How to Become a French Citizen
Time to make it official – you want to be a French citizen. No more tracking down paperwork, renewing your visa or rushing to the préfecture.
Maybe you're moving to France and want that comfort of citizenship. Either way, take a look below to see which method of claiming citizenship is right for you.
Reasons you should get French citizenship
- Being a French citizen, you can rest easy knowing that you can stay, live and work in France for as long as you wish.
- You can also live and work with little restrictions within the EU, including the UK, Spain, and Germany.
Different ways to get French citizenship
There are several different ways to become a French citizen, it just requires a lot of paperwork, patience and perseverance.
So, how do you get your hands on that burgundy French passport? Here are the ways you can become a French citizen:
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French citizenship through family descent
Le droit du sang, (jus sanguinis in Latin) or the ability to claim French citizenship based on descent, is one of the more popular ways to claim French nationality. If one or both of your parents are French citizens, you have the right to apply for French citizenship.
Citizenship through birth in France
Le droit du sol, (Jus soli in Latin) or the right to claim citizenship based on being born in France.
Any child born in France to non-French citizens becomes a French citizen at the age of 18, as long as:
- The family was living in France at the time of the birth
- If, since the age of 11, the child has lived in France for a continuous or intermittent period of 5 years
Children can demand French citizenship at the age of 16 if they satisfy the above requirements.
French citizenship by naturalisation
If an applicant has resided in France for at least 5 years, they be a candidate for naturalisation.
The period could be reduced to two years, if the applicant has successfully completed two years at a French higher education institution, or has contributed “significant services” to French society.
Getting French citizenship through marriage
If the applicant has married a French citizen, they are eligible for French citizenship if they have satisfied the following requirements:
- If the couple has been married for longer than 4 years.
- If the couple lives abroad, the applicant’s spouse has registered on the French register for citizens abroad.
- If the couple married abroad, the wedding must be registered on the French civil register.
The period extends to five years if the applicant cannot prove that they have lived continuously in France for three years with the required legal documents (carte de séjour etc.).
Exceptions to the qualifying period
Certain exceptions can apply immediately for French citizenship:
- Those who have contributed “exceptional services” to the French state
- Non-French citizens from countries where French is one of the official languages, and have been enrolled in a Francophone teaching institution for at least 5 years
- Foreigners who have completed military service in the French army
What you need to apply for French citizenship
If you qualify for one of the above ways to get French citizenship, now the hard work begins – it’s time to sort out all the necessary paperwork. Depending on the application, the paperwork varies.
Applicants with a right to French citizenship via birthrights
Called (demande de attribution) in French, this process is fairly straightforward (as applications for citizenship go).
Where to apply for citizenship
The dossier has to be handed into the applicant’s nearest mairie (town hall) in France, or if the applicant lives outside of France, to the French consulate.
Documents you need to have
The key document to the application is proving that the applicant was either born in France or one of both of their parents are French citizens. In this case, birth certificates will be required.
If the birth certificate is in a language other than French, it will need to be translated by an official translator. A certificat de nationalité française(certificate of French nationality) may be required for the applicant’s parents, if the child was born outside of France.
For a full list of the required documents, head to the French civil service’s website.
Applicants with a right to French citizenship via marriage
Also known as (demande d’acquisition par déclaration), an applicant will submit a dossier with copies of the following documents:
- Two copies of the cerfa no15277*01 form, filled out, signed and dated
- Copies of ID of both the applicant and spouse
- Proof of address with full name and address
- Birth certificate (with certified translation if not in French)
- Marriage certificate obtained within the last three months
- Attestation sur l'honneur des 2 époux, a document which both spouses need to sign in person at the préfecture or consulate together
- Proof of the relationship and marriage such as birth certificates of the spouses’ children, a mortgage contract or shared bank account
- Proof of the spouse being a French citizen at the time of marriage
- Proof that the applicant has acquired a sufficient knowledge of the French language
- A criminal record certificate from the applicant’s country of residence for the last ten years
Depending on the case, the applicant may be required to submit further documents. For the full list, check out the French civil service’s page for more information.
Receipt of application
When the applicant submits a dossier, with the necessary documents to prove the marriage, the applicant will receive a receipt signed and dated by the council, the judge or consulate.
Before you apply
Applicants need to show they have integrated into French society, both professionally and personally, and have acquired sufficient French language skills (with a certificate from a French language institution).
Applicants also need to have a deep understanding of French culture, history and society. The livret du citoyen covers the required subjects, which will be tested in a one-on-one interview at the préfecture or consulate.
Paperwork you need
Applicants will need:
- to fill in two copies of the cerfa n°12753*02 form
- provide certified translations of any documents, if necessary.
- If the applicant has significant medical problems, a medical examination may be required to complete the dossier.
Where to apply for citizenship
Once all the necessary documents have been compiled, the applicant needs to hand in the dossier into their prefecture, or to the French consulate, if living outside of France at the time of application.
The dossier must be handed in within six months of requesting French naturalisation.
Things to know before applying for French citizenship
The French government has the right to refuse citizenship applications and your chances of gaining French citizenship will be rejected or hindered if:
- The applicant has been charged or imprisoned with a terrorism-related offense
- If the applicant has been issued an expulsion or withdrawal order
- If the applicant has been banned from the French territory
- If the applicant is undocumented
If you tick all of the boxes of any of the above options, you could find yourself proudly singing the Marseillaise as a newly declared French citizen.
It’s going to be a lot of paperwork, but the end goal will be worth it. Soon, you could be in possession of your very own French passport, and that is priceless.