Number of British nationals gaining French citizenship increases tenfold

The number of UK nationals obtaining French citizenship has increased tenfold since before the Brexit referendum, latest data shows.

Number of British nationals gaining French citizenship increases tenfold
Photo: AFP

More than 113,000 foreigners acquired French citizenship in 2019 according to the French national statistics body INSEE.

Separate data from Eurostat also revealed that the number of British citizens obtaining French nationality leapt to 3,268 in 2018 – the most recent year for which a detailed breakdown on nationalities is available.

The figures show that in 2015 just 320 UK nationals were granted French citizenship, this rose slightly to 429 in 2016 but by 2017 the number had leapt to 1,500 and in 2018 it doubled again to 3,268.

The jump in the number of Brits becoming French is attributed to the result of the referendum in June 2016 when a majority of British voters backed the country to leave the EU.

Britain's divorce from the EU officially took place on January 31st this year although a period of transition is currently in place until December 31st.

The process of getting French citizenship is a lengthy one – the average time is between 18 months and two years – so there may be many more British applications in the pipeline as Britons in France try to mitigate the effects of Brexit on their lives.

READ ALSO Am I eligible for French citizenship?


Serving in the French Foreign Legion is one way to gain citizenship, although not the most common. Photo: AFP

There are four main ways to obtain the French nationality; through parental rights or through being born in France or – the routes mainly used by immigrants to France –  through residency or marriage. Service in the French Foreign Legion also gives you the right to claim French citizenship.

The INSEE data shows that the residency option is the most common, with 43 percent of new French citizens created in 2019 going down this route.

Though it may appear as a large number, it is worth noting that less than just 3 percent of immigrants living in France were naturalised in 2018, against 8 percent in Sweden as stated by Le Parisien.

Who are the new French?

People getting French citizenship are in the main quite young.

One third are younger than 15, 17 percent are aged between 15 and 29, 29 percent are between 30 and 44, 16 percent are between 45 and 59 and only 4 percent are 60 and over.  

In terms of origins, 62 percent of new French citizens come from Africa, 20 percent from Europe, 9 percent from Asia, 7 percent from America and 2 percent from Oceania.

Moroccans, Tunisians and Algerians are the three most represented groups.

In seventh place are UK nationals, the largest group from a European country.

READ ALSO Ten reasons why you should consider becoming French


A woman scans her passport at the Coquelles Eurotunnel border post. Photo: AFP. 

Gaining French nationality gives you the right to remain in France without worrying about residency permits and also allows you to vote in French elections, do certain jobs reserved for citizens only and stand for political office – you can even run for president if you want, the French constitution has no requirement that presidents are born in the country.

It is not an easy process though, applications take between 18 months and two years to process and applicants need a whole raft of documents, many translated into French.

READ ALSO How good does your French need to be to get citizenship

If you are applying through residency you must have lived here for five years and if you are applying through marriage you need to have been married for four years (although you don't need to be living in France).

Also applicants also need to pass written and spoken French tests to prove their language ability and there is no longer an exemption for over 60s to this requirement.

READ ALSO: Tips for becoming French (from Brits who have done it)

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


French government clarifies post-Brexit rules on pets for second-home owners

Brexit hasn't just brought about changes in passport rules for humans, pets are also affected and now the French government has laid out the rules for pet passports for British second-home owners.

French government clarifies post-Brexit rules on pets for second-home owners

Pre-Brexit, people travelling between France and the UK could obtain an EU Pet Passport for their car, dog or ferret which ensured a hassle-free transport experience.

But since the UK left the EU things have become more complicated – and a lot more expensive – for UK residents wanting to travel to France with pets.

You can find a full breakdown of the new rules HERE, but the main difference for people living in the UK is that that they now need an Animal Health Certificate for travel.

Unlike the Pet Passport, a new ACH is required for each trip and vets charge around £100 (€118) for the certificate. So for people making multiple trips a year, especially those who have more than one pet, the charges can quickly mount up.

UK nationals who live in France can still benefit from the EU Pet Passport, but until now the situation for second-home owners has been a little unclear.

However the French Agriculture ministry has now published updated information on its website.

The rules state: “The veterinarian can only issue a French passport to an animal holding a UK/EU passport issued before January 1st, 2021, after verifying that the animal’s identification number has been registered in the Fichier national d’identification des carnivores domestiques (I-CAD).”

I-CAD is the national database that all residents of France must register their pets in – find full details HERE.

The ministry’s advice continues: “If not registered, the veterinarian may proceed to register the animal in I-CAD, if the animal’s stay in France is longer than 3 consecutive months, in accordance with Article 22 of the AM of August 1st, 2012 on the identification of domestic carnivores.”

So if you are staying in France for longer than 90 days (which usually requires a visa for humans) your pet can be registered and get a Pet Passport, but those staying less than three months at a time will have to continue to use the AHC.

The confusion had arisen for second-home owners because previously some vets had been happy to issue the Passport using proof of a French address, such as utility bills. The Ministry’s ruling, however, makes it clear that this is not allowed.

So here’s a full breakdown of the rules;

Living in France

If you are living in France full time your pet is entitled to an EU Pet Passport regardless of your nationality (which means your pet has more travel rights than you do. Although they probably still rely on you to drive the car/book the ferry tickets).

Your cat, dog or ferret must be fully up to date with their vaccinations and must be registered in the national pet database I-CAD (full details here).

Once issued, the EU Pet Passport is valid for the length of the animal’s life, although you must be sure to keep up with their rabies vaccinations. Vets in France usually charge between €50-€100 for a consultation and completing the Passport paperwork.

Living in the UK

If you are living in the UK and travelling to France (or the rest of the EU) you will need an Animal Health Certificate for your cat, dog or ferret.

The vaccination requirements are the same as for the EU Pet Passport, but an ACH is valid for only 10 days after issue for entry to the EU (and then for four months for onward travel within the EU).

So if you’re making multiple trips in a year you will need a new certificate each time.

UK vets charge around £100 (€118) for a certificate, although prices vary between practices. Veterinary associations in the UK are also warning of delays in issuing certificates as many people begin travelling again after the pandemic (often with new pets bought during lockdown), so you will need to book in advance. 

Second-home owners

Although previously some French vets had been happy to issue certificates with only proof of an address in France, the French government has now clarified the rules on this, requiring that pets be registered within the French domestic registry in order to get an EU Pet Passport.

This can only be done if the pet is staying in France for more than three months. The three months must be consecutive, not over the course of a year.

UK pets’ owners will normally require a visa if they want to stay in France for more than three months at a time (unless they have dual nationality with an EU country) – find full details on the rules for people HERE.