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CULTURE

Philosophy, household chores and cheese – what might you be asked in the French citizenship interview?

Applying to become French requires a lot of paperwork and proof that you meet the requirements - but when all that is done comes the feared interview which involves a (very) wide range of questions.

Philosophy, household chores and cheese - what might you be asked in the French citizenship interview?
Dressing up for the interview is not recommended. Photo: AFP

People with strong ties to France or long-term residents may decide, at some point, to apply for French citizenship and become French – but this process is not for the faint-hearted.

For a start it's quite a lengthy process – 18 months to two years is average – and of course involves a lot of paperwork plus a fairly high level of French.

But once you've got through all that comes the interview, where you need to prove your knowledge – and love and appreciation – of France and all things French.

And some of the questions applicants are asked to prove this can be a little unexpected – when we asked readers of The Local about their experiences, some candidates were asked quite philosophical or literary questions, others to justify how French their daily life was while still other interviews involved doing impressions of French presidents (really).

There are various routes to French citizenship – the most common are through family, through marriage or through residency, in which case you must have lived in France for a minimum of five years.

READ ALSO Am I eligible for French citizenship?

The procedure is slightly different depending on which route you are applying through and the toughest questions tend to be for people applying via the residency route, who need to show that they are thoroughly integrated into French life and values – rather than just wanting a shorter passport queue at the airport. 

Structure

The basic purpose of the interview is to ascertain that candidates have a knowledge of France's history, culture and society and that they support the values of the French Republic.

It's a one-on-one interview at your local préfecture conducted, obviously, in French.

There is a book – the Livret du Citoyen (Citizen's Handbook) that applicants are advised to read which tells you all about the history, geography and political structure of France and most people are asked some fairly straightforward questions on this – name the French national anthem, name two French overseas territories, describe a significant event in French history etc.

 

READ ALSO What I can tell you about the nerve-wracking French citizenship interview

Variety

The one theme that emerges from tales of citizenship interviews is that they vary a lot depending on the area or even the mood of the interviewer – some people report a couple of cursory questions followed by a handshake, others were grilled for more than an hour on everything French.

The other thing is that a lot of interviewers seem to like to chat, plenty of people have tales of being asked about their own countries or families, just because the interviewer was interested.

A lot of people are quite nervous before the interview, so if the interviewer is making what sounds like inconsequential chat they are probably just trying to put you at ease and it may not be a trick question.

QUIZ: Do you know France well enough to become French?

 

One interviewer apparently even entertained their candidate with a series of impressions of French public figures – guessing who they were was not part of the test.

 

READ ALSO Ten reasons to become French

 

 

Philosophy

In addition to the more prosaic questions about French history, some people are asked questions that would not be out of place in a philosophy tutorial, including 'Can one truly know a country without speaking the language' or 'would you say you have a French lifestyle?'.

 

Comedian Ian Moore was asked whether one could know a country through its literature, although – as he recounts here – he misheard and spoke at length about whether one can know a country through its barbecue food. He is now French.

Values 

But you don't just need to know about French values – you need to support them if you want to become French.

This doesn't mean having to agree with every government decision (after all, what is more French than complaining about the government?) but you will be expected to support the broad values of the Republic including laïcité (secularism) and equality between men and women.

 

Quite a few people report being asked about laïcité, probably because it's a concept that foreigners often struggle with, but others were asked questions designed to show if they supported egalité including a couple asked if they shared domestic chores equally and a woman asked if she would accept having a male gynaecologist.

And it's not a French value as such, but food is an important part of French culture, with one woman being asked to name as many French cheeses as she could. There's no requirement to eat them, though, so vegans will not be refused citizenship (unlike in Switzerland).

And finally, although many people diligently learn La Marseillaise, there are no reports of anyone being asked to sing it, which is a shame because it's a cracking song. 

  

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid rules: Travelling abroad from France this summer

There's been plenty written on travel rules for people coming to France - but what if you live in France and have plans for international travel over the coming months? We've got you covered.

Covid rules: Travelling abroad from France this summer

France isn’t currently on the Covid red list for any country, so there is nowhere that is barred to you as a French resident, but different countries still have different entry requirements.

EU/Schengen zone

If you’re travelling to a country that is within the EU or Schengen zone then it’s pretty straightforward.

If you’re fully vaccinated then all you need is proof of vaccination at the border – no need for Covid tests or extra paperwork. Bear in mind, however, that if your second dose was more than nine months ago you will need a booster shot in order to still be considered ‘fully vaccinated’. 

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about travel to France from within the EU

If you were vaccinated in France then you will have a QR code compatible with all EU/Schengen border systems. If you were vaccinated elsewhere, however, your home country’s vaccination certificate will still be accepted.

If you’re not fully vaccinated you will need to show a negative Covid test at the border, check the individual country for requirements on how recent the test needs to be.

Bear in mind also that several EU countries still have mask/health pass rules in place and some countries specify the type of mask required, for example an FFP2 mask rather than the surgical mask more common in France. Check the rules of the country that you are travelling to in advance.

If you’re travelling to a country covered by The Local, you can find all the latest Covid rules in English on the homepages for Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden or Switzerland.

UK

The UK has no Covid-related travel rules, so there is no requirement for tests even if you are not vaccinated. The passenger locator form has also been scrapped – full details HERE.

Once there, there are no Covid-related health rules in place. 

If you’re travelling between France and the UK, remember the extra restrictions in place since Brexit.

USA 

Unlike the EU, the USA still has a testing requirement in place, vaccinated or not. You would need to show this prior to departure.

It has, however, lifted the restrictions on non citizens entering, so travel to the USA for tourism and visiting friends/family is once again possible.

For full details on the rules, click HERE.

Once there, most places have lifted Covid-related rules such as mask requirements, but health rules are decided by each State, rather than on a national level, so check in advance with the area you are visiting.

Other non-EU countries

Most non-EU countries have also lifted the majority of their Covid related rules, but in certain countries restrictions remain, such as in New Zealand which is reopening its border in stages and at present only accepts certain groups.

Other countries also have domestic Covid restrictions in place, particularly in China which has recently imposed a strict local lockdown after a spike in cases.

Returning to France

Once your trip is completed you will need to re-enter France and the border rules are the same whether you live here or not.

If you’re fully vaccinated you simply need to show your vaccination certificate (plus obviously passport and residency card/visa if applicable) at the border.

If you’re not vaccinated you will need to get a Covid test before you return and present the negative result at the border – the test must be either a PCR test taken within the previous 72 hours or an antigen test taken within the previous 48 hours. Home-test kits are not accepted.

If you’re returning from an ‘orange list’ country and you’re not vaccinated you will need to provide proof of your ‘essential reasons’ to travel – simply being a resident is classed as an essential reason, so you can show your carte de séjour residency card, visa or EU passport at the border.

Even if the country that you are in is reclassified as red or orange while you are away, you will still be allowed back if you are a French resident. If you’re not a French passport-holder, it’s a good idea to take with you proof of your residency in France, just in case.

Fully vaccinated

France counts as ‘fully vaccinated’ those who:

  • Are vaccinated with an EMA-approved vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson)
  • Are 7 days after their final dose, or 28 days in the case of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines
  • Have had a booster shot if more than 9 months has passed since the final dose of your vaccine. If you have had a booster shot there is no need for a second one, even if more than 9 months has passed since your booster
  • Mixed dose vaccines (eg one Pfizer and one Moderna) are accepted 
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