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FRENCH CITIZENSHIP

France gives citizenship to 12,000 foreigners who helped on front line during pandemic

More than 12,000 foreign workers whose jobs put them on the front line during the Covid pandemic have been given citizenship under a special scheme that fast-tracked their applications, the French government has announced.

France gives citizenship to 12,000 foreigners who helped on front line during pandemic
Photo: AFP

Back in September 2020, the Interior Ministry invited people who “actively contributed” to the fight against Covid to apply for fast-track naturalisation.

Citizenship minister Marlene Schiappa has now revealed that 16,381 people applied and 12,012 of them have now become French.

As well as fast-tracking the application process – which normally takes between 18 months and two years – the system for frontline workers also cut the residency requirement from five years to two.

READ ALSO Am I eligible for French citizenship?

“Front-line workers responded to the call of the nation, so it is right that the nation takes a step towards them,” said Schiappa.

“I welcome our new compatriots to French nationality and thank them in the name of the Republic, while the country also extends its thanks to them.”

READ ALSO French citizenship test: Do you know France well enough to become French?

Among those naturalised were healthcare workers, security staff, retail cashiers, home-helps and cleaners.

Among those who applied was John Spacey, a British man living in Creuse who works for an organisation providing care for the elderly.

He said: “It genuinely feels like a great honour to be offered citizenship.

“France has been very good to me since my arrival and has given me opportunities I could never have dreamed of before stepping off the Eurostar in 2016 – a home of my own, a wonderful relationship, a twenty-year-old Peugot 106, a forty-year-old Mobilette, the most satisfying job in the world and a very bright future.”

Read his full story here – ‘Thank you, France, for offering me citizenship to recognise my work during the pandemic’

Last year, some 112,000 foreigners acquired French nationality, including more than 48,000 by naturalisation – 10 percent fewer than in 2018.

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FRENCH CITIZENSHIP

Can driving offences prevent you getting French citizenship or residency?

One of the requirements for fulfilling criteria for French citizenship through naturalisation is a clean criminal record. Does this mean fines for traffic offences disqualify you?

Can driving offences prevent you getting French citizenship or residency?

It’s fairly common in France for all drivers, including foreign motorists perhaps not used to the rules or changing speed limits, to commit driving offences.

Whether being caught on a radar for driving too fast, not stopping at a stop sign – not always as obvious as it sounds,  or perhaps not giving way for someone arriving from the right – the driving offences can add up as the points on your license dwindle.

But could these driving offences thwart your bid to become French or even just gain residency?

The short answer is probably not.

Citizenship is not usually denied for relatively minor law-breaking, such as speeding fines. And that’s despite a case in July 2019 in which a nurse was initially refused citizenship on the grounds that she worked too hard and failed to “comply with the law” on working hours.

During the citizenship application process, as well as language and integration tests, you have to provide proof that you have no criminal record over the past 10 years – including, if necessary, evidence of a clean record from other counties in which you were resident.

Applicants must not have been convicted of a crime resulting in a jail term of more than 6 months, or have been convicted of a crime or offence that breaches or attacks the interests of the French state. Moreover, those who apply for citizenship through naturalisation – rather than by ascendancy or marriage – also need to demonstrate ‘good moral conduct’.

On the whole, that rules out most – but certainly not all – driving offences.

What if you already have citizenship

If you have acquired French nationality, it can be contested within two years if it is found that the legal conditions for obtaining it were not met, or were obtained fraudulently. 

Furthermore, nationality may be withdrawn if the holder’s conduct is contrary to the interests of France.

Finally, citizenship may be refused or revoked in the event of a particularly serious crime, such as:.

  • Conviction for acts against the fundamental interests of the nation, or conviction for serious offences such as  acts of terrorism;
  • Conviction for crimes considered to be crimes against the public administration (crimes committed by persons holding a public office);
  • Conviction for acts of insubordination in relation to performance of national service;
  • Engaging, for the benefit of a foreign state, in acts that are incompatible with the quality of French national and commission of acts that are prejudicial to the interests of France. No prior conviction is necessary.

Importantly, revocation of French nationality may be decided only if the following conditions are met:

  • You have acquired French nationality by naturalisation, ascendancy, or marriage. Anyone of French nationality by birth cannot lose it;
  • You have another nationality. It is not possible to make a person stateless.

France already can and does deport foreigners found guilty of serious crimes, while being convicted of a crime in France can also prevent you from being able to renew your visa or residency card.

If you are convicted of a crime and imprisoned in France, you can be served with an interdiction du territoire français – a ban from French territory. This is not automatic for all jailed foreigners, and is usually reserved for offences such as drug-trafficking, violent crime or terror offences.

What about residency rights?

Foreigners who have residency rights in France will periodically need to renew their visa or carte de séjour – and having a criminal conviction could mean that your renewal request is turned down. This is usually only the case if you have been convicted of a serious crime, but it’s not exclusively the most serious offences.

Between October 2020 and June 2021 8,031 carte de séjour renewals were refused on the grounds of criminality. Of these, 27 percent were for serious offences including assault, attempted murder, organised fraud and threatening a public official.

However, 5.9 percent were for driving offences – the official data does not specify the type of offence, but it seems safe to assume they were at the heavier end of the offence spectrum – 6.3 percent were following a domestic violence conviction, and 7 percent were for offences of begging or soliciting.

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