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Tips for getting French nationality (from Brits who’ve done it)

It's not an easy process, so here are some wise words from Brits in France who have been there and done that.

Tips for getting French nationality (from Brits who've done it)
Photo: AFP
With Brexit negotiations still not even up and running, many Brits in France have taking advantage of the delay to apply for French citizenship. 
 
You're eligible for French citizenship if you marry a French person or if you've lived here for five years – and either way it's a complicated process. 
 
The extremely short version is: Bring your papers to the local prefecture, lodge the application, (potentially) get interviewed by police, then wait up to 18 months for your citizenship. 
 
Read a lot more about the outline of the process here – but following are tips from several Brits in France who have gone through the process. And believe us (and them) – it's nowhere near as easy as the above outline sounds. 
 
Good luck. 
 
Get information ONLY from your local prefecture 
 
It's crucial to source information about the right documents to provide from the right place, and that's from your local prefecture, says Christine Biardeau, a 29-year-old in Toulouse who runs a Facebook group to help local Brits to get French nationality
 
“Ask the prefecture to send you the list and have everything they ask for on the list. I got lists from the government site and the prefecture site and they were different to the one the lady had at the prefecture,” she tells The Local. 
 
She adds that sometimes it's worth bypassing the websites altogether. 
 
“I couldn't get a meeting through the site and it was driving me mad, so I sent a lengthy email explaining why I needed French nationality (in French) to which they replied by calling me and getting me an urgent appointment,” she said. 
 
The prefecture in Périgueux, in Dordogne. Photo: Père Igor/WikiCommons
 
Be prepared to cough up for your dossier
 
Several Brits in France said that they found the process to be expensive. 
 
There's the pricey translation fees (as everything must be translated by a registered translator) and then the process of sending them off via registered post. 
 
“The price of the packaging and the postage was around €40 euros or more than that,” says Lynda Adcock, a 63-year-old in Brittany. 
 
“It was a bit surprising but it had to be secure and the right method. It was quite heavy though. It will be worth it in the end hopefully.”
 
While it's free to lodge the application if you do it yourself, Fiona 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.
 
Photo: hobvias sudoneighm/Flickr
 
Read up on the basics about France before your interview
 
The interview with the local authorities – if you get one – can range from quite simple to quite lengthy.
 
Margaret Blakeborough, a 72-year-old in Calvados, said hers was around 40 mins and stuck mostly to the basics. 
 
“I was asked about my life in France, why I wanted to live here, the meaning of the motto liberté, égalité, fraternité, the meaning of laïcité, the name of the prime minister, the name of the national anthem, places I knew in Paris and some history about the Second World War.”
 
Others reported that they weren't asked anything of the sort, only personal questions.
 

Photo: AFP
 
Be prepared for “uncomfortable” questions
 
Margaret Blakeborough in Calvados says that even the gendarme officer got uncomfortable during her interview in March last year.  
 
“He asked questions about the length of time I had lived in France, what activities I was involved in, how I got on with my neighbours, all about my family situation, what my two husbands had done for a living, how and when they died, they wanted information about my sons, their ages, what they do for a living, where they live,” she tells The Local. 
 
“They also asked about my finances (he did say that it was the most uncomfortable question to ask). He also told me that they had asked questions at the local town hall about me. Hopefully they got pleasant replies. Luckily in my hamlet there is a deputy mayor who knows me quite well.”
 

Don't stress too much about the French language test
 
Of course, don't go in without preparation, but realize that you only need a B1 level for nationality, explains Bianca Pellet, a 30-year-old in Yvelines near Paris.
 
“I would say both be prepared AND don't worry as it makes no sense to go for a test with no inkling of what it involves,” she tells The Local. 
 
A person with B1 level French, by definition, is able to handle day to day matters that arise in school, work or leisure. 
 
They should be able to get by while travelling in an area where only French is spoken, and should be able to describe events and justify things like opinions, plans, or even ambitions. 
 
If this sounds like you, then you shouldn't have a problem with the test. 
 
