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How a person of Polish origin can obtain Polish passport?

Improving standard of living in Poland and the country’s membership in EU are factors that make the opportunity of obtaining Polish passport increasingly interesting for people of Polish origin. Official statistics from the last decade indicate significant rise in number of incoming applications for confirmation of holding Polish citizenship which are mainly used means to obtain passport with eagle emblem. 3530 Polish passports were issued in 2017 (as compared to 829 issued in 2007) through the agency of Polish embassy in Tel Aviv only.

Who would need confirmation of having Polish citizenship?
First of all anyone who, from legal perspective, is a Polish citizen but does not have any formal confirmation of that fact, hence is not allowed to use rights that are given by holding Polish citizenship. Considering historical background this will mainly be related to descendants of Polish Jews – people who were born and raised abroad but obtained the citizenship through being a child of Polish citizens.

What is the course of Polish citizenship confirmation procedure?
It begins with submitting an application to the respective voivode. Respective – meaning the one assigned based on the residence area or - in case of people who no longer live in Poland - previous residence. Those who have never lived in Poland apply to the Masovian Voivode. For the sake of convenience people who live abroad can apply through the agency of Polish Consul who will pass the application on to the respective voivode in Poland. The application can be submitted in person or through a representative and incurs a stamp duty (amounting to 58 PLN ≈ 14 EUR on the day of this publication).

Personal details of parents and grandparents as well as all the information that prove having Polish citizenship shoud be included in the application. The application itself is a compund form available on Ministry of Interior and Administration website (the link, in Polish only, is valid on the publication date). Additionally one should attach documents confirming the information included in the form unless a person trying to obtain them is encountering obstacles difficult to overcome.

Let’s focus on this matter for a moment as the problems resulting from the history of the XX century are overlapping with legal issues. The war and Holocaust have taken its toll not only among Jewish and Polish populations but also inflicted heavy losses in public and private archives. Obtaining the documents to confirm one’s citizenship can be a very difficult task requiring arduous search through incomplete records. The documents are mainly looked for in the archives of civil registration offices, religious organizations or institutions of history-related activity, such as the Jewish Historical Institute - in relation to Polish Jews. In this case alphabetical register of Jewish survivors in Poland (Wykaz alfabetyczny ocalałych Żydów w Polsce) or the lists of repatriants might also turn out to be helpful.

Scrupulousness at searching for the documents is fundamental as not providing them can be a reason for the voivode to deny confirmation of holding the citizenship. It happens that the voivode decides to reject the application due to the fact that the applicants did not meet the duty to prove their own claims. In order to avoid such decision the applicants not having relevant documents at their disposal should prove the exsitence of the obstacles difficult to overcome to obtain them. This will move the duty of further investigation on to the voivode and protect the applicant from losing the case on the stage of application initial analysis.

It’s noteworthy that we are discussing cases from the past that fall within regulations from before many years, such as an archaic act from 1920 on Polish citizenship that was differentiating legitimate children – obtaining father’s citizenship – from illegitimate – obtaining it after the mother. The applicants should note that the success of the case will depend on establishing the citizenship of their ancestors based on laws and international agreements from the times of Second Polish Republic (1918-1945) and Polish People’s Republic (1945-1989).

The proceeding of first instance is closed by the decision of the voivode that, according to the regulations, should be announced within 1 month, and in particularly complex cases up to 2 months from the application date. The above time frames can give misleading impression about the usual duration of such cases. The time spent on awaiting information and documents form other offices, archives or diplomatic missions are not included. Particularly, if full documentation is not attached to the appalication, one can expect long-lasting proceedings. An unfavourable decision of the voivode can be appealed against to the correct interior minister that currently is the Minister of the Interior and Administration. In the case of unfavourable decision of the Minister, the applicant is allowed to lodge a complaint to voivodeship administrative court and, subsequently, to Supreme Administrative Court of Poland.

Filip Curylo is a member of Cracow Bar Association since 2009. He specializes in sports law, tax law and criminal law, also practising in the area of legal services for foreigners.

Tags: practical tips, foreigners