Formal Brexit discussions have just got underway but there are a lot of British people in France who aren't waiting to see if the politicians come up with a good deal before claiming French citizenship.
Understandably concerned about what the future holds for their status in France as Britain's plans to leave the European Union move forward, the number of British people requesting French citizenship has shot up up from 385 in 2015 to a whopping 1,363 in 2016, French newspaper Le Monde has reported, according to information from France's Interior Ministry.
This represents an overwhelming increase of 254 percent in requests.
Although that figure may be small compared to the total number of Brits living in France – believed to be between 150,000 and 200,000 the figures show that fears about the future are rising among France's British population.
And this is without taking into account the figures from January 2017, which have not yet been released by the Interior Ministry.
The rise will probably come as no surprise to many given that many Brits had vowed to seek French nationality if Brexit was voted through.
“My kids were all born in France and have lived here all their lives,” reader Nick Wood told The Local previously. “I cannot risk them getting booted out of the only home they know just because they are British citizens and Britain is no longer part of the EU.”
And it seems like this attitude will prevail, with estimates from several French prefectures indicating that the number of requests is still on the rise.
The prefecture of the department of Ille-et-Vilaine in Brittany in the north west of the country, which takes care of the requests for naturalisation for the four Breton departments, recorded, “a very big increase in the number of requests at the beginning of the year.”
In just five months, the prefecture received 110 ten applications, compared to 50 between July and December in 2016. Before 2016, just 10 to 20 files were handled each year.
And at the prefecture in the department of Deux-Sèvres, responsible for the citizenship requests in the former region of Poitou-Charentes on the French Atlantic coast, the same trend is evident.
Since the beginning of 2017, Deux-Sèvres has received 62 files compared to 16 in the first six months of 2016.
The requests are mostly coming from the older population, the Ille-et-Vilaine reported.
British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Brexit Minister) David Davis (left) with the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier (right). Photo: AFP
“In meetings, they say that it's Brexit that has led them to request French nationality, as a result of serious concerns they have over the possibility of staying in France because of the negotiations,” the prefecture told Le Monde.
It typically takes a year and a half to go through the process of gaining French citizenship. As a result, there has not been much of a rise in the number of Brits being naturalised between 2015 and 2016, with the figure increasing from 320 to 439.
The French ministry of the interior told Le Monde: “The requests will be subject to review from the naturalisation services, not all candidates are certain of receiving French nationality.”
But while the path to French citizenship may be an arduous and red tape-strewn one, we do have some advice from people who have been through it all before.
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.