Obtain Polish Citizenship by Descent

Article Breakdown

Poland Passport Cover

If you are Polish or have Polish ancestry, you may be eligible for Polish citizenship by descent. In this article, we will discuss the process of obtaining Polish citizenship by descent, including the requirements and steps involved. We will also provide a few tips on how to make the process as smooth as possible. So if you are interested in obtaining Polish citizenship, keep reading!

Citizenship in Poland by Descent

Nearly ten million Americans could potentially claim Polish heritage. Most people who have Polish ancestors (parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents) qualify for Polish citizenship by descent.

In essence, you must have at least one ancestor who:

  • Was born in Poland (or a territory that was part of Poland at the time) and lived there after 1920; or
  • Left Poland before 1920 (but your ancestors’ residential address can be found in the Polish, Prussian, Russian, or Austro-Hungarian registers) and kept their Polish citizenship until the day of your birth.

A brief history of Polish citizenship by descent

Poland passed the Citizenship By Ancestry Act in 2004. Article 14 of the Polish Citizenship Act (unofficial English translation) states that a child will be granted Polish citizenship at birth if either of their parents is a Polish citizen at the time of their birth, regardless of where the kid is born.

These are the current rules. They used to be significantly different, as you will see below.

However, it is also possible to become Polish if your ancestors (those predating your parents) were Polish.

The new citizenship rules in Poland

The good news is that there are no rules dictating when your ancestor should have been born or when they should have left Poland. There is no limit to the number of generations that can exist between you and your Polish ancestor.

Furthermore, your ancestor does not have to have emigrated from modern-day Poland in order for you to qualify. Though they resided in a region that was part of Poland prior to WWII, that would also work, even if the territory has since been lost.

Ancestors could have been born outside of what is currently Poland

Poland's territorial gains and losses after WWII
Poland’s territorial gains and losses after WWII

Your ancestor didn’t even have to be a “genuine” Polish citizen. For example, if they were citizens of the Russian Empire, not Poland, if they were born and emigrated before 1918, when Poland was still a part of the Russian Empire.

In this situation, you might demonstrate that your ancestor was Polish by demonstrating that they were born in Warsaw, for example, and possibly paid taxes there. Be aware that the program requirements of providing the proof for these cases are difficult and perplexing.

On the negative side, the Polish Citizenship By Ancestry scheme differs from the majority of the other countries we’ve covered in our series thus far. To be honest, the clauses and circumstances are a bit overwhelming. As a result, it is critical that you consult with an expert who can rapidly analyze your odds of success before beginning.

If your ancestors lost Polish citizenship, you can’t claim it back

In Poland, you cannot claim the citizenship that your forefathers lost many years ago. To be eligible, you must demonstrate that the Polish citizenship link has never been broken down through generations.

Your ancestor’s Polish citizenship must have been passed down through the family until it reached you. So, technically, the Polish Citizenship By Ancestry program only confirms that you have always been a Polish citizen, even if you and your parents were unaware of it.

You do not claim it back, thus there is no language or history test. Naturally, this disqualifies many people whose Polish ancestors lost their Polish citizenship before passing it on to their children for one of the several reasons listed below.

Still, given the perks of having a Polish passport, it’s well worth looking into if you have Polish ancestors. Poland’s legislation embodies many of the idiosyncrasies of this period’s laws, which were influenced in large part by the threat of war. That is why some exclusions, while first sexist or nonsensical, finally make sense.

As previously stated, the date of birth of your Polish ancestor is not crucial, and they may have left Poland as early as the nineteenth century. However, if their child was born outside of Poland before 1920*, he or she would not be granted Polish citizenship at birth. As a result, the citizenship chain is broken, and you would not be eligible (*In the year 1920, the first Polish Citizenship Act was passed, making inheriting Polish citizenship possible.)

How do I know if my ancestors have lost Polish citizenship?

Another regulation worth noting, along with some good news, is that if your ancestor left Poland between 1920 and 1951 and naturalized in another country, they would have kept their Polish citizenship. Unless your ancestor actively surrendered their Polish citizenship (at a Polish consulate), they were still considered Polish citizens.

However, there are other problems to be aware of, as well as several ways in which your ancestor could have lost their Polish citizenship.

There are many intricacies to the application. It is strongly advised to hire the services of a Polish lawyer who is experienced with the ancestral citizenship program.

COVID has also influenced processing timelines. The estimated application period has now been quadrupled to six months, which is still very realistic.

Alternatives citizenship route: Poland Citizenship by Marriage

For this option you must be married to a Polish citizen for at least three years, have permanent presence in Poland for at least two years, and have knowledge of the Polish language in order to get Polish citizenship through marriage. To be eligible for a permanent resident permit, a foreigner must first receive a temporary resident permit based on marriage.

Final remarks

Applying for Polish ancestral citizenship will need a significant amount of research and work on your behalf, especially if you plan to accomplish it without professional assistance.

However, once you have your Polish passport, the effort will be well worth it. Furthermore, there will be no need to abandon your current citizenship(s), as Poland accepts dual citizenship without restrictions.

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