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  • Writer's pictureElzbieta M Gozdziak

Globalized World, Mobility, and Polish Bureaucracy

After 30+ years of living and working in the United States, this summer I came back to Europe and to my native Poland to assume two posts: a Visiting Professorship at my alma mater, the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, and a research position at OsloMet University in Norway.

In the globalized world where people are constantly on the move, working in more than one country is nothing extraordinary. There are bilateral agreements between different countries that protect mobile workers from double taxation and payments into multiple social security schemes. Norway and Poland have such agreements. Thus, my Norwegian employer asked for proof that I pay into the social security system in Poland. This way I would not have to pay 43 percent of my Norwegian salary into the social security system in Norway. The human resources department sent me a link to an appropriate Polish website instructing me how to apply for the appropriate form. Seems easy, right? Go to the website, fill out a form, and you are done! Not so fast....

And thus began the saga of form A1! Per Polish regulations, form A1 is issued to three categories of workers:

1. Polish citizen employed in Poland and send by her Polish employer on what we in the United States call detail to another country;

2. Polish citizen who has a private business in Poland and wants to move it to a different country; and

3. Polish citizen who wants to open a private business in a foreign country.

Obviously, I do not fit into any of these categories! My relationship to my Norwegian employer is that of an independent researcher, not an employee of a Polish university sent to perform her work in Norway. And I certainly do not have a private business or intend to establish one!

Not able to do anything online, I called the Social Security office to seek advice. After talking to three different clerks, I finally got transferred to someone who actually knew what I needed. She told me to come to the office with copies of both of my employment contracts--with OsloMet and Adam Mickiewicz Universities--to fill out an application for form A1. This was in early June ... I was not yet employed by AMU; my contract with the university in Poznan did not start until July 1. The nice clerk said I would have to wait until I sign my second contract and come to the office in July.

I went to the Social Security Office in early July for the first time and was given a bunch of forms to be filled out by hand in triplicate.

I dutifully filled out all the documents and dropped them of at the appropriate office where I was told that it would take seven working days for form A1 to be issued. This morning I got a call to come back because "my forms do not make sense."

The clerk first wanted to know why the application was not sent by my Polish employer since--in her imagination--they are sending me to Norway to conduct field research. I explained patiently that her assumption could not be further from the truth: I am working in Norway as an independent researcher, not as an employee of the Adam Mickiewicz University. After this piece of information finally sunk in, the clark remarked: Well, you do not really fall under the usual categories of people who ask for form A1 and I suggest you go back home and write a nice, long, and detailed addendum to your application explaining your various working arrangements. Come back tomorrow to file your application again.

As an afterthought, she added that she was not sure I could get form A1 for the duration of my employment at OsloMet, because they usually issue the form for 12 months at a time. But she assured me that I could always reapply for another 12-months period.

In the meantime, I am looking into the mirror to see if I have become Joseph K yet... The whole endeavor is truly Kafkaesque....

I hope getting proof that I pay taxes in Poland will be easier.... Who am I kidding?

Stay tuned for more adventures of a mobile citizen and worker of multiple countries ...

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