Because I have 2 Polish parents I am entitled to Polish citizenship and passport. Irrespective of how nice the theory is, in practice it proved to be a complete nightmare. In retrospect, I would probably have enlisted the services of a company that specialises in these matters - just to make life easy.
Summary and recommendations in obtaining Polish citizenship for people living outside Poland
- Travel to Warsaw and apply through the citizenship office there. An application can be processed and completed within about 6-7 weeks.
- If your birth certificate does not contain your surname, visit your registrar and obtain a version that does contain your surname.
- Have all birth and marriage certificates translated by a sworn translator in Poland. Find one on our list of translators.
- Double check all translations and official documents for accuracy.
Permanently or temporarily resident in Poland
If you're permanently or temporarily resident in Poland and have registered as such (with the local council), you will have to obtain a Polish version of birth and marriage certificates first from your local registrar at the Council (urzad stanociwilny) and then apply for Polish citizenship in the nearest big city.
If you're interested in my full experience please read on and avoid these pitfalls
I initially filled in required forms and sent my application to the Polish Consulate in London. After a complete failure to obtain conformation of receipt and processing by email, telephone or fax, I went there in person 4 months later, only to be told that they hadn't received it.
My sister had reason to go about a month later and 'lo and behold' it had materialised again. They have since written to me and have requested additional information which I will send. There is a clause at the foot of the letter which states that applications can take up to 12 months, I assume from the point of receipt of all documents.
In the meantime, shortly before my application had re-appeared, I attempted to initiate the process in Poland. I visited the Krakow Passport Office today to talk to an official dealing in these matters regarding my citizenship and passport application. My father has a valid Polish passport, my sister has been told that she has one and received a letter stating that she is entitled to Polish citizenship. I took photocopies of both of these documents to the passport office where I was informed that I would still need to gather and document evidence of my Polish ancestry, even though my sister did the same and successfully submitted it to obtain her citizenship.
I did ask whether they could just look up my father’s record using his passport number but apparently not. Each area of Poland is responsible for their own decision making process. Not only am I duplicating the effort but also local government officials who have to deal with it. My father’s and sister’s documents will add weight to my application. The process of obtaining citizenship could take up to 6 months or so – the official couldn't be precise. It is now over a year since beginning the whole process in London and all I get is letters postponing things. The sooner the process is computerised and kept on a central database in Poland, the sooner they will be able to improve efficiency.
Before I could make a formal application for citizenship, I needed to register my birth and marriage certificates, complete with authorised translations at a local government office so that they are transferred to Polish paper and become Polish documents. In addition, I was told that I would need to obtain the following documents:
verified copies (with official government stamp) of my father’s passport and sister’s letter of citizenship
potted family history with all associated existing documentary evidence written in Polish. They were particularly concerned about my mother’s lack of official documents. She was taken to Siberia at the age of 9 by Russians who rounded up the villagers during the II World War with only the clothes they were standing in. She didn’t ever change her nationality or obtain a passport of any country. Like many other Poles she came to live in Britain after the war. I am supposed to gather documents from 56-80 years ago? This is something my mother gets very upset about. In Britain she had great problems in obtaining her pension because she couldn’t even prove her age but even more upsetting is the Polish government insisting on documentary proof of citizenship.
scan of my British passport , plus other documents that I already had such as: family tree, verified copy of driving license
Once I lodge my application for citizenship with a payment of 50 zloty, I then wait for a decision to be made. When a positive decision is made and I am declared a Polish citizen, I can then apply for a Polish passport should I wish. I think I might pass on that one and wait until a fully computerised system is in place.
Local Government Office or Urzad stanociwilny
My next step was to register with a local government office (Urzad stanociwilny) to register for an extended stay of up to 3 months. Why I am still required to register locally I don't know - Poland is now part of the EU and as an EU citizen I am supposed to have freedom of travel.
I was also supposed to lodge by birth and marriage certificate to obtain a copy on official paper. There was a short queue at the appropriate room in the building. I waited my turn. There were 2 ladies working in the office. The head lady listened to what I wanted then asked where I had lived in Poland before. I told her that I had never lived in Poland but wanted to lodge my details in order to obtain citizenship. Her response was to ask why I had come to them, I should go and do this in Warsaw if I had no connection with the country. I explained that I had bought a house in the area and that was going to be my connection. She was amazingly reluctant to deal with me. I explained further that the official in the Krakow office had told me to register here. She called her superior and asked for advice. She must have been told to proceed because I was then asked to go up to the 3 rd floor first to register, which I did. This entailed filling in a form with contact details and my passport number.
I then went back to the original office where my birth and marriage certificate authorised translations were tread through. These appeared to pose a few problems. For place of birth I had written London, and my passport states London. My birth certificate has Hackney written it. This was questioned. I explained that Hackney is a district of London. But it doesn’t say that on the certificate I was told and how is anyone supposed to know that.
The next problem was that the surnames didn’t entirely match. My maiden name was Mroz with an accent on the 'o'. All Polish names were written down without the use of Polish letters with accents. I explained that people in Britain aren’t familiar with the Polish alphabet.
