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FRENCH CITIZENSHIP

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

France has tightened up language requirements for citizenship and is proposing introducing a language test for certain types of carte de séjour residency card - so just how good does your French need to be?

TEST: Is your French good enough for citizenship and residency?
Photo by Fred TANNEAU / AFP

From total fluency to just being able to order a baguette in your local boulangerie, there’s a world of difference in the levels of French attained by foreigners in France, and of course most people improve the longer they stay here.

But there are certain processes that require formal qualifications, so we’ve put together some sample questions to give you an idea of the level required. This article relates solely to your language ability – applying for citizenship has several other requirements, including having to demonstrate knowledge of French culture and history.

READ ALSO Am I eligible for French citizenship?

The current rules in place require French at level B1 on the international DELF scale in order to obtain French citizenship.

Getting a carte de séjour residency permit currently has no formal language requirement, although Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin says he wants to introduce one for certain types of permit. There is currently no detail on what language level he is suggesting, but it’s unlikely to be higher than the level required for citizenship.

So what does B1 mean?

B1 on the DELF scale is defined as “able to handle day-to-day matters that arise in school, work or leisure”. 

A B1 candidate “should be able to get by while travelling in an area where only French is spoken, and should be able to describe events and justify things like opinions, plans, or even ambitions”.

You are not required to be able to speak perfect, error-free French, only to be able to make yourself understood and understand any replies you are given.  

Tests

Four tests are required for citizenship; a written test, reading tests, listening test and an oral test where you have a conversation with an examiner.

  • Oral comprehension – 25 minutes. This test involves listening to a tape and answering questions about the content, usually multiple choice answers
  • Oral discussion – 15 minutes. This is a one-on-one conversation with an examiner (either in person or on the phone) who asks you progressively more difficult questions, towards the end of the chat you are also given the opportunity to ask questions or start a debate with your examiner on the topic
  • Reading test – 45 minutes. Candidates are expected to read a selection of French texts (newspaper articles, memos, adverts etc) and answer questions about their content
  • Writing test – 30 minutes. Candidates must write a piece on a given topic in a specified style (formal letter, email, memo, news report etc)

Bear in mind that instructions for the exam – times allowed, which sections to answer etc – are all in French. 

You need to pass all four sections of the language test in order to apply for citizenship. Although you do not have to take all the tests at the same time, test certificates presented for citizenship cannot be more than two years old. 

Sample questions

Oral comprehension – for this section you will have to listen to audio of French people talking. The format varies, sometimes it could be a news report, an interview or a recorded discussion, and it will be played at least twice.

Here are some sample questions from a past B1 paper, after the candidates had listened to a short clip of Paul talking about his holidays – click here to listen to the audio. 

Quel a été le principal inconvénient du voyage de Paul ?

  • La nourriture
  • La chaleur 
  • La longueur du voyage

Combien de pays ont-ils visités ?

  • Cinq
  • Six
  • Seize

Quel sentiment éprouve Paul?

  • Ii est déçu de son voyage et content d’être rentré 
  • Il est content de son voyage et regrette d’être rentré 
  • Il est content de son voyage et content aussi d’être rentré

Reading – you have 45 minutes to read two documents provided and then answer questions about them. The questions are usually a mix of multiple choice and longer answers.

Here are some sample questions from a past B1 paper, relating to a report about child soldiers, and the charity groups attempting to help them – you can read the document here.

1. Ce document a pour but de:

  • Dénoncer les horreurs de la guerre
  • Informer sur les actions pour les droits de l’enfant
  • Faire signer un texte pour les droits de l’enfant

2. Citez trois formes du soutien proposées aux enfants soldats par les ONG

3. Combien d’enfants sont membres du SPLA.

Oral discussion – the examiner will ask you questions about the documents that you have read for the reading section, you have an extra 10 minutes before the oral section begins to prepare your response.

You will begin by introducing yourself and talking about your work, family or hobbies – the examiner will then ask you some questions about yourself before moving on to questions about the document.

Written – in this section you have 30 minutes to write an answer to a question. You must respond in 160 to 180 words. Here is a sample of the type of question asked:

A votre avis, quels ont été le ou les changements les plus importants des vingt dernières années dans votre pays?

(In your opinion, what are the most important changes that have taken place in your country in the past 20 years).

You can find the full exam paper with the correct answers (at the bottom) HERE.

Member comments

  1. Does this apply to EU Nationals wishing to reside in France? And, by extension, to their spouse? Or are they exempt because of EU rules?

  2. Your mistakes (not a good idea when you write about French tests)

    La longUeur (the length) du voyage

    Il (he) (non non no It) est déçu (accent is a must é)

    les changements leS (plural here) plus importants

    votre payS your country. Your pay (English)

  3. Your mistakes. La longUeur (the length) du voyage

    Il (he) (non non no It) est déçu

    les changements leS (plural here)

    votre payS your country. Your pay (English)

  4. My French is at best b2 and at times a1. However, towards the end of the conversation with Paul, first vocal exercise, he makes reference to “Quebequoise” when he talks about being out of touch with current events. But the transcript version says “française”. Did I miss something?