 
Look up language test samples online.
 
“There are videos on YouTube that provide samples of the type of thing you can expect for the listening – you don't have to do the reading/writing tests,” adds Pellet. 
 
“The reason I say don't worry is because the test goes all the way from A1 to C2, as not all people take it to acquire nationality. For nationality you only need B1 – so if you get halfway through the test and then it gets too difficult for you then chances are you already have the score you need anyway. Equally for the speaking test you only really need to get through the first two tasks (the A task and the B task… if the C task seems too difficult then again don't worry.”
 
Photo: Alberto G/Flickr
 
Be (extremely) patient
 
Don't expect a quick turnaround on your French nationality. Anyhow, you've probably been in France long enough by now to know that these kind of things don't happen overnight. 
 
The process of getting your documents translated by a registered translator can take a lifetime – and that's often just the first step.
 
“It took me from June-October to amass all paperwork and all three appointments were done before Christmas,” Bianca Pellet said. 
 
“I was told I would have my French nationality by December 2017, so all I have to do now is wait.”
 
Indeed the process can take years, with some experts suggesting the average of 12 to 18 months to process. 
 

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TRAVEL NEWS

‘We will be ready’ vows France, amid fears of UK border chaos

Transport bosses have raised fears of long queues in British ports when the EU's new EES system comes into effect next year, but French border officials insist they will be ready to implement the new extra checks.

'We will be ready' vows France, amid fears of UK border chaos

The EU’s new EES system comes into effect in 2023 and many people – including the boss of the Port of Dover and the former UK ambassador to France – have raised concerns that the extra checks will lead to travel chaos on the UK-France border, and see a repeat of the long queues experienced last summer.

Port of Dover CEO Doug Bannister told The Local that he feared “tailbacks out of the port and throughout Kent” because the new system could take up to 10 minutes to process a car with four passengers, as opposed to 90 seconds currently.

EXPLAINED What the EES system means for travel to France in 2023

But French border control have insisted that they will be ready, replying to questions from the European Commission with “Oui, La France sera prête” (yes, France will be ready).

French officials said they had already undertaken extension preparation and would begin test runs of the new system in French border posts at the end of this year.

document shared recently by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties, shows how countries are preparing. 

“France has prepared very actively and will be on schedule for an EES implementation in compliance with the EU regulation,” French authorities say.

“The French authorities have carried out numerous studies and analyses, in cooperation with infrastructure managers, to map passenger flows at each border crossing post… and evaluate the EES impact on waiting times,” the document says. 

However, despite the preparation, the French admit that long waits at the border remain a worry, adding: “the prospect of the impact of EES on waiting times at the borders worries infrastructure managers. The fact remains that fluidity remains a concern, and that exchanges are continuing with each border post manager to make progress on this point.”

The EES system is due to come into effect in May 2023 and will be applied at all EU external borders – find full details on how it works HERE.

However there has been particular concern about the France-UK border due to three things; the high volume of traffic (in total over 60 million passengers cross the border each year); the fact that many travel by car on ferries and the Eurotunnel (while the EES system seems more designed with foot passengers in mind); and the Le Touquet agreement which means that French border control agents work in the British ports of Dover and Folkestone and at London St Pancras station.

EES is essentially a more thorough passport checking process with passengers required to provide biometric information including fingerprints and facial scans – border checks will therefore take longer per passenger, and this could have a big effect at busy crossing points like Dover.

The UK’s former ambassador to France, Lord Ricketts, told The Local: “I think the EES, in particular, will be massively disruptive at the Channel ports.”

The EU consultation documents also revealed more details of how EES will work on a practical level for car passengers – those travelling by ferry or Eurotunnel to France – with border agents set to use computer tablets to gather biometric information like fingerprints so that passengers don’t have to get out of their cars.

READ ALSO France to use iPads to check biometric data of passengers from UK

Doug Bannister added that Dover agents were “awaiting an invitation” to France to see how the new systems will work. 

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