Who is entitled to international protection and what are its types?

An individual, who’s fled their country of origin due to repressions and persecutions and can no longer use protection of that country, can try to receive international protection in Poland.

There are two types of international protection: refugee status and subsidiary protection. Upon receiving one of these, an individual is granted the same rights and privileges as a person with a temporary residence permit. It includes, but is not limited to: residency, access to jobs (employment permission isn’t required), access to social services, government-based medical services and permission to cross country borders on the basis of a travel document.

Moreover, an individual who has received a refugee status or subsidiary protection has a right to support in integration, financial aid for day-to-day expenses, aid in learning polish and stay at protected housing.

5 years past the date of submitting an international support application on the basis of which it’s been granted, the foreigner receives a right to try to get a permanent residence permit.

Refugee status (status uchodźcy)

Refugee status is one the two types of international protection in Poland. It can be granted to a person who cannot or does not want to use the protection of their country of origin because of their justified concern of repercussions due to their:

  • race,
  • religion,
  • nationality,
  • political beliefs,
  • belonging to a certain social group.

Repercussions are defined as the violation of human rights, e.g. torture, slavery or violation of one’s right to life. It can be a single event or a cumulation of many actions and neglects.

When an individual receives refugee status they get a residence card (karta pobytu) which is an identity document, and a Geneva Travel Document (paszport genewski) on the basis of which they can cross country borders.

The refugee status does not have an expiration date, however, it can be taken away if certain events take place. These events are as follows:

  • accepting the protection of the country of origin anew (a person goes back to where they’ve fled, take back lost citizenship, etc),
  • receiving a citizenship of a country other than Poland or country of origin,
  • change in the circumstances which led to the refugee status receival so that the return to the country of origin is no longer a threat,
  • circumstances which led to the refugee status receival turn out to be fake,
  • a person with a refugee status commits a crime against peace or humanity, a war crime, or violates the decisions of the United Nations.

Subsidiary protection

This type of protection can be granted to an individual, when the conditions for receiving a refugee status aren’t met, but the return to the country or origin would put the individual at risk or real and serious harm, eg.:

  • a death penalty or execution,
  • torture, inhumane or degrading treatment, punishment,
  • serious individualized threat to one’s life or health due to a common practice of violence towards the civilians in a situation of internal or international armed conflict.

When an individual is granted subsidiary protection, they receive a residence card (karta pobytu) and keep the passport of the country of origin.

Similarly to the refugee status, subsidiary support has no expiration date, but can be taken away if:

  • the circumstances which led to receiving subsidiary protection change and the return to the country of origin is no longer a threat,
  • a person with a subsidiary protection commits a crime against peace or humanity, a war crime, or violates the decisions of the United Nations,
  • a person with a subsidiary protection commits a crime (in terms of the Polish law) or becomes a threat to the peace or community,
  • information provided by the individual during the international protection procedure turns out to be fake or incomplete.

Individual Integration Program (Indywidualny Program Integracji, IPI)

Individual Integration Program has a goal of supporting a person with international protection throughout their adaptation in Poland. This support that this program offers is as follows:

  • financial aid for living expenses (it mainly includes food), clothings, shoes, hygiene products and housing, and for learning Polish,
  • payment of the health insurance bills (grants access to government health services),
  • social services, specialized counselling (lawyers, psychological, family)
  • informational services (eg. how to get in touch with Polish administrative organs).

Every foreigner who has received international protection in Poland is entitled to IPI. In order to recruit in the program, you need to submit an application to the Head/Governor (Starosta) via a regional help center for families (powiatowy centrum pomocy rodzinie). You need to do this no later than 60 days after receiving the decision. The program starts the same month an application is submitted, and lasts up to 12 months.

Residence at the protected housing (Pobyt w mieszkaniu chronionym)

Residence at the protected housing is a form of social service that aims at helping individuals learn independence in terms of day-to-day living (training protected housing) or to support an individual incapable of independence in their day-to-day living (assisted protected housing). In a protected housing program, an individual is granted housing, house maintenance, learning, as well as nurse, psychologist and social worker’s assistance. 

An application for protected housing can be submitted to a social worker. Every case is considered individually. Residence at the protected housing is a form of temporary support, and it can be as short as a week. Only in certain circumstances the protected housing can be granted as a permanent support. Important! Residence at the protected housing is paid, and the fee is dependent on one’s income.

Get it done with us!

Do you need help submitting an application for IPI? Do you have questions about your rights as a foreigner? Maybe you need support getting an id card or a passport after receiving the decision? Contact CPC!

In the time of coronavirus, our Help Center for Foreigners will help you remotely! Send an e-mail to: [email protected] and briefly describe your problem. If you want us to contact you quickly, you can also send us your phone number – it will make communication easier and shorten the waiting time for our response.


The assistance we provide is free of charge. However, please note that we do not provide technical support for websites and services nor do we mediate contact with administrative organs.

Click HERE for more guidance on living in Poland and forms of help available in the Help Center for Foreigners.