Located on the eastern side of Europe, and with a Baltic Sea coastline, Poland is one of the most populated countries in the European Union with around 38 million inhabitants. Land-locked on three sides, the climate is described as temperate with no real extremes of temperature in winter or summer although winters can be severe on occasion.
Conquered, captured and divided throughout history, Poland was settled by Polans, a west Slavic tribe, in early medieval times from which modern Poland derives its name. Partitioned for centuries, the country only regained independence in 1918 before, once again, being conquered by the invading German army in 1939, marking the onset of World War II.
Once a communist bloc country, the Poland of today is a parliamentary republic and rates as the sixth-largest economy in the EU. The country boasts a universal health care system and free university education for its citizens.
A member of United Nations and NATO, Poland joined the European Union in 2004 although the country did not adopt the euro but retained its own currency: the zloty. Entry into the EU saw Poland experience an almost immediate surge in tourism. Three years later, in 2007, Poland also signed the Schengen Agreement and enforces the Schengen rules and regulations as they pertain to visiting non-nationals.
Approximately 20 million visitors arrive in Poland every year, many of them tourists on a short holiday. However, tourism is not the only reason for visiting Poland and intending visitors should make themselves aware of the conditions of entry.
As Poland is in the EU and Schengen, citizens of fellow members of both bodies require nothing more than a valid passport. The same applies to citizens of around sixty other countries around the world who have a visa-exemption agreement with the European Union. Visa-exempt countries include Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and still includes the United Kingdom despite that country’s recent exit from the European Union.
Citizens of countries who do not qualify for visa-free travel are designated as “world travellers” and must apply for, and receive, a Schengen Visa before undertaking any trip to Poland. There are a number of set visa types to choose from, each for a different purpose and it is vital that world travellers apply for the type of visa that best describes the main purpose for the visit.
Matching Schengen Visa to Purpose
There are a range of Schengen Visa types to choose from regardless of which Schengen country is being visited. Polish authorities require that visiting world travellers possess a current passport and the correct form of visa. The appropriate form of visa will depend solely on the main reason for visiting Poland. Each type of visa will require the applicant to supply certain documentation in support of the application.
The most common types of Schengen Visa for Poland include:
World travellers passing through Poland and only using an airport to make a connecting flight require an Airport Transit Visa.
- Flight tickets for destination country
- Visa for destination country (if required)
Mainly applicable to seamen and ship crew members, a Transit Visa is the maritime equivalent of an Airport Transit Visa.
- Original (and copy) of Seaman’s Book
- Visa for destination country (if applicable)
- Boat tickets for onward journey
- Invitation letter from shipping company concerned (seamen only)
- Letter of employment from shipping company (seamen only)
World travellers visiting Poland for a short holiday should possess a Tourist Visa which also covers short trips into neighbouring Schengen countries.
- Proof of adequate funding for the visit (six months bank statements)
- Proposed travel itinerary while in Poland
- Proof of adequate health insurance coverage
- Copies of hotel or accommodation bookings
- Return air or sea travel tickets
World travellers wishing to visit friends or relatives residing in Poland should apply for a Visitor Visa rather than a Tourist Visa.
- Written invitation from the friend or relative in Poland
- Details of how expenses for the visit will be covered
- Details of entry and exit dates from Poland
- Copy of Polish resident’s passport or National ID card (resident’s visa or residency permit if not a Polish or EU citizen)
- Note: A copy of the invitation should be registered with Polish authorities.
A Business Visa for Poland is easier to obtain than most other types of visa and quicker to process. Whether attending a meeting, conference or any business-related gathering, a world traveller should possess this form of visa.
- Employer’s letter detailing the purpose of the visit
- Letter of invitation from the Polish business concerned (with business name, address and contact details)
- Dates of entry into, and exit from, Poland
- Proof of sufficient funds to cover accommodation and expenses while in Poland
- Detailed outline of the event, meeting, type of business scheduled
All world travellers wishing to study in Poland, or carry out an internship, for a period of less than ninety days should possess a Study Visa for this purpose. Longer courses (e.g. full university course) require a longer term student visa.
- Letter of acceptance from the Polish educational institution concerned
- An internship agreement from the Polish company (if applicable)
- It may also be necessary for intending students to supply a letter of No Objection from any current educational centre being attended in the applicant’s home country stating the student will leave Poland at the end of the specified course.
World travellers who require a medical procedure or treatment in Poland must have a Medical Visa to cover the duration of the stay.
- Applicant’s medical report
- Proof of appointment with a Polish hospital or clinic giving dates and details of treatment
- Proof of payment, or payment plan, for the surgery or treatment scheduled
The above are the main types of Schengen Visa issued by Polish authorities. There are others available including visas for cultural, artistic, sporting or religious purposes. In addition there are special types of visas for non-national spouses of Polish citizens, members of official visiting delegations and world travellers arriving with children will need additional documentation in order to process their visas.
As can be seen, there is a wide spectrum of Schengen Visa types which is why it is important to scrutinise what is available before simply opting for a Tourist Visa. While this is the type of visa that most world travellers will require it is not necessarily the best option.
Arriving in Poland to undergo medical treatment or attend a course with a Tourist Visa will inevitably cause problems with the authorities. Always choose the most suitable option and, if in doubt, do not hesitate to contact the nearest Polish embassy or consulate for advice and guidance.