Are you eligible for Polish Citizenship through your Ancestors?
Figuring out my Polish Citizenship eligibility was a hassle. I often received incomplete or incorrect information from my consulate, and I spent way too hours trying to figure out the correct rules. Hopefully, this post will make it easier for others.
General Information About Polish Citizenship Eligibility
To determine if you are eligible for Polish Citizenship Confirmation you must first understand the basics that govern Polish Citizenship. First of all, Polish Citizenship is passed through blood line (Jus Sanguinis), NOT place of birth (Jus Soli). For example, just being born in the territory of Poland does not make you a citizen, however having ancestors that were Polish might give you the right to citizenship.
Secondly, your Polish blood line must be unbroken from your Polish ancestor to you. In other words, each ancestor must have been Polish in order to pass it to the younger generation. If one of your ancestors had/have lost their Polish citizenship then the blood line is broken and you did not inherit citizenship. An example of a broken blood line: great-grandfather (Polish citizen) > grandfather (lost Polish citizenship) > father (not Polish) > you (not Polish). There are three Polish Citizenship Acts (1920, 1951 & 1962) that will determine if your ancestor was/is Polish and able to transfer citizenship or if they had/have lost their citizenship.
What information/dates will I need to collect in order to determine my eligibility?
You will need the birth dates of you and all your ancestors beginning with the first person that emigrated from Poland, information on any foreign citizenships accepted by you and your ancestors (including date these citizenships were issued) and information on military service in any foreign (non-Polish) military army of you and your Polish ancestors.
If your ancestor emigrated from Poland before 1918, then your ancestor was NOT Polish. Your ancestor had to be living in Poland at the time when the Second Polish Republic was created in 1918.
If your ancestor left Poland after 1918 you will need to navigate through the Polish Citizenship Acts of 1920, 1951 and 1962 and determine your eligibility.
Polish Citizenship Act of 1920
(Full 1920 Act
Applies in cases when an ancestor was born when this Act was in force or if a person was born before 1918, when the independent country of Poland was formed.
Example (NOT Polish): Grandfather was born 1890 and emigrated to the US in 1915 and had two children. Grandfather was NOT Polish because he left Poland before 1918, therefore he could NOT transfer Polish citizenship because he himself was not Polish.
Example (Polish): Grandfather was born 1902, in an area that would become Poland, emigrated to the US in 1923 and had two children. Grandfather was Polish when he left and had the ability to transfer citizenship, provided he did not break any other 1920 rules.
Important rules of the Act 1920 (in force 1920 to 1951)
1. Child acquires Polish citizenship from his father and only a child of an unwed mother will acquire Polish citizenship from a mother.
Example: Grandmother a Polish citizen emigrated to the US in 1927 and married Grandfather, an American, in 1929 and had a child. The child would not be Polish because Grandfather was NOT Polish and Grandmother was married between 1920 and 1951.
Regarding Loss of Nationality:
1. A Polish citizen loses his/her Polish nationality, if he/she obtains foreign citizenship. There is a special exception to this rule for men. Men aged 18-50 were eligible for active military service and could only acquire foreign nationality after obtaining permission from the Minister of Military Affairs. Men who did not obtain permission are still considered Polish citizens by the Polish Government.
Example: Polish grandfather emigrated to the US in 1935, got married, received his US citizenship in 1944 and had a child. Polish grandfather did NOT receive permission from Poland to gain US citizenship, therefore in the eyes of the Polish State he is still a Polish citizen and therefore his child is as well.
2. A Polish citizen loses his/her Polish nationality, if he/she accepts public office or joins the army in a foreign country without prior approval of the Polish Government.
Example: Polish grandfather emigrated to Australia in 1930, joined the Australian military, got married and had a child. Polish grandfather willingly accepted a position in a foreign military and therefore lost his Polish citizenship. Since grandfather lost his citizenship his child will not inherit Polish citizenship.
Polish Citizenship Act of 1951
(Full 1951 Act
Applies in cases when the applicant or his ancestors were born or the emigrated between 1951 and 1962.
