‘Thank you France, for offering me citizenship to recognise my work during the pandemic’

After working as a carer for the elderly throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Brit John Spacey was offered fast-track citizenship by the French government.

'Thank you France, for offering me citizenship to recognise my work during the pandemic'
France has offered fast-track citizenship to foreigners who did vital work during the pandemic. Photo: AFP

Among the thousands of workers on the frontline in France during the pandemic were many foreign nationals, so in September the Interior Ministry ministry invited them to apply for fast-track naturalisation, saying they had “proved their commitment to the republic”.

Among the nearly 3,000 health workers, childcare professionals, cleaners and retail staff who applied was British man John Spacey, who lives in Creuse in central France and works for an organisation providing domestic care for the elderly.

READ ALSO Am I eligible for French citizenship?


Soon-to-be Frenchman John Spacey in his garden in Creuse. Photo: John Spacey

People who apply under this scheme still have to complete the relevant paperwork and pass the tricky test on French history and culture, but can apply without having the five-year residency qualification.

Their application is also fast-tracked from the usual 18 months to two-year average to a process of just a few months.

John explains: “When Covid struck I continued working throughout the first wave.

“The hours became longer and the planning changed constantly as colleagues became sick, decided they’d prefer not to take the risk or simply found the new conditions unbearable, but I stuck with it.

“I followed all the protocols and neither myself nor any of my clients contracted the virus, although some of my colleagues did. Then came the second wave and things continued as in the first, but I love my job so, for me, there was never any question of giving up.

“Just before Christmas I received the news I was to be given a one-off payment from the State as a kind of merci for services rendered during the crisis, something for which I was very grateful and that I’d not expected, given I’d been being paid for my work anyway.

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“Then came another, far more unexpected, thank you – the chance to apply for French nationality six months earlier than would have been possible under the normal rules and to have the process fast-tracked. All for doing a job I love.

“I’ve now begun the process and, all being well, I should be French before les grues (cranes) make their noisy reappearance.” 

John, originally from Bolton in north west England, moved to France in 2016 after funding was cut for his role as a support worker for disabled people under the UK government's austerity drive.

After struggling to survive financially he moved to France with €800 in his pocket, saying “my command of the French language was no more than the lyrics to a Lady Marmalade song and those of another by Kylie Minogue, the latter being far more helpful than the former.”

After working a variety of odd jobs and learning the language he moved back into the sector he felt most passionate about – the care sector.

QUIZ Do you know France well enough to become French?

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.

“Soon, I’ll be able to vote, will regain my freedom of movement and will finally feel fully European once more, finally feel fully integrated into the nation I’ve already come to love like my own.

“Vivre, et merci, La France.”


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Health insurance: France to roll out smartphone version of carte vitale

France has begun a trial in eight areas of a smartphone version of the 'carte vitale' - the card required to access the French public health system - with the eventual aim of rolling out the app across the country. Here's how it will work.

Health insurance: France to roll out smartphone version of carte vitale

What is happening?

France is making changes to the carte vitale – the crucial card that allows residents of France to access the public health system. If you don’t have the card – here’s how to get it.

The new project involves replacing the physical card with a virtual one that is stored on your smartphone via an app.

The French government is beginning a pilot project in eight départements with the intention of expanding the system to cover the whole country in 2023.

The trial areas are; Bas-Rhin, Loire-Atlantique, Puy-de-Dôme, Saône-et-Loire, Sarthe, Seine-Maritime, Rhône and Alpes-Maritimes and the trials are voluntary for people who want to sign up. 

How does it work?

At present, the app is only available to those living in the trial areas mentioned above, and it can only be used by people who are already registered in the French system and have a carte vitale. It is not an alternative to the current registration process. 

If you have a carte vitale, however, you can transfer it onto your phone, which saves you having to remember to carry your card around.

You first download the app MonCV and then begin the sign-up process. In order to do this you will need your current card and social security number and will also have to go through a series of security steps including uploading a scan of your passport or ID card and then making a ‘short film’ of your face in order to verify your identity. 

Once registered, you can then use it at the doctor, pharmacist, vaccine centre or any other situation in which you previously used your carte vitale. You will be able to either show a QR code to scan, or scan your phone using NFC technology (similar to Metro and train smartphone tickets, which works even if your phone is turned off or out of battery).

Can you still use a card version?

Yes. If you don’t own a smartphone or are just not a fan of apps you can continue to use the physical card with no changes.

What does this change for healthcare access?

It doesn’t change anything in terms of your access to healthcare or paying for it, but some extra functions are set to be added to the app once the scheme is rolled out nationwide.

The first one is to link up your carte vitale with your mutuelle (complementary insurance) if you have it, so you don’t need to show extra proof from your insurance company in order to get full reimbursement.

The second is to add a ‘trusted person’ to your carte vitale, allowing them to use your card to, for example, pick up a prescription for you or to allow grandparents to take children to medical appointments (normally children are included on their parents’ card). 

Is this replacing the biometric carte vitale? 

You might remember talk earlier this year of a ‘biometric’ carte vitale, in which people would have to register biometric details such as their fingerprints in order to keep using their carte vitale.

This seems to have now been kicked into the long grass – it was a parliamentary amendment to a bill proposed by the centre-right Les Républicains party and was intended to combat prescription fraud.

Experts within the sector say that the costs and inconvenience of making everyone register their biometric details and get a new card far outweigh the costs of prescription fraud and the idea seems to have been put on the back burner for now.