How to get Polish citizenship by descent

Written by Andrew Henderson
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Last updated: September 11, 2020
Dateline: Katowice, Poland

While countries like Ireland and Italy are well known for offering citizenship by descent to those with ancestors from those countries, Poland has – undeservedly – fallen under the radar. 

It’s surprising because there are over 9 million US citizens who identify as Polish Americans. They could easily obtain a Polish passport if they wanted to. 

And that’s not to mention all the Poles who immigrated to Canada, Australia, and other countries way back when. 

Are you one of the lucky individuals who has inherited a right to a European passport and have legitimate Polish heritage? 

Then it might be worth your while to work towards this second passport

Poland views those who are of Polish descent to be its citizens, so long as they can prove the required connections.

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.

The paperwork can get a little tricky too: you’ll need to confirm your eligibility, collect documents (from your own country and from Poland), deal with all the bureaucracy, and file for citizenship alongside lawyers and agents on the ground. 

Are you a high net worth individual with Polish roots, who wants nothing to do with the process of citizenship by descent but will gladly take the second passport?

Learn more about our premium citizenship by descent service here.

Ways to get Polish citizenship

There are four main ways in which one can get Polish citizenship. 

First, like most European countries, Poland uses the jus sanguinis – or 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.

Second, Polish citizenship by naturalization can be obtained by legally residing in Poland as a permanent resident for 3 years if you speak Polish. Otherwise, you need to be legally resident for the last ten years and currently have permanent resident status.

That status, of course, comes with all sorts of tax implications and Poland isn’t a tax-light country. 

We’d recommend some careful financial planning if you plan to go this route. However, there are easier ways to get Polish citizenship – read on. 

Third, 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, and not be living overseas. 

That can be a dealbreaker to many Nomad Capitalists, who want to have the freedom to reside wherever they wish. 

As you might have noticed, so far it seems that the Polish citizenship is too difficult, if not impossible to get. Or, it’s simply not worth the time and the money that you’d spend. 

We’re not saying that Poland isn’t a bad place to live, but it’s just not worth getting legal residence there to work towards a second passport. 

Luckily, there is the fourth option – obtaining Polish citizenship by descent. It’s a relatively easy way to get Polish citizenship, provided you meet their eligibility criteria. 

Polish Citizenship by Descent 

We always recommend seeking out a second passport from your family tree before working on second residencies or buying a passport

It’s often the cheapest and the easiest way to expand your options in life, both personal and financial. It won’t be the quickest, but you just have to know what you’re in for. 

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 20th 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. 

For example, if your great-grandfather qualifies, but your grandfather gave up Polish citizenship to become a citizen of another country, you’re out of luck.

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 and you won’t be able to get Polish citizenship by descent. 

In this way, Poland is much less liberal than Italy, which seems to hand out citizenship to anyone who calls themselves an Italian.

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 state 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, you won’t be able to obtain that passport. You’d rather need to 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 members who could 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 military service or other 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 to say: “send us more proof.”

All in all, Polish citizenship by descent cases are some of the toughest to oversee and might leave you pulling your hair out.

So, we’d recommend having someone to guide you through the process.

And, if you’re a high net worth individual who wants to take a hands-off approach to it all, you should take advantage of our premium citizenship by descent service.

We have guided many people with Polish roots and have gotten them a second passport that happens to be European and one of the most powerful travel documents in the world.

Lucky them.

Andrew Henderson
Last updated: Sep 11, 2020 at 7:40PM

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38 Comments

  1. poonani

    So what if my great grandpa and grandma were born in Poland.. according to a census my Grandma was born in 1920 (in the USA). Her dad and mom were born in Poland. Her dad was born in 1892 (i’m guessing because in 1930 he was approx. 38 y/o). Her mom: approx. 1895. God only knows if they ever naturalized at this point or at all. I’m still early in this research. My grandma was a fluent speaker of Polish too. So my Grandma was 10 years old in 1930. She was born in 1920…. am I eligible?

    • Pole Position

      JA

      • poonani

        ????

        • MoDare

          ‘Ja’ means ‘yes’

          • Adam Gradzki

            False. It means “I” as in the reference to the self. In this context it is in reference to Polish.

    • Scot

      If your grandma became a citizen of another country before 1951 an she was over 18 before 1951 then she lost her citizenship except if she was married to a polish husband, also if your dad or mom (your grandmas child) was born before 1951 and your grandma was married then she could not pass her citizenship.

  2. educator57

    My great grandparents were born in Poland, but well before 1899. My great-grandmother left Poland without her husband and son and had my grandmother in the US in 1908, dying shortly thereafter, but my great-grandfather and great uncle continued to live in Poland. Unfortunately, I do not have information on their birthdates and such because I never met them and they are all deceased now. Is it worth it to try to find out their information?

  3. PeacefulLife

    My grandmother was born in Poland (Lobsens) in 1905. She came to Canada on a German passport and became a Canadian citizen in 1955. I take it the ties have been cut? I have her original German passport and papers.

