Polish nationality law

Polish nationality law
Herb Polski.svg

Polish nationality law is based upon the principles of jus sanguinis. Children born to Polish parents usually acquire citizenship irrespective of place of birth. Persons born in Poland to foreign parents do not normally become Polish citizens.

Polish law does not deal with the issue of dual citizenship. Therefore Poland will view a dual citizen as if he or she was solely Polish. Thus, Poland does not recognize the foreign citizenship of its nationals when they are on Polish soil.


Citizenship by birth

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

Where only one parent is Polish, and the child also acquires another citizenship at birth, Polish citizenship for the child can be disclaimed within 3 months of the child's birth.

Children born in Poland to foreign parents do not acquire Polish citizenship unless they would otherwise be stateless.[1]

Citizenship by naturalisation

A person may be naturalised as a Polish citizen after 5 years residence in Poland with a permanent residence permit. That person will most likely be required to renounce any other citizenship held.

Citizenship by descent

Citizenship can generally be claimed only by descendants of Polish citizens who left Poland after 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.[2]

Polish migrants before 1962

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[3], 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

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[4]. 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.[5]

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

The state flag of Poland as used by Polish government and diplomatic authorities

Polish law does not explicitly allow dual citizenship, but possession of another citizenship is tolerated since there are no penalties for its possession alone[6]. However, penalties do exist for exercising foreign citizenship, such as identifying oneself to Polish authorities using a foreign identification document or serving in a foreign military without permission of Polish military authorities.

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 29 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[7] providing that:

"Persons entering the Polish People's Republic 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 Polish People's Republic."

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[8]. 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"[9] 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"[6].

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.[8].

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 eastern Europe (e.g. Ukraine, Belarus).[10]

Notes and references

External links

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