Help for Ukraine Help for Ukraine
The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights provides legal assistance and information to refugees from Ukraine.
From the day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, we use our knowledge and experience to provide people seeking refuge in Poland with help in legalizing their stay.
We also report the situation at border crossings and analyze changes in the law so that the authorities create an efficient and well-thought-out support system for all refugees from Ukraine.
Refugee status - we explain step by step how to obtain it:
We provide legal advice by e-mail (at refugees [@] hfhr.pl) and by phone, from Monday to Friday from 11:00 to 14:00 at +48 22 290 55 90.
Where else to look for information?
Information for Ukrainian citizens (in Ukrainian) - government portal, information on medical assistance, social insurance, legalization of stay
I help Ukraine - government portal, information for people in need of shelter, material assistance and wanting to help.
ukraina.grupagranica.pl - information on transport, traffic at border crossings, translations
Legal status of information below as at 18 March 2022
Given that regulations may change quickly, this brochure will be kept updated as necessary.
“During the statutory martial law period, travel outside Ukraine is restricted for men – male Ukrainian citizens aged between 18 and 60. Please note that exceptions may apply only to persons defined in legislation. First of all, these are persons who hold: a certificate of postponement of conscription and notice of qualification for special military records, or a certificate of incapacity for military service issued by the military medical committee. In addition, these restrictions do not apply to persons who support three or more children up to the age of 18, or single parents who raise a child up to 18 years of age, or those who support a child with disability. As well as: those who are adoptive parents, carers or whose relatives have died or went missing during counter-terrorism operations.”
The matters of exemption from conscription and postponement of conscription are governed by the Military Service Act (Про військовий обов'язок і військову службу). The categories of persons whose conscription may be postponed are governed by Article 17 of that Act and these include, among others, university students. Despite this, conscription is postponed only when a Decision is issued by District (Municipal) Conscription Committee – it is not automatic. In other words, the person concerned should report to that committee and request a postponement of conscription. The exemption from conscription is governed by Article 18 of that Act.
Although the condition for visa-free entry into Poland is the possession of a biometric passport, the Polish authorities ensure that any person who flees Ukraine in connection with the war is admitted, regardless of being in possession of the appropriate entry documents. This also applies to foreigners coming from Ukraine, i.e. non-Ukrainian nationals.
If you do not have a biometric passport or do not meet other entry conditions (e.g. do not have the required visa), you will be admitted to Poland on the basis of the consent of the Border Guard commander issued pursuant to Article 32 of the Act on Foreigners. Such consent shall be granted for 15 days. If you have a passport, you will receive a relevant stamp during the border check, confirming the date of your entry into Poland.
Although every person has the right to lodge an application for international protection (asylum) at the border crossing, due to the large number of people crossing the Polish-Ukrainian boarder, this is not the current practice. Remember, however, that you can lodge such an application at a later time, already during your stay in Poland.
Important! If possible, bring your identity documents, such as the foreign passport, driving license, or even the birth certificate, to the border. They will also be of use during your stay in Poland.
Mark of the biometric passport
Therefore, if you have been in Poland for a longer period time after which you returned to Ukraine and now you are trying to enter Poland again - it may turn out that you no longer have the right of entry on the basis of visa-free traffic. In such a case, however, you may enter Poland on the basis of the consent of the Border Guard commander granted when crossing the border. The Polish authorities ensure that every person fleeing Ukraine will be admitted to Poland.
Firstly, the requirement to hold a passport does not apply to persons who apply for international protection at the border. Such a request should be accepted from any person; even if he or she does not have a travel document or any other entry document. In addition, persons travelling without passports may be granted special consent to enter Poland on the basis of a decision of the Border Guard commander. Such consent shall entitle a person to stay in Poland for a period of up to 15 days.
However, in such a case, you have to take into account the fact that the Border Guard will be able request the court to place you in a detention center where you will be placed in custody.
As a result, the general principles of crossing the Polish-Ukrainian border based on the Schengen Borders Code and Polish regulations have been restored. The obligation of vaccination against COVID-19, conducting tests and undergoing quarantine for persons entering Poland from Ukraine has also been lifted.