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For members

LIVING IN FRANCE

Overstaying, working without a permit and polygamy – what can get you deported from France?

From committing a crime to overstaying your 90-day limit and even having multiple wives - here is a look at all the things that can get foreigners deported from France, and how likely this is in reality.

Overstaying, working without a permit and polygamy - what can get you deported from France?

If you’re living in France and you’re not a French citizen, there are certain scenarios in which you can be expelled from the country, and although this isn’t an everyday occurrence there are quite a wide range of offences that can see you kicked out of France. 

Process

In France, there are a few different deportation procedures for foreigners.

Expulsion – The first, which you may have heard about before, is “expulsion”, which means you must leave the country immediately.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin recently made headlines after calling for the expulsion of an Imam for making anti-Semitic, homophobic and sexist comments, as well as speeches that were “contrary to the values of the Republic.” 

For the average person, being expelled from France is very unlikely.

Under president Nicolas Sarkozy, a 2003 law was passed allowing for three possibilities to expel foreigners who are already “integrated” into France – if they have engaged in “behaviours likely to undermine the fundamental interests of the State; that are linked to activities of a terrorist nature; or constitute acts of incitement toward discrimination, hatred or violence because of the origin or religion of persons.”  

In most cases though, “expulsion” only occurs if a person is living in France illegally (ie without a residency permit or visa) and they represent a “serious threat to public order.” 

Notice to quit – The more likely scenario for the deportation of a foreigner living in France is an OQTF (Obligation de quitter le territoire français) – an obligation to leave France.

The decision is made by your préfecture. You will be formally notified, in a document which outlines which country you are to return to, as well as the time limit for when you must leave France. 

This can occur following a prison sentence, or if your residency permit has been withdrawn (again, the most common scenario is following a criminal conviction) or if your application to renew a residency permit has been denied.

You can challenge an OQTF. In most cases, the administrative court responsible for handling appeals should offer a response within six weeks.

Barred from returning – if you have committed an immigration offence such as overstaying your visa or overstaying your 90-day limit, this is often only flagged up at the border as you leave France. In this circumstance, you are liable to a fine and can also be banned from returning to France. Bans depend on your circumstance and how long you have overstayed, but can range from 90 days to 10 years.

In practice, being barred from returning is the most common scenario for people who have overstayed their visa or 90-day limit, but have not been working or claiming benefits in France.  

You can be ordered to leave France within 30 days if you are in one of the following situations:

  • You entered France (or the Schengen area) illegally and you do not have a residency permit or visa. You can be immediately ordered to leave France under specific scenarios such as representing a threat to public order or being a “risk of fleeing.”
  • You have entered France legally, but you have overstayed your visa or overstayed your 90-day limit. If you stay more than 90 days in every 180 in the Schengen area without a valid residency permit, then you can receive an OQTF, although in practice this is not the most common response.

READ MORE: What happens if you overstay your 90-day limit in France?

  • Your residency permit application or your temporary residence permit has not been renewed or has been withdrawn.
  • Your residence permit has been withdrawn, refused or not renewed or you no longer have the right to stay in France (more on this below). 
  • You failed to apply to renew your residency permit, and stayed after the expiration of your previous permit. Keep in mind that once your permit expires, you can stay an additional 90 days in France if your home-country does not require a 90-day visa. However, in order to do this you must exit the Schengen zone and come back in to re-start the clock. 
  • You are working without a work permit and have resided in France for less than 3 months. A scenario where this might apply would be coming to France for under 90-days as a tourist (ie without a visa) and take a seasonal job. If you are found to have done this, you can receive an OQTF.
  • Other scenarios include being an asylum seeker whose application for protection was definitively rejected, or being categorised as a threat to public order (for those who have resided in France for less than 3 months).

Why might my residency permit be withdrawn or refused?

For those with a valid temporary or multi-annual residency permit, you might have your titre de séjour withdrawn in any of the following scenarios: 

If you no longer meet one of the necessary conditions for obtaining the permit in the first place. Keep in mind that if you have a salarié residency permit or a passeport talent, these cannot be withdrawn if you become “involuntarily unemployed” (meaning – you do not need to worry about potentially being deported if you lose your job). The best advice for this would be to request a change of status as needed rather than staying on a permit that no longer applies to you.

If you did not fulfil all the criteria for renewing your permit – this could involve failing to appear for an appointment you have been summoned to by the préfecture. 

If your permit was issued on the basis of family reunification, you could lose your titre if you have broken off your relationship with your spouse during the 3 years following the issuance of the permit. This does not apply in the case of death or spousal abuse, and there are exceptions for couples who have children settled in France. 

Other reasons might include:

  • Living in a state of polygamy in France
  • Serious criminal conviction (drug trafficking, slavery, human trafficking, murder etc.)
  • Illegally employing a foreign worker
  • Having been deported or banned from French territory previously
  • Being a threat to public order (usually terrorism related)

If you have a residency card, you can also lose your right to residency if you are out of France for a period of between 10 months and two years – depending on the type of card you have.

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