France removes exemption for over 60s as it toughens language levels for citizenship

French authorities have announced they are toughening up the language requirements to obtain citizenship - with new rules requiring a written test and removing the exemption for over 60s.

France removes exemption for over 60s as it toughens language levels for citizenship
Becoming French is set to get a bit harder. Photo: AFP

From August 11th 2020 anyone who wishes to get French citizenship will have to sit a written language exam, in addition to the current speaking and listening tests required.

Getting French citizenship has never been an easy process, but now French authorities have decided to make it slightly harder by toughen up on the language skills required.

At present candidates for citizenship need to demonstrate that they speak French to B1 level. That level is defined as someone who is is able to handle day to day matters that arise in school, work or leisure. 

READ ALSO QUIZ Do you know France well enough to get citizenship?

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. 
Under the new rules the level is not changing, but candidates will need to provide prove that they can also write French to that level. The certificate you use must have been issued within the last two years.
Photo: Alberto G/Flickr
The decree was passed on December 30th, 2019 and was originally set to be introduced from April, but will now not be introduced until August 11th, 2020.
This is also the date when the exemptions will be toughened up.
Under the current rules anyone aged over 60, disabled or in poor health does not need to provide a language certificate, although they do still have to take part in an interview in French at the préfecture.
Under the new rules however, there are only three categories of exemption
  • If you are a refugee, aged over 70 and have lived in France for 15 years or more
  • If you have a diploma obtained in France, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia or another Francophone country
  • If your state of health does not permit assessment of your language level
At present the test involves a listening comprehension in which candidates listen to a tape and then select a series of multiple choice answers.
There is also a 10-15 minute interview with an examiner during which you are asked progressively more difficult questions and given the opportunity to question or debate with your examiner.
These requirements will still be necessary, but with the addition of a 1 hour 15 minute written exam in which candidates will be asked to write a selection of short pieces on given subjects in a style specified on the exam paper – letter, email, formal memo, newspaper article etc.
If you are accepted for citizenship you get a ceremony in a French public building. Photo: AFP
Language is of course not the only requirement for French naturalisation.

There are two main routes to applying for citizenship, through residency or through marriage.

If you are applying through residency you need to have been resident in France for at least five years. That can be reduced to two years if you have completed postgraduate studies at a French university.

They will need to show they have a clean criminal record (for those who have less than 10 years residence in France) and that their tax payments are up to date, including tax return notices for the three years prior to filing the application for French citizenship. 

They will also need to prove they are financially sustainable. In other words they have a job or some other form of income.

If you are applying through marriage you need to have been married for four years, but do not actually need to be living in France.

As well as proving that you can speak French you also need to demonstrate an adequate knowledge of French history, culture and society.

The citizenship process includes an interview (in French of course) with an official who will test your knowledge and also assess your level of commitment to France and the French way of life – if you do not seem to conform to French values you can be turned down for citizenship.

Overall the whole process takes between 18 months and two years and involves a lot of paperwork.

Find out more about the details here

Member comments

  1. Change of the language test for Americans who fought with the French in World War 2 is disgusting. After paying wealth taxes and living here for more than a decade, a 96 year old will be denied French citizenship due to these new rules. It’s another way for France to slap this man in the face.

  2. It seems to be nothing more than a form of xenophobia as North America does not impose such grave measures and even offer translators to help. Having a perfect accent I’m sure is also crucial. The list grows and grows.

  3. Don’t understand last comment from Robert. I understood North America is stopping just about everyone from entering the country let alone becoming citizens !

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What changes in France in July 2022

Summer's here and the time is right for national celebrations, traffic jams, strikes, Paris beaches, and ... changing the rules for new boilers.

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer holidays

The holiday season in France officially begins on Thursday, July 7th, as this is the date when school’s out for the summer. The weekend immediately after the end of the school year is expected to be a busy one on the roads and the railways as families start heading off on vacation.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer


But it wouldn’t really be summer in France without a few strikes – airport employees at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will walk out on July 1st, while SNCF rail staff will strike on July 6th. Meanwhile Ryanair employees at Paris, Marseille and Toulouse airports will strike on yet-to-be-confirmed dates in July.

READ ALSO How strikes and staff shortages will affect summer in France

Parliamentary fireworks?

