French citizenship For Members

French vocabulary you need to know when applying for citizenship

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
French vocabulary you need to know when applying for citizenship
A newly naturalized French citizen holds a document bearing headline which translate as "You just obtained the French nationality" (Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP)

By the time you get to the stage of applying for French citizenship, your French will probably be more than decent - but the application process itself brings a whole new world of bureaucratic terms that you will need to understand.


When applying for French nationality, there are several different vocabulary terms you will come across - this guide will help you through the process;

Citizenship terms

Par déclaration - This is the category of applying for citizenship for those who are either married to a French person or can prove family ties (eg parent of a French child)

Par naturalisation - This category, also referred to as 'naturalisation par décret' or just 'par décret' is the alternative to 'déclaration'. It is the avenue to citizenship taken by those who must prove several conditions, in many cases including a minimum length of residence in France.


Téléservice - The online platform for turning in and tracking your application is offered predominantly to those applying 'par décret'. It can be found here

Par voie postale en recommandé avec AR - By post via registered mail. This method for turning your application involves sending it by post in a lettre recommandé avec accusé de réception. You can find out how to do this using our guide.


As will come as no surprise to anyone used to deal with French admin, applying for citizenship involves putting together a dossier of documents. The exact documents that you will need vary depending on your personal circumstances and how you are applying.

Helpfully, the French public service website has a tool that allows you to input your personal circumstances and then prepares for you a personalised, downloadable list of the documents you will need - find it here.

Here are a few things that are likely to be on the list;

Document officiel d'identité - official ID document. Usually this would be your passport.

Acte de naissance - Birth certificate. If this document is not in French originally, it will likely need an official translation to accompany it.

READ MORE: Birth certificate: Why you need it in France and how to request one

Extrait - An official version of the legal document by the authorities that issued it in the first place. Essentially the authorities who granted it in the first place need to reissue the certificate, and it should provide the date of re-issue. 

Avec (ou sans) indication de la filiation - This means you need a certificate that includes parental details (including their place of birth and full names), one sans filiation means this is not necessary. 

Copie intégrale - a full copy of the document, usually a photocopy should suffice. It should still include all relevant personal information (your full name, sex, date and place of birth) and those of your parents, as well as marginal mentions (eg marriage/ divorce). 


Traducteur agrée - an accredited translator. Documents need in French will need to be accompanied by a French translation, and this must be done by an approved translator. This person is considered to be a court-appointed expert, and they would be listed on the website of the Cour de cassation (Court of Appeals). You can find an official translator here.

Extrait original de casier judiciaire étranger - Your criminal record. If you have lived in France for less than 10 years, you will need one from the other countries you have lived in, as well as the French one. Brits can request theirs here. Americans can request theirs here. If this document is not in French originally, it will likely need an official translation to accompany it.

Recto-verso - front and back

Légalisation ou apostille - this is an authentication, usually with a seal or signature, of an official document by the governmental body that issued it. Depending on your nationality at birth, when applying for French citizenship you may be asked for an apostille alongside your birth/marriage/death/divorce certificate.

Bordereau de situation fiscale - tax status statement. This document shows whether or not you owe any additional funds to French tax authorities. People are not routinely issued this, but you can request it by going to your personal space on the Impots.Gouv.Fr website.


Timbre fiscal - a revenue or tax stamp, basically meant to prove you have paid for the service. These are required for several bureaucratic procedures in France. You can purchase one online here.

Attestation - certificate. This is very common and can apply to all sorts of different paperwork.

Acte de propriété - title or deed to your property, if you are a property owner

Avis d’imposition - tax return. This is the document you receive each year from the tax office, after you have made your declaration, outlining how much (if any) tax you owe that year. They should be saved in the documents section of your personal space on the site.

Extrait de l’immatriculation au Registre du commerce ou au registre des métiers - commonly known as the D1 extract, is a document issued to all companies regularly registered with the Chamber of Trades and Crafts (CMA). You might be asked for this if you are applying as a freelancer or self-employed person.