    • Scot

      If she had a German passport chances are that she lost polish citizenship, women over 18 who immigrated to another country before 1951 lost their citizenship, but perhaps you might qualify for German citizenship.

      • PeacefulLife

        Thank you. Yes, I did take German as my grandfather (paternal) was German. Trying for Hungarian now on my mother’s side as my grandparents were born Hungarian but lost citizenship in 1920 due to Trianon and became Czechoslovakians. Since Slovak citz is PURE HELL, I am very happy just learning Hungarian and taking citizenship by simplified naturalization.

  4. PeacefulLife

    Remember that many staff at Consulates are not that smart when it comes to citizenship by descent or naturalization. Many have never even had one case. I’ve dealt with Hungarian and Slovak as well as Czech and many misunderstandings and lack of knowledge is plenty. I still say get an immigration lawyer to take care of your paperwork. I took at 2nd EU passport years ago on my own but even then 2 consuls were not sure and I had to prove my point myself over a course of a year.
    Poland, Hungary and Slovakia as well as Czech Rep are case by case. Some papers I still got in Slovak Kroners…time to update folks! Slovakia uses the EURO! Age plays a huge part especially if you were born between 1949-1969 – you are going to have a hard time. Those archaic laws are yet to change for that 20 year span. Not a lawyer but I have played the passport came through descent for over 7 years now and have seen it all.

  5. dennis gries

    Please take a stab at this:

    Gramps was born in Poland in 1881, and married in Poland in 1911. Moved to Germany soon after. But, during the Nazi area in Germany he was forced to leave Germany, and lived in Poland from 1939 to his “murder” about 1942.

    Was this return (plenty of documentation) sufficient to meet the residency requirements after 1918?

    My dad was born in Germany in 1914, and never lived in Poland, and came to the US before 1940.

    Finally, I was born in the US in the 1940s.

    Am I apparently qualified or disqualified?

    thanks

    • tyrannosaur

      Absolutely NOT an expert, but if your Dad was still a German citizen when you were born, you may be in luck. And if his citizenship was revoked by the Nazis, you may be able to get it back. Best to find a German translator licensed by your local consulate. They deal with these things all the time. Ditto on a Polish translator, though I think your Dad would need to have been Polish for you to be Polish.

    • Ima Polania

      A bit delayed but if still interested: Yes, if we can prove that he kept contact with Polish consulate and left to US with a Polish passport then you’re eligible.

  6. Konrad Czachor

    So my parents and my brother was born in poland but i was born in america am i a polish citizen?

    • tyrannosaur

      Are your parents Polish citizens? Then probably. But depends on dates, as referenced in the story. Also, military service in a foreign army is a no-no.

  7. Dana

    My great grandma was Polish and came to America. My grandpa and mom and I were born in the states. Could I get a polish citizenship if my grandpa and mom got it? Are they eligible?

    • Scot

      Up until 1951 Polish citizenship was only passed on by father if they were married and by mom if they were not married, so assuming that your great grandma was married and your grandpa was born before 1951 so you’re not eligible

  8. Anne

    My parents were both born in Poland, dad in 1928, mom in 1931. My parents immigrated to the U.S. in 1961 along with my brother, both my sister and I were born in the U.S. As a family we visited Poland in 1975 and I remember having a Polish passport as well as a U.S. passport. The polish passport had a photo of my mom, sister and I together. Do you think I may already have established Polish citizenship…I was five when we visited? I have my parents trying to locate the passport, if it is found do you think the process of establishing Polish citizenship would be easier? Thanks!

    • Scot

      The more Polish docs the easier its to get, the passport you had was your moms passport, Poland used to allow moms to have little children to travel with mom on moms passport with a pic of the child, but your moms passport will help your case alot.

  9. Scot

    Usually they will only qualify for polish citizenship if they left before it became USSR, so in your case you probably don’t qualify

  10. CB

    All four of my grandparents were born in Poland and emigrated to Canada in the late 1920s, early 1930s. Any hope for me gaining Polish citizenship?

  11. Edeck

    Both parents born in Poland, my dad was in the navy. After the war both emigrated to Canada and had four more children. We spoke Polish at home for ever but now I’m pretty rusty. Would my brother and I be good candidates for Polish passports. Have traveled back a number of times and love it. Thanks

  12. the potato room

    My grandfather was born in Poland in 1917, joined the army etc. Eventually came to Canada and became a Canadian citizen around the 50s. I am pretty sure I have all or most of the paperwork. Would I be able to apply? My mother and I were born in Canada.

  13. Benton Mischuk

    why the cut-off for those born in the 20th century? I see no reason for such limitation in the Polish citizenship act of 1920. my grandfather was born 1986 in territory that became a part of the Polish republic, before he left in the late 1920s

  14. Juliet Kosarzycki

    Both of my parents were born in Poland and I understand that having one of my parent’s passports would help me with my application. But both of my parents have passed away and I don’t have their passports. Is there any way to get a record or copy of it?

