If you have at least one parent or grandparent who’s Polish, you’ve likely thought about your Polish ancestry a lot. Does having a Polish grandparent mean that you are legally Polish?

The answer is a little more complex but in most cases, yes. However, you still need to go through the process of getting your Polish citizenship recognized.

Here, we want to explain the criteria for Polish citizenship by descent, how your Polish grandparent’s citizenship can support your case, and how you can go about claiming your Polish identity and the benefits that come with it.

Benefits of Polish citizenship

If you have Polish grandparents, then you’ve likely heard stories about Poland, and its rich culture, or perhaps you’re curious about traveling and working in the European Union. As a modern EU country, Polish citizenship offers many benefits.

First, it officially recognizes your Polish roots, which for many people growing up in Polish heritage families can be very important. Secondly, it also grants you visa-free access to the EU, including Poland. This translates to the freedom to work, live, and travel in any of the 27 EU countries. Thirdly, Polish citizens can also gain a Polish passport, which not only helps with the aforementioned traveling but also provides visa-free access to over 150 additional countries around the world.

What is the basis for Polish citizenship?

There are several ways to be legally granted Polish citizenship. Marriage to a Polish citizen is one such way, and another option is naturalization. However, naturalization requires you to live in Poland for a few years and speak the Polish language.

However, if you are looking at your family tree and ancestry, then you can qualify for Polish citizenship by descent. This approach is an official recognition of your Polish heritage, something the Polish government considers as a birthright, and therefore does not require you to either speak Polish or live in the country itself.

So, when considering applying for Polish citizenship through grandparents, you are in the vast majority of cases obtaining Polish citizenship by descent. That is what we will explore here.

What you need to obtain Polish citizenship by descent

If one of your grandparents is Polish, then the process of obtaining Polish citizenship by descent involves proving your right of blood. In other words, you must prove that you have a Polish ancestor, and then prove your legal blood relation to that individual.

Specifically, you can acquire Polish citizenship if you are descended from someone who:

  • Was a legal Polish citizen and lived in Poland at some point from 1918 onwards
  • Did not renounce or otherwise lose their Polish citizenship status

If you meet these criteria, you are most likely eligible for Polish citizenship. Note that the Polish authorities do not place any restriction on the number of generations from the original Polish ancestor. As such, if an applicant’s parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents fit the criteria, you can still apply.

Can I also get a Polish passport?

Yes! As mentioned earlier, having any Polish ancestors that fit the criteria gives you grounds to gain Polish citizenship. After acquiring Polish citizenship, you can also apply for a Polish passport. Many people choose to undertake this as a passport helps when traveling in both the European Union and the wider world.

This is a separate process, but it does require understanding your family history and some documentation, which we will touch on later.

Obtaining Polish citizenship: what to do

While the process of claiming Polish citizenship is complex, it can be explained in several steps.

Confirm your eligibility

Even if you have Polish ancestry, it’s always important to ensure you meet the eligibility criteria before you start. Whilst your living relatives can provide as much information as possible, our free quiz can also help ensure you have the best chances of claiming citizenship by descent.

Collect the necessary documentation

To apply for Polish citizenship by descent, you will need some documents and records proving your ancestry. If you have a Polish grandparent, for example, then you need to prove:

  • That your grandparent is or was a recognized Polish citizen
  • Proof of his or her child – your parent – and their blood connection
  • Proof of your own identity and blood connection to the aforementioned parent.

In other words, you need to document the direct lineage, as well as any additional records showing changes in names, locations, or other key differences. Typically, this can be done through birth certificates and marriage certificates, as well as death and divorce certificates.

Contacting Polish authorities

You may also need to find local records, other identity documents, and Polish civil records certificates about your Polish ancestor that help fill out the details. At some point, this typically involves contacting the Polish bodies where your grandparents lived post-1918.

