Dateline: Katowice, Poland
To be honest, everyone I’ve talked to has asked why I’m even here in Katowice. The town is rather industrial and, being just one hour from gorgeous Krakow, not exactly the place a perpetual travel would be spending “vacation” time.
The reason: I’m spending my day meeting with one of the best experts on Polish second citizenship.
Citizenship by descent is one of the easiest ways to obtain a valuable second citizenship and the passport that comes with it.
Countries like Ireland and Italy are well known for offering citizenship by descent to those with family trees from those countries. However, one other slightly more complicated option for getting a second passport through your bloodline is Poland.
If you have Polish ancestors, you may well qualify for Polish citizenship. The paperwork can be a bit tricky, but the concept is quite straightforward: Poland views those who are of Polish descent to be its citizens, so long as they can prove the required connections.
As always, I recommend taking advantage of any second citizenship
Ways to get Polish citizenship
Getting Polish citizenship is straightforward until it comes down to citizenship by descent. Like most European countries, Poland uses the “right of blood” method to determine Polish citizenship by birth. Basically, any child born to at least one Polish parent obtains citizenship at birth, regardless of where they are born.
Americans may find this concept a bit odd, because the United States applies the “right of the soil” method to providing citizenship, meaning anyone born on US soil is an American citizen. While this may sound convenient — it is a great way to get anchor status if you want a pathway to US citizenship — it’s really just the modern-day version of giving away citizenship like candy in order to rope in more future tax slaves.
Polish citizenship by naturalization can be obtained by legally residing in Poland as a permanent resident for three years if you speak Polish. Otherwise, you need to be legally resident for the last ten years and currently have permanent resident status.
If you’re married to a Polish citizen, you get a small discount on the time required for naturalization. You must, however, be legally resident in Poland, not living overseas.
So far, Polish citizenship is either difficult, if not impossible to get, or not worth it. Poland isn’t a bad place to live, but it’s not worth getting legal residence there to work toward a second passport.
However, obtaining Polish citizenship by descent is an easy way to get Polish citizenship if you meet some difficult conditions.
The rules for claiming ancestral citizenship include the condition that your Polish ancestors left the country after Poland became an independent country in 1918. Basically, any ancestor born before the year 1899 is ineligible to qualify you for citizenship on the basis of the country’s citizenship laws of 1920.
That means you’ll have to use ancestors who were born in the twentieth century. If you have family members who were under 21 years old when the 1920 laws were ratified, they may have qualified for Polish citizenship, even if they were born and held citizenship elsewhere, such as the United States.
However, Poland requires you to maintain an unbroken chain of citizenship in order to qualify for citizenship by descent. If your great grandfather qualifies, but your grandfather gave up Polish citizenship to become a citizen of another country, you’re out of luck.
That means each ancestor must have been Polish in order to pass it to the younger generation. If one of your ancestors lost their Polish citizenship then the bloodline is broken.
In this way, Poland is much less liberal than Italy, which seems to hand out citizenship to anyone who calls themselves a Paisan.
Poland is also less liberal in that it doesn’t count ethnic Polish ancestors as eligible for citizenship. This is different from some other ancestral citizenship programs, which figure that anyone with ancestors from territory they CURRENTLY control can be a citizen.
The way Poland sees it, if Poland wasn’t the name on the door when your ancestor was born, too bad… take it up with Germany or whatever other country was running the place at the time.
While unlikely, there is a chance you won’t qualify for Polish citizenship, but might have other family that qualify you for Lithuanian citizenship.
The process of claiming Polish citizenship by descent
Claiming a Polish passport isn’t easy. Like any citizenship by descent program, Poland’s government operates at a slow pace.
Before claiming your second passport, you must first prove that you are eligible for Polish citizenship. This is done by sending a biography and filling out forms — all in Polish — to your local Polish embassy.
You will also have to collect the birth dates of yourself and all of your Polish ancestors since first emigration, as well as information on other military service or citizenships that are part of your family tree.
Then you wait. In some cases, people have reported waiting one year or more to hear back. And the response is often “send us more proof”.
My citizenship by descent lawyer tells me Polish cases are some of the toughest out there. For the reasonable fees he charges, I would highly recommend a lawyer for the process. While countries like Ireland can be done on your own (although lawyers are quite cheap), doing your own Polish citizenship case might leave you pulling your hair out.
If you have legitimate Polish heritage and know your family history, it may be worth working toward your second passport. Like any citizenship by descent, you will need to have patience as the process can easily take 1-2 years, and you may waste lots of time only to find out you don’t meet Poland’s strict standards.
However, the process is pretty cheap if you are willing to do the work on your own. I always recommend seeking out a second passport from your family tree before working on second residencies or buying a passport. Just know what you’re in for.