Rights and Obligations of Polish Citizenship

Polish Citizenship

Polish citizenship is not only an identity document that gives us the right to freely reside on Polish territory. It is also a wide range of rights and duties that apply to everyone who is called a citizen of the Republic of Poland. Therefore, it’s worth taking a look at what it means to be a Polish citizen, the benefits that follow, and the requirements and obligations that come with it.

Polish citizenship, as you probably know, confers the right to exercise full public rights, such as participation in elections, both at local and national level. This allows citizens to influence the shaping of state and local government policies, which is the foundation of a democratic system. However, citizenship is not only about privileges, but also about specific duties. These include, among others, obeying the law, paying taxes and, in certain cases, the duty to defend the country.

In addition, Polish law provides for such obligations towards citizens as an educational obligation for children and young people, as well as an obligation to register a civil status. A special role is also played here by military service, which, although currently professional, may, in exceptional situations, take the form of universal defence duty.

In the following, we will try to discuss in detail the rights and obligations arising from Polish citizenship. We will address civic, social and economic rights, as well as the duties that every citizen must fulfil. We will learn about the consequences of failing to fulfil these obligations and what privileges citizens are entitled to in various aspects of social and economic life.

Legal regulation of Polish citizenship

Issues concerning the acquisition and loss of Polish citizenship are regulated by the Act of 2 April 2009 on Polish citizenship (Dz.U. of 2012, item 161).

The Act sets out two key principles related to Polish citizenship. The first of these, contained in Article 2, is the principle of continuity of Polish citizenship. It guarantees that citizenship acquired in accordance with the provisions in force at a given time remains valid, regardless of subsequent changes in citizenship legislation. This means that persons who acquired Polish citizenship under old provisions that were later repealed or amended retain their citizenship unless they have lost it. This principle is also a guideline for public administration bodies when confirming the possession or loss of Polish citizenship.

The second principle, set out in Article 3, is the principle of the exclusivity of Polish citizenship. It refers to the problem of dual or multiple citizenship and introduces clear guidelines in the event of its occurrence. According to this principle, Polish citizens may hold citizenship of other states, but Polish citizenship has absolute priority. This means that even if a person also holds another citizenship, he or she is treated only as a Polish citizen in relations with the Polish authorities. Therefore, he/she cannot invoke the foreign citizenship he/she holds at the same time or the rights and obligations arising from it.

Who can be considered a Polish citizen?

The main ways of acquiring Polish citizenship are:

Birth from parents at least one of whom has Polish citizenship – Rule of blood/Ius Sanguinis

A child automatically acquires Polish citizenship if at least one of his/her parents has Polish citizenship. This rule applies regardless of where the child was born, whether in Poland or abroad (Art. 14(1) of the Act on Polish Citizenship). This is nothing other than Polish citizenship by descent.

Giving birth or finding a child on the territory of Poland – the Territory/Ius Soli principle

A child born or found on the territory of Poland, whose parents are unknown, of undetermined citizenship or stateless, acquires Polish citizenship by operation of law (Article 14 point 2 and Article 15 of the Act on Polish Citizenship).

Full adoption

A child adopted by a Polish citizen acquires Polish citizenship, provided that the adoption took place before the child turned 16. In such a case, the child is treated as if he/she had acquired Polish citizenship from birth.

Granting citizenship by the President of the Republic of Poland

The President of the Republic of Poland has the right to grant Polish citizenship to a foreigner upon their application, pursuant to Article 18 of the Act on Polish Citizenship. The President is not restricted by any conditions in granting citizenship and may do so at his discretion. The granting of citizenship to both parents also extends to their children under their care. If citizenship is granted to only one parent, it also extends to the minor child, provided the other parent does not have parental authority or has consented to the granting of citizenship. In the case of children over the age of 16, their consent is required. 

What rights do Polish citizens have?

According to the Polish Constitution, Polish citizens have a wide range of freedoms and personal rights. One of the fundamental rights is the right to personal inviolability, which means that no one may be subjected to torture or corporal punishment. Citizens also have the right to inviolability of property, which translates into the right to search an apartment, room or vehicle only in strictly defined cases provided by law.

The right to a fair trial guarantees that every court case will be heard fairly, publicly, without undue delay, by an independent and impartial court. Polish citizens also have the right to protection of privacy, which includes the legal protection of private and family life, honour, good name and freedom of decisions concerning personal life. Parents have the right to raise their children in accordance with their beliefs.

Freedom of movement allows citizens to move freely around the country and choose where to live. Poles also have the right to freedom of conscience and religion and to express their opinions and views.

In addition, Polish citizens enjoy political freedoms and rights, which include participation in public life, such as the right to vote in elections and referendums, to stand for election, to initiate legislation, to obtain information about the activities of public authorities and persons performing public functions, and the right to submit petitions.

In addition, citizens have the right to freedom of assembly and association, which enables them to form trade unions, political parties and associations.

The final category is economic, social and cultural rights. These include the right to property, other property rights and inheritance. Citizens also have labour rights, such as the freedom to choose an occupation and place of work, the right to a minimum wage, safe and hygienic working conditions and the right to rest.

 What obligations does a Polish citizen have?

Compared to the numerous rights, the civic duties set out in the Polish Constitution are relatively few. Indeed, Polish citizens are obliged first and foremost to be loyal to the Republic and to care for the common good. An important obligation is also the defence of the homeland, which means readiness for military service or other forms of support in situations of danger.

Citizens must obey Polish law and bear public benefits, including paying taxes to the state. It is also an important duty to care for the environment and to be responsible for any environmental damage caused by one’s own actions.

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