After you've lived in France for a certain length of time you may become eligible for French citizenship. The process is long and can be daunting, but here are 10 reasons why it might be a good idea.
- Here's how you can apply for citizenship
- Tips on getting French nationality (from people who've done it)
- Number of Brits seeking to become French soars since Brexit
A French citizenship ceremony in Orléans. (Note – the president doesn't attend all ceremonies) Photo: AFP
1. To become a European citizen
It isn’t only Brits worried about Brexit who stand to gain by taking French nationality. French citizens are, by definition, European citizens, and therefore have the right to live and work in all 28 (soon to be 27) member states of the European Union. So, if you want visa-free travel, or even if you plan on moving to another European country in the future, becoming French can make your life a lot easier (Although, it’s probably best not to mention that during your citizenship interview).
2. To avoid queues at the airport
Another benefit of being a European citizen is being able to sail through the ‘European passports’ line at the airport, while looking at the long queue forming in the ‘All passports’ aisle, and enjoy the schadenfreude of knowing that you were once just like them, but no more. No more.
Australian-born reader Richelle Harrison Plesse became French for this exact reason. “I was travelling a lot at the time and it was becoming such a pain to have to get in the line with 200 to 300 people with one guy checking passports,” she says.
“Meanwhile in the EU queue there are three or four people checking passports and everyone is whizzing through. I just thought, when the time comes that I can get a French passport, I'll get one. If French people ask me why I became French, I have no qualms about telling them it was to avoid the passport queues at airports.”
3. To be finished with paperwork
Well sort of. As long as you’re living in France, you will never be able to say goodbye to the country's famous bureaucracy. And getting citizenship may perhaps be the biggest bureaucratic hurdle of your life. The levels of paperwork can be monstrous, but once it's done it will save you even more effort in the long run, and you will never have to go through the tiresome process of renewing you carte de séjour. It also provides peace of mind that you won’t be kicked out of the country for incorrectly filling in a form.
The citizen’s handbook, le livret du citoyen, which gives an overview of France’s history, culture and society, is useful in preparing for your interview. Photo: AFP
4. To have the right to vote
If you’re planning on staying in France for the foreseeable future, it’s only natural to want to have a say in how the country’s being run. After all, foreigners who live in France are impacted by everything from minimum wage legislation and tax rates, to security and freedom of expression. By becoming French, you’ll gain the right to vote in presidential and parliamentary elections, and have your say in who gets to shape the laws of the future.
This is especially important if you come from Britain, where nationals lose the right to vote after 15 years abroad, or Ireland, where citizens living abroad are not currently allowed to vote.
5. To have cheaper education
Last November, the French government announced that it would be raising tuition fees for non-EU students, starting from the 2019-2020 academic year. The cost of a degree has skyrocketed from €170 to €2,770 per year, a jump of 16 times the previous fees. Meanwhile, a master’s degree, which used to cost €243, and a PhD, which was previously €380, will both now cost you €3,770.
Following student protests, several universities have refused to implement the increase in fees, but who knows how long that stance will last? The best way to ensure that you or your children will only have to fork out a few hundred euros for higher education is to adopt the French nationality.
6. To feel closer to your neighbours
The French are a proud people and respect any efforts made to adapt to their culture, such as speaking the language. Gaining French nationality would be the ultimate gesture and would win plenty of kudos with the locals. “Having French nationality definitely generated a lot more respect from my neighbours,” American Jennifer Greco tells The Local. “It was like we were welcomed to the club. People invited us over to celebrate. The French are very proud of their country and they definitely appreciated it.”
7. To complain like a local
The French in general enjoy a good grumble, but it can be awkward trying to join in a group of locals who are complaining about their country. Like most people, the French enjoy moaning about their compatriots, but are less pleased when outsiders point out their faults.
Once you have the nationality, you can feel free to point out everything that’s wrong with France, safe in the knowledge that it’s your country, too.
“[This realisation] soon hit me, and I mean literally, when an electric scooter rear-ended my bike, evoking from me a tirade about French people's driving skills,” says British-Australian Sam Davies about his recent citizenship experience. “Now being French, I was free to insult my fellow people with impunity. After all, it's not xenophobic if you're disparaging your own ilk, right?”
Take citizenship and you could be France's next prime minister, like the Spanish-born Manuel Valls. Photo: AFP
8. To run for office
Citizens of any EU member state can stand in local and European elections in France, but if you’re not from the EU, you’ll have to acquire French nationality if you want to stand for office. And only those who have French nationality can stand in parliamentary, senatorial or presidential elections. Naturalised French citizens are eligible, however, unlike in the United States where foreign-born citizens cannot run for president.
Running for president may seem far-fetched, but you wouldn’t be the first. Eva Joly, the Green candidate during the 2012 presidential election, was born in Norway and moved to France at the age of 20. Meanwhile, former Prime Minister and candidate during the 2016 presidential primaries Manuel Valls was born in Spain. At the local elections in 2014, there were almost 5,900 candidates from other EU countries, according to Le Télégramme, although many of those were Brits who have since become ineligible.
9. To secure nationality for your children
Becoming French wouldn't just make life easier for you, it could open doors for your kids as well, especially if you ever move away, since a child who is born abroad to at least one French parent is eligible for French citizenship. Whether it's getting them into university in France on the cheap, or opening up the possibility of them playing for the French national football team, they might end up thanking you one day.
Your French nationality will not, however, transfer automatically to your partner. Being married to a French person does increase your chances of becoming a citizen, but only after four years of marriage, and with a host of other strings attached.
10. Because, why not?
French law recognises dual citizenship, so as long as your country does the same (certain countries, such as India, do not recognise dual nationality), becoming French does not mean cutting ties with your country of origin. With the choice of two passports, it could also save you money on visa fees for entry into certain countries.
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Requirements for obtaining French nationality
You can apply for French citizenship at your local prefecture.
The most common way to be eligible is to have been living in France for the last five years. That can be reduced to two years if you have completed postgraduate studies at a French university.
Anyone who has a French spouse needs to have been married for 4 years, but does not actually need to be living in France. Anyone who has studied at school in France, for a certain number of years prior to turning 18, can apply once they have reached 18.
Those applying via residency will also need to prove they can speak French to an adequate level, have an adequate knowledge of France, its culture, history and politics and also show they have integrated into and appreciate the French way of life.
For more information on how to apply for French nationality, see The Local’s guide to the process.