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French citizenship For Members

Why might France refuse your citizenship application?

The Local France
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Why might France refuse your citizenship application?
A woman celebrates becomes a French citizen at a ceremony attended by French President Emmanuel Macron. (Photo by Michel Euler / POOL / AFP)

Applying for French citizenship is a stressful and time-consuming process, but could you really be refused for your political views or if you're overheard complaining about France? We sort the fact from the fiction.

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It's not uncommon for people going through the citizenship process to refuse to complain about France 'in case they hear me' - but they're usually joking when they say it.

Recently, however a France-based American influencer shared a video on social media platform TikTok in which she said she could not make any public statement regarding her personal feelings about the situation in Israel and Palestine.

The reason, she said, was not to jeopardise her ongoing application for French citizenship. “I can't say a peep about it. I cannot risk deportation,” she told her 783,000 followers.

READ ALSO Factcheck: Do foreigners in France really risk deportation for holding pro-Palestine views?

No-one in government or any position of authority in France has said this, so we're not sure what Rollins is referring to in her video.

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Common reasons for refusal

The usual reasons for refusal a citizenship application are simply not fitting the criteria - maybe insufficient time spent living in France (the usual minimum is five years), not having been married for four years if you're applying through marriage or insufficient financial resources.

You can also be refused on the basis of your language skills - you need to prove you have a reasonable standard of French. 

READ ALSO QUIZ: Could you pass the French citizenship interview?

A criminal record could also stop your application in its tracks - but driving licence points usually won't count against you.

There’s a lot of paperwork involved in applying for French citizenship and - as anyone who has dealt with the country’s red tape before knows - the wheels of bureaucracy grind slowly. The average time to process a citizenship application is between 18 months and two years, but in some areas it can take longer.

The interview

If you satisfy all the criteria and your dossier is complete, you will then move on to the next step; the interview.

Unlike some countries France doesn't have a citizenship test where you have to name rivers or identify historical figures.

The test for whether you are 'integrated' enough comes in the form of an in-person interview at your local préfecture. You will likely be grilled on French history, geography, politics and culture and you have to prove that you are both knowledgeable about France and you appreciate the country's values and truly want to become French.

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And it's at the interview stage that the more bizarre reasons for refusal crop up.

Earlier this summer, a 25-year-old Albanian man, who had lived in France since he was 14 and finished school here, said he would appeal after his application for French citizenship was refused because he did not know who Edith Cresson or Jules Ferry were. (They are; France's first female prime minister in 1991 and the education minister who oversaw the transition to free and secular public schooling in the 1880s). 

It was reported in 2019 that a nurse was denied French citizenship because she had been putting in too many hours at work.

The Val-de-Marne préfecture denied the application for citizenship on the grounds that the woman - whose country of origin was not revealed in reports at the time - was "failing to comply with the law" around working hours.

She apparently had three jobs and clocked up 59 hours of work a week and an average of 271 hours a month, considered "a violation of working regulations in France".

And, in 2016, an Algerian woman was refused citizenship because she refused to shake hands with the secretary-general of the prefecture and another local official at the ceremony celebrating her successful application for citizenship.

The woman told the Conseil d’Etat, France’s highest administrative court, that her actions were “motivated by her religious convictions”.

We should point out, however, that these types of refusals are unusual - which is why they make the news. 

Getting French citizenship is far from an easy process - in total around 30 percent of applications are turned down, but according to the interior ministry, the majority of these are on financial, eligibility or language grounds.

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Exceptional service

One way of getting French citizenship is to provide a ‘service’ to France. Some 12,000 foreign workers whose jobs put them on the front line during the Covid pandemic were given citizenship under a special scheme that fast-tracked their applications.

"Front-line workers responded to the call of the nation, so it is right that the nation takes a step towards them," said then-Citizenship minister Marlene Schiappa, at the time.

"I welcome our new compatriots to French nationality and thank them in the name of the Republic, while the country also extends its thanks to them."

And, in 2018, a young Malian immigrant scaled the facade of a building in Paris to save a toddler’s life. He met the president and was made a French citizen for his heroism, and joined the volunteer fire service.

READ ALSO Paris: Who is 'le spiderman' - the Malian migrant who saved a toddler's life?

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Comments (1)

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Stevie 2023/10/26 16:25
Because "American influencers" are a great source of factual information, eh?

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