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne will present the government’s new programme in parliament on July 5th – this is expected to be a tricky day for the Macron government, not only does it not have the parliamentary majority that it needs to pass legislation like the new package of financial aid to help householders deal with the cost-of-living crisis, but opposition parties have indicated that they will table a motion of no confidence against Borne.

Parliament usually breaks for the summer at the end of July, but a special extended session to allow legislation to be passed means that MPs won’t get to go on holiday until at least August 9th. 

Fête nationale

July 14th is a public holiday in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille which was the symbolic start of the French Revolution. As usual, towns and cities will host parades and fireworks – with the biggest military parade taking place on the Champs-Elysées in Paris – and many stores will remain closed.

As the national holiday falls on a Thursday this year, many French workers will take the opportunity to faire le pont.

Festival season really kicks in

You know summer’s here when France gets festival fever, with events in towns and cities across the country. You can find our pick of the summer celebrations here.

Paris Plages

The capital’s popular urban beaches return on July 9th on the banks of the Seine and beside the Bassin de la Villette in northern Paris, bringing taste of the seaside to the capital with swimming spots, desk chairs, beach games and entertainment.  

Summer sales end 

Summer sales across most of the country end on July 19th – unless you live in Alpes-Maritimes, when they run from July 6th to August 2nd, or the island of Corsica (July 13th to August 9th).

Tour de France

The Tour de France cycle race sets off on July 1st from Copenhagen and finishes up on the Champs-Elysée in Paris on July 24th.

New boilers

From July 1st, 2022, new equipment installed for heating or hot water in residential or professional buildings, must comply with a greenhouse gas emissions ceiling of 300 gCO2eq/KWh PCI. 

That’s a technical way of saying oil or coal-fired boilers can no longer be installed. Nor can any other type of boiler that exceeds the ceiling.

As per a decree published in the Journal Officiel in January, existing appliances can continue to be used, maintained and repaired, but financial aid of up to €11,000 is planned to encourage their replacement. 

Bike helmets

New standards for motorbike helmets come into effect from July 1st. Riders do not need to change their current helmets, but the “ECE 22.05” standard can no longer be issued – and all helmets sold must adhere to a new, more stringent “ECE 22.06” standards from July 2024

New cars

From July 6th new car models must be equipped with a black box that record driving parameters such as speed, acceleration or braking phases, wearing (or not) of a seat belt, indicator use, the force of the collision or engine speed, in case of accidents.

New cars II

From July 1st, the ecological bonus for anyone who buys an electric vehicle drops by €1,000, while rechargeable hybrids will be excluded from the aid system, “which will be reserved for electric vehicles whose CO2 emission rate is less than or equal to 20g/km”.

What’s in a name?

Historically, the French have been quite restrictive on the use of family names – remember the concern over the use of birth names on Covid vaccine documents? – but it becomes easier for an adult to choose to bear the name of his mother, his father, or both by a simple declaration to the civil status. All you have to do is declare your choice by form at the town hall of your home or place of birth.

Eco loans

In concert with the new boiler rules, a zero-interest loan of up to €30,000 to finance energy-saving renovations can be combined with MaPrimeRénov’, a subsidy for financing the same work, under certain conditions, from July 1st.

Rent rules

Non-professional private landlords advertising properties for rent must, from July 1st, include specific information about the property on the ad, including the size of the property in square metres, the area of town in which the property is in, the monthly rent and any supplements, whether the property is in a rent-control area, and the security deposit required. Further information, including the full list of requirements for any ad, is available here.

Perfume ban

More perfumes are to be added to a banned list for products used by children, such as soap-making kits, cosmetic sets, shampoos, or sweet-making games, or toys that have an aroma.

Atranol, chloroatranol (extracts of oak moss containing tannins), and methyl carbonate heptin, which smells like violets, will be banned from July 5th, because of their possible allergenic effects.

Furthermore, 71 new allergenic fragrances – including camphor, menthol, vanilin, eucalyptus spp. leaf oil, rose flower oil, lavendula officinalis, turpentine – will be added to the list of ingredients that must be clearly indicated on a toy or on an attached label.

Ticket resto limits

The increased ticket resto limit ended on June 30th, so from July 1st employees who receive the restaurant vouchers will once again be limited to spending €19 per day in restaurants, cafés and bars. The limit was increased to €38 during the pandemic, when workers were working from home.