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How to Retire in Poland: Costs, Visas and More

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For those exploring retirement abroad, Poland has plenty to offer the budget-savvy retiree. Poland is a relatively low-cost retirement destination when compared with some of its European nation neighbors, even in its capital, Warsaw. You’ll find that the country sits at centuries-old crossroads between Western and Eastern Europe, blending the best of their architectures, foods and cultures. If you’re looking to retire, speak to a financial advisor to help you create the right financial plan and start preparing now so that you can enjoy all that Poland has to offer.

Poland Cost of Living and Housing

The cost-of-living database Numbeo says that consumer prices in Poland are roughly 52.59% more affordable than in the U.S., when you exclude rent. If you look at rent alone, the cost of living in the eastern European country is 71% lower than in the U.S. This makes Poland an attractive destination for American retirees who are looking to cut spending and live off a pension comfortably.

For a specific comparison, let’s take a look at the Eastern European capital Warsaw, Poland’s most populous city. Rent in this capital is significantly lower than in New York City — 81.18% less. If you rent a one-bedroom apartment in Warsaw’s city center, you will pay approximately $679.76 each month. But if you rent a one-bedroom in New York City’s center, it will cost you roughly four times more at an average of $3,894.94.

Poland has a lot to offer, especially if you’re looking for a cost-effective place to retire compared to the United States. In order to make the move, you should take other costs into consideration and make sure you can qualify for a visa.

Retire in Poland: Visas and Residence Permit

U.S. citizens are allowed visa-free entry into Poland for up to 90 days. But to become a legal resident in the Eastern European country, you will have to contact a Polish consulate in the U.S. to apply for a temporary or flat residence permit. You may have to show proof of sufficient funds to support your stay, so make sure that all of your documentation is in order.

When your residency permit has been approved, you’ll receive a residency card that will help you find housing and pay your taxes. The first residence permit’s lifespan is only up to three years, but it can be renewed for longer periods.

Once you’ve lived in Poland for about five years, you will have the opportunity to pursue a permanent residence. This comes with two conditions: stable income and property you either rent or own, where you must be living. Your permanent residence card then has to be renewed every 10 years.

Keep in mind that you will have to pay some base processing fees for your permit application, and they depend on the type. So, prepare to pay upwards of $120 or more for yours.

Healthcare in Poland

Article 68 in Poland’s constitution guarantees free medical care and hospital stay for all of its citizens. The eastern European country’s health service is financed through a national health fund, and American retirees could join that fund to get emergency care and coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Many Polish citizens use private insurance to supplement their public health care coverage. While Poland’s public facilities have more treatment options than their private health center counterparts, private insurance allows covered individuals to sometimes get medical appointments and treatments faster.

Expats will have to obtain a personal identification number (PESEL) before they can apply for public health insurance. And they should also consider looking into private medical insurance to get the most comprehensive coverage for their health needs.

Poland’s Taxes

Like many European countries, Poland has different income tax regulations based on your residency status. Those who are naturalized are taxed on their worldwide income, whereas non-residents are only taxed on income earned from solely Polish sources. So, if your employer is not a Polish resident, you are not subject to income tax.

However, you can expect to pay a flat-rate tax for approximately 20% of your revenue during the first 183 days of the tax year in Poland. After you have resided in the country longer than six months, you will be subject to the same progressive tax rates as a resident, ranging between 18% and 32%.

Note that even when you’ve paid your taxes accordingly to your residence status in Poland, you will still have to file a U.S. tax return.

Is Poland Safe?

The U.S. Department of State says that Poland has a low crime level. This implies that both citizens and foreign nationals can live and travel in the Eastern European country with relative safety. General precautions are advised, as in other countries, to avoid crimes that as infrequent as they may be could target tourists or western expats. You should also note that crime in Poland is still significantly lower than in the U.S., and the public healthcare system can be a valuable safety net for unexpected travel injuries and other physical accidents.

The Bottom Line

Poland is one of Europe’s most affordable retirement destinations, and it keeps up with neighboring nations in healthcare and culture. Expats will find the Eastern European country both safe and comfortable, easy to travel throughout and one in which they can enjoy a slower pace of life while remaining very connected with nature. If you can work it into your retirement budget then it could be the right place for you.

Tips to Help You Afford Retirement

  • If you have the option to move abroad for retirement, a financial advisor can help you understand all the moving parts of relocation, including the tax implications. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • You could comfortably retire in Poland, even in its capital, with an average Social Security income of $1,500 per month. For some, the value of your Social Security benefit can cover your cost of living depending on the area you settle in. Use SmartAsset’s Social Security calculator to estimate your benefit amount.
  • Whether you want to retire comfortably abroad or in the U.S., both an IRA or a 401(k) plan will offer you tax benefits, and help you grow your retirement savings with compound interest.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Marcus Lindstrom, ©iStock.com/udmurd_PL, ©iStock.com/PIKSEL

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