How do you find your roots in Polish citizenship?

Not everyone is aware of this, but almost anyone with a Polish ancestor can apply for Polish citizenship and a passport. This is because it is a right that stems from Polish citizenship law, thus allowing you to reclaim your Polish heritage and establish ties with the country of your ancestors. Polish citizenship also brings many benefits, such as freedom to travel, work, and settle in the European Union, access to the Polish education system, health care, and pensions, and the opportunity to participate in Poland’s political and social life.

But how do you find your Polish roots and obtain Polish citizenship? Is it enough to have a Polish surname, know the Polish language, or have Polish citizenship in the family? Unfortunately, no. To prove Polish ancestry, you have to meet several requirements and go through a somewhat time-consuming procedure. In this article, we will outline what it consists of and how to prepare for it.

Who may apply for Polish citizenship by descent?

Polish citizenship by descent is granted to persons who have Polish ancestors in a direct line, i.e. parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents who were Polish citizens. Polish citizenship law is based on the principle of blood (ius sanguinis), which means that citizenship is inherited from parents, regardless of where they were born. This means that Polish citizenship can be passed on from one generation to the next, even if it has never been formally confirmed or declared.

To apply for Polish citizenship by descent, two basic conditions must be met:

  •       have at least one Polish ancestor who was a Polish citizen at birth or acquired Polish citizenship in some other way (e.g. by naturalization, marriage, change of borders),
  •       prove that the chain of citizenship has not been broken, i.e. that none of the ancestors has lost Polish citizenship or renounced it before the birth of another descendant.

How do you prove Polish descent and civic chain?

To prove Polish ancestry and civic chain, one should present to the relevant office documentation that confirms the family relationship with a Polish citizen, as well as his/her citizenship status. These documents must be original, up-to-date, complete, and by Polish law. In addition, they must be drawn up or translated into Polish by a sworn translator.

Documents confirming the family relationship include:

  • birth certificates of the candidate Polish citizen and his/her ancestor,
  • marriage certificates of the candidate’s parents and grandparents, if applicable,
  • death certificates of ancestors of a prospective Polish citizen, if applicable.

Documents confirming citizenship status further include:

  • identity cards, passports, citizenship certificates, or other identity documents of the ancestor and his/her descendants,
  • military, registration, school, vocational, church, or other documents which may testify to the possession or loss of Polish citizenship by the ancestor or his/her descendants,
  • documents relating to a change of name, citizenship, place of residence, or national borders by the ancestor or his descendants.

Where to find the documents needed to obtain Polish citizenship by descent?

The documents needed to obtain Polish citizenship by descent may be held in various places, both in Poland and abroad. Some may be held by family, friends, or organizations with which the ancestor or their descendants were associated. Others may be available in state, church, military, court, school, university, or other archives. It is also sometimes worth looking online, as many documents are available online, although others may require a personal or written inquiry.

Finding and obtaining the documents needed to acquire Polish citizenship by descent can also often be unfortunately difficult and time-consuming. This is because it requires not only knowledge of Polish law and history, but also the ability to search for, analyze and verify documents, both in Poland and abroad. It is also worth contacting Polish offices, archives, and institutions that deal with civic and archival matters.

Even more, information related to the search for Polish roots can be found at, where the entire procedure is presented and discussed in detail.

What is the procedure of acquiring Polish citizenship by descent?

The procedure of acquiring Polish citizenship by descent consists of submitting an application for confirmation of Polish citizenship by the person wishing to acquire such citizenship or by his/her proxy to the competent voivodship office in Poland. This application must be accompanied by documentation proving Polish origin and citizenship chain, as well as stamp duty. The voivodship office then verifies the completeness and conformity of the application and documents, and in the next step issues an administrative decision on confirmation or refusal of confirmation of the applicant’s Polish citizenship. Such a decision is subject to appeal to the Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration within 14 days of its receipt.

If the decision is positive, the candidate receives a certificate of Polish citizenship, which is the basis for applying for a Polish passport at any Polish consulate around the world. If the decision is negative, the candidate may take further legal steps, such as a complaint to an administrative court or an application for Polish citizenship by the President of the Republic of Poland.

Consequently, the procedure for obtaining Polish citizenship by descent may take from several months to even several years, depending on the complexity of the case and the workload of the authorities. It therefore requires a great deal of patience.

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