French citizenship For Members

Can I fast-track my French citizenship application?

The Local France
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Can I fast-track my French citizenship application?
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a citizenship ceremony in Orleans, central France, on July 27, 2017. Photo by Michel Euler / POOL / AFP

Studying in France, serving the country, being very good at sport or running a business could potentially see you on the fast-track to French citizenship.


Every year, thousands of foreigners in France submit an application for French citizenship and for most people the process is a lengthy one.

But there are some shortcuts to becoming French.

Normal timeline

The exact timeline depends on how you are applying for citizenship and where you apply.

If you're applying through residency, you must have five consecutive years of residency in France. If you're applying through marriage to a French person you don't have to live in France, but you must have been married for four years.


And if you're applying through ancestry (ie having a French parent), then there is no specific time limit.

Once you have applied, exactly how fast your application is dealt with depends largely on where you live, since applications are dealt with by the local préfecture or consulate.

The average time between first submitting your dossier and becoming French is between 18 months and two years, but there are wide regional variations. Paris is one of the faster préfectures with some people getting their citizenship in less than a year, while the Paris suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis and the département of Alpes-Maritime (which contains Nice) are notoriously slow. 

In short, if you want to become French, then you are going to need some patience (as well as a hefty dossier full of documents).


When it comes to getting your paperwork processed, it will be faster if you submit a complete dossier in the first place, since if the préfecture has to query your application or request more documents that will slow the process down.

Take careful note of the list of required documents and make sure that you submit exactly what is required, in exactly the format that it is requested (ie a certified or appostilled copy of birth certificates, with a certified translation for documents not in French). 


In most cases, the people who have the longest wait will be those applying through residency, as they have to live in France for a minimum of five years before they can even apply. 

But can you apply sooner than five years?


The most-used exception to the five-year rule is the one for people who have studied in France. If you have completed higher education in France (a masters programme or above), then you can apply after just two years of residency.

This is intended to help France recruit and retain talent - by offering highly qualified individuals a fast-track to citizenship.

Apart from the shorter qualification period, the application process is the same as for a standard residency application with the same paperwork requirements. As such, you would still need to show three years worth of tax declarations, and it is possible your application could be adjourned if you cannot demonstrate financial stability. 

The other fast-track methods are less common, and are at the discretion of the Interior Ministry (or president).


Do something exceptional

The president has the power to grant citizenship in exceptional cases, although you will need to do something pretty special for this.

For example, in 2017 a Malian immigrant named Mamoudou Gassama was filmed climbing four storeys up a Paris building in order to save the life of a young child.

His incredible courage earned him an audience with president Emmanuel Macron, who promised him French citizenship - he was naturalised in a ceremony at his local préfecture of Seine-Saint-Denis four months later. 

Be outstanding in your field

Most people are unlikely to be as outstanding as Mamoudou Gassama, but there is a provision to gain French citizenship by "contributing through outstanding work to the influence of France and the prosperity of its international economic relations".

The Interior Ministry suggests that this could include "a well-known personality or a company director whose work in this field is recognised".

You need to be nominated to the Interior Ministry for this, it's not something that you can apply for yourself, and its granting is entirely at the ministry's discretion so you cannot appeal if it is refused (although you can wait and apply under the normal procedure). Only a handful of people per year receive citizenship this way. 


Importantly, the Ministry specifies that this path is for "francophones", so you will need to demonstrate a good grasp of French.

It does happen though - sports stars sometimes become eligible to play for France in this way after a period of residency and playing for a French club. 

During the Covid pandemic, the Interior Ministry shortened to two years the qualifying period for citizenship for any foreigners who had worked on the front line during the health crisis (eg nurses, security staff, public transport drivers) but this was a one-off scheme that has now closed.

Be wounded on active service

If you are wounded on active military service then you are eligible for French citizenship after two years of residency - in practice this mostly includes recruits in the French Foreign Legion, since most branches of the military require you to be a French citizen.

Legionnaires are also eligible for French citizenship after five years of service.

The Legion's training is notoriously brutal and Legionnaires are often on the front line of war zones, so we would hesitate to describe this as an 'easy option' for citizenship. 


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