How to get Polish citizenship by descent

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

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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 is the world’s most sought-after consultant on international tax planning, investment immigration, and global citizenship. He has personally lived this lifestyle for over a decade, and now works with seven- and eight-figure entrepreneurs and investors who want to “go where they’re treated best”.

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