does not require any type of special education or qualifications? Answer the above questions honestly, taking into consideration your education level, skills and abilities, and predispositions. Writing these things down and being aware of them makes the search for work that you are qualified for and interested in much easier.

 

Do not accept offers of work from individuals who you do not know, or don’t know well

 

     Whether you are at a pub, disco, or even at a friend’s house, and meet someone who offers you work abroad… BEWARE! Think critically! This type of person is rarely a trustworthy individual. Maybe on the outside this person is friendly and warm, but they could also have targeted you with bad intentions. A similar situation applies to individuals who you meet over the Internet, on dating websites, in chat rooms or online forums. In any of the above or similar situations, you may meet someone who offers you your dream job. However, remember to always be very careful, as the person you’ve met could very well be a fraud!

 

      If you are seriously considering working abroad, utilize the services of a professional agency. At the very least, consult with someone who is familiar with the realistic employment situation in the country that you are planning on moving to.

 

Collect information about the country that you wish to move to

 

     Sometimes, the living conditions and customs in other European countries are completely different from those in Poland. Before your departure, familiarize yourself with the country to which you are moving – look up information online, in books, and newspapers. The more you know, the easier it will be for you to adjust to living abroad and to stay safe while you’re there.

 

     Also, familiarize yourself with work availability and conditions of the country to which you are moving, as well as any laws concerning the hiring of foreigners. Remember that working conditions, laws and regulations vary from country to country.

 

     In fact, in all European Union member states (with the exception of Austria and Germany, which enforce a waiting period) work markets are open to foreign nationals, meaning that in order to work legally you do not need any special permits or documents.

     However, if you want to work in any country outside the European Union, you must acquire the appropriate work and residence permits.

 

Women’s Issues

 

     According to statistics, women in Poland are overall better educated than are men in Poland; however, as a working group they are discriminated against, and receive lower wages than do men. Furthermore, the stereotype remains that women should be responsible for raising children and keeping house. This situation often leads to women wanting to move and work abroad, because they believe that this will improve their material situation. Research shows that there are increasingly more women making up the overall population of Polish emigrants. There is even a popular saying about this phenomenon, which is: “the feminization of migration.”

 

Attention! Danger! Human trafficking and forced labor

 

     Human trafficking is a phenomenon which involves the purchase and sale of human beings for the purpose of sexual and/or labor exploitation, or other forms of involuntary servitude. It occurs in various forms – women are most often forced into prostitution, but can also be forced into other forms of exploitative work (for example, domestic labor). The media has reported on instances of exploitation where individuals are forced into agricultural or construction labor, often under the watch of armed guards, working more than twelve hours per day in sub-par conditions for no pay. There are also instances where individuals are forced to beg or steal.

 

    These people are victims of human trafficking!

 

     Human trafficking is a blatant breaking of human rights, and often involves physical violence, psychological abuse, rape, and other forms of brutality and humiliation. It is a very serious transnational crime, and carries high penalties in Poland and in other European Union member states.

 

The Polish penal code states:

 

Whoever participates in the trafficking of persons, even in cases against his or her will, is subject to a penalty of imprisonment of no less than 3 years (art. 253. § 1 k.k.).

 

          Despite the existence of this threat, you can take several precautionary steps so as to better ensure your safety and minimize your chances of becoming a victim of human trafficking…

 

    BEFORE MOVING ABROAD

 

    1. Take care of all formalities (check to make sure you have all the appropriate travel documents and, if applicable, work permits. Get together all other necessary documents for the type of work you will be performing: i.e. certification of your education and work qualifications, etc.).

 

    2. Obtain insurance (to protect yourself from the costs of any medical emergencies).

 

    3. Check to see if the agent or employment agencies which offered you work abroad are legal. You can do this by checking if they are registered in KRAZ (Krajowy Rejestr Agencji Zatrudnienia; National Register of Employment Agencies) and have the appropriate certification to recruit for foreign employers.

