Foreigners in Poland

Can a foreigner start a company in Poland?

June 23, 2022

Foreigners in Poland

What can Poland offer to foreign investors?

Poland has grown to be a country in which it is relatively easy for foreign citizens to register their own business. Joining the EU in 2004 opened the first doors to welcoming foreign capital by facilitating formalities, the pandemic with its accelerated digitalization of the public administration made it possible to handle most of the bureaucracy online. Moreover, there are several special economic zones offering tax credits and other benefits to new business owners. Even though Polish tax regulations are not as simple as our white and red flag, statistics show that in 2020, there were as many as 23,2 thousand foreign-owned companies, 41% of which are in the Mazovian  Voivodeship, controlling the capital worth 215,6 mln PLN and originating from 116 countries (*).

(*) “Economic activity of enterprises with foreign capital in 2020”, Statistics Poland (GUS), 21.12.2021, available here.

 

Can all foreigners open a company in Poland?

Theoretically yes, but for some, the way may not be as straightforward as registering a separate legal entity.
Foreigners are allowed to register business activity following the same path that is open to Polish citizens if they belong to either of these two groups:

  1. Citizens of EU or EFTA (European Free Trade Association) member states or citizens of countries such as the U.S.A. or Switzerland who have signed bilateral economic treaties with Poland.
  2. Foreigners who have a residence permit, long-time residence permit for EU citizens, temporary residence permit for students, or for a reunion with family. Similar regulations apply to refugees or individuals who have obtained the right to some form of international protection (e.g. humanitarian stay, “the Pole’s card” (“Karta Polaka”), temporary work permit).

 

Other foreigners who do not identify with any of the above can still operate in Poland in another form, a less direct one, though. If they already own a business in their native country, they may open a branch in Poland. Such a branch formally operates as an extension of the mother company and does not have a separate legal identity in Poland. However, it is subject to local tax and accounting regulations. One disadvantage of this scenario is its long registration process, which can take up to 2- 3 months.

Another option is to register a representative office, which is fairly easy to create – it only requires filing an official motion online. One thing to consider in this scenario is that the scope of activity of a representative office is limited to marketing an advertisement of the foreign branch on the Polish market, while still being subject to Polish accounting and tax regulations.

 

Do you need to be physically present in Poland to register a company?

In 2022, foreign citizens can register companies fully online by delegating a proxy (usually a lawyer or legal counsel). Apart from the registration process itself, there are other formalities to comply with, such as obtaining the personal identification number (PESEL) or opening company bank accounts.
While the first one can also be executed via a proxy, banks usually require physical presence at least once to submit a signature sample.

 

Who cannot open a company in Poland?

Even though Poland there is a constitutional principle of freedom of economic activity, there are several restrictions to opening a business.

  1. Certain fields of activity require a special concession, license, or permit (e.g. sale of alcohol)
    and obtaining the green light from the appropriate institution can be an obstacle to
    overcome first.
  2. Public functionaries listed here are banned from owning their own companies (mainly directors and high officials of publicly owned companies or banks, politicians, and members of the national administration).
  3. Minors (below 18 years of age).
  4. Individuals convicted of tax or economic crimes, at least 5 years after the event.
  5. Incapacitated individuals due to limitations set to their decision-making and, therefore, able to take business decisions.

 

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