Polish nationality law

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Flag of Poland with the coat of arms – as applied by state authorities and in diplomacy

Polish nationality law is based primarily on the principle of jus sanguinis. Children born to at least one Polish parent acquire Polish citizenship irrespective of place of birth.

A person marrying a Polish citizen does not acquire Polish citizenship.

Citizenship by birth[edit]

Polish passport – issued to Polish citizens to travel outside Poland (except for the EU)

A child born to a Polish parent is a Polish citizen at birth. This applies whether the child is born in Poland or elsewhere.

Children born or found in Poland acquire Polish citizenship when both parents are unknown, or when their citizenship cannot be established, or if determined to be stateless. Polish citizenship is bestowed upon stateless children over sixteen years of age only with their consent.[1]

Citizenship by naturalisation[edit]

The current law is the Polish Citizenship Act of 2 April 2009,[2] which was published on 14 February 2012, and became law in its entirety on 15 August 2012.

According to this act, a foreigner may acquire Polish citizenship in the following ways:

  1. By granting. This category allows the President of Poland to grant Polish citizenship to any foreigner who asks for it.
  2. By recognition. A foreigner is recognized as Polish, if they ask for it, know the Polish language, are not a security risk, and meet one of the following criteria:
    • Lived in Poland for the last 3 years as a permanent resident, and have a stable and regular source of income, and own or rent an apartment or house.
    • Lived in Poland, legally, for the last 10 years, and currently have a permanent resident status, and have a stable and regular source of income, and own or rent an apartment or house.
    • Lived in Poland for the last 2 years as a permanent resident, and have been married to a Polish citizen for the last 3 years.
    • Lived in Poland for the last 2 years as a permanent resident, and are stateless.
    • Lived in Poland for the last 2 years as a refugee.
    • Lived in Poland for the last 2 years as a repatriate.
  3. By restoration. Applies to people who lost Polish citizenship before 1 January 1999.

Citizenship by descent[edit]

Citizenship can generally be claimed only by descendants of Polish citizens. However, because the newly independent Poland comprised lands from Germany, Russia, and Austia-Hungary, who became a Polish citizen was unclear. The Polish Citizenship Act of 1920 referred back to the residency laws of these former states, and also "international treaties". Polish Citizenship Act of 1920, Article 2 Those without a right to Polish citizenship were considered to have only "Polish origins" but not citizenship. Polish Citizenship Act of 1920, Article 2a Thus, not all ethnic Poles could claim Polish citizenship if they had left Poland before the country became an independent state in 1918. Also, there can be no break in Polish citizenship between the emigrant ancestor and the descendant. If the applicant's ancestor lost Polish citizenship, such as by becoming a citizen of another country before 1951, the descendant did not inherit Polish citizenship through that ancestor. Application for "Confirmation of Possession or Loss of Polish Citizenship" can be made through Polish embassies or consulates abroad.[3]

Polish migrants before 1962[edit]

Special rules exist concerning the acquisition and loss of Polish citizenship before 1962:

  • Between 1918 and 1951, acquisition of another citizenship caused the loss of Polish citizenship. Polish citizenship was also lost through service in another country's military or acceptance of a "public office" in another country.
  • In 1951,[4] Poland revoked its citizenship for all inhabitants (including ethnic Poles) of the former Polish territories east of the Curzon line that had been annexed by the Soviet Union in 1945. Those individuals had been naturalized as Soviet citizens and later, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, acquired the citizenship of one of the resulting countries: Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, or Russia. Polish citizenship was also revoked for citizens of Germany who were residing outside Poland, unless they had a Polish spouse who was resident in Poland.
  • Polish citizens who emigrated to Israel between 1958 and 1984, and who normally became Israeli citizens on arrival (based on the Israeli "Law of Return" for those of Jewish descent), lost Polish citizenship automatically. They and their descendants may be eligible to acquire Polish citizenship by declaration.

Loss of Polish citizenship[edit]

Since 1962, Polish law (including the Constitution) does not allow the government to revoke someone's citizenship. Renunciation of Polish citizenship requires a petition with extensive supporting documentation subject to the approval of the President of Poland.[5] Administrative processing of the petition can take up to several years and the President's decision is final and cannot be appealed in court.

