Got Polish ancestors? Even if your great-grandparents were of Polish descent, you could be eligible for second citizenship and a Polish passport on the basis of ancestry. Let’s get into the details below…
The Polish passport is a powerful travel document, offering visa-free access to a whopping 156 countries. (We give it an “A-grade” in the Sovereign Man Passport Ranking.) The country is also part of the European Union and the Schengen Area.
Combined with its central European location, cultural flair and very reasonable cost of living, it is a compelling Plan B destination – and especially for those with Polish ancestry.
Today, almost nine million Americans have Polish roots. Only descendants of Germans, the Irish, English and Italians outnumbered Poles during the 2000 Census.
And if YOU are one of those people, you may have the right to claim your own Polish passport.
Moreover, since Poland is a member of the European Union, you would not only be gaining a prized travel document… You would also be gaining access to the rest of the continent for living and working. And your children can study in any EU country, too.
A quick background on Polish ancestral citizenship
Poland enacted Citizenship By Ancestry related legislation back in 2004. According to Article 14 of the Polish Citizenship Act (unofficial English translation), Polish citizenship will be bestowed on a child at birth if either of their parents are a Polish citizen at the time of their birth, and regardless of where the child is born.
(These are the rules today. As you will see below, they were very different in the past.)
But it’s also possible to become Polish if your earlier ancestors (i.e. further back than your parents) once boasted Polish nationality.
The good news is – there is no rule about when your ancestor should have been born, or when they should have emigrated from Poland. And there is no limit on the number of generations that can separate you from your Polish ancestor.
Furthermore, your ancestor does not need to have emigrated from the territory of modern-day Poland for you to qualify. If they lived in the region that was part of Poland before the Second World War, that would work too, even if the territory has since been lost.
Poland’s territorial gains and losses as a result of WWII
And your ancestor doesn’t even need to have been a “proper” Polish citizen.
If, for example, they were born and emigrated before 1918, when Poland was still part of the Russian Empire, they were citizens of the Russian Empire, and not of Poland.
In this case, you can prove that your ancestor was indeed Polish by showing that they were born in Warsaw, for example, and perhaps paid taxes there.
The program requirements are complex and confusing
On the not-so-bright side, the Polish Citizenship By Ancestry program works differently from most of the other countries we’ve featured thus far.
To be frank, the clauses and conditions are maddening. We’ve never seen anything as complicated before. Thus, it will be imperative that you work with an expert who can quickly assess your chances of success before proceeding.
(NOTE: Sovereign Man: Confidential members, we have excellent contacts on the ground, so reach out to us if you’d like a reference.).
In Poland, you don’t claim the citizenship that your ancestors lost a long time ago. To qualify, you need to ensure that the Polish citizenship link has never been broken across generations.
Your ancestor’s Polish citizenship must have been passed from generation to generation until it reached you. So technically, all the Polish Citizenship By Ancestry program does is confirm that you have been a Polish citizen all along, even if you and your parents didn’t know it.
You don’t claim or ask for it back, and thus, there is no language or history test of any sort.
Naturally, this disqualifies a lot of folks whose Polish ancestor lost their Polish citizenship for one of the many reasons (discussed below) before passing it to their kids.
Still, given the benefits of holding a Polish passport, it’s well worth investigating if you have Polish heritage.
Now, let’s look at some of the conditions for how Polish citizenship must have been passed on, as well as some scenarios during which your ancestors could have lost their Polish citizenship.
How the program works
Poland’s legislation embodies many of the quirks of this period’s laws, informed in large part by the specter of a world war. That’s why some exceptions, which may seem sexist or illogical on the surface, ultimately make sense.
As we already mentioned, your Polish ancestor’s date of birth is not critical, and they may have left Poland even in the 19th century.
But if their child was born outside of Poland before 1920*, then that child would not inherit Polish citizenship at birth. The citizenship chain is therefore broken, and you would not qualify.
(*The year 1920 is when the first Polish Citizenship Act came into existence and made inheriting Polish citizenship possible.)
Another rule worth mentioning, along with some good news – if your ancestor left Poland between 1920 and 1951 and naturalized in another country, they would generally still have retained their Polish citizenship.
Unless your ancestor renounced their Polish citizenship intentionally (at a Polish consulate), they were generally still considered Polish citizens.
But there are other pitfalls to watch out for – and a number of ways in which your ancestor could have lost their Polish citizenship.
We cover these exceptions, as well as the rules for male and female ancestors, in great detail in our recent 58-page Sovereign Man: Confidential Black Paper, which covers Eastern Europe’s ancestral citizenship programs in detail.
There are a lot of nuances to the program, but this Black Paper can help you navigate the program with greater ease. Recruiting the services of a Polish lawyer familiar with the ancestral citizenship program would be highly advisable. COVID has also had an impact on processing timelines. Today the expected application timeline has doubled to six months – which is still very reasonable.
Applying for Polish ancestral citizenship is going to require quite a bit of research and effort on your part, especially if you’re planning to do it without professional help.
But once you get your Polish passport, the effort required should be well worth it. And there will also be no need to renounce your current citizenship(s), as Poland recognizes dual citizenship with no restrictions.