France naturalizes 120,000 new French citizens (including hundreds of Brits)

France naturalised 120,000 people in the year 2016, with an ever-growing number of Brits joining the crowd.

France naturalizes 120,000 new French citizens (including hundreds of Brits)
Photo: AFP

Nearly one million people were granted an EU passport in 2016, with most new citizens becoming Italian, followed by Spanish and British. 

In fourth place was France, which gave out passports to 119,152 new citizens over the year, according to figures released by Eurostat on Monday.

It marked the fourth consecutive year that France has seen an increase in the number of nationalisations.

Around half of these 120,000 passports came via naturalisation, while some 21,000 came via marriage to a French person.

So where are they all from?

Of those who became French who already had another EU passport, most were from Portugal (30 percent). 

Then, the most common EU citizens to become French were from Romania (20 percent), Poland (9 percent), Italy (8 percent) and the UK (6 percent). 

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For those from outside the EU who became French, Morocco and Algeria made up 16 percent of the total each. Next most common was Tunisia, Turkey, and Mali with 7, 5, and 4 percent respectively. 

The majority of the French passports in 2016 went to Moroccans (17,728) and Algerians (17,644), followed by Tunisians with 7,673.

More Brits become French

Many of the new French citizens have been coming from the other side of the Channel Tunnel, with the Brits making up 6 percent of the new French citizens who already had an EU passport.

Indeed, some 439 Brits were granted French citizenship in 2016, up from just 320 in 2015. However since then the number exploded to over 1,500 in 2017.

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The massive increase, which comes from a tenfold hike in applications from Brits over just three years, can be explained by Britain’s vote to leave the UK in June 2016. 

READ ALSO: Common questions about how to gain French citizenship

Those applying to be French were motivated by practical reasons such as a desire to avoid queues at airports and when crossing the Channel, as well as more Brexit related concerns such as ensuring continued healthcare and social benefits after Brexit, Le Figaro reported.

By gaining French nationality those Brits will ensure they not only have the right to vote in presidential elections in France but they will also guarantee their continued freedom of movement around the EU, something which Brits living in France currently look set to lose.

But as The Local reported last year, many applicants were also motivated by a loyalty they feel to France as well as a feeling of being cut adrift from the UK by the Brexit vote.

Applications for French nationality can take around 18 months to process. Applicants, who must have been living in France for five years or married to a French partner for four, need a whole raft of documents, many translated into French. They also need to pass a French test to prove their language ability (see links below).

The process can be hard going, but it appears more and more Brits are prepared to take the plunge to guarantee their future in France and the EU.


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Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

A week after chaotic scenes and 6-hour queues at the port of Dover, the British motoring organisation the AA has issued an amber traffic warning, and says it expects cross-Channel ports to be very busy once again this weekend as holidaymakers head to France.

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

The AA issued the amber warning on Thursday for the whole of the UK, the first time that it has issued this type of warning in advance.

Roads across the UK are predicted to be extremely busy due to a combination of holiday getaways, several large sporting events and a rail strike – but the organisation said that it expected traffic to once again be very heavy around the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Last weekend there was gridlock in southern England and passengers heading to France enduring waits of more than six hours at Dover, and four hours at Folkestone.

The AA said that while it doesn’t expect quite this level of chaos to be repeated, congestion was still expected around Dover and Folkestone.

On Thursday ferry operator DFDS was advising passengers to allow two hours to get through check-in and border controls, while at Folkestone, the Channel Tunnel operators only said there was a “slightly longer than usual” wait for border controls.

In both cases, passengers who miss their booked train or ferry while in the queue will be accommodated on the next available crossing with no extra charge.

Last weekend was the big holiday ‘getaway’ weekend as schools broke up, and a technical fault meant that some of the French border control team were an hour late to work, adding to the chaos. 

But the underlying problems remain – including extra checks needed in the aftermath of Brexit, limited space for French passport control officers at Dover and long lorry queues on the motorway heading to Folkestone.

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The port of Dover expects 140,000 passengers, 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles between Thursday and Sunday, and queues were already starting to build on Thursday morning.