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FRENCH CITIZENSHIP

Do children born in France automatically get French citizenship?

French citizenship carries plenty of advantages but it is not always a straightforward process - even if you were born here.

Being born in France doesn't always guarantee you French citizenship.
Being born in France doesn't always guarantee you French citizenship.(Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP)

Children born to foreign parents in France are automatically given French nationality in the following circumstances:

  • One of the parents was born in France, even if they are not a citizen;
  • One of the parents was born in Algeria before 3 July 1962;
  • The child is born stateless – their parents have no legal nationality; the parents are unknown; the parents come from a country where nationality is only given if you were born there. 

In any other situation, a child born to foreign parents in France can only become French at the age of 13, if they meet a number of conditions. 

Age 13-15

Those born in France to foreign parents can apply to become French between 13-15 if the following criteria are met:

  • The child has lived in France on a regular basis – this means they have spent most of their time in France since the age of 8-years-old
  • The child is living in France at the time of their application
  • The child consents to becoming French (unless they do not have the mental or physical capacity to do so).

One of or both of the child’s parents or legal carer must write a déclaration de nationalité française on behalf of the child – be sure to make two copies. On the declaration, you will need to provide the name, surname, date of birth and place of birth of the minor and their representative.

This declaration must be sent by post or handed directly to your local tribunal judiciaire (find your closest one here). 

You will also need to provide the following:

  • Birth certificate less than three months old (you can apply for a copy of your birth certificate at any age in France);
  • ID document;
  • Recent ID photos;
  • A titre de séjour of the foreign parent or representative with an official overseas ID document;
  • Proof that the minor lives in France;
  • Proof that the minor has been frequently living in France and has resided in the country for at least 5 whole years since the age of 8;
  • Proof that the legal representative of the child has parental authority (birth certificate or adoption certificate).

Original versions of these documents, rather than photocopies, are required. 

If the child has children of their own who live with them, birth certificates and added proof will be required. In some circumstances, the tribunal may ask you to have the child medically examined to check their physical and mental capacity to voluntarily ask for citizenship. 

Any documents written in another language must be translated into French by a registered translator

Once you have submitted evidence, the child is given a récépissé or receipt and an interview is organised to ensure that the child has given their consent. 

Judicial authorities have six months to register the declaration – or refuse to give nationality. They can change their mind after two years if they discover retrospectively that the legal conditions for nationality are not met or if you have lied on the form. 

If the request for nationality has been confused, you can contest it in the sixth months following the decision. You will need to hire a lawyer to do so. 

Age 16-18

Those born in France to foreign parents can apply to become French between 16-18 if the following criteria are met:

  • They live in France at the time of applying;
  • They have lived in France regularly since the age of 11, for a period of at least five years.
  • They consent to becoming French (unless they do not have the mental or physical capacity to do so).

Unlike for those aged 13-15, this age group can deliver the necessary documents without parental authority. 

The declaration of nationality can be sent by post or handed over in person by the applicant. 

All the same documents are necessary as for the 13-15 age group. 

Adults 

If you over the age of 18 and were born in France to foreign parents, you can apply for citizenship if you meet the following conditions: 

  • You lived in france at the age of 18;
  • You lived in France regularly for a period of at least five years since the age of 11;
  • Your parents are not diplomatic agents or consulate staff 

Officially, if you meet the above criteria, you become French automatically at the age of 18. 

However you should apply for a certificat de nationalité française at the age of 18. To do this, you will need to present proof that you have lived in France regularly for a period of five years since the age of 11 (school certificates, work contracts etc.)

What if one of the child’s parents obtains French nationality?

If a child’s parent has just obtained French nationality by applying for citizenship, the child become French if the following conditions are met:

  • The child lives in France with this parent (at least part-time in the case of divorce);
  • The name of the child is mentioned on the naturalisation decree of the parent.

It is possible to apply for naturalisation of a child living overseas if one of their parents has become French. However, the child must have lived in France with the newly-French parent for at least five years prior to the request being made. 

If the parent becomes French by the time their child has reached the age of 18, the child cannot then become French through their parent. 

What if one of the child’s parents was born French? 

A child whose parents are French at the time of their birth is considered French, even if the child was born overseas. 

If the parent loses their French nationality once the child has become an adult, this has no impact. 

If the lineage of the child is contested once they become an adult, French nationality will not be stripped from them. 

What if the child has been adopted by French parents?

An adoption plénière (full adoption, in which there is a total break with the original parents of the child) signed before the child is born can bestow French nationality on that child at birth. 

If the adoption happened overseas, it will only be possible to apply for French nationality this way if the adoption has the same legal standing as an adoption plénière in France. 

