Why confirm your Polish citizenship?
During the years we spent working on cases of applying for Polish citizenship, we could see two major reasons for trying to get one’s Polish citizenship confirmed.
The first reason is that a Polish passport equals an EU passport and having Polish citizenship and subsequently applying for a Polish passport means:
– open access to the EU work market
– smaller fees at the EU universities for the EU students
– shorter queues at the EU passport control.
The second reason was the emotional value attached to having back the citizenship of one’s ancestors.
How to confirm your Polish citizenship?
To successfully confirm Polish citizenship through one’s Polish ancestry, the following requirements have to be met:
1. Polish ancestors are obviously needed.
We need to be aware that until November 11th, 1918 there was no Poland on the map. When Poland was finally reinstated, the first law on Polish citizenship entered into force on January 31st, 1920. This law was granting Polish citizenship to those who met the following conditions:
– whoever lived in Poland (within its borders from 1920) and was registered in the books of inhabitants,
– whoever lived abroad and wanted to confirm their Polish citizenship (on the condition of resigning from their foreign citizenship),
– married women were getting the citizenship of their husbands,
– legitimate children were taking citizenship after the father, illegitimate after the mother (this rule was in force only until January 1951),
– there was a rule of single citizenship.
2. There should be no event of loss of Polish citizenship.
The law on Polish citizenship was very developed and has changed several times until today. Below are presented major events that would result in the loss of Polish citizenship:
– Unpermitted military service in a foreign army with the exception of military service in the Allied armies during World War 2.
– Naturalization in a foreign country with the exception of those who were in the age of military service in Poland.
– For women, a marriage with a foreigner.
– Working as a public functionary in a foreign country (ex. policeman, postman, teacher, priest, rabbi, etc.).
– Wives, and children under the age of 18, were losing Polish citizenship with the husband/father.
– Accepting citizenship of a different country.
– Children under 13 were losing their Polish citizenship with their parents.
– Living in the territories lost by Poland after World War 2 and being of Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, or German nationality.
– Choosing foreign citizenship for the children.
– Renouncing Polish citizenship in front of the Polish authorities.
– Children under 16 were also losing citizenship due to the above.
– Renouncing Polish citizenship in front of the Polish authorities.
These are the major points that we would like to highlight. They apply in most of the cases, however, the Polish citizenship law is much more complicated and every case needs to be carefully and individually analyzed.
3. You need to have documents that will confirm your eligibility.
What is always needed:
– the birth certificate of your Polish ancestor after whom you are confirming your Polish citizenship – the subsequent vital acts that prove your connection to your Polish ancestor.
– the proof that your ancestors had Polish citizenship – such as their Polish passport, military documents, entries in inhabitant books, notary documents, good conduct attestations, etc. Any kind of document issued in Poland can be valuable.
– documents confirming their emigration, such as ship manifests, etc.
– documents confirming the naturalization date of your ancestors or the lack of naturalization.
– more documents might be required by the Polish authorities depending on your specific case.
4. All the above requirements are met, am I sure to have my Polish citizenship confirmed?
One has to always be aware that the decision on citizenship confirmation is made based on a set of complicated laws and interpretation of the law can vary in different government offices. Also, the interpretation of the law by the court of justice tends to change from one case to another one (Poland does not use the common law system). Moreover, the office responsible for your case will make their own survey regarding your ancestors during which they may discover facts that you were not aware of.
Adam – a man born in Poland in 1896 in Tarnopol (today in Ukraine), married Jozefa in 1924, they emigrated to the US in 1930 with their four children born in Poland. Adam was naturalized in 1938 as an American. He was a salesman and did not enter military service in the US. Adam had four children born in Poland; his son Franciszek born in 1925 and three girls: Maria born in 1927 and twin girls Ewa and Anna born in 1929 in Poland. Two more boys were born in the US: Stanley in 1931 and Barney in 1934.
Adam should lose his Polish citizenship in 1938 when he was naturalized but he was in the age of military service in Poland so he was protected from the loss of citizenship until May 1950 when due to the changes in the military service age he lost his Polish citizenship together with his wife and their youngest son Barney who was younger than 18.
Adam’s oldest son Franciszek turned 18 in 1943. He joined the American army in 1944 and was dismissed from military service after World War 2. He kept his Polish citizenship as both his reserve and active duty were limited to the service in the army of an Allied country during World War 2. His descendants can confirm their Polish citizenship.
Adam’s oldest daughter Maria turned 18 in 1945 therefore before her father lost his Polish citizenship. However, Maria married in December 1950 an American citizen and, as a result, she lost her Polish citizenship. Her descendants cannot confirm their Polish citizenship.
Ewa and her twin sister Anna turned 18 in 1947, before the loss of Polish citizenship by their father. Ewa worked as a teacher from September 1950 and married an American in 1952. Working as a public functionary made Ewa lose her Polish citizenship in 1950. Her descendants cannot confirm their Polish citizenship.
Anna was also a teacher but she started her work only in 1952. She married an American citizen in 1953. As the loss of the Polish citizenship due to marriage was in force only till January 1951, Anna kept her Polish citizenship and she passed it on to her children and their descendants.
Stanley turned 18 in 1949, before the loss of Polish citizenship by his father. He worked in a grocery store and married an American citizen in 1950. His descendants can confirm their Polish citizenship.
Please note that your eligibility for the confirmation of your Polish citizenship depends on a much more complicated set of laws that were changing several times during the last 100 years. At the same time, the Polish borders were also changing. We have drawn the major lines to give you an idea of what you can expect. To check your eligibility for Polish citizenship you should always consult a specialist.
Is the confirmation of citizenship equal to obtaining a Polish passport?
It is a common confusion to mistake the confirmation of Polish citizenship with the Polish passport as a physical document. Once your Polish citizenship is confirmed, you will have to do the following steps to obtain your Polish passport:
– translate your birth/marriage record into a Polish vital record (this can be done through a Polish consulate)
– apply for the unique PESEL number (this can also be done through a Polish consulate)
– apply personally for your Polish passport through a Polish consulate in your country.
What if I’m not eligible for the confirmation of Polish citizenship?
If for any reason the citizenship confirmation will not be possible in your case, you still have two more options that you can consider:
1. The Polish Card (Karta Polaka) – applicable for those who have Polish ancestors, who are connected to Polish culture and heritage, and who speak at least basic Polish.
2. Recognition as a Polish citizen – applicable for those with Polish ancestry or Polish Card who are settled in Poland for at least a year based on a permanent residence permit.
Article prepared by Katarzyna Kasia Kacprzak for PolishOrigins’ clients