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FRENCH CITIZENSHIP

France makes it easier to become French

Vive la France! Despite the talk about the French wanting to quit France it appears to be a popular country after all. After announcing a 14 percent rise in people gaining French nationality, the government wants to make it even easier.

France makes it easier to become French
The famous French Tricolour. Photo: fdcomite/flickr

France's Interior Minister Manuel Valls announced on Wednesday that the number of people gaining French nationality in the last year has risen by 14 percent.  And Valls, who was born in Spain but gained French citizenship in 1981, wants those numbers to increase even more.

In 2012 46,000 applications for French citizenship were accepted by authorities but the interior minister wants that number to top 100,000 in the future. 

The French public may not be too happy with the announcement after a poll earlier this year revealed that the majority of French believed there were too many foreigners in France.

Valls made it clear in October last year that he wanted to make it easier for foreigners to become French after the numbers of applicants had dropped significantly under Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative government.

"French nationality should not be sold off or reserved for the elite,” he said at the time.

As one of a number of measures aimed at increasing the number of naturalized French citizens, the government said it wanted to scrap the multiple-choice history and culture test that was introduced under Sarkozy but never implemented. Valls confirmed this move in a new decree on Wednesday.

 Sample questions of the QCM included fairly guessable questions such as, is Edith Piaf: a singer, a bird specialist or a cyclist?

“You don’t become French by answering multiple choice questions,” said Valls.

Valls also scrapped a rule that applicants had to have a permanent job (CDD) before they would be considered.

These changes appear to have already taken effect with 61 percent of requests being accepted in 2013, compared to just 40 percent in 2011.

His latest decree on Wednesday also seeks to standardize the practices of each administrative centre after a general inspection showed that the number of refused requests could vary greatly from one centre to the next.

Valls also outlined plans to open three new regional agencies for dealing with candidates for French nationality in Nancy, Besançon and Beauvais. The Nancy site will include a Citizenship Assimilation Commission who will be charged with interviewing French wannabes to test their French language skills, as well as knowledge of French culture and national values.

Although the rules state that applicants must have a certain level of French language ability, Wednesday's decree will exempt the over-60s and graduates from Francophone universities from taking the obligatory French language test.

However, despite the decree's leniency on certain criteria, the final decision for citizenship still rests on the discretion of the French official, who is entitled to give a refusal even if all of the conditions are met.

The government's plan has not been greeted warmly by the right wing opposition.

“Valls wants to increase the number of naturalizations I order to facilitate the integration of immigrants, but to become French must be the result of an assimilation to the national community,” said UMP deputy Guillaume Larrivé.

“On June 17th I attended a naturalization ceremony in Auxerre of a woman who wore the Islamic veil. Was she really 'assimilated to the French community' according to the meaning in the civil code?” Larrivé said.

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FRENCH CITIZENSHIP

Do children born in France automatically get French citizenship?

French citizenship carries plenty of advantages but it is not always a straightforward process - even if you were born here.

Do children born in France automatically get French citizenship?

Children born to foreign parents in France are automatically given French nationality in the following circumstances:

  • One of the parents was born in France, even if they are not a citizen;
  • One of the parents was born in Algeria before 3 July 1962;
  • The child is born stateless – their parents have no legal nationality; the parents are unknown; the parents come from a country where nationality is only given if you were born there. 

In any other situation, a child born to foreign parents in France can only become French at the age of 13, if they meet a number of conditions. 

Age 13-15

Those born in France to foreign parents can apply to become French between 13-15 if the following criteria are met:

  • The child has lived in France on a regular basis – this means they have spent most of their time in France since the age of 8-years-old
  • The child is living in France at the time of their application
  • The child consents to becoming French (unless they do not have the mental or physical capacity to do so).

One of or both of the child’s parents or legal carer must write a déclaration de nationalité française on behalf of the child – be sure to make two copies. On the declaration, you will need to provide the name, surname, date of birth and place of birth of the minor and their representative.

This declaration must be sent by post or handed directly to your local tribunal judiciaire (find your closest one here). 

You will also need to provide the following:

  • Birth certificate less than three months old (you can apply for a copy of your birth certificate at any age in France);
  • ID document;
  • Recent ID photos;
  • A titre de séjour of the foreign parent or representative with an official overseas ID document;
  • Proof that the minor lives in France;
  • Proof that the minor has been frequently living in France and has resided in the country for at least 5 whole years since the age of 8;
  • Proof that the legal representative of the child has parental authority (birth certificate or adoption certificate).

Original versions of these documents, rather than photocopies, are required. 

If the child has children of their own who live with them, birth certificates and added proof will be required. In some circumstances, the tribunal may ask you to have the child medically examined to check their physical and mental capacity to voluntarily ask for citizenship. 

