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BREXIT

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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VISAS

‘Be ready to wait’: Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Now that Britain is out of the EU, just how much harder is the process of moving to France from the UK after Brexit? British readers share their experiences of applying for visas as 'third country nationals’.

'Be ready to wait': Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Whether you’re moving to France to live, or you’re a second-home owner wanting to spend more than 90 days out of every 180 in France, if you’re British you will now need a visa.

You can find more on how to apply for a visa, and how to understand what type of visa you need, in our visa section HERE.

But how these systems work in practice is not always the same as the theory.

To learn more about the process of getting a visa as a UK national, The Local asked British readers for their experiences of going through the system.

The consensus among respondents was that the whole thing was bureaucratic, though there were notable differences in experiences that ranged from the “easy” to the “complicated” and “time-consuming”, while the advice for future applicants was, routinely, have all your paperwork ready – and be prepared for a lengthy wait at one of the UK’s TLS centres

Appointments

Like most visas, French visas for UK nationals must be applied for before you leave home. You can find a full explanation of the process here, but the basic outline is that you apply for the visa online, and then have an in-person appointment in the UK in order to present your paperwork. 

Sue Clarke told us: “As long as you get all your paperwork together correctly and in the right order, the time it takes to receive your passport back with the visa in it once TLS has sent it off is only a few days.

“TLS – the centre which works on behalf of the French Embassy to collate your application – is so very busy,” she added. “That part of the process took hours even when you have an appointment.”

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: What type of French visa do you need?

“The visa process itself was fairly well run, and a decision for the initial visa was quick,” wrote Ian Sheppard, who successfully applied for a visa in July 2022. 

“Although getting the follow up residence permit was a pain, [and] took longer than expected, and there was little to no communication with severely limited ways to get in touch about the application.”

Sheppard thought that, biometrics apart, the process could have taken place online, and wondered whether the follow-up residence permit application could be more closely linked to the initial visa application, “rather than effectively submitting the same application twice”.

Georgina Ann Jolliffe described the process as “stressful”. 

“A lot of the initial stage was unclear and I needed a lot of reassurance about the visa trumping the Schengen 90 days. (The Local helped on that one),” she wrote. 

“[The] lack of ready communication was very stressful. It could be slicker, however staff at Manchester TLS were excellent.”

Jacqueline Maudslay, meanwhile, described the process as “complicated”, saying: “The waiting times for the appointment with the handling agent (TLS in the UK) are long and difficult to book online. We applied for a long-stay visa and were given a short-stay visa, with no reasoning and no option of talking to anyone.  

“We had met every criteria for the long-stay visa. There needs to be a contact link with the French Consular website directly for discussing visa applications.”

Handling agent TLS’s website – the first port of call for applicants from the UK – was a target for criticism.

“The TLS system is probably the most user unfriendly system I have ever used,” wrote Susan Kirby. “It throws up errors for no legitimate reason and even changes data you have keyed in. Dates are in American format so you have to be very careful and it can be very difficult to edit.”

Bea Addison, who applied for a visa in September 2021 with a view to retiring in France, agreed that it was complicated and believes the French system is chaotic and badly organised compared to other countries. “Even staff in the French Embassy in London were not knowledgeable of the process and documentation,” she wrote.

“The renewal in France was applied for in July 2022 … we have received an attestation that we will be granted renewal visas, which expired in October 2022, but we have not yet received a date to attend the préfecture due to a backlog.

Second-home owners

Many of our survey respondents were not moving to France, but were instead second-home owners who did not want to be constrained by the 90-day rule.

They have the option of remaining residents of the UK and applying for a short-stay French visitor visa – which must be renewed every year.

Second-home owner Peter Green told us: “Our appointment with TLS was delayed by two and a half hours and the whole experience was chaotic.

“We now have to go through exactly the same process again to get a visa for 2023. With second-home owners there should be a fast track that just involves proving financial viability, nothing else has changed. The system needs to be fully computerised.”

Second-home owner Alan Cranston told us his application met with no problems, but came with “unwanted cost and effort”. 

“Our six-month visa was for our first stint at our house in France in the spring, and that then overlapped our second visit in the autumn which was under Schengen. How that is handled seems to be a muddle (we did not leave the country for a day at the end of the six months, as some advise),” he said. 

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