Polish nationality vs Polish citizenship – what is the difference?

The notion of Polish citizenship has no statutory definition. In doctrine, it is defined as a certain kind of legal bond between a natural person and a state, which consists in the person’s belonging to that state. It is expressed by the state providing rights for citizens and presenting them with obligations, which exist to indicate the ways of acquiring and retaining Polish citizenship and the related rights or lack thereof.

Concept of Polish nationality

Polish nationality, which concept is also not legally defined, is membership of a certain ethnic group and has rather a psychological meaning resulting from cultural bonds, traditions, language, and customs. In the case of our clients, we often encounter a situation in which their ancestors left the territories that became part of reborn Poland after 1918. Most of them could not obtain Polish citizenship as they were not covered by the provisions of the Act on Citizenship of the Polish State of 1920.

Definition of Polish citizenship and Polish citizen

In the dictionary of the Polish language, the word ‘citizenship’ is translated as – a state affiliation connected with certain rights and duties defined by the law of a given state, and the word ‘citizen’ as – a member of the society of a given state having certain rights and duties defined by the law. This encyclopedic definition of Polish citizenship is close to the meaning of the term in the colloquial sense. Citizenship is understood here as the existence of a connection between an individual and a particular state, in effect making that individual a citizen of that state and not of another, and a member of the community organized into that state. Having the nationality of a state is very important to that state, which is a collective that operates within a set of rules, and to the individual who is part of that collective. Thus, to have citizenship, there must be a state that regulates by law who is a citizen of that state.

Citizenship in the international legal sense is understood as a general, legal belonging of a person to a particular state that gives the state the right to represent and defend that person’s interests in relations with other countries. On the other hand, internal citizenship, i.e. in our case Polish citizenship, means all common rights and obligations of an individual and the state, which are based on the internal law of that state and which result from the individual’s state affiliation. Nationality is closely connected with citizenship in such a way that it is difficult to separate the two concepts. In essence, these concepts present the same phenomenon, i.e., a legal connection between the individual and the state, from which certain consequences then flow.

What does it mean to be recognized as a citizen?

Of great importance for this understanding of the relationship of the individual to the state are the conditions that must be met by the individual for him to be accepted as a citizen. The recognition of an individual as a citizen gives him the right to be treated as a human being with the legal status of a citizen and allows him to freely exercise the rights and duties intended only for a citizen.

The most distinctive feature of the institution of citizenship is its permanence both in time and in space. The permanence of citizenship in time consists in the fact that from the moment of its creation in the manner prescribed by the internal law of a particular state, until the moment of its termination. Citizenship is of uninterrupted duration irrespective of any changes in the nationality legislation of the state.

The durability of citizenship in space is manifested in the fact that the citizenship of an individual exists even though that individual does not reside on the territory of his/her State of nationality. The bonds of citizenship are not broken when an individual moves to the territory of another State and remains permanently on that territory. The individual retains the rights and duties that citizenship creates.

To sum up the previous content, it should be remembered that Polish citizenship is a legal knot that is intended to bind the individual to the state while at the same time determining common rights. They are set out in the Constitution of the Republic of Poland and other generally binding legal regulations.

It should be noted that Poland’s accession to the European Union, which took place on May 1, 2004, also allowed us to hold European Union citizenship. This citizenship has only supplementary and non-substantive character.

What are the benefits of European Union citizenship?

European Union (EU) citizenship comes with several benefits, although it’s important to note that EU citizenship is derived from the citizenship of a specific EU member state. This means that the citizens of individual member states, such as Poland, automatically become citizens of the European Union upon acquiring national citizenship.

How could Polish citizenship be lost?

While assessing eligibility toward Polish citizenship by descent, we analyse facts confirming that Polish citizenship was held by one of your ancestors, but also, we need to review all the fact and events that took place in your Polish ancestor’s life, that could possibly impact his or her Polish citizenship and cause loss of Polish citizenship.