With less than one year until Brexit, many British expats in the European Union are questioning what, if anything, will change. The answer is that British expats in Poland should be prepared to be treated as full non-EU citizens without any of the rights that EU citizens in Poland have. As a result, we have prepared a top 10 list of things that all British Expats in Poland should do in order to prepare for Brexit: today!
1. Obtain valid residency documents.
Something neglected by the majority of British Expats in Poland, this should be treated with the utmost urgency. Ignore the horror stories about queues and delays in the Foreigners’ Office, as these only apply to non-EU citizens. The process is described here [ link ]- and should be completed as soon as possible in order to avoid delays or complications. There is also an obligation to register your address, which is handled differently. In case you need support, please contact this company.
2. Register your address.
A simple process, as all you have to do is take a valid rental contract or title deeds for a property along with your passport to the local town/city hall. If you do not have a rental contract, you may also obtain formal permission from the property owner to register your address.
3. Obtain a PESEL number.
The “gateway to life in Poland” is the PESEL number, which is the Polish equal of the National Insurance Number (UK) or Social Security Number (US). This number is used in a wide range of fields in Poland, ranging from healthcare to paying taxes. Obtaining it is simple, and can be done at the same time as registering your address at the local city hall.
While the above two steps can be daunting for a non-Polish speaker, we can recommend the use of Lionall Consulting, which provides a comprehensive service for British Expats in Poland wanting to deal with residency-related issues. More information is provided here [ link ].
4. Obtain a Polish Driving Licence
Many British Expats in Poland do not change their driving licences, as it is often easier and more convenient to keep a British licence in the (mistaken) belief that they cannot get penalty points added to their licence in Poland. Polish licence penalty points are added to the person, not the licence. Regardless, after Brexit, British and Northern Irish driving licence holders will find themselves required to exchange their driving licence in accordance with Polish law, which stipulates a mandatory exchange of licence after 6 months residency by a non-EU citizen. 6 months after Brexit, licences held by British citizens resident in Poland will expire, and drivers will be treated as if they are driving without a licence.
Full information about exchanging a British Driving Licence in Poland, relevant to Wrocław can be found here [ link ] (for the City of Wroclaw) and . Leave a comment below if you need assistance with finding the place of exchange in other Polish cities and counties. WARNING: each city and county (powiat) has its own office dealing with driving licences, which may or may not be located in the same place as other local administration offices.
5. Review your tax situation
Many British Expats choose to pay tax in the UK due to the generous tax-free allowances found there. While this can be profitable, it should be carefully considered as to whether it will be possible to continue using these arrangements after Brexit. Tax residency is highly complicated, and even those resident only part time in Poland may in fact be tax resident in Poland. It is critical that professional advice is received, particularly as penalties applied by the Polish Tax Office in Wroclaw can be severe. Regulating your affairs now makes sense, and can save you a considerable amount in interest and fines at a later date.
If you need assistance with tax treaties and how it may affect you, it would be wise to seek advice from a qualified lawyer on the matter. Wroclaw Expats recommends the Law Office of Dr. Carlos Dominguez Abraldes [ link ].
6. Get married!
While British Citizens in Poland currently have an unrestricted right to stay in Poland, this may change post-Brexit. A deal has been announced that will allow British Citizens in the EU to stay, but no details have been announced. In order to protect full right of residency in the European Union, the only guarantee for British Citizens in Europe is to be legally recognised as married. If you are already married, then the marriage should be registered at the Urząd Stanu Cywilnego (Registry Office) in order to ensure that the Polish Authorities continue to recognise the marriage post-Brexit.
7. Be careful of who you listen to.
While many Expat Agencies in Poland can help foreigners in Poland, it is strongly recommended to only use agencies which have a good reputation. Many agencies are formed by people with little to no knowledge of law, tax, etc, and they can often provide wrong and misleading advice. We strongly recommend only using agencies that either have a reputation for providing in-depth detail, or which are run by qualified lawyers. Be particularly careful about using agencies that seem to focus on one particular nationality, as these are often run with the intention of defrauding victims.
8. Change your car registration.
Many British people continue to drive their cars without changing to a Polish registration. While Poland does not currently enforce the law mandating the registration of cars in Poland, the obligation to do so remains. Those that fail to do so may find that their insurance is invalidated by the failure to register the car in Poland, and post-Brexit, there may well be a severe push to ensure that non-EU cars are legally registered in Poland. One of the benefits of registering in Poland is the lack of annual car taxation, while insurance costs can also be considerably lower depending on your driving history. You can even transfer your no claims bonus to Poland from Britain, which can result in dramatically reduced premiums.
It is strongly recommended to complete the registration process now to avoid complications later. However, you must complete the formal residency obligations before proceeding with the car registration process. For those daunted by the process, Lionall Consulting can handle the entire process [ link ].
9. Open a Polish Bank Account:
Many British Expats in Poland are paid in Pounds into a British Bank Account. For that reason, it makes sense to open a bank account with associated credit facilities as an EU citizen. EU citizens face considerably less bureaucracy than non-EU citizens, particularly in respect to obtaining credit cards and mortgages. Post-Brexit, British Citizens in Poland may find that their access to credit is curtailed, or even limited to the period of their valid residence permit.
10. Buy property now!
Relating to the above point, all EU citizens may purchase property on the same basis as Polish citizens, subject to national law. This means that a simplified process applies, while non-EU citizens are required to obtain permission to purchase property from the relevant government ministry. This can be a lengthy process depending on the location of the property, and in recent months, reports have emerged regarding non-EU citizens being formally denied permission in sensitive areas such as near international borders and critical infrastructure. For that reason, British Citizens in Poland buying property should act now rather than after Brexit.
Property purchases can be complicated, and we recommend the assistance of a qualified lawyer in the process. The Abraldes Lawyers chamber is experienced with property purchases and negotiations, and can provide a one-stop service from beginning to end for those looking to navigate their first property purchase in Poland. The use of a good lawyer can reduce many of the headaches associated with property purchases [ link ].
This is just 10 of the things that must be done by British Expats in Poland before Brexit. Brexit itself will be a painful process for many British Residents in Europe, and they can expect to find that life will become administratively much more difficult in 12 months time. For that reason, Wroclaw Expats urges British Expats in Wroclaw to regulate their affairs now rather than at the very last minute.