An adoption simple (in which a link with the original parents is somewhat maintained) does not automatically guarantee French nationality. 

The following conditions must be met:

  • The child must be less than 18-years-old at the time they apply for citizenship;
  • The child must live in France when the application is made, unless they have been adopted by a Frenchman living abroad;
  • The person who adopted the child must have been French at the moment of the adoption itself. 

The process of applying for citizenship is the same as for children born in France to non-French parents, except that you will also need to provide adoption documents. 

What other ways can I get French nationality? 

You don’t have to be born in France to obtain French nationality. 

There are two main alternative routes for applying for citizenship – through residency or through marriage. 

  • Residency 

If you are applying through residency you need to have been resident in France for at least five years.That can be reduced to two years if you have completed postgraduate studies at a French university.

Those applying via residency will also need to prove they can speak French to B1 level, they have an adequate knowledge of France, its culture, history and politics and also show they have integrated into and appreciate the French way of life.

They will need to show they have a clean criminal record (for those who have less than 10 years residence in France) and that their tax payments are up to date, including tax return notices for the three years prior to filing the application for French citizenship. They will also need to prove they are financially sustainable. In other words they have a job or some other form of income.

  • Marriage 

If you are applying through marriage you need to have been married for four years, but do not actually need to be living in France. 

If you have children born in France you can apply for citizenship on their behalf once they turn 13, and if you get citizenship your children are also given citizenship.

If you get into a PACS (which is like a civil partnership) with a French person, you do not automatically get nationality. 

  • Other

There are some other less common ways to get citizenship. One is to join the French Foreign Legion, as anyone who serves five years in the Legion or who is injured on active service qualifies for citizenship (although you might want to check out what their training involves first) and the other is to perform an outstanding service for France.

Some people who have achieved something superb are offered French nationality and foreigners who worked on the frontline during the Covid pandemic have been offered fast-track citizenship

You can read more about applying for French nationality HERE

This article serves as guidance on how to obtain French nationality but in certain circumstances, additional documents and procedures may be required. If you are in any doubt, contact your local tribunal.

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FRENCH CITIZENSHIP

How to obtain French citizenship through ancestry

Some countries such as Italy and Ireland are keen to welcome citizenship applications from descendants of their nationals, but in France this route is less common.

How to obtain French citizenship through ancestry

There are several routes to obtaining French nationality. The best-known methods, other than being born in France to French parents, are by marriage to a French citizen, or to have lived in the country long enough to fulfil residency requirements. 

France has a relatively generous approach to getting citizenship through residency – you can apply after just five years of living here (or two years if you undertook higher education in France) and the fee is just €55. Set against that, however, is the requirement for a language test, the lengthy application process and the extra costs in getting certified translation of documents.

READ ALSO Am I eligible for French citizenship?

Ancestry is a less common route to naturalisation.

Unlike Ireland, which allows citizenship through grandparents, or Italy, which accepts any ancestor going back to 1861, in France you need a French parent to qualify.

So, bad news for any Brits who were hoping that the Norman-French ancestors might entitle them to a coveted EU passport. 

Under article 20 of the French Civil Code, if, at the time of a child’s birth, one of their parents held French citizenship, that child is considered French.

The parents do not have to be married, but the parent with French citizenship must be named on the child’s birth certificate.

If the child is born outside France, parents can apply to officialise French citizenship at the time of their birth. But if your parents didn’t do this, then you can apply in your own right as an adult. 

To prove your right to French nationality, you need to present your birth certificate with your named French parent on it.

You will need to apply for a Certificat de nationalité française (CNF) first before you can apply for a passport or identity card. It’s free and you can find out more about the process here

You will need to provide, at minimum:

  • A passport photograph;
  • Proof of identity (national identity card, passport, driving licence, etc);
  • Proof of address (recent electricity bill, rental contract, tax notice, etc);
  • A complete recent copy of your birth certificate indicating your legal relationship to your French parent;
  • A complete copy of the birth certificate of your French parent;
  • A complete copy of the marriage certificate of your parents or, if they are not married, a complete copy of the Reconnaissance d’un enfant document proving your parentage.

Officials may demand additional documentation as part of the application process, and you may need to provide a certified translation of any documents that are not in French. 

The same rules holds for adoptive children if, at the time of full adoption, one of the parents is French.

If your parents have been out of France for a significant period of time you may need to provide proof of their continued ties to France such as ownership of French property or regular voting in French elections.

Applications are not usually granted if the family has been abroad for more than 50 years without making use of their rights.

But their applications can still be considered if they can prove “concrete ties of a cultural, professional, economic or family nature” with France — a clause that Stanley Johnson, the Brexit-supporting dad of British PM Boris Johnson, invoked when he became a French citizen in May 2022

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