Ask an expert: Should I go for French citizenship and if so where do I start?

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Ask an expert: Should I go for French citizenship and if so where do I start?
Photo: AFP

In this week's 'Ask an Expert' feature French paperwork guru Tracy Leonetti looks at whether Brits in France should consider gaining French citizenship because of Brexit and how to go about it.


At the moment no one has a crystal ball so one cannot begin to really say what will happen on 29th March 2019 and therein lies the problem. The massive uncertainty!! Businesses are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. Individuals are confused about their options and often waste time doing nothing for fear of not making the right decision.

Should I apply for citizenship?  It’s a question often asked by my clients.

Of course it’s a very personal question but one that should not be taken lightly. 

It may be the solution to the Brexit issue for many but it’s not just about the paperwork, is it? For many it’s about the right to vote in a country you live in.

It’s about the right to the same civil rights as your fellow Frenchmen.

It’s about the final integration into the country that you have adopted for many years and it’s also about no longer having to worry about healthcare. Often the first step is often about understanding if you can actually apply for citizenship. Sound familiar?

You are applying to become a citizen of France and as such it’s normal that the process is long and arduous. Before you make your final decision, here are some key criteria and tips that might help you make your decision

  • You must be over 18 years old (although you can start the process at 17)

  • You must prove 5 years of continuous residency in France (either by marriage or by time)

  • No criminal record

  • Prove that you have integrated into  France and have a good command of the French language (level B1)

  • If you over 60 years of age or have a disability you are exempt from the language test but will still need to prove your French proficiency at the interview with the prefecture.

  • Have declared and paid your income tax in France





Once you have decided to apply for citizenship, the next question is often what do I need to do? Everything just seems so complicated. When working with my clients, we take the step-by-step approach. Here are a few pointers to get you started on the road to citizenship.

Step 1: Decide on which criteria you wish to apply for citizenship, the main categories are:

  • By marriage to a French Spouse (for at least 4 years)

  • By decret (continuous residence in France for 5 years)

Step 2 : Investigate the document list pertaining to your situation. Check out:

Step 3: Book your language test

  • It can often take 2-3 months from booking to getting the results. Some diplomas meeting the criteria are:

    • TCF

    • le DELF B1

    • le TEF

  • Note that the diploma has to be less than 2 years’ old.

  • If you are unsure of your level, there are many evaluation tools on the internet which enable you to practice before you go into your language test

Step 4: Download the correct application forms and start pulling your document list together as per your local prefecture list.  

  • Be methodical in your preparation

  • Respect to the letter the document list. Do not be tempted to add in more documents.

  • Be patient.

Hope that helps you make your decision and start moving in the right direction.  

One last word of advice, whatever your decision, the importance is in keeping moving, one step at a time, and before you know it you will reach the winning line. 

If you need help reaching that goalpost don’t hesitate to contact us.

Tracy Leonetti is the head of Leonetti Business Services. You can visit her website



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