The next step was to write a letter, in Polish, to the Director of local government with a request to lodge my birth certificate. The lady said that I could take it home but I asked if she would help me which she very kindly did, dictating it word for word. Never in a million years had I though the Polish I had learnt 40 years ago at Polish school would ever come in useful.
The lady then read through the translation of my marriage certificate. The problem here was that my mother was not mentioned, or the surname that I would use on marriage, both of which are required for the Polish document. She told me that I would need to obtain a stamped official letter confirming my marital surname. I produced National Insurance card, passport and a collection of bank cards to no avail. No stamp, no good. I told her that we did not have any official documents of that nature. I asked her to call the official in Krakow which she dutifully did. He apparently informed her that a scan of the passport could be used and that some of the rules had changed. Anyway, I was then asked to return the following Wednesday to give her a chance to read through the rules before the marriage certificate could be dealt with.
On my return the following Wednesday I was told that I needed to obtain a different birth certificate - mine did not contain the required information. They showed me someone else's birth certificate carrying an NHS number, time of birth etc which i'm sure must have been issued by a hospital. They had accepted that one but refused to accept mine. All my documents were returned to me. The lady in question told me that she was going to a meeting later that week and gave me her phone number to call her at home. I think she genuinely had difficulties because she did not know what an authentic birth certificate from Britain should contain.
It just begs the question why there isn't a database of official documents relating to each country of the EU in Brussels that such offices could simply look up .I was so angry I wrote to my MEP back home in Essex, who a month later still had not replied or acknowledged my letter. I called his office today to check whether their email was working. I was informed by a lady at the office in Chelmsford that the UK Independence Party will not do anything to help the EU because they are opposed to it. What use is Jeremy Titford as an elected MEP? Absolutely none as far as I can see. Since then, I've also heard of an organisation called Solvit that assists people who come across EU related problems like these.
The main problems seem to be incompatibility between the British and Polish systems and an inability to deal with matters that are outside the norm. A database of official documents across the EU would help government officials when dealing with them and deciding what's genuine and what isn't.
If Britain insisted on all Poles registering in London there most certainly wouldn’t be the number that are currently there now.
The good news is that one morning I received a phone call from the Urzad stanociwilny asking for me to confirm a couple of points and that my birth and marriage certificates will be written into the required registers on my return to Poland.
However, when I took my documents to Krakow, the birth certificate was OK but marriage certificate had omissions and errors. THey did point out what needed to be on the marriage certificate.
In Poland, the format of the marriage certificate has spaces for the parents names of people named on the certificate. It reads as for example, Mary Smith, daughter of Bill and Jean Smith and Mark Jones, son of Glynn Jones and Megan Jones.
I now had to add my husband's details to the marriage certificate which meant obtaining translations of his birth certificate. And would you believe it when I handed all this in and returned several days later, I was told, but we can't do this because it doesn't state what your husband would be called in later life (again parents's surname on the birth certificate) but it didn't state that .what my husband's surname would be. Now, this very same lady had a photocopy of both my and my husband's passports and knew what both his and my surnames were. It was commonsense and initially I just could not believe what she was telling me, however, commonsense prevailed and she wrote out the marriage certificate accurately.
At this point I obtained 3 copies in case my children have need of certificates such as these after our death. Save them the hassle now and I would recommend to anyone to obtain multiple copies of each legal document because it is just so difficult for anyone starting from scratch and also because they are retained by the various offices, so you could need several.
Anyway, I have now obtained my certificate of citizenship but we we're now at the point where Krakow was handling my application but apparently waiting for confirmation from Warsaw. It seems that if they cannot complete something by a certain time schedule they issue a 2 month extension. I had received 2 of those now with no end in sight.
The crazy thing is that they are preventing people from investing in Poland and bringing in much needed work. Since we've been here we have used the services of a cleaner, IT specialists and builders. It all keeps the local economy going.
It's not as if we're needy immigrants, we're quite comfortably off people, we will not be needing anything from the Polish state, and indeed would contribute significantly. I just don't think this government quite understands that immigration can be extremely valuable to the country and would help solve their unemployment problem.
|Polish people who speak English are are willing to act as informal translators for an hourly fee.|
|Expats in Poland - it would be good to know of other expats or expat groups in Poland who meet up occasionally to share experiences and offer a helping hand. Do let us know if such groups already exist.|
|Solvit - SOLVIT is an on-line problem solving network in which EU Member States work together to solve without legal proceedings problems caused by the misapplication of Internal Market law by public authorities. There is a SOLVIT centre in every European Union Member State (as well as in Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). SOLVIT Centres can help with handling complaints from both citizens and businesses. They are part of the national administration and are committed to providing real solutions to problems within ten weeks. Using SOLVIT is free of charge.|
|Registrar of births marriages and deaths in the UK - be careful when attempting to obtain copies of your birth and certificates in the UK because by performing a search in Google you may come across one of several companies that will obtain your certificate for you but charge you much more than if you had gone to the government office directly. These companies can often be seen as sponsored listings at the top of search results. Click on the link on the left for the official source.|