Migration Policies: Poland (2015)

The history of migration in Poland is characterised largely by emigration. Until the end of the 20th century, emigration took place both in large waves and in continual yearly movements. Since the fall of Communism in 1989, the nature of migration to and from Poland has been in flux. As a result of its negative migration balance, Poland is still regarded mainly as a country of emigration (Alscher 2008). 

Because of its geographic location Poland increasingly serves as a transit country for migrants. In recent years Poland seems to be developing into a destination country, primarily for migrants from neighbouring countries on its eastern border (Ukraine, Belarus, Russia), and from other parts of the former Soviet Union. 

Following EU accession in 2004, temporary work migration (circular migration) is increasing. This includes Polish citizens who work predominantly in other EU countries, as well as citizens from countries of the former Soviet Union who work in Poland. Since EU accession Polish workers have increasingly migrated to EU states that opened their labour markets, in particular Germany, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. (Alscher 2008)

From 2004 to 2006, Poland’s migration policy continued to be adapted to EU standards. Two amendments to the law governing the residence, entry, and departure of EU citizens came into force in October 2005 and August 2006. Amongst other changes, special residence permits were introduced for citizens of the EU. 

Permanent migration inflows to Poland continue to fall, as was the trend in recent years. 2011 was a year of negative migration balance: around 15,200 persons registered for permanent residency, while about 17,400persons deregistered their permanent place of residence in Poland (Grot 2013). According to data from the Central Population Register, 12,200 persons (including Polish citizens) arrived in 2013 for permanent stays. This constituted a drop of 16 % compared to the inflow of 14,600 in 2012. The downward trend appeared to continue in the first half of 2014 (OECD 2015). 

Permanent emigrants from Poland are relatively young. In 2011, persons between 20 and 39 years of age constituted 42.5 % of migrating men and 49.2 % of women. For both sexes, the share of persons under the age of 14 (i.e. accompanying dependents) was also relatively high. These shares have been growing over the last few years, which may be a sign of the tendency to transform temporary migration into settlement. The most important target country is still Germany, which in 2011 hosted around 39 % of all registered emigrants, and the United Kingdom (22 % of all emigrants), followed by the United States (9 %). (Kaczmarczyk et al. 2014)


Naturalisation policies
Under the new citizenship law there are four ways of acquiring Polish citizenship: by virtue of law (mainly on the basis of ius sanguinis¸ but in exceptional cases also on the basis of ius soli), acknowledgement procedure (with the province governor as a competent authority), conferment procedure (with the President as a competent authority), and restoration procedure (with the Minister of Interior as a competent authority). The legal basis for citizenship is provided by the Polish Constitution and related supplementary laws, according to article 34, paragraph 1 of the Constitution of 2 April 1997. The current law is the Polish Citizenship Act of 2 April 2009, which was published on 14 February 2012, and became law in its entirety on 15 August 2012. (Kaczmarczyk et al. 2014)

Acknowledgement procedure is possible if foreigners submit a request, know the Polish language, are not a security risk, and:

  1. lived in Poland for the last three years as a permanent resident, have a stable and regular source of income, and own or rent an apartment or house);
  2. lived in Poland, legally, for the last ten years and currently have a permanent resident status, have a stable and regular source of income, and own or rent an apartment or house;
  3. lived in Poland for the last two years as a permanent resident, and have been married to a Polish citizen for the last three years;
  4. lived in Poland for the last two years as a refugee, repatriate, or permanent resident, or are stateless.

The procedure of recognition as a Polish citizen is regulated by the Administrative Procedure Code. It means, among others aspects, that a foreigner has the right to appeal the province governor’s decision regarding naturalisation as well as to challenge the decision in court. Polish citizenship may be restored to people who lost Polish citizenship before 1 January 1999.

In 2000, the Repatriation Act was passed to govern the influx of ethnic Poles living in the area of the former Soviet Union and who have experienced disadvantages due to deportation, exile, or ethnically-motivated persecution. Under this law, those applying for an entry visa as an ethnically Polish repatriate have to satisfy a series of criteria: They must prove that two great-grandparents or one of their parents or grandparents are (or were) of Polish nationality; they must demonstrate a clear commitment to Polish nationality by cultivating the language, culture, and customs (Alscher 2008). 

Between 2002 and 2005, 7,623 people were naturalised. Some 2,866 people were naturalised in 2005 alone, a considerable increase compared with the previous year (2004: 1,937 naturalisations). This increase can be attributed primarily to the processing of a backlog of applications. Most of the people who were naturalised in the period between 2002 and 2005 came from Ukraine, Belarus, the Russian Federation, Israel, Lithuania, and Germany.

Furthermore, the passage of the Act of 28 July 2011 legalised the sojourn of certain aliens within the territory of the Republic of Poland and amended the act on granting protection to aliens in the territory of the Republic of Poland and the Act on Aliens. In essence, this act established a regularisation action for foreigners staying illegally in Poland. It was the third action of this type and definitely the most wide-reaching (Kaczmarczyk et al. 2014).


Authors – Contributors
Agnieszka Chłoń-Domińczak 
Institute of Statistics and Demography
Warsaw School of Economics SGH


  • Alscher, S. "Contry Profile Poland". Focus Migration no. 3, Hamburg Institute of International Economics (2008).
  • Grot, K. "An overview of the migration policies and trends - Poland". 2013. Avaiable at:  http://aa.ecn.cz/img_upload/6334c0c7298d6b396d213ccd19be5999/kgrot_polan...
  • Kaczmarczyk, P., Dąbrowski, P., Fihel, A., & Stefańska, R. "Recent Trends in International Migration in Poland". CMR Working Papers 71/129 (2014).
  • OECD. "International Migration Outlook 2015". OECD Publishing, Paris (2015). DOI: 10.1787/migr_outlook-2015-en.