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France scraps citizenship tests

France is to scrap plans to make would-be citizens pass a test on the country's history and culture before´being naturalised, Interior Minister Manuel Valls said Thursday.

France scraps citizenship tests

Valls also said that the need for new citizens to have permanent jobs before they are given a passport would also be lifted, but a relatively tough requirement in terms of proficiency in French is being maintained.

"You don't become French by answering multiple choice questions and I reject the idea that only those with permanent employment contracts can become French," Valls said.

The minister is himself a naturalised French citizen of Spanish origin.

The citizenship test had been due to be introduced on July 1, 2012 under legislation adopted under the previous government designed to address concerns over the perceived failure of some immigrants to adapt to the French way of life.

But following the return of Valls' Socialists to government in June, the measure has not been applied.

Valls said a requirement for new citizens to have the same ability to understand and speak French at the level expected of 15-year-old natives would be maintained.

He also stressed that candidates must support the core values of the French republic, in which he included the concepts of secularism and solidarity as well as the classic trio of liberty, equality and fraternity.

"Naturalisation has to remain the natural conclusion of a successful integration," Valls said.

The assessment of candidates' level of French and their perceived support for "republican values" is at the discretion of officials in town halls who process applications. The language requirement does not apply to the over 65s.

Valls said the number of people acquiring French citizenship through naturalization – a total of just under 120,000 in 2010 – had since fallen by more than 30 percent as a result of the previous right-wing administration's policies.

Eric Ciotti, the national secretary of the main opposition UMP, attacked Valls's reforms, saying: "French nationality should be earned, not just given away."

Marine Le Pen, leader of the far right National Front, echoed the theme, accusing the minister of "dispensing nationality like metro tickets."

Many of those naturalised are teenagers born in France to foreign parents who have an automatic right to citizenship when they turn 18. Under the new rules, foreign children who spent five years in education will benefit from a "strong assumption" that their citizenship application should be granted.

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FRENCH CITIZENSHIP

How you could qualify for French citizenship in under five years

For most people looking to apply for citizenship in France, they have to live in the country for five consecutive years - but, under certain circumstances, you could apply sooner.

How you could qualify for French citizenship in under five years

Here, we explain how you could shave some time off your residency qualifying period before you can apply for citizenship. The application process can last up to two years on top of the qualifying period. And as ever there are many criteria applicants are required to meet so it’s not just a question about time qualifying periods. 

READ ALSO Am I eligible for French citizenship?

Marriage

Marry a French citizen, and you can qualify for French citizenship after four years rather than five.

However, you still have to pass language and cultural knowledge tests.

This also applies to a foreign national living with their French spouse outside France – as long as they too have been married for five years.

READ ALSO How to become a French citizen via marriage

Postgraduates

Postgraduates who have studied at a French university for at least two years can qualify for citizenship after two years of residency. However it’s not as easy at that in reality given applicants must meet other criteria such as prove they have a stable job and income which obviously may take longer.

Postgraduate applicants still have to pass language and cultural knowledge tests, prove you have integrated into the French way of life, and demonstrate you have the means to live in France, which usually comes via work.

READ ALSO TEST: Is your French good enough for citizenship and residency?

The ancestor rule

If you have a parent who was a French citizen at the time of your birth, you can obtain citizenship via ancestry at any time. You will need full documentation for yourself and your French parent, and also need to prove that they have maintained some ‘connection’ with France in the past 50 years – this could be evidence of residency in France, registration with a French consulate or a voter registration to show they have voted in French elections.

READ ALSO How to obtain French citizenship through ancestry

Military ties

You do not need to complete any qualifying period if you have served in the French military, or enlisted for the French or an allied military in a time of war – but, you need to serve your time in the army, navy or air force, first… 

Anyone who joins the French Foreign Legion can apply for French nationality after three years of service. Depending on each applicant’s service record and willingness to integrate, this application will generally be granted.

Exceptional service

If you can render (or have rendered) important services to France given your abilities and talents, or have completed an exceptional integration process (such as activities or actions in civic, scientific, economic, cultural or sporting fields), you can apply for citizenship after two years. 

‘Exceptional service’ can include an act of heroism. In 2018, then 22-year-old undocumented immigrant Mamoudou Gassama rescued a four-year-old who was dangling from a balcony in Paris. His bravery was recognised with French citizenship.

READ ALSO Who is ‘le spiderman’ – the Malian migrant who saved a toddler’s life?

And numerous foreigners who worked on the frontline during the Covid pandemic have been offered fast-track citizenship.

It is important to note that no minimum residency is required for the following applicants:

  • Anyone with refugee status;
  • Anyone who comes from a French-speaking country and speaks French as the mother tongue;
  • Anyone who comes from a French-speaking country and has been educated for 5 years or more in a French-language teaching establishment.
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