Copie des déclarations URSSAF pour les 12 derniers mois (mensuelles ou trimestrielles) - Monthly or quarterly statements from URSSAF for the last 12 months. These would be requested if you are applying as a freelancer or self-employed person.

Certificat médical - a medical certificate. This might be required if your GP is attesting to the fact that you are incapable of taking the French language placement test for health reasons. 

Attestation de travail - an employment certificate. This provides proof that you are currently employed, as well as what type of contract (CDD or CDI) you are under - it is usually a document written for you by your employer, you can find the model for the formal language needed for an attestation de travail here.

Certificat de travail - en end-of-employment contract. This document shows your start and end dates at a job, it is created on the same format as an attestation de travail.

Justificatif des ressources - also referred to as a fiche de paie or bulletin de salaire, this would be your payslip or any document showing your earnings.


Relevé de carrière - career record. This will show the places you have worked while in France. Most people are not routinely issued this, but you can download it from your personal space on the Info-Retrait website (the same one that calculates your pension contributions and shows you when you can retire) here

Acte de mariage - marriage certificate

Acte de décès - death certificate

Copie du jugement de divorce - divorce certificate

Certificat de scolarité - Proof of schooling - you may be asked for this if you have children enrolled in French schools.

Justificatifs de votre domicile - documents proving you currently live in your home, these might include a recent electricity, gas or phone bill.

Quittances de loyer - rent payment slips. Not all landlords routinely issue these, but you should be able to ask your landlord for these. Oftentimes, you will be asked for rent receipts for the last three months.


Contrat de location - rental contract

Patrimoine - technically this translates as 'heritage' but in the case of citizenship, this is usually asked for if you receive any income from properties either in France or abroad. You may need to show proof of these revenues via bank statements, as well as an evaluation of the property's value.

French tests

People applying through residency or marriage will also need to provide proof that they can speak French, and these requirements are changing under the new immigration law - full details here.

There are several different types of language certificates;

Attestation de réussite (test linguistique) - certificate of success (on a language exam). This lasts two years, and may include the TCF or TEF.

Diplôme - diploma. This may be your diploma showing proof you graduated from a French higher education institution, or it could be a diplôme attestant un niveau de connaissance de la langue française (a diploma attesting to your French language level) from the exam at the end of an accredited French language course.

This might be a DILF (diplôme initial de langue française), which shows the A1 beginner level in French. There is also the DELF (diplôme d’études en langue française), which ranges from A1 to B2 levels. Finally, there is the DALF (diplôme approfondi de langue française), which covers the advanced C1 and C2 levels. 

READ MORE: How much do French language tests cost and where can I take them?

CERL - The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. This refers to language levels in French, from A1 (beginner) to C2 (advanced).

Next steps

Once you have gathered together all the papers needed for your dossier and submitted your application, the next step (assuming that your dossier is in order) is the interview, which is held at your local préfecture.

Le livret du citoyen - this is a booklet outlining French history, as well as the rights and privileges awarded to French citizens. It's not compulsory to read, but you may want to consult it prior to your interview as it gives a good idea of the kind of questions that will be asked. It is available as a free download - find it here.

QUIZ Could you pass the French citizenship interview?

Entretien de naturalisation - the interview step when applying for nationality. It is also called the Entretien d'assimilation


If your dossier is complete and your interview goes well then congratulations, you're likely to be awarded French citizenship. This can be a lengthy process, however - the average time between first submitting your dossier and being accepted for citizenship is 18 months to two years.

Because applications are handled on a préfecture level, however, there is a wide regional variation.

Liste électorale - Electoral or voting list. This is proof that you are registered to vote in France. If you find your name on this list, then that means you have acquired French nationality.

READ MORE: The hack to find out early about your French citizenship application

Journal Officiel - It is a French government publication, spelling out every new nationwide law and decree, and legal notices – including lists of people who have acquired French nationality through naturalisation. You can access it here.

Le certificat de nationalité française (CNF) - You may also be invited to a citizenship ceremony at your local préfecture where you will be handed your certificate of French nationality. The schedule for citizenship ceremonies varies, but you can start doing official things like applying for a passport or voting as soon as your name appears in either the JO or the liste électorale.


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].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also