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How to Become a French Citizen

By Jon, published on 17/04/2018 We Love Prof > Languages > French > How to Acquire French Citizenship

So you’ve taken French courses, learned to speak French, know everything there is to know about French etiquette and have been living in France for some time. And so, in view of the impending Brexit and a hope to continue to move freely in the Shengen area, you would like to become a French citizen.

Becoming A French Citizen at Birth

The easiest way to obtain French citizenship is to be born to it. There are two ways a newborn can become a citizen of France.

A new French citizen is born. This baby is happy to have been born a French citizen. He was either born on French soil or of at least one French parent. Photo credit: koalie on VisualHunt

Be born in France: jus soli

If you were on French soil at the time of your birth and:

  • have been a permanent resident since at least the age of 8, your parents can apply to have you granted dual citizenship when you reach the age of 13.
  • are 16 years of age and have lived in France for a total of 5 consecutive or non-consecutive years since the age of 11, you are entitled to apply for citizenship status even before you reach the age of consent at 18.
  • have lived in France for 5 years since you turned 11, you automatically become a French citizen at the age of 18. You should keep records to prove residency, for example proof of your education in France. Otherwise you need only contact the chief clerk at your local courthouse (préfecture) to present the proof and you will automatically be awarded a certificate of naturalisation, enabling you to apply for an identity card or passport. You can refuse citizenship if you can prove you are citizen of another country.

Any youth born in France automatically becomes a French citizen if he or she serves in the military.

Be born to French parents: jus sanguinis

Anyone born to at least one French parent is automatically a French citizen. By submitting the child’s birth certificate (naming both its parents) and a copy of the French parent’s proof of citizenship to your consulate or local town hall and you will receive the French “livret de famille” and, if the child was born in a foreign country, a French birth certificate where any marriages or divorces will be entered.

Underage children of a naturalized immigrant also automatically receive French citizenship.

Dual citizenship

France generally doesn’t mind if a foreign national wishes to retain their birth nationality (or nationalities). The only exception is if they join the armed forces or the diplomatic corps. If you are in the army or working in a consulate or embassy, you must prove your allegiance to France by renouncing any other citizenships.

Career soldiers have to give up other nationalities. Dual citizenship is allowed in France, unless you want to serve as a regular in the army or diplomatic corps. Photo credit: ResoluteSupportMedia on Visualhunt.com

A child born on French soil wishing to give up French citizenship needs to prove they have another citizenship to be certain they are not without papers.

How to Be Naturalized a French Citizen

If you are not lucky enough to be born French, you still have a few options for becoming a citizen of France.

Marriage to a French citizen

Citizenship through marriage is something you should only consider if you are already married to a Frenchman – or Frenchwoman. Entering into a hymenal relationship simply to acquire citizenship does not often lead to a happy wedded life.

Especially since you need to have been married at least four years before you can apply for citizenship by marriage, and your spouse needs to have been a citizen at the time of your marriage.

To prevent fraud, further requirements for naturalization include:

  • If you were married outside of France, the marriage certificate needs to be transcribed in the civil register in France.)
  • You should have a residence card or similar document proving that you reside entirely or frequently in France.
  • If you are residing outside of France, your spouse needs to be registered as an expatriate. (Famous French expatriates include the French philosopher Albert Camus, who was born in Algeria.)
  • You should still be living with your French spouse.
  • Your spouse should not have relinquished his or her citizenship during that time.
  • You cannot have been deported from France or be barred from traveling into France.
  • You cannot have a criminal record
  • You need to show sufficient command of the French language.

If by some chance you cannot prove that you have been a permanent resident of France for at least 3 years since your marriage or your spouse did not register his or her expatriation, the delay before you can apply for naturalization is five years.

French citizenship gives you an ID card Modern French ID cards and French passports are less fragile than they once were. Photo credit: mcclave on Visual Hunt

Have French descendants

Another way to become a naturalized citizen through family is to have children who, by birth or other requirement, are French citizens.

In this case, you are eligible for citizenship if:

  • You are over 65 years of age
  • Have been a permanent resident of France for at least 25 years
  • Are the direct ancestor of a French citizen (parent or grandparent)
  • Do not have a criminal record.

It’s never too late to start the naturalization process! Why not astound your case worker with your knowledge of the history of the French language when you apply?

Residency in France

The naturalisation process for a foreigner living in France varies slightly depending on which of the following citizenship requirements you fulfill:

  • Be 18 or over
  • Have your permanent residence in France, generally for at least five years. Different situations (work as a civil servant, in the army) can shorten the wait to two years or no time at all.
  • You have an eligible visa or residence permit at the time of applying or are a citizen of the European Union.
  • You have been working since coming to France.
  • Show a certain level of integration, ascertained in a personal interview at the end of which you will be asked to read and sign the charter of rights and duties of every French citizen.
  • You have a basic knowledge of the French language. (Improve it by reading books written by French authors!)
  • Show that you adhere to the values of the French Republic
  • Don’t have a criminal record.

How to Apply for Citizenship

The paperwork involved in applying to become a French citizen varies depending on how you are eligible for it. Administrative costs are 55€.

Here is what you need for your citizenship application based on permanent residency of five years or more:

  • First, you need to find out which ‘préfecture’ processes naturalisation papers in your departement; if you are living abroad, you should contact your consulate or embassy.
  • You will need to fill out form cerfa n°12753*02 in duplicate
  • You will have to furnish proof of the information given on form cerfa n°12753*02, such as a certificate of birth, marriage certificate and the relevant residence and work permit.
  • You will need to decide if you want your name and that of your children to be francisised or not. For example, famous French actor Jean Reno was born Juan Moreno y Herrera-Jiménez of Andalusian immigrants in Morocco.

If something changes (residence or work situation) after having deposited your application, there is an additional form to fill out to inform the authorities.

Legally, the préfecture is charged with sending on your dossier to the ministry in charge of naturalisation within six months; the delay for processing your petition is of eighteen months, twelve if you have been resident in France for at least ten years.

If the decision is favbourable, you will be notified by post and the naturalisation decree will be published in the official Journal. Unlike acquiring American citizenship after you had been issued a Green card, there is no naturalization ceremony.

If your application has been rejected, you have a two-month delay to appeal.

Advantages of Being a French Citizen

Become a French citizen to vote in France. In addition to a French passport, becoming a French citizen grants you a carte électorale allowing you to vote. (Rubik’s cube not included.) Photo credit: Éole on VisualHunt.com

You might wonder if it’s all worth it – after all, your studies or your job guarantee you a new residence permit.

But there are certainly advantages to applying for a French nationality.

One of them is that you will be a citizen of the EU – something your British passport will not be good for for long.

You will be able to vote – if you are already an EU citizen, you will only be allowed to vote in local elections; once a French citizen, you shall be allowed to vote in local and national elections and in the presidential election.

Voting and taxes are two sides of one medaillon; it’s up to you whether it’s worth all the red tape.

If you should then move abroad, your children will be eligible – if they, too, have the French nationality through you – to obtain a permit allowing them to study at a foreign French school – these Lycées Français are found in every major global city, stick to the French curriculum and are ideal for those who move around a lot for work.

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