Every Polish citizen 18 years of age or older residing permanently in Poland is required to have an Identity Card (Dowód osobisty) issued by the local Office of Civic Affairs. Children as well as Polish citizens living permanently abroad are entitled, but not required, to have one. Identity cards are valid for a period of 10 years (5 years for children under the age of 5 on the date of issue).
The front bears a photo of the holder, surname, forenames, date of birth, nationality, card number, gender and expiry date. It also contains the coat of arms of Poland and a security hologram partially covering the photo (which makes forgery harder). In the bottom right corner a special security element can be found – the photo of the person and the year of expiration, but only one of them can be seen at a time, depending on the angle of view. Below the CAN (Card Access Number) number can be found. That number is necessary to connect with an embedded microchip (when using e-signature for instance).
On the back can be found the holder’s place of birth (city in Poland or foreign country’s name), date of issue, repeated card number, issuing authority, legal ascendant(s) name(s) and personal number (PESEL – Powszechny Elektroniczny System Ewidencji Ludności – Universal Electronic Population Database). Below the card number the bearer’s photo is repeated and some of the personal data in machine-readable form. On the top of the back side, special barcode can be found – it’s a CAN number in the barcode form.
The PESEL number is mandatory for all permanent residents of Poland and for temporary residents living in Poland for over 2 months.
The Polish identity card also functions as a travel document in the countries as below:
- European Union
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Faroe Islands (de facto)
- French overseas territories
- Greenland (de facto)
- North Macedonia
Since March 2019, ID cards contain a RFID chip that stores personal data as well as a number of digital certificates that allow to authenticate the holder or verify their identity in public or private digital systems.
To connect with a chip, CAN number has to be provided, as well as PIN number (the PIN is established by the card holder while receiving a document in office). The basic e-signature (recognised the same as handwritten signature by all public facilities, like municipal offices, central administration, courts etc.) functionality is provided free of charge for all citizens age 18 or older.
New e-IDs can also be used in automatic border gates at some Polish airports (namely Warsaw Chopin Airport, Modlin Airport and Poznań–Ławica Airport). Gates can also be used by all EU/EEA/CH e-passport holders, but only Polish citizens can use their e-IDs; other EU electronic identity cards are not accepted (but are fully accepted, as well as non-electronic IDs, when proceeding through manual border control performed by Border Guard officer).