A while back Jennifer asked a question in the comments section. She wanted to know how to get an ID card in Poland. If I understood her situation correctly, Jennifer’s parents are Polish, she was born in the US and has already completed the process of getting her Polish citizenship confirmed and recognized. And she wanted to know what she should next. Jennifer is Polish, simply because her parents are Polish. She could have been born anywhere, the place doesn’t matter as long as one of your parents is a Polish citizen and has never attempted to give up his/her citizenship.
Now, before I answer, I must warn you. These types of rules and regulations change frequently, so before doing anything, ALWAYS consult with the appropriate government authorities. In other words – call the nearest Polish consulate and ask.
The whole process is very familiar to me, because I went through it just last year. And as in Jennifer’s case, it always begins with confirming that you are really Polish. If one or both of your parents are/were Polish, even if you were born abroad, you have the right to be a Polish citizen.
I am assuming that right now Jennifer has a lovely official document with the following header: “Potwierdzenie Obywatelstwa Polskiego” (or something similar, because they do vary depending on which office prepared them) issued by Mazowiecki Urząd Wojewódzki in Warsaw. If you were born in Poland, the document will be issued by the regional/provincial governor (wojewoda) of the province where your last registered domicile used to be located. If you were born abroad, you get your paper directly from Warsaw (via the consulate). You can’t proceed without completing this step, so let’s call it step zero, because everything else depends on it.
Now, two things may or may not have happened.
- 1. Numer PESEL (ID number). Normally, after receiving the document certifying your Polish citizenship, the consulate will make you fill out an application form for a PESEL number. Because they know that you can’t go any further without that number.
Edited to add: If the consulate did not tell you anything about a PESEL number, call them and ask to fill out a PESEL application ASAP. If you were born in Poland after 1975, you should have been assigned a PESEL number automatically, and it sits somewhere on file in Poland. In that case, the consulate should be able to help you find out what your PESEL number is.
- 2. Registration of your foreign birth certificate in the Polish Population Registry (Urząd Stanu Cywilnego) and issuing you polski akt urodzenia (Polish birth certificate). From what I found out, if you were born abroad and currently live abroad, this would also be handled by the office in Warsaw. But you will most likely end up asking the consulate to send the application for you to the office in Warsaw, especially if you don’t speak any Polish.
After that, it’s all easy-peasy.
With the PESEL number and the paper about your citizenship, the consulate can issue you paszport tymczasowy (temporary passport) while you wait for a normal Polish passport. That is important, because as a Polish citizen you are required to enter and leave Poland using a Polish passport.
If you want dowód osobisty (Polish ID card), you will unfortunately need to come to Poland to apply for it here in person.
To get dowód osobisty, you will need a copy of your Polish akt urodzenia (birth certificate), two photos and your paszport tymczasowy (temporary Polish passport). Registered domicile (meldunek, zameldowanie) in Poland is not required. They will simply write “brak” (none) in the field asking for your permanent Polish address. If you don’t have that permanent Polish address, you can apply for dowód osobisty at any Urząd Miejski (City Hall), but it’s most convenient to do it in the same city that keeps your Polish akt urodzenia (Polish birth certificate) on file, because otherwise they will be sending stuff around to verify that you are really you.
Getting dowód osobisty takes about 30 days. And voila, you have a Polish ID card!
There is no such thing as an “EU ID card”. Some EU countries, like the UK, don’t even have mandatory ID cards. This is something that each country decides on its own.
Right now, Polish dowód osobisty allows you to travel passport-free within the Schengen zone in Europe. In theory, at least – I was denied boarding once when traveling from Sweden to Spain with my dowód osobisty. The woman at the check-in desk thought that since Swedes need passports to travel within the Schengen zone (government issued ID cards are not mandatory in Sweden), the same must apply to other EU nationalities as well.
While outside the Schengen Zone, your passport is your normal form of ID. While in Poland, your dowód osobisty is your normal form of ID. Some businesses (especially those that are still stuck in the past) may even give you an evil eye if you hand them a passport when they ask for “dowód.” It happened to me at my old bank a couple of times. And that’s why I have a new bank now.
I don’t know, or don’t really remember, how much each step in this process costs. For steps from 0 to 2, different consulates charge different fees, especially if foreign document translations into Polish are involved. Some people who were born abroad, and who don’t speak Polish, choose to hire a lawyer to help them with the paperwork. I hired a Polish lawyer simply because it was more convenient that way. It was also faster. Some consulates end up sitting on completed paperwork for months on end (as it happened in my case).
Jennifer, if you want to know more, feel free to ask any and all questions you might have regarding this issue. I hope that this step-by-step outline can help not only you, but also others who are in the same situation.