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Does it help with moving to France to be married to a French person?

James Harrington
James Harrington - [email protected]
Does it help with moving to France to be married to a French person?
Bride and groom figurines. (Photo by DAMIEN MEYER / AFP)

If you’re a citizen of a country outside the European Union, moving to France to live is administratively much more difficult – but are there any advantages to being married to someone who is French?

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You’ve met, fallen in love with and married a French citizen. Congratulations. 

Unfortunately, that doesn’t give you an automatic right to French citizenship, or even – necessarily – the right to live in France. You will still have some bureaucratic hoops to jump through, even though the process is a little bit less complicated.

You'll also benefit from having a native French speaker on hand to translate the various forms for you - although unless your Frenchie is actually a lawyer, don't assume that they are knowledgeable about French immigration law, most people know very little about the immigration processes of their own country (because, obviously, they never have to interact with them). 

Visa

If you were living in France when you did the marriage deed, you’ll have already done the visa thing, anyway. But if you married outside France, and have never lived in France, there are still things to do, including – and most pressingly – getting a visa.

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The thing is, being married to a French person isn’t quite the live-in-France carte blanche that some people may think – you still need to go through the visa process and gather documents including your marriage certificate and proof of your spouse's French nationality.

The main benefit is that anyone who is married to a French citizen can apply for a family visa (sometimes known as a spouse visa). This allows you to come to France without a job and it gives you the right to work.

Residency card

Once you have legally moved to France you can apply for a carte de séjour vie privée et familiale

Once your visa (which normally lasts for one year) is nearing expiration, you can apply for the multi-year private and family life residence permit.

You must meet the following conditions  :

  • You must share a common address with your spouse – except in particular circumstances (the government website mentions death of your spouse, or in cases of domestic violence);
  • Your spouse must be French on the day of the wedding and must have retained French nationality;
  • You cannot be married to more than one person;
  • If your marriage was celebrated abroad, then it must be transcribed in the civil status registers of the French consulate so that it is recognised in France.

In either case, you must apply for this document, no earlier than four months and no later than two months before the expiry date of your existing residence document (visa, VLS-TS or permit).

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The usual list of reasons for refusal apply: if you have failed to comply with an obligation to leave the country (OQTF); if you have committed forgery and use of false documents; if you have committed a serious criminal offence; if you have committed acts of violence against elected officers, or public officials.

Additional information is available, in French, here

The situation is a little different for people who initially entered France without a long-stay visa. Usually, this applies to those from countries who do not benefit from the 90-day rule and are required to get a short-stay visa to enter France. If this is your situation, then when applying for your carte de séjour you will need to prove;

  • You are not living in a state of polygamy;
  • You are married to a French national with whom you have lived together for 6 months in France.

In this instance the first carte de séjour vie privée et familiale will be issued for a year.

Citizenship

Citizenship by marriage is a ‘right’ in the same way that children born in France to foreign parents have a right to be a citizen through the ‘droit du sol’. Yes, it exists – but there are rules, and it’s not automatic.

Applying for citizenship via marriage involves applying for something known as citizenship par Déclaration. This is, arguably, the more simple of the processes available to adults.

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It works to the theory that citizenship via marriage is ‘a right’. That, however, doesn't mean that citizenship will be handed out automatically – there are a number of conditions that you must fulfil, including having a reasonable level of French, and if you either don’t fit the criteria – or, more accurately, do not provide sufficient proof that you do fit the criteria you can and will be rejected.

READ ALSO Are you entitled to French citizenship if you are married to a French person?

If your spouse divorces you, or dies while you are still going through the process then your application may be no longer valid. Equally, if you get divorced within a year of getting French citizenship it’s also possible (although rare) for your citizenship to be annulled.

Divorce

Yes, we're spoilsports but people who get married do sometimes get divorced and if you are in France on a visa or residency card that is linked to your marital status then getting divorced can affect your right to stay.

This doesn't mean you will automatically be kicked out of the country if you split up. In most cases it's simply a question of applying for a new residency permit in your own right - whether you are working, studying or retired.

If you have minor children in France then you have the right to stay even if you don't meet the criteria for any other type of residency permit.

You can find full information on how to change your status in case of divorce HERE.

What about children?

Any child born to a French citizen has the right to claim nationality, whether or not they were born in France. So, whether you’re French or not has no bearing on that particular situation.

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