Worried after Brexit? Here’s how to become French

After the UK voted for Brexit, many Brits in France will no doubt explore the possibility of becoming a French citizen. Here's some guidance.

Worried after Brexit? Here's how to become French
Could it be time to become a French citizen? Photo: AFP
British expats in France are signing up for French citizenship in their thousands.
It may be an arduous and red tape-strewn path but for those who’ve called France home for a while, and who want benefits like voting in the French elections then maybe becoming a fully fledged French national is the best solution anyway (and why wouldn’t you want to become French?).
Everyone would have their own personal reasons for doing so.
But how’s it done?
There are basically two main paths to French citizenship for those from the UK, and here’s the step-by-step guide to both.
1. Naturalisation.
If you’re not married to a French person, this is the pathway that’s most likely applicable to you. You need to have lived in France for five continuous years to be eligible, and you have to be able to prove that you have integrated into the French culture (and can speak French, bien sûr). 
If you’re a tertiary student, it’s a bit more relaxed, and you can be eligible for citizenship after two years if you’ve completed a master’s degree or you can prove that your talents are an asset to France.
Sounds easy enough, but it can be a time-consuming affair – especially getting documents translated.
2. Marriage.
Have you been married to a French person for at least four years? Well, as long as you live together, then you’re eligible for French citizenship too (if you don’t live together, however, then you need to have been married for five years).
Of course, you need to still be married to the spouse upon application, they need to still have a French citizenship, and you need to show that you have a good knowledge of French. 
So, if you’ve read this and you’re eligible, then this is where the fun really starts. 

(US actress Scarlett Johansson is married to Frenchman Romain Dauriac. Photo: AFP)
Applying for citizenship
Head down to your local préfecture and bring every piece of ID you can conceivably imagine. Don’t even leave the house without your passport, birth certificate, and proof of address, but it’s well worth bringing proof that you can speak French (a diploma or certificate), evidence of not having a criminal record, proof of employment…
If you’re married, then bring a marriage certificate of course, as well as any kind of proof that you have joint bank accounts or joint property deeds.
To be fair, if you’ve lived in France for five years or have been married to a French person for four years, you’re probably already well-versed in France’s love of paper, proof, and photocopying – so this shouldn’t pose any problems.
It’s free to lodge the application yourself, but Mougenot from Expat Partners estimates that up to 50 percent choose to pay an advocate or consultant for help, which can come with a price tag of anywhere from €2,000 to €8,000.
Now what?
Now the waiting game begins. Your application will be reviewed by a slew of governmental departments, including the police and the mayor’s office. Some applicants may even be interviewed by police. 
The process can take years, with Fiona Mougenot from Expat Partners suggesting the average of 12 to 18 months to process. 
Indeed, with such a long process involved, people have been known to land back at square one after the rules and ID requirements change throughout the course of the application. 
When the dust finally settles, you’ll (hopefully) find yourself the proud owner of a French passport and and ID card. You’ll even be invited to a naturalisation ceremony.
Congratulations. You’ve become French. 
For more information about how to qualify for French Citizenship, including all the documents you will need,  you can click here or visit the appropriate French government website by clicking here.

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Brexit: How Brits in France can secure residency rights for their children

British adults who were living in France before the end of 2020 should all now have residency cards, but for families the situation is slightly different - here's how to secure legal residency status for your children.

Brexit: How Brits in France can secure residency rights for their children

We’re talking about a very specific group of people here – British families who moved to France before December 31st 2020, and whose children were under 18 on that date. 

British families who want to move to France in the future will need a visa, and children can be included on parental visas – click here for more detail.

British adults who were living in France before the end of the Brexit transition period had until the end of 2021 to get themselves the special post-Brexit carte de séjour (residency card) and all Brits (with the exception of dual nationals who have citizenship of an EU country) should now be in possession of the card.

However, their children are in a slightly different position; legally they are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement in the same way as their parents, but the carte de séjour is only available to over 18s. 

Before turning 18 

Under 18s take their parents’ residency status, so as long as a parent or legal guardian has a residency card then their kids have the right to live in France and go to school here.

A residency permit is not required to either live in France, or to travel in and out of it for children.

However some parents have opted to get the special travel document known as the DCEM for their children, especially if the children are travelling without their parents.

“A foreign minor residing in France is not obliged to hold a residence permit. However, to facilitate their travel outside France, they can obtain a Document de Circulation pour étranger Mineur (DCEM),” reads the French government website.

This isn’t a Brexit-specific thing, it’s always been available for any non-EU children living in France with their parents. It’s not compulsory, but it just avoids any lengthy explanations are the border by providing clear proof that the child’s parents are legal residents in France.

Find out how to apply HERE.

When they turn 18 

Once the children turn 18 they will need to get their own carte de séjour in order to be legal residents in France.

The terms are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement in exactly the same way as their parents, but the process to get the card is slightly different.

When parents applied there was a special website set up to facilitate the post-Brexit cards, but this has now closed down. Instead, the application must be done via your local préfecture.

It’s advised to start this a couple of months before the child turns 18 and you will need to book an appointment with the préfecture’s immigration department – some préfectures have an online booking system, in other areas you will need to call or visit for an appointment – and then take along a dossier of information including your own carte de séjour and information relating to the child including a birth certificate, passport and school records to prove residency in the country.

Readers who have been through the process tell us that it has been pretty straightforward, but of course the experience can be different depending on the préfecture. 

The child will then be issued a carte de séjour in their own name, which gives them the legal right to live and work in France. 

Working in France 

Once the card has come through, the child has the legal right to work in France, but there is a bit of a grey area regarding working for children before they turn 18.

Technically the Withdrawal Agreement gives this right – and children can work in France from the age of 16 with their parents’ consent – but some employers ask for a carte de séjour and if this cannot be supplied they may be turned down for the job.

Often the more casual jobs that youngsters do won’t ask for the paperwork, but if you’re working for a national chain such as a shop or supermarket you may need paperwork. 

Once you have had the interview at the préfecture you should get a récépissé – a kind of receipt – and this can be used to provide proof of legal status for employers.


Of course, the way to avoid the hassle of residency paperwork is to become a French citizen.

If your children were born in France, you can apply for citizenship on their behalf once they turn 13 (citizenship for those born in France is not automatic unless one of the parents is French).

If they were not born in France they have to wait until they become an adult and then apply in their own right through residency, unless one of the parents is naturalised as French citizen.

Full details on citizenship for children can be found HERE.