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I am a US military service member who's a citizen of Poland, not a US citizen. My command will be visiting Germany. I would like to visit Poland to visit my family, which I haven't seen in about 30 years. But I don't have my passport.

I do have a Green Card and my military ID. Will this be sufficient for me to travel between the two countries?

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    AFAIK, there is no passport control between Germany and Poland. – Suncatcher May 27 '18 at 10:03
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    Please make sure that Polish citizens are allowed to join a foreign army before returning home. Some countries do not allow their citizens to fight for other countries' armies, or lose their citizenship once they do so, and returning home on a foreign military ID could then result in jail. – Alexander May 27 '18 at 14:32
  • Thank you Alexander, I heard something about that a while ago I just don't know if Poland has those laws. – Adam May 27 '18 at 17:08
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    @Adam: Polish citizens (who are not citizens of the second country) are not allowed to serve in a foreign army without a permit from the interior ministry or ministry of defence for ex-professional soldiers, under penalty of three months to five years of incarceration, see powroty.gov.pl/-/… (in Polish). My understanding is that such permit would be routine for the US army, but getting one retroactively may be more complicated. My guess is that they would let it slide, but it would not be automatic. – tomasz May 27 '18 at 20:12
  • See also wiadomosci.dziennik.pl/wydarzenia/artykuly/… (also in Polish). – tomasz May 27 '18 at 20:15
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Wow. Interesting question, and one we don't get here very often.

  • As a Polish citizen, you are allowed to enter Germany and Poland and to cross the border as often as you like. The problem is proving your Polish citizenship since you have no passport. I think you are required to have a national ID card, too, I don't know how that applies to expats.
  • As a NATO soldier, you are allowed to enter NATO states with your military ID instead of a civilian passport, provided you do so under orders. You will be on leave. I presume that your unit knows you want to cross an international border during your leave.
  • The comment by Suncatcher is right that there are no systematic immigration controls, but there are random spot checks and failure to get this right could get you into trouble with the Army.

My suggestion would be to ask your unit staff. They should probably be told that you're going to Poland, so you can ask the documents question as well.


Follow-Up:

  • The Schengen area has abolished systematic internal border controls, but not the requirement to carry valid ID documents for crossing borders or to present them to the authorities on demand. The forum answer that it has to be a passport is right for a US civilian, but you are neither.
  • You have orders to go to Germany, which makes your US military ID valid in Germany under the Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA). You should ask somebody who knows military law how travel on leave is handled, because you have no orders to go to Poland.
  • I agree with the guess that you're unlikely to be asked for papers, and if so your military ID would probably suffice. But if, say, you break your leg or you get into a car accident, questions about your identity and your unit might come up.
  • There is definitely some profiling going on regarding "random" spot checks. Not just racial profiling and not all of it illegitimate -- young men coming from the Netherlands are checked for drugs more often than elderly ladies, businessmen going to Switzerland are checked for cash above the limit for declaration. That makes a "random" check unlikely on your way east from Germany to Poland, and from Poland to Germany you're going towards your duty station.
  • In most EU countries having an ID card is optional but very helpful when crossing European borders. You might want to look into getting such a card when in Poland. – Willeke May 27 '18 at 12:25
  • Thank you for your replies. My unit knows that I would be traveling across boarders. My CO has been to Poland and it was his idea. I read conflicting forums though. One did state that you don't need a passport, as mentioned above. The other stated that you do need a passport to cross borders no matter what. I have been told by my unit that I can just use my military ID to cross boarders but just in case I do get checked I don't want to get detained. – Adam May 27 '18 at 12:29
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    As long as you don't look arabic (it gets political there and depends on who checks you, so I'll leave that out) the probability of getting checked at the border when re-entering Germany is close to zero. I'm a German citizen travelling a lot on business and I've crossed into and out of Germany so many times the past 2-3 years I'd have trouble counting it. By plane, train and car. The only times I was ever even asked for a passport was on flights, and even there it was maybe once a year, despite flying in and out of the country almost weekly. – Tom May 27 '18 at 12:38
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    Thank you Tom. I look pretty much Polish even though I haven't been there for over 30 years. Do you know if a military ID or a green card will suffice just in case I get asked for proof of ID? Those are the only two proofs I have for travel with me. I read an article where a gentleman was traveling with an Asian friend and she was asked for an ID but he wasn't. – Adam May 27 '18 at 13:06
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    @Adam If you're a Polish citizen and you are in Poland, you must use your polish citizenship. Look up "polish passport trap" on that. Also, double check Art 141 KK about foreign army service. There is exemption in § 3. but it says "on it's territory", so coming to Poland while serving US military might not be exempted. Both of those are worst case scenarios, but it's your jail time at stake here. – Agent_L May 27 '18 at 18:06
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If you know your PESEL number the cops can verify you're a Polish citizen by calling the Polish Embassy/Consulate in Germany. Good Luck!

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