How to get citizenship of Poland via Karta Polaka (Polish Card)
This is the first part of a series where we will discuss the paths to Polish citizenship.
The Polonia – people of Polish descent living outside Poland – are composed of near 20 million people. It is one of the most widely dispersed diasporas in the world. In some places, like the United Kingdom, the majority are first-generation immigrants that arrived after Poland joined the European Union free-movement zone. In other parts of the world, however, the Polonia presence dates from decades, even centuries ago.
With a resilient economy, in the last twenty-eight years (!!!) Poland experienced non-stop growth and a sharp increase in its quality of life. That improvement raised the interests of Polish descendants worldwide to return to the land of their ancestors.
In a situation like this, the first question asked is:
How to get citizenship of Poland?
You do not always need to be a Polish citizen to move to Poland. If your company is sponsoring your expatriation, if you are coming to pursue a college degree or post-graduation, or even if you are already married to a Pole, you can resort to the temporary (and later, permanent) residence permits, which allow settling in the country. We will write about those possibilities in a future post.
However, citizenship has an almost irrevocable status, which grants extra security that you will not need to leave if a company fires you or if you cannot pay for university.
A piece of good news is that recently Poland made a series of favourable moves to facilitate for descendants of Polonia to immigrate to the country of their ancestors. The boldest happened in July of 2019, with the extension of the Karta Polaka (Polish Card) privilegesto polish descendants everywhere (before it was restricted to Polonia living in former Soviet states).
What is Karta Polaka?
According to the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it is a document endorsing that you are part of the Polish nation. It benefits people that for various reasons are not eligible to Polish citizenship, but still fulfil the requirements to be considered a Pole.
What are the conditions for Karta Polaka?
The main conditions are:
- Basic level of Polish language (at least enough to understand the questions of the consular office and answer them) & Polish traditions.
- You must declare, in a written form to the consul, that you are part of the “the Polish Nation” — it is a document signed during the interview.
- The applicant must prove that at least one of your parents or grandparent, or two great-grandparents were Poles or had Polish citizenship. If you cannot prove it, there is an alternative path (more difficult though): you should present confirmation from a Polish diaspora organization indorsing that you have been actively involved in activities within the Polish community of their area for at least the previous three years
Karta Polaka – What are the benefits?
The main benefits of the Polish Card are:
- Apply for National Visas without paying fees;
- Be able to start and run a business with the same conditions as a Polish citizen;
- Possibility of study free of charge and applying for special scholarships;
- Free healthcare in situations of emergency.
- 37% discount on public transport.
- Entrance free of charge to state museums;
- After living in Poland for one year, you can apply for Polish citizenship.
How to apply for Karta Polaka?
To apply for the Polish Card the first step is to find the nearest Polish Consulate and schedule an appointment. In some consulates, the nearest time slot available can be almost a year ahead. If this is your case, try to find other polish diplomatic missions around where you can schedule an appointment sooner.
The appointment you schedule might be already the interview, so be prepared in advance. Put together all the documents and evidence that you fulfil the requirements. Remember to bring a sworn translation (to the Polish language, of course) of all foreign documents, and present it together with the original version. If you are in doubt about how to find a competent translator, contact us.
Karta Polaka – The Interview
The questions during the Interview depend on the Consul (or whoever represents him) and vary according to location. Still, they obey a common logic. Kristina Volchek, a Belarussian that applied and obtained her Karta Polaka, wrote that she answered questions about the following subjects:
- National Anthem of Poland (telling by heart, not singing);
- Christmas traditions: 12 dishes and why 12 of them, Chrismas songs, the process of sharing a special wafer when exchanging Christmas greetings, and so on;
- The reason I applied for Karta Polaka;
- Public Holidays (dates, history);
- My favourite historical person;
- What are the main three symbols of Poland (National Anthem of Polan, Flag and Coat of arms of Poland)?
After applying for it, the decision may take a few months. Once you have a positive answer, you receive a code and collect your Polish card (or Karta Polaka).
After having your Polish Card, what is the next step for citizenship?
If you have a Karta Polaka, after living in Poland for one year you can acquire citizenship. This is a considerably shorter time than any other path, which can take from 3 to 10 years.
One curiosity: the new rules of Karta Polaka and the faster way to citizenship gave the possibility to residents of Ukraine with polish ancestry to escape the war in Donbas that started a few years ago. As Michał Dworczyk, chairman of the Committee for Connection with Poles Abroad then stated:
They will be treated like Polish citizens, of course with respect to international law. There was no legal basis to evacuate Poles from Donbas, but after the changes in the law [of Karta Polaka], it will be.
In the following weeks, we will publish the second part of our series How to get citizenship of Poland? In the next post, we will clarify other paths to citizenship, like via permanent residency in the Polish territory.
Author: Levi Borba, founder of Colligere Expat Consultancy, former RM specialist for the world´s greatest airline, and author of the books Moving Out, Living Abroad and Keeping Your Sanityand Budget Travelers, Digital Nomads & Expats: The Ultimate Guide. You can check some of his articles here.
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