It is now assumed that there is no country in the world where at least one Pole would not live. The reasons for migration over the centuries have been very different, from economic, family to political ones. However, there are almost as many Poles living abroad as in Poland. The most Poles – over 10 million – live in the USA. The United States is still one of the main destinations for emigrants. Due to personal and frequently legal reasons, it is necessary to obtain an official confirmation of Polish citizenship. One of the conditions for a Polish court to have jurisdiction in both civil and criminal cases is to state that the party to proceedings has Polish citizenship. This problem is often faced by participants of inheritance proceedings in Poland, where the testator went abroad many years ago and died there.  

In this case, the court must determine whether the testator has lost Polish citizenship as a result of e.g. taking up service in the armed forces of a foreign country. The rules for acquiring and losing Polish citizenship are specified in the Polish Citizenship Act of  April 2, 2009 (Journal of Laws of 2012, item 161). Polish citizenship is acquired by virtue of law, by granting Polish citizenship, by restoring Polish citizenship or by being recognized as a Polish citizen.

Under the applicable laws, Polish citizenship is acquired, inter alia, by a minor child of whom at least one of the parents was a Polish citizen at the time of his or her birth. Most frequently, this is the basis for applications for confirmation of Polish citizenship by children of a Polish citizen or Polish citizens born abroad and holding a foreign birth certificate. Importantly, foreign vital records, including those from the USA, often require additional supplements and statements in the procedure of confirming Polish citizenship as they contain less information compared to Polish vital records. Moreover, by virtue of law, Polish citizenship is acquired by minors born in Poland when their parents are unknown or have no citizenship, as well as by a foreigner adopted before the age of 16 by a Polish citizen.

Based on blood ties, a person whose ancestors were Polish citizens may be considered to be of Polish origin, which in turn opens the way to the acquisition of Polish citizenship at a later date. The recognition of Polish origin may be obtained by a person declaring Polish nationality, whose parents, grandparents or two great-grandparents were Polish citizens, and who shows a connection with Poland. Obtaining a confirmation of Polish origin enables such person to receive the Pole’s Card and a permanent residence permit. After a period of three years of uninterrupted stay in Poland, a foreigner who holds a permanent residence permit, has a stable and regular source of income and a legal title to the premises, may also apply for recognition as a Polish citizen. Polish citizenship may also be granted by the President.

A person applying to the President for Polish citizenship does not have to meet any specific requirements. The President’s decision is not restricted, hence the President may grant citizenship to a foreigner at his or her own discretion. The Polish Citizenship Act is assumed to seek to regulate the situation of persons who have settled legally and permanently in Poland.

Therefore, it defines reasons for recognizing as Polish citizens persons residing in Poland for a certain period of time on the basis of a permanent residence permit, a long-term EU-resident permit, spouses of Polish citizens, as well as minor children whose parent resides in Poland on the basis of a permanent residence permit or a long-term EU-resident permit. Adults are also required to adequately know the Polish language.

The restoration of Polish citizenship may be requested by persons who previously held Polish citizenship but lost it before January 1, 1999. A relevant application, including documentation confirming the identity of the person and the circumstances of the loss of Polish citizenship, may be submitted to the Minister of Internal Affairs directly or through the consul of the Republic of Poland competent for the place of residence.

Polish citizenship may also be applied for by persons of Polish descent who before January 1,  2001 resided in territories of the present Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the Republic of Uzbekistan or the Asian part of the Russian Federation.

The detailed rules for acquiring citizenship by the aforesaid group of persons are specified in the Repatriation Act of November 9, 2000 (Journal of Laws of 2014, item 1392, as amended) that provide for the rules for acquiring Polish citizenship by repatriation, a repatriate’s rights, as well as the rules and procedure of providing assistance to repatriates.

attorney-at-law Jarosław Kurpiejewski

Warsaw office: biuro@ilaszlawfirm.com

New York office: office@ilaszlawfirm.com