A document confirming identity does not necessarily have to be a passport, and it may also be a birth certificate. Parent consent is a separate document in which he or she authorizes the designated person accompanying the child during the journey to take care of the child, obtain all travel documents and make any decisions concerning the life and health of the child during the period of departure. Such consent must be verified by a notary public. Currently, many Polish notaries have declared their willingness to verify the parent consents for children fleeing Ukraine free of charge.
However, there are exceptions from these requirements. Given the current specific situation, border authorities ensure that they approach such situations flexibly and allow entry into Poland also for persons who do not have the relevant documents. For the sake of child safety, however, it is worth to have the documents in place.
Animal owners need not present a complete set of veterinary documents at the border. However, if possible, it is worth to bring all documents related to the animal’s health.
After crossing the border, the animals will be examined for rabies and vaccinated at the expense of the State budget. The animal owner will then receive a document confirming compliance with the veterinary requirements. If the animals do not have a chip, they will be microchipped at the expense of the State.
Most often it is the visa requirement. However, those requirements do not apply to persons who apply for international protection at the border. Such a request should be accepted at the border crossing from any person fleeing the danger, whether or not the person concerned has appropriate entry documents. In addition, any person may be granted consent by the Border Guard commander to enter Poland without complying with the legal entry requirements. The Polish authorities ensure that every person fleeing Ukraine, including citizens of other countries, is currently admitted to Poland. The practical evidence show that they receive an entry stamp with a right of stay in Poland for a period of up to 15 days.
Is it that men of a conscriptive age would not be admitted to Poland?
Even if a man of this age holds a statement on incapacity for military service, he may be withdrawn from the border to the conscription point for the purpose of re-examination of the decision.
The following shall not be subject to universal mobilization:
- persons serving at the time of mobilization or war in bodies of the state authority other than the military;
- persons recognized by the military medical board as temporarily incapacitated - up to 6 months after the decision;
- men and women who have at least three children under the age of 18 to support;
- single parents;
- parents or guardians of a disabled child - group A if the child is under the age of 18;
- parents or guardians of a disabled child who has any deficiency in the functioning of the body in Grade III or IV and a limitation in the life activity of any category in Grade II to III;
- parents or guardians of a disabled child in grade I or II, until the child reaches the age of 23;
- guardians or foster parents of children up to the age of 18;
- permanent guardians of persons who, in accordance with the Act, require care in the absence of other persons able to provide such care;
- personnel of military management bodies;
- university students and doctoral students, assistants - trainees and aspirants;
- academic and scientific staff of higher education institutions and scientific organizations with a scientific degree;
- men or women whose closest persons have died or disappeared during counter-terrorism operations.
Men of a military age who, for various reasons, are not subject to mobilization should get in contact with the relevant military commission on the territory of Ukraine and obtain a certificate which can be presented to the Ukrainian border authorities.
However, a number of requirements under Article 71 sections 4-6 of the Road Traffic Act need to be met in order for a vehicle registered abroad to be able to travel on Polish roads. Above all, the driving license of the person driving the vehicle is necessary. In addition, vehicle registration card issued by the relevant authority abroad should be provided, which should confirm that the driver has the right to drive the vehicle (e.g. states that the vehicle is owned or co-owned by the driver). If the registration card does not give rise to the right to use the vehicle, the driver should provide a document confirming his/her right to use it (loan agreement or owner’s consent). Ultimately, the vehicle must be technically fit - confirmation of the conducted inspection and registration plates with markings comprising of letters of the Latin alphabet, Arabic numerals and a letter designation of the country of origin. The vehicle should also have a valid civil liability insurance policy. The car will have to be registered in Poland 6 months after entry.
To this end, it is sufficient to inform the border authorities of this intention and state the reasons why you cannot safely return to your country of origin. Currently, however, due to the large number of people crossing the Polish-Ukrainian border, submission of such applications at the border is not practiced. The Border Guard shall admit persons fleeing from Ukraine to Poland on the basis of visa-free traffic regulations or on the basis of a special consent of the BG commander.
Under the provisions of the so-called special act, Ukrainian citizens who entered the territory of Poland in connection with the military operations and declare their willingness to stay in Poland may stay here legally until 24 August 2023. Depending on the developments in Ukraine, this period may be extended. The spouses of Ukrainian citizens may also legally stay in Poland, even if they do not have Ukrainian citizenship.