Important rules of the Act 1951 (in force 1951 to 1962)
1. Child acquires Polish citizenship if at least one parent (father or mother) is a Polish citizen.
Example: A Polish woman marries an American man in 1952 and has a child in 1955. The child would be Polish because the mother was Polish at the time of birth.
Regarding Loss of Nationality:
1. A person “is not a Polish citizen, even though he/she had Polish citizenship on the 31 of August 1939, but he/she resides permanently outside Poland and, if due to the change of Polish borders he/she obtained foreign nationality in accordance with the international agreements, or if a person is of Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian nationality or, if a person is of German nationality (unless the spouse of such a person has Polish citizenship and resides in Poland).
2. This rule largely deals with the end of WWII, Soviet Poland border changes in 1947 and the mass resettlement of ethnic groups. Territory that was Polish between WWI and WWII became territories of the Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia etc.
Example: Vilnius (Wilno), the capital of Lithuania, was Polish territory between WWI and WWII. When the borders changed it was returned to Lithuania. Most people in this city would be considered Lithuanian nationality and according to international agreements were giving citizenship to Lithuania. At this point they were no longer considered Polish.
Polish Citizenship Act of 1962
(Full 1962 Act
Applies in cases when the applicant or his ancestors were born in 1962 and after.
Important rules of the Act 1962 (in force 1962 to current)
1. Child acquires Polish citizenship if at least one parent is a Polish citizen.
Regarding Loss of Nationality:
1. A Polish citizen would not lose his/her citizenship unless he/she voluntarily formally renounced it. The Constitution prohibits an involuntary loss of Polish citizenship.
1. My mother was Polish. My sibling did not qualify for Polish Citizenship but I do. Is this possible?
This is very possible because of the Polish Citizenship 1920 & 1951 Acts. According to the 1920 Act, in force 1920-1951, only a father could transfer citizenship to a married couples’ child. If your sibling was born before 1951 and you afterwards, then you would be entitled to Polish citizenship while they would not.
2. Does Poland allow dual citizenship?
Poland will not recognize you as a dual citizen, however it does not punish you for have multiple citizenships. Therefore, if you have both Polish & American citizenship, in the eyes of Polish authorities you are solely a Polish Citizen. Due to the fact you are viewed solely as a Polish citizen you must enter and leave Poland using your Polish passport.
3. According to the Citizenship Act of 1920 did all Polish women lose their citizenship when they married a foreign man?
All Polish women did not lose their citizenship upon marriage to a foreign man. A Polish woman only lost her Polish citizenship when marriage to the foreign man automatically gave her to his citizenship.
Example: A Polish woman emigrates to Canada in 1945 and marries a Canadian man in 1947. At the time of marriage she is still Polish because in Canada marriage does not automatically entitle a woman to citizenship.
Example 2: A Polish woman emigrates to Austria in 1945 and marries an Austrian man in 1947. At the time of marriage she is not Polish because in Austria marriage automatically made a foreign woman Austrian.
4. I am eligible for Polish Citizenship through ancestry. What do I do now?
Eligible citizens must "confirm" their Polish Citizenship, not "apply" for citizenship. Application for citizenship is for non-citizens trying to gain citizenship, while you are already a citizen of Poland you just need to have the Polish Government recognize your citizenship. If you want more detail on the confirmation process, then it is best to check out/call the Polish Embassy/Consulate in your country. If you want an idea of what the general process is, then check out one of the countries below, as your country will have a similar process.
Polish Embassy New York
Polish Embassy Sydney
Polish Embassy Ottawa
5. What documents can I submit to support my confirmation of Polish Citizenship claim?
These documents will all help support your claim. Some documents are better than others. For example an old Polish Passport is a great document. While birth certificates alone are not very useful because citizenship is granted by blood not where you were born. Remember that all documents must be either Polish or translated into Polish.
All translated documents must be certified by a consul (an official representatives of the government).
-court order(s) (for example regarding name change),
-copies of the passports,
-copies of other forms of identification,
*Latin baptism certificates do not need to be translated into Polish.