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When can I start counting my residency in France towards citizenship?

The Local France
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When can I start counting my residency in France towards citizenship?
Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

If you see your future in France then you might be considering applying for French citizenship - but applications based on residency require a certain length of stay in the country. We look at what counts towards your citizenship.


Becoming French is a big step but it gives you all sorts of benefits from the practical - shorter queues at airports, no more renewing residency cards - to more intangible benefits such as being able to play an active role in the democracy of your new home and a feeling of belonging in your community. 

READ ALSO 10 reasons to become French

But when can you make your application?

First of all, it depends on how you are applying - through descent, through marriage or through residency. 

READ ALSO The ultimate guide to getting French citizenship


If you have a French parent you can apply for French citizenship in your own right once you turn 18 with no other time limit (although if your parent has been out of France for a long time they may need to prove they still have a 'connection' to the country). Full details here.



If you are applying through marriage there is no need to be resident in France but you must have been married for four years - so you can't drop off your citizenship application on the way home from the honeymoon.


The most common way for foreigners to apply for French citizenship is through residency. The headline figure is five years of residency, but exactly when your qualifying five years start can be a little more complicated. 

Higher education - if you completed higher education in France (a masters programme or above) then the five-year qualifying period is cut to two years, provided you meet the other criteria. 

Consecutive years - the key thing about your residency period is that five consecutive years are required - so if you graduated in France, moved back to your home country and then came back to France later to work, your university years would not count. 

Likewise various shorter periods in France would not count towards your five-year total. 

That doesn't mean that you can't have holidays outside of France, of course, but you must maintain your residency in the country "without interruption" for five consecutive years before you begin your application for citizenship. For non-EU citizens that means having consecutive visas/cartes de séjour that cover the whole period.

Exactly how long you can spend out of France and still maintain residency depends on the type of residency permit you have - full details here

Work and family

As well as physically being in France, the French government also requires that France be "the centre of your material interests (including professional) and your family links".

All applications are individually assessed but some circumstances that could affect your application are if you are married and your spouse lives in another country, or if you have minor children and they live in another country - as this suggests you do not see France as your long-term base. Having parents, siblings or other family members in another country will not count against you.


Likewise there is no need to be working in France - so retirees can apply - but if you are working and all or most of your work is done outside France (eg remote work for a company in another country) this means that France is not the "centre of your material interests" and could count against you. Having assets in another country - eg a property - would be unlikely to count against you, provided that most of your finances are based in France. 

There is no financial qualification for citizenship per se, but you must have "stable and sufficient income" to support yourself and your household. 

What proof do I need?

If you're applying through residency, the five-year or two-year requirements are the minimum period for residency, but in order to apply for citizenship you also need to provide a big bundle of documents which usually include tax declarations.

EXPLAINED How to use France's new online portal for citizenship

If you don't have all the documents required, it's usually advised to wait until you have everything you need, or your application risks being rejected. 


Applications for citizenship are done online and the French government has a helpful little web tool - find it here - that allows you to input your personal circumstances and then creates a bespoke list of documents for you.

The exact documents you need vary depending on your personal circumstances, but it's normal to ask for the previous three years' tax declarations and a certificate from the tax office covering the previous three years. 

Some documents will also need to be requested from your home country including a recent version of your birth certificate and a criminal records check and these will likely take several weeks or even months to gather.

If you're applying through residency you will also need a certificate of competence to at least B1 level French that is no more than two years old - you will need to book the exam yourself before you begin your application. 

TEST Is your French good enough for citizenship?

Does pre-Brexit time in France count for Brits? UK nationals in France only began to be issued with cartes de séjour in 2021, under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement. However, many of them had been in France for much longer than that.

The good news is that when it comes to citizenship, Brexit makes no difference it's all about your consecutive years in France.


As with EU citizens who apply for citizenship in France, you will need to provide documents that prove your arrival date and continued residency such as rental or work contracts and tax declarations. 

Can I leave France during the application process? 

The average time for the application process is 18 months to two years, and some préfectures can take longer than that. Obviously you can go on holiday while you're waiting, but you cannot leave France for good or your application will be annulled. 

The requirements for citizenship state that you must be resident in France "at the moment the decree of your naturalisation is signed". 

Once your application is approved and published in the Journal Officiel, you can then apply for a French passport. Once you are French you can come and go as you please and you will retain your right of residency in France even if you spent years or decades out of the country. 

TIMELINE The 6 steps to French citizenship


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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S, Sturman 2023/11/13 17:45
My daughter attended the American University of Paris for the full four years of her BA program, and continued to live in Paris another 4 years, working full time. She spent the last 6 months in the US, but returns this month permanently to Paris. She does hold an Italian passport (obtained prior to her arrival for her undergrad program). Can you help us understand what her eligibility may be at this point for applying for French citizenship?

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