 

    4. Check to see if your employer abroad does, in fact, exist. Find out as much as you can about your place of employment. The best way to do this is through your employment agent. Ask for the address and telephone number, and do your own research on the web.  Personally get in contact with your place of employment.

 

    5. Find out what kind of help your employment agent will give you in the event of problems you may encounter while working abroad (i.e. if the work that you are asked to do is not as originally stated, if there is conflict with your employer, if you have issues obtaining your salary, etc.). Sign an agreement with your employment agent.

 

    6. Carefully read any documents which your employment agent gives you, especially ones which you sign. In the event that you do not understand something, ask!

 

    7. Never sign any document which you do not understand! Never sign any documents which are written in a foreign language!

 

    8. In the event that you give your employment agent any money for their services, make sure you always obtain receipts!

 

    9. Make photocopies of any documents that you are taking with you (passport, identification card, visas, employment authorization, employment contract, etc.) for yourself, and also leave copies with people back home who you trust (family members or close friends). Attach a current photo of yourself to any documents that you leave at home.

 

    10. Leave the following information with close relatives or friends from home: the address under which you will be residing while abroad, your telephone number, the first and last name of your employer, as well as the names and addresses of the people with whom you will be travelling (it is better not to travel alone). Inform your relatives and friends of any address or telephone changes you make while abroad.

 

    11.  Arrange telephone dates with your family and friends (individuals who you trust). For example, arrange to call home once per week during a certain day and time. Establish a secret code which you can pass on to family or close friends, that signifies of any problems you may be having while abroad and when you cannot speak freely about your situation (i.e. well-wishes to a particular person who does not exist).

 

    TAKE WITH YOU

 

    1. The address and telephone number of the closest Polish Consulate to where you will be staying while abroad. In the event of any problems that may arise while you are abroad, you will obtain help there.

 

    2. A dictionary and/or phrasebook, especially if you are unfamiliar with the local language. Do not be afraid of using the dictionary!

 

    3. The telephone number to Poland direct from the country to which you will be moving. Thanks to this system, you can call home for a minimal fee (but only to a landline, not a cell phone), as long as the person who you are calling agrees to take the phone call and pay the associated fees. The telephone operator who connects you speaks Polish.

 

    4. The telephone number to an organization helping women, migrants, or individuals who have been victims of a crime. Generally, these types of organizations will offer advice and help in the event of any problems you might encounter while abroad.

 

    5. A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which proves that you have health insurance coverage with the National Health Fund (Narodowy Fundusz Zdrowia; NFZ). This card is accepted in other European Union member states. If you fall ill while you are abroad, the NFZ will cover your related medical expenses, although not all costs are covered. Before you move abroad, check to see the extent of coverage offered by the NFZ for while you will be abroad.

 

    6. A cellular phone with active roaming. Or, a less expensive option is a cellular phone without a SIM lock, so that you can purchase a phone plan that is local.

 

    7. Cash (or credit cards/checks). Make sure that you have extra “dark hour” funds to cover living expenses and a return ticket home, in the event of an emergency.

 

While you are abroad

 

     Remember that you have the right to choose your place of residence abroad, as well as the right to free movement within the country in which you reside. Nobody has the right to hold you against your will, imprison you, or force you to do anything that you do not want to do – including work!

 

     In the event that you experience or get involved in something unsavory or illegal (for example, you are the victim of a crime, or you yourself have perpetrated a crime), remember: you have legal protections, and have the right to defend yourself! The Polish Consulate and police have the responsibility of defending your rights, even if you are abroad. You have the right to report to the local police any crime that you have been victim to while abroad, and to make a claim against the perpetrator(s). During any interaction with the police, request the assistance of a translator – this is your legal right.

In the event that you are accused of a crime, remember that you have the right to legal counsel. At your request, the local police will contact the Polish Consulate about your situation.

 

List of useful Internet websites

 

www.strada.org.pl – the website of the organization La Strada Foundation against Trafficking in Persons and Slavery „La Strada. This site contains information on the topic of human trafficking, legal issues, and advice for individuals interested in moving abroad for work. In both Polish and English.

