Increasing interest of foreign nationals in moving to live and work in the European Union is the main driver in recent times for seeking to obtain citizenship of an EU country. This also applies to Poland, as Polish citizenship gives the right to live and work not only in Poland but also across the entire EU.
There are several ways to get Polish citizenship. It can be acquired through birth or through naturalisation in one of two forms: by being recognised as a Polish citizen or by a discretionary decision of the President of Poland to grant citizenship.
Citizenship at birth
Children acquire Polish citizenship if at least one of their parents is Polish, no matter where they were born. If someone born to a Polish parent does not have any documents confirming their Polish citizenship, they may apply for formal confirmation of their Polish citizenship.
Polish citizenship handed down by a parent can be proven with any available document, or a copy, such as a parent’s passport, birth certificate, military service book, certificate of baptism, or, depending on the period, membership in a local community or residence in Polish territory (also on lands formerly belonging to Poland).
The entire procedure usually takes 4–6 months and is conducted in Poland before the province governor (wojewoda).
Recognition as a Polish citizen
A person can apply for recognition as a Polish citizen in many cases. The most common and available of them is through long-term continuous legal residence in Poland for at least 3 years (2 years for foreign citizens married to Polish citizens for at least 3 years) based on a permanent residence permit, permission to settle, or a long-term EU resident permit. The required period of continuous stay in Poland is only one year for persons staying in Poland based on a permanent residence permit granted on the basis of a “Pole’s Card” or Polish origin.
In all cases, being recognised as a Polish citizen requires passing a Polish language exam at the B1 level or higher. Other requirements include having a stable source of income in Poland and a place of residence in Poland.
The entire procedure usually takes 2–6 months and is conducted in Poland before the province governor.
Citizenship granted by the President
The President of Poland may grant Polish citizenship to a foreign citizen at the foreigner’s request. The President’s decision is entirely discretionary, which means that the President may grant Polish citizenship to any foreigner irrespective of whether the statutory provisions regarding Polish citizenship have been met. Therefore, no fixed criteria or requirements apply to this procedure.
The President’s decision-making process takes into consideration all the circumstances related to the foreigner, such as his or her family situation (family members in Poland), employment in Poland, social, civic, political, business, cultural, sports and other activities in Poland, as well as a recommendation of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration and other institutions (a background security check is also part of the process).
The statistics are encouraging for applicants. In 2019, there were 2,157 citizenship applications submitted to the President, and about 83% of those were successful. In practice, most favourable decisions are issued to applicants who have made a significant contribution to the Polish economy, politics, culture (e.g. promotion of a positive image of Poland abroad), or sports.
The procedure is not demanding in terms of the required documents, but is time-consuming (currently it takes about a year to obtain a presidential citizenship decision).
Magdalena Świtajska, adwokat, Employment & Global Mobility practice, Wardyński & Partners