PESEL, which stands for a Polish abbreviation of the Universal Electronic System for Registration of the Population, is a number given to every citizen of Poland at the moment they are registered with official authorities after their birth. Can it be acquired by a foreigner? And if so – how and what for?
PESEL for Polish citizens
Since 1979, all Polish citizens have been obliged to be entered into the official registry. Nowadays, each child gets its identification number at birth. Please bear in mind that it is not just a number – the system possesses all sorts of information, including the person’s and their parents’ full names, date and place of birth, gender, citizenship, birth certificate number, the registry it was given in, marital status, spouse name and their PESEL number (if applicable).
The number has always 11 digits and is built in a predefined way. The first 6 digits are your date of birth, so you can easily tell someone's birthday by looking at it. For instance, if you were born on May 30th, 1983, your PESEL number would start with 830530..... followed by 5 other digits.
PESEL for foreigners
How does it work with foreign citizens coming to Poland? Apparently, you are granted your PESEL number ex officio only in the following circumstances:
- If you have a residence permit based on the fact that you are an EU citizen, EFTA national or a Swiss citizen;
- If you are a family member of an individual described above;
- If you have been granted a permanent residence permit in Poland;
- If you have an EU long-term residence permit;
- If you have a refugee status;
- If you have been granted subsidiary protection, temporary protection or asylum in Poland;
- If you have a tolerated stay permit;
- If you have a consent to stay in Poland due to humanitarian reasons.
In other cases, you have to apply for a PESEL number yourself. This means that visa holders and temporary residents do not get their PESEL automatically, as it would happen in the past if their stay was long enough. Moreover, foreigners applying for the identification themselves are obliged to provide a specific regulation in the Polish law that requires them to have this number. This can refer to e.g. getting your driving licence or social security insurance.
How to get PESEL number?
The process is quite simple. If you are sure that you are in need of your PESEL number, fill in this application form. Please remember to bring along your travel documents (passport, visa etc.). The authority responsible for granting PESEL numbers is your relevant gmina office (Polish equivalent of a borough). It is free of charge and most people manage to receive their identification number at one go.
You need to remember that as a foreigner you do not always need to obtain your PESEL number. Sometimes, providing the details of your passport is enough for Polish authorities. When asked for your PESEL, always identify the legal basis of this request - if it appears that there is none, you do not need to worry about obtaining it. If there is one - you have an easier task while validating your PESEL application request. Fingers crossed that all goes smoothly!