Number of British nationals gaining French citizenship increases tenfold

Number of British nationals gaining French citizenship increases tenfold
Photo: AFP
The number of UK nationals obtaining French citizenship has increased tenfold since before the Brexit referendum, latest data shows.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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)


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