In these instances, communicating directly with such organizations can be difficult. It’s often better to have expert help at your side. At Lexmotion, for example, we not only understand what supporting documents you need, but we also have plenty of experience liaising with such regional departments on our client’s behalf.

Official translations

At this point, it’s also worth emphasizing that Polish citizenship law requires all documents in Polish. Foreign documents must be translated by a sworn translator, who is an official recognized by the Polish consulate and government.

Later, when applying for a Polish passport, you will require Polish marriage and birth certificates – that is, Polish issued documents, rather than translations. The good news, however, is these can be registered through the consulate when submitting sworn translations in the citizenship application.

Filling out the application form

Finally, when you’ve collected all the necessary documentation, you need to fill out your application. This is another area where expert assistance can be useful. Not only does it ensure your best chances of success by minimizing any errors – the application, like any form of bureaucracy, is not always easily understood – but it can also help with a couple of other barriers.

Most notably, although speaking Polish is not required when applying for Polish citizenship by descent, the application itself must be in Polish. We can also help you with official translations, as mentioned earlier, and support you in gathering the necessary documents.

How long does confirmation take?

There is no easy answer here. A more complex application naturally takes longer, as the Polish consulate needs to check and verify all the information provided. As a rule of thumb, applications that take longer to gather, and have more documentation, will take longer to verify.

In our experience, the overall process, from initial eligibility check to confirmation of citizenship, takes between 10 and 14 months. This can be a little longer, if we need to do an extensive search for Polish documents. In cases of Polish grandparent citizenship, this is usually more straightforward, as there are only two ancestors that need to be researched (your Polish parent and grandparent). If your relatives are alive, then their knowledge will also be incredibly useful.

What about dual citizenship?

In the past, the Polish Citizenship Act did not allow for dual citizenship, but today’s Polish citizenship requirements are much more relaxed. Many Poles around the world enjoy the benefits of dual nationalities, keeping their original citizenship status whilst also enjoying all the benefits of Polish citizenship by descent.

What about a Polish passport?

As we mentioned earlier, you can also get a Polish passport through your grandparents. Every Polish citizen can apply for a Polish passport.

Before you begin, you will require some key documentation:

  • Confirmation of Polish citizenship: Your Polish grandparent’s citizenship will not be enough. You must have the confirmation of your official citizenship status.
  • Birth certificate: If you were born outside of Poland and do not have a Polish birth certificate, it will need to be translated and registered. The Polish government requires a certified copy or duplicate issued by the authority that originally issued the birth certificate for their records. As mentioned earlier, this can be done via the consulate when submitting sworn translations for citizenship, so you should already have these.
  • Marriage records (optional): If you are married then, just as with birth certificates, you will need an official transcription of your marriage certificate.
  • PESEL: The Polish equivalent of a social security number, PESELs are normally reserved for people residing in Poland. This is gained via the Polish consular office during the passport application itself. It’s part of the process, so you will automatically receive it.

Along with typical information, including a photo, your Polish passport application is contingent on your citizenship status, so it’s best to do this after you’ve received confirmation.

Getting started

The best way to get started is to collect as much information as possible. Your Polish citizenship grandfather or grandmother can help provide key details, such as their Polish city of birth or where else they might have lived, that can help point you in the right direction.

Yet you may find that there are a few steps here that can be difficult or time-consuming. If you don’t speak Polish, or have a deep understanding of the Polish legal system, then finding key documents, sworn translators, or filling out the final application can be difficult. It’s for these reasons that we offer our services, as we understand the value of having someone who can take over these difficult steps for you.

Also, if you have brothers, sisters, or even cousins, it is worth contacting them to see if they are also interested. When applying for Polish grandfather citizenship, all descendants are applicable, and undertaking the process at the same time can help streamline the process.

This is why we also offer a family discount since all your family members will need many of the same documents, and the application process will be very similar.

Are you by any chance of Polish origin? Find out if you are eligible for EU citizenship by taking the test below:

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