  15. Gerhard E. Jene

    Sir
    My mother was born in Lublin 1942. Her birth was not registered based on the 2 letters I received when I enquired based on my grandmothers’ married name and in regards to the last name of the father. She then ended up living in Germany from 1946 to 1950, before ending up in Canada in January 1951. My grandmother was born in Kropiwki in 1904 and got married in October 1921 and then divorced in September 1949, while living in Germany and then remarried in November 1949. I am unaware as to when she received Canadian citizenship, if at all. The person I got to know as my grandfather was born Elzbietow in September 1899. He served in the Polish Armed Forces from 1919 to 1922 and then again for a 2 week period in September 1939. Because of his German heritage, I believe he ended up working for the German Post Office in Lublin from June 1940 until August 1944 when he was given marching orders where he ended up in Ulm until the end of the war. In an undated letter that was typed on his behalf or he typed himself, he was making application for Veterans Benefits and he mentions getting Canadian citizenship in March 1959. My grandfather had a replacement birth certificate made up for my mother while they were at a D.P. camp in Muensingen 1950 which states her nationality as Polish. The copy of the International Refugee Org. I have also states my grandmothers’ nationality as being Polish and has an entry date of January 25. 1951. From a wallet card that my mother had shows she received Canadian citizenship in 1973 after she was married and divorced. While I was born in 1964. This is the best I can describe things in a nutshell.

  16. Boosh Bushey

    Can you give me the contact info for the lawyer you used? Also, was your lawyer able to search and find the proper records in archives? I am fairly certain I qualify, but I don’t have the records…But I’m sure they exist…somewhere in Poland. 🙂

    Thanks! 🙂

  17. Joe Stefens

    My situation’s a bit more tricky. My paternal great-grandfather emigrated from Prussian Poland to the US in the early 1900s, but returned upon Polish independence with my grandfather (a natural-born american) in tow. My grandfather grew up in Poland and was in attendance in university when WWII broke out. He was imprisoned by the Nazis and repatriated to the US four years later. I THINK i’m eligible based on these conditions, but I have a very difficult time tracing my ancestry given the conditions. Any thoughts?

    • Joe Stefens

      To where do I write?

  18. Christian Triay

    Both my grandparents are Polish and were taken to England after WWII after being freed from labour camps in Germany and Russia by the red cross. They met in England and got married. My mother was subsequently born in England and has a British Passport and never applied for a Polish Passport. My uncle, her brother, has applied and been given a polish passport. I was born in the UK and want to apply for a Polish Passport.

    Do you think I would be eligible??

    Thanks!

  19. AA

    My situation is unclear, it’s based on different understandings of Israeli law pre-1952. My grandmother was born in independent Poland in the 30s and fled to mandatory Palestine in the 40s where she remained until 1968. She did not receive a new citizenship before the the state of Israel was founded. She received Israeli citizenship by law of return or residence, but that law did not take effect until 1952. Her status between 1948 and 1952 is unclear.

    Am I eligible?

  20. Rachel Seidel

    My parents were born in or near Warsaw in 1910 and 1911, respectively. They left Warsaw in 1939 (when it was occupied by the Nazis) and went east; most of their families, including all their parents (my grandparents) were killed during WW II. My parents spent several years in Russia, then were in a displaced persons camp in Germany. I was conceived there. My parents immigrated to the United States in July, 1946 (later they became U.S. citizens) and I was born in New York City in September, 1946. I have lived my life in the U.S. and am a U.S. citizen with a U.S> passport. I am interested in also obtaining an EU passport based on being a child of Polish citizens. Do you think I am eligible? What work would be needed to obtain it? Thank you for a reply.

    • Randall Hamlet

      They were Polish, so you definitely can. How’d it go?

  21. Nanette Ross

    Hi,

    I’m hoping someone can tell me if I qualify for a second Passport from Poland. My great grandparents were both born in Poland. My great grandmother from Zamosc and my Great grandfather from Piaski. They married in 1900 in Piaski. My grandmother was born in Piaski in 1900 and was registered in 1902. She arrived in America in 1916 at age 15-16. She married in America and became a US citizen in 1936.

    I have found official records in Poland for her birth and her parents marriage and perhaps their birth records as well. Do I qualify? If I seek this for my children and husband is that also possible?

    Any information would be appreciated regarding our eligibility

    Thanks!

    Nanette

  22. Disqus10021

    Galicia was under Austrian control from the 1770’s until 1918.

    The descendants of German citizens who fled Germany during the Third Reich because of discrimination can reclaim German citizenship under a post-war German law.

  23. Barbara Jay

    What kind of attorney must one get (and where) to obtain ciizenship by descent? My family is still there and has been there for generations. I don’t know who to contact to go through the process.

  24. Alena Zhuchko

    Hello! I have recently learnt and obtained an official papers that my great-grandmother was born in Poland. Could you please guide me, if it is possible to use this paper in obtaining a citizenship process? Best wishes, Alena