Education and healthcare for foreign nationals in Poland
Foreigners considering relocating to Poland for the short or long term, or even resettling to live and work here permanently – also with children – face questions and raise concerns about the model of education and the standard of medical care in the country.
Poland has a highly developed system of high-quality public and private educational institutions, from preschools through universities. Schools where instruction is provided in a foreign language are also available, particularly in Warsaw and other major cities.
Private schools set their own tuition and enrolment requirements, typically without any citizenship restrictions. Compared to most other countries in Europe, fees in Polish private schools are fairly low.
Education in public schools is generally free for Polish and foreign citizens. Tuition is charged at preschools.
The Polish education system has:
- Eight grades of elementary school, with first grade beginning at age 7 (or 6 at the parents’ request)
- Four or five grades of secondary school (depending on type) or three grades of vocational school.
Children who are not Polish citizens but reside in Poland can and must enrol in regular public schools under the same rules as Polish children. Foreign children are assigned to the proper grade on the basis of a certificate or other acceptable document confirming completion of a relevant level of education abroad. If such documents are not available, a placement interview may be conducted by the school principal or teachers. If the child does not speak Polish, arrangements are made for the placement interview to be conducted through an interpreter. Upon consent of the competent authorities, a school may hire a cultural assistant for children who do not speak Polish at a sufficient level, to help them grasp the educational material.
As for higher education, certain types of foreigners are entitled to study in Poland on the same basis as Polish citizens at public universities – generally free of charge. They include citizens of other EU, EEA or EFTA countries, and their family members, as well as holders of a Pole’s Card (Karta Polaka) or a permanent, temporary (due to special circumstances) or long-term EU residence permit.
Other foreigners may study in Poland under the rules set out by a treaty or other agreement signed with a foreign institution pursuant to a decision of the Minister of Science and Higher Education, or pursuant to a decision of the president of the Polish host institution. These students may have to pay tuition to study in Poland, or may study free of charge under a scholarship granted by the state, their home institution abroad, or the Polish host institution.
High-quality healthcare, both public and private, is available throughout Poland.
Visitors from outside the EU must pay for medical care in Poland. Citizens of most countries from outside the EEA who are required to obtain a visa must present evidence of health insurance protection with minimum coverage of EUR 30,000 (c. USD 35,000).
Persons entitled to receive public healthcare under the EU’s coordination regulations are entitled to free public healthcare services during their stay in Poland. They should obtain a European Health Insurance Card before entering Poland.
Emergency medical services are always provided, regardless of whether the patient has health insurance and regardless of citizenship.
For specialised outpatient treatment, as a general rule it is necessary to obtain a referral from a general practitioner. A referral is not required for example for treatment by a dentist, oncologist or psychiatrist, for persons suffering from tuberculosis, or in case of an accident or sudden illness.
Aleksandra Wójcik, Employment & Global Mobility practice, Wardyński & Partners