These provisions do not apply to persons who hold a different type of residence permit in Poland:
- permit for permanent residence
- EU long-term residence permit
- permit for temporary residence
- refugee status
- supplementary protection
- tolerated residence permit
Nor do they apply to persons who have lodged an application for international protection in Poland or have declared their intention to submit such an application. Both the application and the declaration may be withdrawn.
In order to exercise these special rights, an application for the assignment of a PESEL number and approved residence in Poland should be submitted at the seat of the municipal authority.
In addition, on 4 March 2022 the EU Council issued a Decision which adopted specific provisions for the temporary protection of persons displaced from Ukraine in connection with the war. These provisions allow for approved residence for a period of 12 months (with the possibility of a further extension of this period on the basis of the EU Decision):
- Ukrainian citizens residing in Ukraine before 24 February 2022 and their family members,
- persons who, before 24 February 2022, benefited from international protection or other equivalent protection in the territory of Ukraine and their family members,
- foreigners residing in Ukraine before 24 February 2022 on the basis of a permanent residence permit and who are unable to return safely and permanently to their country of origin.
In order to obtain a certificate on the use of temporary protection in the territory of Poland, please contact the registered office of the Office for Foreigners (ul. Taborowa 33, Warszawa) in person.
In addition to the specific provisions on assistance to Ukrainian citizens in connection with the ongoing armed conflict in the Ukrainian territory, the normal rules of entry and stay in Poland continue to apply, and therefore:
If you entered Poland on the basis of visa-free traffic, you can stay in Poland for up to 90 days. During that time you have the right to legally stay in Poland and in other Schengen countries. If you are unable to return to the country before the expiry of this period, it will be necessary to request the approval of your residence in Poland.
If you entered Poland on the basis of your visa, you may stay in Poland during its period of validity. During this period you can, on a general basis, travel to the Schengen States. Under the provisions of the so-called special act, the validity of national visas issued to Ukrainian citizens shall be automatically extended until 31 December 2022.
If you entered Poland on the basis of the previously issued residence card, you may stay in Poland during its period of validity. During this period you can, on a general basis, travel to the Schengen States. Under the provisions of the so-called special act, the validity of residence cards for Ukrainian citizens shall be automatically extended until 31 December 2022.
If you have submitted an application for international protection in Poland, you will be sent to one of the reception centers for persons seeking protection and you will be subject to a refugee procedure. You will then be obliged to deposit your passport and stay in Poland until your application is resolved.
If you entered Poland on the basis of the consent of the Border Guard commander, your legal stay in Poland lasts up to 15 days. The date of entry is confirmed by a stamp on your passport. Before the expiry of this deadline, you should lodge an application for the approval of your residency in Poland on the basis of general regulations. You can also apply for international protection in Poland if you cannot safely return to your country of origin.
The full list of reception points can be found on the government website: https://www.gov.pl/web/ua-pl/punkty-recepcyjne. It is worthy to follow the news posted on this website, as new aid posts are gradually opened. Some of them are listed below:
- Pałac Suchodolskich Gminny Ośrodek Kultury i Turystyki, ul. Parkowa 5, 22-175 Dorohusk – osiedle
- Przygraniczne Centrum Kultury i Rekreacji, ul. Spółdzielcza 8, 22 - 540 Dołhobyczów
- Zespół Szkół w Horodle, ul. Piłsudskiego 58, 22 - 523 Horodło
- Szkoła Podstawowa w Lubyczy Królewskiej (zaplecze hali sportowej), ul. Jana III Sobieskiego 5, 22 - 680 Lubycza Królewska
- Świetlica, Korczowa 155 37-552 Korczowa
- Hala sportowa - Medyka 285, 37-732 Medyka
- Szkoła Podstawowa w m. Krowica Sama 183, 37-625 Krowica Sama
- Była Szkoła Podstawowa w Łodynie, Łodyna 41, 38-700 Ustrzyki Dolne
Pursuant to these provisions, after obtaining a PESEL number, they are granted access to a number of services in Poland, including, but not limited to:
- right to work without the need to obtain a permit (based on information sent by the employer to the labor office within 14 days from the commencement of employment)
- right to operate a business on the same terms as Polish citizens
- right to education
- right to medical care
- right to a number of social benefits
In addition, the authorities may provide assistance to Ukrainian citizens in terms of:
- financing of travels by public transport and specialized transport for disabled persons,
- ensuring cleaning and personal hygiene products and other products.