Any documents written in another language must be translated into French by a registered translator

Once you have submitted evidence, the child is given a récépissé or receipt and an interview is organised to ensure that the child has given their consent. 

Judicial authorities have six months to register the declaration – or refuse to give nationality. They can change their mind after two years if they discover retrospectively that the legal conditions for nationality are not met or if you have lied on the form. 

If the request for nationality has been confused, you can contest it in the sixth months following the decision. You will need to hire a lawyer to do so. 

Age 16-18

Those born in France to foreign parents can apply to become French between 16-18 if the following criteria are met:

  • They live in France at the time of applying;
  • They have lived in France regularly since the age of 11, for a period of at least five years.
  • They consent to becoming French (unless they do not have the mental or physical capacity to do so).

Unlike for those aged 13-15, this age group can deliver the necessary documents without parental authority. 

The declaration of nationality can be sent by post or handed over in person by the applicant. 

All the same documents are necessary as for the 13-15 age group. 

Adults 

If you over the age of 18 and were born in France to foreign parents, you can apply for citizenship if you meet the following conditions: 

  • You lived in france at the age of 18;
  • You lived in France regularly for a period of at least five years since the age of 11;
  • Your parents are not diplomatic agents or consulate staff 

Officially, if you meet the above criteria, you become French automatically at the age of 18. 

However you should apply for a certificat de nationalité française at the age of 18. To do this, you will need to present proof that you have lived in France regularly for a period of five years since the age of 11 (school certificates, work contracts etc.)

What if one of the child’s parents obtains French nationality?

If a child’s parent has just obtained French nationality by applying for citizenship, the child become French if the following conditions are met:

  • The child lives in France with this parent (at least part-time in the case of divorce);
  • The name of the child is mentioned on the naturalisation decree of the parent.

It is possible to apply for naturalisation of a child living overseas if one of their parents has become French. However, the child must have lived in France with the newly-French parent for at least five years prior to the request being made. 

If the parent becomes French by the time their child has reached the age of 18, the child cannot then become French through their parent. 

What if one of the child’s parents was born French? 

A child whose parents are French at the time of their birth is considered French, even if the child was born overseas. 

If the parent loses their French nationality once the child has become an adult, this has no impact. 

If the lineage of the child is contested once they become an adult, French nationality will not be stripped from them. 

What if the child has been adopted by French parents?

An adoption plénière (full adoption, in which there is a total break with the original parents of the child) signed before the child is born can bestow French nationality on that child at birth. 

If the adoption happened overseas, it will only be possible to apply for French nationality this way if the adoption has the same legal standing as an adoption plénière in France. 

An adoption simple (in which a link with the original parents is somewhat maintained) does not automatically guarantee French nationality. 

The following conditions must be met:

  • The child must be less than 18-years-old at the time they apply for citizenship;
  • The child must live in France when the application is made, unless they have been adopted by a Frenchman living abroad;
  • The person who adopted the child must have been French at the moment of the adoption itself. 

The process of applying for citizenship is the same as for children born in France to non-French parents, except that you will also need to provide adoption documents. 

What other ways can I get French nationality? 

You don’t have to be born in France to obtain French nationality. 

There are two main alternative routes for applying for citizenship – through residency or through marriage. 

  • Residency 

If you are applying through residency you need to have been resident in France for at least five years.That can be reduced to two years if you have completed postgraduate studies at a French university.

Those applying via residency will also need to prove they can speak French to B1 level, they have an adequate knowledge of France, its culture, history and politics and also show they have integrated into and appreciate the French way of life.

They will need to show they have a clean criminal record (for those who have less than 10 years residence in France) and that their tax payments are up to date, including tax return notices for the three years prior to filing the application for French citizenship. They will also need to prove they are financially sustainable. In other words they have a job or some other form of income.

  • Marriage 

If you are applying through marriage you need to have been married for four years, but do not actually need to be living in France. 

If you have children born in France you can apply for citizenship on their behalf once they turn 13, and if you get citizenship your children are also given citizenship.

If you get into a PACS (which is like a civil partnership) with a French person, you do not automatically get nationality. 

  • Other

There are some other less common ways to get citizenship. One is to join the French Foreign Legion, as anyone who serves five years in the Legion or who is injured on active service qualifies for citizenship (although you might want to check out what their training involves first) and the other is to perform an outstanding service for France.

Some people who have achieved something superb are offered French nationality and foreigners who worked on the frontline during the Covid pandemic have been offered fast-track citizenship

You can read more about applying for French nationality HERE

This article serves as guidance on how to obtain French nationality but in certain circumstances, additional documents and procedures may be required. If you are in any doubt, contact your local tribunal.

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