British expats in France will be forgiven for feeling very uneasy on Friday morning after a majority of their compatriots back home voted to leave the EU.
The thought of the UK quitting the EU – the doomsday scenario for most expats living in France, had seemed unlikely just weeks ago, but is now something British nationals in France must face. Many did not even have their chance to vote.
Although the impact of Britain leaving the EU on the lives of expats is not clear some some British nationals do not want to wait around to find out.
Some are already considering French citizenship.
At least by gaining French citizenship it would help those that can avoid many of the seemingly inevitable complications that will arise if Britain leaves the EU.
(British Prime Minister David Cameron. Photo: AFP)
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.
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.
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 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.