French Citizenship and Naturalisation

How to get French citizenship – find out about the naturalisation procedure and how to get French nationality…

French citizenship can be acquired through naturalisation, marriage or birth. There are a number of conditions that must be met in order to acquire French nationality.

French Naturalisation

In order to be naturalised and get French nationality, the applicant must fulfil certain requirements. It should be noted that even if all requirements are met, the French administration can still refuse the naturalisation. Note the situation below doesn’t apply if you are married to a French citizen, scroll down for information on French citizenship through marriage. In order to start the naturalisation procedure, the person must:
  • Be over 18 (parents must file the application on behalf of minors)
  • Have continuously resided in France over the last five years (there are exceptions; for example, a candidate may apply after having successfully completed two years of study in a French university)
  • Prove that they have integrated into France and speak French (see below)
In addition, the person must be able to prove "bonnes vie et mœurs". Basically, once the naturalisation procedure is underway, the prefecture does background checks to verify that there is no criminal record, either in France or abroad, and that the person is of good moral character. For example, they will verify that all due French taxes have been paid.

How to Apply for French Naturalisation

An application form needs to be completed to start the procedure The place of application depends on where the applicant lives – but this is generally at the local prefecture. For those residing in Paris, applications should be made at the Prefecture de Police de Paris. A number of supporting documents must be provided and may include the following:
  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of continuous residency in France
  • Proof of no criminal record (if living in France for less than ten years, proof of no criminal record in previous countries of residence will also be requested)
  • Proof of employment
  • Tax returns
  • Birth and marriage certificates of the parents of the applicant
The exact documents may vary depending on the person’s situation and will be indicated when lodging the application. All documents in a language other than French must be translated by a sworn translator. The local Town Hall (Mairie) can provide a list of translators. There is a fee for the procedure, which is paid by purchasing a timbre fiscal (tax stamp) from a tabac shop (55 euros as of June 2016).

Proving integration and French language proficiency

When applying for French nationality, a citizen booklet (livret du citoyen) is given to the applicant. An interview takes place at the Préfecture in order to determine the applicant’s integration into French society. There may be questions about French society and culture as outlined in the Livret. At the end of the interview, the applicant must sign a charter of rights and duties of French citizens. The person must also prove that they have a good command of the French language. Proof of French proficiency can be in the form of a diploma or an attestation from an approved language school that the applicant has reached a minimum level of B1. To obtain an attestation from a language school, an oral and written test administered by the school will likely be required. The level of spoken French may also be verified during an interview at the prefecture. Exceptions apply for people aged 60 and over, and for people with a disability or a chronic health condition. Once the procedure is underway, the French administration has 18 months to provide a response. This is reduced to 12 months if the applicant can prove that they have lived in France continuously for at least ten years from the date of the application. The Préfecture or Prefet de Police must be informed of any change of address or situation during this time. If the application is successful, the person is informed by mail. The naturalisation decree is published in the Official Journal and there is a naturalisation ceremony. A French ID card and French passport can now be obtained. Dual nationality is permitted and so it's not necessary to give up (renounce) any other nationalities. If the application for naturalisation is refused or rejected, the person is notified either in person or by registered letter, with an explanation why. It is possible to contest the decision by registered letter within two months. This must be sent to the Ministry in charge of naturalisations at the Tribunal de Nantes:
  • Ministre de l’Intérieur, Ministre chargé des naturalisations 12 rue Francis Le Carval 44404 REZE CEDEX
If there is no reply after four months, the contestation is considered rejected. The only option after this four-month period is to file a judicial appeal within two months with the Ministry of naturalisations. Comprehensive information about the naturalisation procedure is available on the French government website, Service Public.

French Citizenship through Marriage

A foreign citizen can apply for French nationality by declaration of marriage to a French citizen (Déclaration de nationalité française par mariage). A foreigner can apply to become a French citizen after four years of marriage to a French national (or five years if the couple do not live together continuously). The couple must still be married and the applicant must prove that they have a good command of the French language. The place of application depends on where the applicant lives – but this is generally at the local prefecture. For those residing in Paris, applications should be made at the Prefecture de Police. To find the nearest place to file the application enter your postcode here under the heading ‘dépôt de la demande’. To make a declaration of French Nationality through marriage, form Cerfa 15277*01 must be completed. The following documents are required;
  • Proof of identity of the applicant and spouse
  • Proof of address (recent utility bill for example)
  • Proof of continuous residency for at least three years since the marriage
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Proof of ‘affective and material’ spousal cohabitation – this may include birth certificates of children, joint tax bill, proof that the couple live together (joint rental agreement or proof of joint purchase of a property)
  • Proof of a good command of the French language
  • Divorce decree if either of the spouses has been previously married
All documents in a language other than French must be translated by a sworn translator. The local Town Hall (Mairie) can provide a list of translators. There is a fee for the procedure, which is paid by purchasing a timbre fiscal from a tabac shop (55 euros as of June 2016). The person is informed of the decision within 12 months of the application. In case of refusal the person has six months to contest the decision. It should be noted that if the couple divorce or separate within 12 months following the acquisition of French nationality, the application may be considered fraudulent.

French Nationality through Birth

Children born in France to foreign parents are entitled to claim French nationality. The procedure varies depending on the age of the child. Children aged 13 to 16, who were born in France and have been living in France continuously since the age of 8, can be granted French nationality. Children aged 16 and over, born in France, can claim French nationality if they have been living in France for a minimum of five consecutive years since the age of 11. Applications are made at the Tribunal d’Instance of the place of residence of the child. In Paris, the application is made at the Pôle de la nationalité française de Paris. Any child born in France to foreign parents is automatically granted French nationality at the age of 18 if they can prove that they live in France and have been living in France for a minimum of five consecutive years since the age of 11. They will need to apply for a Certificate of French Nationality (Certificat de nationalité française) at the Tribunal d’instance of their place of residence. Note: If both parents are foreign, but one or both of the parents was born in France, the child is automatically French from birth.

Ascendants of French citizens

Law 2015-1776 from December 2015 stipulates that a foreign ascendant (parent) of a French citizen can make a declaration of nationality. The foreign ascendant must be age 65 and over and have been living in France for more than 25 years. The official decree is yet to be pronounced, however, further information about this procedure and any updates are available on the Service public website.

Further Information

  • Forms and explanations of required documents for all naturalisation and nationality claims can be downloaded from the Immigration Department