 

www.praca.gov.pl – an informational service on employment opportunities. Maintains information on the employment situation in Poland, such as: work availability, legal regulations, and job listings. Also maintains a listing of employment agencies offering work abroad (KRAZ). In Polish.

 

www.hrc.plEuropean Employment Portal. Holds information about employment opportunities, advice, and statistics for those seeking employment in Europe. In Polish.

 

www.msz.gov.pl – website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Among others, holds information for those preparing for work abroad, as well as contact information to Polish diplomatic centers. In Polish.

 

www.aids.gov.pl – website of the national AIDS center. Holds information about HIV and AIDS, such as: preventative practices, testing facilities, etc. In Polish.

 

www.nfz.gov.pl – website of the National Health Fund. Maintains information on the topic of healthcare in Poland and the European Union. In Polish.

 
 

Getting Help

 

    In the event of any problems, you will obtain help at a Polish diplomatic center. For help, contact a Polish Consulate, not an Embassy. If needed, the Polish Consulate will provide you with the appropriate advice or services. The type of help offered by Consulates is available on the website: www.msz.gov.pl, and includes:

  • In the event of loss or theft of your passport, or any other official documents, the Consulate will verify your identity and issue you a temporary passport so that you can return to Poland

In the event of a loss of money, the Consulate can:

  • Help you get in contact with family or close friends back in Poland
  • In justified cases, when there is no other means for you to obtain money, pay you out a sum of money that will be deposited, by your family or friends, into the bank account of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Warsaw
  • In justified cases, when you have no other financial means, loan you a sum to cover the expenses of your return trip home to Poland, on the least expensive form of transportation. You are obligated to repay this sum

      Remember that any financial help offered by Polish diplomatic centers is given only in exceptional situations and in justified cases! In the majority of the world, money transfers can be completed at banks and specialized financial institutions. This can usually be done quickly, safely, and with no problem.

 
    • In the event of a conflict with your employer, the Consulate can assist you in contacting human resources departments, work inspection and other related agencies, as well as legal counsel
 

      In the event that you are detained or arrested, you have the right to contact the Polish Consulate, which will take the proper action to ensure that you are treated at least as a national of the country in which you have been accused. Additionally, in the case of arrest the Consulate can do the following:

  • Contact the family of the arrested individual, at his/her request.
  • Contact the proper authorities to obtain information in regards to the conditions of detainment, judicial procedures, and the possibilities of release.
  • Provide a list of legal counselors (the arrested individual must choose his/her legal counsel personally).
  • Visit the arrested individual in the detention center where s/he is being held, or otherwise keep some form of contact with that individual.

      In the event of the death of a Polish citizen while overseas, the Consulate, as an agent of appropriate provincial office of the location where the deceased resided in Poland, will inform the deceased’s family and assist in taking care of the appropriate formalities concerning the death. In the event of returning the remains of the deceased back to Poland, costs incurred will be covered by the deceased’s life insurance plan. In the event that the deceased individual did not maintain an active life insurance plan, costs must be taken up by the family.

 
 

    Remember that the Consulate is not able to do the following:

 
  • Regulate any kind of financial obligations such as debts, fines, outstanding violations, costs related to crimes, legal fees, etc.
  • Provide any type of service that is normally offered by travel agencies, banks, insurance companies, or transportation companies
  • Obtain for you any kind of employment or housing contracts
  • Interfere in any conflicts regarding broken agreements on any side, such as with contractual obligations that are not upheld (i.e. employment conditions, travel arrangements, etc.)
  • Take on the role of legal counsel or act as a proxy (if requested, the Consulate can provide a list of consular-approved attorneys).

    Besides Polish diplomatic institutions, you may also see assistance and find help with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

Remember that in the Consulate, you will receive help in Polish. However, if you seek outside assistance, you may not be provided with a Polish-speaking representative.