Up-to-date information on assistance for Ukrainian citizens can be found on the government websites, including at www.ua.gov.pl.
In view of the above, these persons may stay in Poland on general terms, i.e. those which were in force up to this point, and the rights of these persons are closely related to the basis of their stay in Poland.
Remember that if you entered Poland on the basis of the consent of the Border Guard commander, your legal stay in Poland lasts up to 15 days. The date of entry is confirmed by a stamp in your passport. Before the expiry of this deadline, you should submit an application for the approval of your residence in Poland on the basis of general regulations. You can also apply for international protection in Poland if you cannot safely return to your country of origin.
If you have a valid visa or residence card or have entered Poland on the basis of visa-free traffic, you can legally enter other Schengen countries for up to 90 days during any 180 days.
By Decision of the Council of the European Union, Ukrainian citizens, as well as individual groups of third-country nationals falling within the scope of the Decision, may travel within the territory of the European Union in order to choose the Member State in which they will benefit from temporary protection. After obtaining residence permits proving the use of temporary protection, it is also possible to travel within the European Union for 90 days in the next 180 days. As at 20.03.2022, however, we do not have confirmation from the Polish authorities that the Polish certificate on the use of temporary protection will also enable the exercise of the freedom of travel.
If you are eligible for assistance under the special act on assistance to Ukrainian citizens in connection with the armed conflict within the territory of that country, you will be able to obtain a temporary residence permit after 9 months of stay in Poland along with a residence card. The residence card together with a foreign travel document (passport) enables travel within the territory of the Schengen States for 90 days in the next 180 days. Prior to obtaining a residence card, in the absence of a visa or the ability to use visa-free traffic in connection with the possession of a biometric passport, travel within the European Union may be considered unauthorized.
If you do not have a travel document (or your children do not have travel documents), then you will not be able to cross the borders freely from Poland to other countries. As a general rule, travelling within the EU is not permitted on the basis of the consent of the Border Guard commander issued in Poland. You will also not be able to travel if you have applied for international protection in Poland. You then have an obligation to stay in Poland until your procedure has been completed, and your passport will be sent to the office’s deposit for the time being.
However, individual countries have introduced the possibility of entry and residence for those who have fled from Ukraine. The situation in this regard is evolving dynamically and it is therefore important to follow communications on the government websites of these countries or obtain information in their embassies.
24-hour hotline for Ukrainian citizens operated by the Office for Foreigners [Urząd do Spraw Cudzoziemców]: +48 47 721 75
Info website: www.ua.gov.pl (information in PL, UA, ENG and RUS)
Dom Ukraiński/Nasz Wybór (Warsaw)
ul. Zamenhofa 1
Phone number: +48 727 805 764
Centrum Pomocy Prawnej im. Haliny Nieć (Kraków) [Halina Nieć Centre of Legal Aid (Krakow)]
ul. Krowoderska 11/7
Phone and WhatsApp: +48 693 390 502
Ocalenie Foundation (Warsaw)
ul. Krucza 6/14a
Centrum Wielokulturowe [Multi-Cultural Centre] (Warsaw)
ul. Jagiellońska 54
Phone number: +48 22 648 11 11 / +48 604 932 969
Stowarzyszenie Interwencji Prawnej [Association for Legal Interventions] (Warsaw)
ul. Siedmiogrodzka 5/51
Phone number: +48 880 145 372
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Warsaw)
ul. Wiejska 16
NOMADA. Stowarzyszenie na Rzecz Integracji Społeczeństwa Wielokulturowego [Association for the Integration of Multicultural Society] (Wrocław)
ul. Paulińska 4/8
+48 791 576 459
Instytut Praw Migrantów [Institute of Migrant Rights] (Wrocław)
ul. Ruska 46A/201,
tel. +48 510 011 846
Website of Grupa Granica with information on current initiatives for those fleeing Ukraine: www.ukraina.grupagranica.pl