Polish citizenship for Pol-Ams?
Compiled by Our Warsaw Correspondent Robert Strybel

WARSAW—Poland is moving to regulate relations with its Diaspora – Polonian, émigré and migrant communities around the globe. The government is now working on a legislative package that will make Polish citizenship easier for people with Polish roots to obtain. If passed by parliament, the bill will recognize dual and even multiple citizenship. At present anyone can apply for Polish citizenship but only after residing in Poland for at least five years must and have valid family, professional or other reasons fro wanting to become a citizen.

The new legislation would make citizenship more readily available to those who can prove their Polish nationality through at least one Polish parent or grandparent or two Polish great-grandparents. An applicant should have a sense of belonging to the Polish nation, cultivate its ethnic traditions and have at least a passive knowledge of the Polish language. It is the Office for Repatriation, Aliens and Foreign Poles (Urząd ds. Repatriacji, Cudzoziemców i Polaków Zarganicznych) that will determine who has Polish nationality. It will also become easier for those who had lost their Polish citizenship or were stripped of it for political reasons to regain it.

Interest in obtaining Polish citizenship has grown since Poland joined in European Union in 2004. A person with a Polish passport is able to travel freely, buy property and do business throughout the 25-nation economic bloc much more easily than the holders of only American or other non-EU passports. More and more Israelis, who had been stripped of their Polish citizenship in a 1968 anti-Semitic Communist purge, are inquiring about how to re-acquire it.

Another innovation now being proposed by Poland’s authorities is the “Karta Polaka” (Pole’s Charter) introducing the concept of “Foreign Pole” (“Polak Zagraniczny”). Although that status stops short of granting Polish citizenship, it does entitle its holder to various privileges while in Poland. These include longer-term visas for the Foreign Poles and members of their families to stay in Poland as well as access to Polish health-care and educational opportunities not available to other foreigners.

The plan was unveiled by Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński during his address from the pulpit of Chicago’s Holy Trinity Church last August and warmly received by the Polish-American community. His presentation was an elaboration of the general resolve to strengthen ties with Polonia he had expressed during his inaugural address in Warsaw a month earlier.

“We must achieve a breakthrough in our relations with Polonia – that is a huge resource,” the incoming prime minister and leader of the conservative Law and Justice party told parliament a month earlier. “Millions of Poles, including those who hold high social positions, live beyond our borders. There are those who would be willing to return to Poland and contribute their know-how and qualifications to it (…) but they require a clear signal in the form of real action.” According to the prime minister, Polish consulates may harm rather than help, because in his view “they are often museums of Communist Poland.”

More information on the subject of Polish citizenship, the Pole’s Charter or other matters pertaining to Polish-Polonian relations may be obtained from: The Prime Minister’s Adviser for Polonian Affairs, Michał Dworczyk, Aleje Ujazdowskie 1/3, 00-583 Warsaw, Poland; tel.: (+4822) 6946273, 6946221; fax (+4822) 6946155; e-mail: [email protected] web site: www.polonia.kprm.gov.pl