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Crossing the Polish-Ukrainian border no longer so easy

People who fled from Ukraine to Poland because of the Russian invasion and then returned to Ukraine may not be allowed back into Poland without meeting additional conditions.

The stay in Poland of Ukrainian citizens who fled Ukraine because of the war was regulated by the provisions of the so-called Special Law of 12 March 2022 (on assistance to Ukrainian citizens in connection with armed conflict on the territory of that country). The stay of such persons in Poland is, in principle, legal until 24 August 2023. However, in accordance with the recent practice of the Polish authorities and services, if such a person even briefly returns to the Ukraine, their re-entry to Poland will, as a rule, take place under the terms of the previously existing regulations – and no longer under the terms of the Special Law.

This means that a person who arrived in Poland after 23 February 2022, and then left and would like to return to Poland, should have:

  • either a valid residence document entitling them to cross the Polish border more than once (e.g. a national visa),
  • or the unused limit of days under the visa-free regime (i.e. the stay of such a person in the Schengen area, including Poland, should be less than 90 days within a 180-day period),
  • or a special permit from the Head of the Border Guard to enter.

However, this special permit, unlike in the case of most Ukrainian nationals first arriving in Poland from Ukraine after 23 February 2022, is not currently granted automatically, and depends on an individual analysis of each person’s situation.

Obtaining consent may be easier if the person can prove that:

  • their stay in Ukraine was short-term and incidental (permits are generally not granted for regular travel outside Poland or long-term stays outside Poland),
  • the purpose of their stay in Ukraine was legitimate, e.g. to collect personal belongings, documents (such as civil-status certificates), to perform official or medical errands, to visit their family who remained in Ukraine,
  • they have family members in Poland (including, in particular, minor children);
  • they remain in active employment in Poland.

In order to avoid difficulties at the border, Ukrainian citizens should be prepared to demonstrate fulfilment of the above requirements. It is also advisable, if possible, to have already informed the Border Guard about all relevant circumstances on leaving Poland. Ukrainian citizens may be asked to provide evidence of these circumstances on re-entering Poland. These may be certificates from public offices, medical certificates or photographs taken during meetings with relatives while staying in Ukraine.

Aleksandra Wójcik

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