Bambi vs. Godzilla

In the world of hoops to jump through, I’s to dot, T’s to cross and forms to fill-out in triplicate, Poland’s bureaucratic machine is a predator like none other. We’ve stepped into the ring as a contender and have been knocked around trying to register our car (score one for Poland), get Zameldowanie (score one for us), apply for PESEL numbers (half point to both parties respectively) and now we square off over Karta Pobytu (temporary residency). With the score at 1.5 all, this will be a battle extraordinaire.

We tip our hats to many of you for your support, encouragement, insights, prayers and anecdotes as we have struggled with the visa process. It’s an emotionally charged process as so much depends on it. First it was our unexpected 6 month delay in Canada and now the challenge of getting temporary residency for Amber and Daxon as dependents under Matthew’s work visa. Here is the Coles Notes version of our situation:

  • Polish law requires any foreigner living in Poland without a visa to have karta pobytu. Foreigners can be in the Schengen Zone for no more than a total of 90 days in a 180 day period. Going in and out does not reset the clock
  • It took us multiple visits to the state capital (everything must be done in-person), almost 300 pages of forms and supporting documents, around $500 and over 40 hours of work to apply for Amber and Daxon’s karta pobytu
  • Of course everything is done only in Polish (no problem) but the language that is used for all of this is so official that even our friend with a PhD in Polish linguistics could not understand all of the forms or the website (interestingly, after they accept your application for review, they hand you a document in English on how to complete the forms)
  • We received a call from a lady at the state office saying that they could only give Amber and Daxon karta pobytu for the duration of Matthew’s visa (expires June 30th) and that it is just too much work for her for such a short period of time. Her advice was to stay illegally and avoid travel and police. We told her that wasn’t an option and it sounded like our application was dead in the water
  • We then got 3 very official letters stating we had 14 days to provide 2011 Polish tax returns for Amber and Daxon and to establish health coverage through ZUS (the state run medical system). The obvious challenge for providing tax returns from a country where Amber has never worked didn’t seem to matter. As for little Dax, he’s been avoiding taxes all his life
  • A few days later 2 very pushy cops made a surprise visit to our home to inspect our living conditions, verify we lived there, assess whether we are a threat to Polish security and conduct an on-the-spot interview of Amber. She was nursing as they asked about her mental state and if she had any addiction issues. The cops told us to ignore the request for tax forms
  • Easter is a major holiday here and so EVERYTHING shuts down. We were unable to get the ZUS health forms. We got those this week. As a sidenote, ZUS is nearly bankrupt and has been doing some shady things to stock the coffers. Though the Polish consulate in Canada assured us our private health coverage was enough (and did get us our student visas and Matthew’s current visa), ZUS will now take 46% of what Matthew makes teaching. We’ll never see that money again and this is besides taxes
  • We’ve now been told that Matthew should apply for karta pobytu and that maybe he could get it for a year or two. This would exempt him from needing a visa and so we would all be able to stay for longer. Of course the process for a visa holder to apply for karta pobytu is much more involved
  • Today we received 3 letters stating that Amber and Daxon have been given permission to stay until May 16 (which is only 14 days beyound the 90 days they’re allowed in Schengen). We have no idea where this date came from or if we have to apply from scratch to stay beyound that date

We’re not fully sure where to go from here but we need to have something in motion / resolved before May 16th. Figuring out who is right (the law, the lady who called, the police who visited or the letters) is the next step. Unlike Slovakia where we had the covering of a team, we need to be able to stand on our own here. No papers would undermine our ability to do life and work here, make us bad guests of Poland and nullify our credibility. We don’t say this lightly, but quite simply, living here illegally is not an option. We need a miracle in the timeline established by the Polish government.

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