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FRENCH CITIZENSHIP

Reader question: Does France allow dual nationality?

There are many reasons to apply for French citizenship: from getting the right to vote in elections to faster airport queues - but does it affect your original nationality?

French LGBT protestors at a rally.
Fancy dress is strictly optional for those who take French citizenship. Photo by PIERRE ANDRIEU / AFP)

Question: I live in France but was born overseas. I have been thinking about applying for citizenship here but am not sure whether France would allow me to have the status of dual national. Is this possible? 

There are many reasons why applying for French citizenship could be a good idea: you gain the right to live and work in France indefinitely and to move to any EU country; you get the right to vote in French elections; your children will inherit French nationality; and you can use the (usually faster) EU passport line at the airport.  

The most common routes for gaining French citizenship are through living in France for at least five years (or even less if you have studied at a French university) or by being married to a French person for at least four years. 

READ MORE Am I eligible for French citizenship?

But you may be wondering what this means in terms of dual nationality. 

The good news is that France accepts dual citizenship. This means that the Government has no problems with you becoming a French citizen while retaining citizenship of your home country. 

Not all countries are as flexible. Until recently, non-EU citizens applying for citizenship in Germany, for example, would have to renounce citizenship of their own country. 

READ MORE What’s the difference between French residency and citizenship?

While the French Government might not have any issue with dual citizenship, your home country might. In India for example, the constitution forbids someone from holding Indian nationality and citizenship of another country at the same time. 

The UK government has had the power to strip dual-nationals of their British citizenship since 2006 – in practice, this power has been overwhelmingly used in the context of the war on terror. 

READ MORE Should I go for French citizenship and if so where do I start?

The current UK government is trying to push through a law that means it will be possible to strip dual-national Britons of their British citizenship without warning, which would make the appeals process more difficult. The UK government has insisted that the law would only be applied to people who pose a threat to the UK. 

The United States allows people to have dual citizenship, although bear in mind that you will almost certainly still have to file a US tax return even if you move away and take on another nationality. 

If you are in doubt, you should check the nationality rules of your country of origin. Some allow for dual citizenship while others don’t. Others have special rules that apply to dual nationals – for example, if you are Egyptian and then apply for dual citizenship in France, you cannot run as an MP in Egypt. 

Some countries allow you to hold even more than two nationalities. The French government says in theory, there is no limit on how many nationalities you can hold alongside French citizenship. The difficulty is more likely to come from the authorities of other countries. 

As a naturalised French citizen you can have French citizenship stripped under certain conditions, such as committing acts of terrorism; joining the armed forces or other public services of another country; or you commit acts that go against the interest of the French state. 

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For members

FRENCH CITIZENSHIP

How you could qualify for French citizenship in under five years

For most people looking to apply for citizenship in France, they have to live in the country for five consecutive years - but, under certain circumstances, you could apply sooner.

How you could qualify for French citizenship in under five years

Here, we explain how you could shave some time off your residency qualifying period before you can apply for citizenship. The application process can last up to two years on top of the qualifying period. And as ever there are many criteria applicants are required to meet so it’s not just a question about time qualifying periods. 

READ ALSO Am I eligible for French citizenship?

Marriage

Marry a French citizen, and you can qualify for French citizenship after four years rather than five.

However, you still have to pass language and cultural knowledge tests.

This also applies to a foreign national living with their French spouse outside France – as long as they too have been married for five years.

READ ALSO How to become a French citizen via marriage

Postgraduates

Postgraduates who have studied at a French university for at least two years can qualify for citizenship after two years of residency. However it’s not as easy at that in reality given applicants must meet other criteria such as prove they have a stable job and income which obviously may take longer.

Postgraduate applicants still have to pass language and cultural knowledge tests, prove you have integrated into the French way of life, and demonstrate you have the means to live in France, which usually comes via work.

READ ALSO TEST: Is your French good enough for citizenship and residency?

The ancestor rule

If you have a parent who was a French citizen at the time of your birth, you can obtain citizenship via ancestry at any time. You will need full documentation for yourself and your French parent, and also need to prove that they have maintained some ‘connection’ with France in the past 50 years – this could be evidence of residency in France, registration with a French consulate or a voter registration to show they have voted in French elections.

READ ALSO How to obtain French citizenship through ancestry

Military ties

You do not need to complete any qualifying period if you have served in the French military, or enlisted for the French or an allied military in a time of war – but, you need to serve your time in the army, navy or air force, first… 

Anyone who joins the French Foreign Legion can apply for French nationality after three years of service. Depending on each applicant’s service record and willingness to integrate, this application will generally be granted.

Exceptional service

If you can render (or have rendered) important services to France given your abilities and talents, or have completed an exceptional integration process (such as activities or actions in civic, scientific, economic, cultural or sporting fields), you can apply for citizenship after two years. 

‘Exceptional service’ can include an act of heroism. In 2018, then 22-year-old undocumented immigrant Mamoudou Gassama rescued a four-year-old who was dangling from a balcony in Paris. His bravery was recognised with French citizenship.

READ ALSO Who is ‘le spiderman’ – the Malian migrant who saved a toddler’s life?

And numerous foreigners who worked on the frontline during the Covid pandemic have been offered fast-track citizenship.

It is important to note that no minimum residency is required for the following applicants:

  • Anyone with refugee status;
  • Anyone who comes from a French-speaking country and speaks French as the mother tongue;
  • Anyone who comes from a French-speaking country and has been educated for 5 years or more in a French-language teaching establishment.
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