Starting in 1968, the former communist regime initiated an anti-Semitic campaign that forced out of Poland from 15,000 to 20,000 Polish Jews, who were stripped of their Polish citizenship.[6]

Their Polish passports confiscated, replaced with a ‘travel document’ that did not allow them to return, and their properties expropriated by the state, the mostly Holocaust survivors and their children emigrated to Israel, the United States, Denmark and Sweden.

The High Court in Warsaw accepted a petition filed by Baruch-Natan Yagil, who was forced to leave Poland in 1968, and ruled that the Polish government erred in revoking the plaintiff's citizenship, and should restore it, and issue him a Polish passport.

During a 2006 visit to Israel, President Lech Kaczynski promised to restore Polish citizenship. No blanket legislation covering the issue exists, but Jews and Israelis who were invited to Warsaw to mark the 40th anniversary of Poland's purging of the Jews on March 8, 1968, will be given back the Polish citizenship.

Dual citizenship[edit]

Polish law does not explicitly allow dual citizenship, but possession of another citizenship is tolerated since there are no penalties for its possession alone.[7] However, penalties do exist for exercising foreign citizenship, such as identifying oneself to Polish authorities using a foreign identification document. Serving in a foreign military does not require permission of Polish military authorities, if the person resides in that foreign country and has its citizenship.[8]

Poland treats nationals of other countries whom it considers Polish citizens as if they were solely Polish. Because Polish citizenship is determined by the citizenship of a Polish parent - without any explicit limitation for the number of generations elapsed abroad for descendants of Polish emigrants - this may create problems for individuals of Polish descent born abroad who, in spite of having no ties to Poland, are nevertheless subject to all obligations of Polish citizenship, formerly including military service (Poland suspended compulsory military service on December 5, 2008 by the order of the Minister of Defence and compulsory military service was formally abolished when the Polish parliament amended conscription law on January 9, 2009; the law came into effect on February 11.). In addition, such individuals are not entitled to consular protection of their home country under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The only exception is when a bilateral consular agreement calls for recognition of the expatriate citizenship, regardless of the allegations of Polish citizenship raised by Poland. Such an agreement was negotiated in the 1972 Consular Convention between the United States and Poland[9] providing that:

"Persons entering the Republic of Poland for temporary visits on the basis of United States passports containing Polish entry visas will, in the period for which temporary visitor status has been accorded (in conformity with the visa's validity), be considered United States citizens by the appropriate Polish authorities for the purpose of ensuring the consular protection provided for in Article 29 of the Convention and the right of departure without further documentation, regardless of whether they may possess the citizenship of the Republic of Poland."

However, since Poland abolished visa requirements for United States citizens in 1991, this provision no longer applies.

The problems resulting for members of the Polish diaspora, Polonia, from being treated by Poland solely as Polish citizens are compounded by the difficulty to renounce Polish citizenship (see above).

Poland has been enforcing with varying stringency its claims to citizenship allegiance from descendants of Polish emigrants and from recent refugees from Polish Communism who became naturalized in other countries. Under a particularly strict enforcement policy, named by the Polish expatriate community the "passport trap", citizens of the United States, Canada, and Australia were prevented from leaving Poland until they obtain a Polish passport.[10] The governments of the United States and Canada have issued travel warnings for Poland, still in effect in February 2007, to those "who are or can be claimed as Polish citizens"[11] that they are required to "enter and exit Poland on a Polish passport" and will not be "allowed to leave Poland until a new Polish passport has been obtained".[7]

Travellers to Poland who have Polish ancestors are advised to obtain in writing a statement from a Polish Consulate as to whether or not they will face any obligations in Poland, such as military service, taxation, or the requirement to obtain a Polish passport.[10]

In December 2007 Poland established a Polish Charter which can grant some rights of Polish citizenship to people of Polish descent who do not have Polish citizenship and who reside in ex-USSR.[12]

Citizenship of the European Union[edit]

Polish citizens are also citizens of the European Union and thus enjoy rights of free movement and have the right to vote in elections for the European Parliament.

Notes and references[edit]

External links[edit]