Polish immigration puzzles in the light of visa policy

Izabela Grabowska-Lusińska


Immigration to Poland is puzzling. Not only because the share of documented labour migrants is estimated as being between 0.07 to 0.55 per cent of the working population and seems to be somewhat insignificant to the economy, but also because the size of inflow is highly differentiated seasonally and not always captured well in the statistics. This is also true for undocumented immigrants, where, although the numbers are estimated to be higher than those of documented immigrants, they are even more differentiated and oscillate between 0.4 to 3.5 per cent of the working population (Górny et al. 2010). This also means that Poland has the lowest shares of migrant economic participation among the countries of the European Union (European Commission 2009).

However, this is not the entire picture of immigration to Poland. When one takes into account seasonal migration of up to six months, which can add up to approximately 180,000 foreign workers who pass through the Polish labour market annually, it can then be said that the claim that immigration to Poland is so insignificant is untrue and that it is worth further consideration. Moreover, it is important to note that not all immigrants come to Poland for work-related reasons. Among the foreigners officially registered in Poland at the time of the last Population Census, which took place in 2002, 26 per cent had immigrated to obtain employment, another 20 per cent had done so for education-related reasons and the largest group had migrated to Poland for family reasons. This means that, although labour migration forms an important part of the inflow to Poland, it is not the predominant component for the immigrant population officially residing in Poland (Grabowska-Lusińska 2010a).

The above mishmash of puzzling arguments creates the grounds for the analysis presented in this chapter, the aim of which is twofold. First, it will identify and diagnose some of these immigration puzzles, with a specific focus on the socio-economic aspect of immigration to Poland. Second, it will try to find rational arguments to explain these puzzles. It is also important to note that the analysis will be conducted with a particular focus on ‘the visa policy factor’. This means that visa policy does not constitute the primary topic of discussion here, but will be treated as a crucial context to the analysis of the inflow of immigrants to Poland.

The chapter begins with an introductory picture of immigration to Poland in the light of  visa policy. This section contains the general characteristics of immigrant inflow to Poland throughout the course of the country’s political and economic transition, including the Schengen enlargement, one of the key historical points for Polish visa policy. Its purpose is a brief presentation of not only the scale, but also the dynamics and socio-economic structure of immigration to Poland, including the characteristics of the inflow as based on visa statistics.

The following section commences the analysis of the aforementioned puzzles relating to immigration to Poland and will question the country’s ‘immigration pulling power’ both from the perspective of economic performance and from the perspective of migration policy. This is Puzzle 1. This part will also question visa policy as a factor of  Poland’s ‘immigration pulling power’, using the previously presented statistical picture as a basis.

The subsequent part deepens the analysis of Poland’s attractiveness and considers the next puzzle by questioning whether the Polish economy needs immigrant workers. This gives us Puzzle 2. This section relates to the scale and structure of demand for foreign workers in Poland and the behaviour patterns of the employers who create these economic needs.

The final puzzle is the ‘wrapping up’ of this portrait of immigration to Poland and the two puzzles concerning Poland’s immigration attractiveness from the economic and migration policy perspectives. It relates to the basic question in respect of the country’s migration status and therein we have Puzzle 3.

Author Izabela Grabowska-Lusińska (Wydział Nauk Humanistycznych i Społecznych)
Izabela Grabowska-Lusińska,,
- Wydział Nauk Humanistycznych i Społecznych
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Book Lesińska Magdalena, Matejko Ewa, Wasilewska Olga (eds.): Migrations from Eastern European countries to the European Union in the context of visa policy, vol. Migrations from Eastern European countries to the European Union, 2012, Fundacja im. Stefana Batorego
Languageen angielski
BATORY-final.pdf of 14-09-2015
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