(May 6, 2019) On April 15, 2019, the Bill Amending the Act on the Polish Card was adopted by the Sejm (lower chamber of the Polish legislature) and submitted to the Senate (upper chamber of the Polish legislature) for consideration. (Ustawa z dnia 12 kwietnia 2019 r. o zmianie ustawy o Karcie Polaka [Bill on Amending the Act on the Polish Card], Apr. 12, 2019, Sejm website.) Drafted by the government of Poland with the aim of uniting Poles living abroad and strengthening their links with the motherland, the Bill provides for the issuance of the Polish Card, a document proving Polish ancestry and ethnicity, to all persons of Polish descent regardless of their place of residence. (Press Release, Chancellery of the Prime Minister, Draft Act Amending the Act on the Polish Card and the Consular Law Act (Apr. 2, 2019) (in Polish).) Presently, the Polish Card is issued to the “Poles of the East,” persons of Polish descent who are citizens of the former Soviet republics. (Act on the Polish Card, Sept. 7, 2007, preamble & § 2(3)–(4), Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.) The Bill did not amend social security, travel, residence, work permit, and educational entitlements granted under the Act on the Polish Card. Currently Polish Card holders are entitled to open companies in Poland on the same basis as Polish citizens; obtain work permits; have access to preschool, primary, and secondary education; and pursue PhD degrees in Poland. They are also permitted to conduct research in Polish institutions, have access to health care, and receive a 37% discount when using public transportation and free admission to museums. (Id. § 6.)
The Bill also proposes abolishing the Council for Poles in the East—an adjudicative public administration body created by the Act on the Polish Card to review appeals and make decisions with regard to granting the Polish Card (id. art. 1(3))—and replacing it with the newly created Council for Poles Abroad, which would retain the powers of Council for Poles in the East (Bill on Amending the Act on the Polish Card art. 1(3)).
According to the Bill, the conclusions of the National Security Agency would be necessary in making decisions on granting the Polish Card. (Id. art. 1(6).) The National Security Agency must indicate if an applicant for the Card has been engaged in behavior that would undermine the defense, security, or protection of public order, and/or if the applicant has acted to the detriment of the Republic of Poland and/or violated human rights. (Id.; Act on the Polish Card art. 19(5)–(6).) The National Security Agency or other competent authority must provide this information within 90 days of receiving the application for the Polish Card and within 30 days of receiving the request for renewal of the Polish card. (Bill on Amending the Act on the Polish Card art. 1(6) paras. 3–4.) Failure to furnish this information in the specified period would be considered the absence of the relevant information. (Id. art. 1(6) para. 4.) The new period for clearing the application for the Polish Card is substantially longer than the current one, which is 14 days. (Act on the Polish Card. art. 19a(2).)
Experts say that it is not clear what impact the enactment of the Bill would have on the number of applicants and their geographic distribution. According to studies as of 2012, there were more than 100,000 holders of the Polish Card after its introduction in 2008. Approximately 50% of current Polish cardholders are citizens of Ukraine. (Mikolaev Junior Team 2013, The “Polish Card”: Another Way to Europe?, EASTBOOK (June 5, 2013).)