Apply for French Nationality/Citizenship STEP-BY-STEP: Eligibility and Requirements


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Apply for French Nationality/Citizenship STEP-BY-STEP: Eligibility and Requirements

FrenchEntrée digital editor Zoë Smith takes you through the long process of applying for French Nationality (Citizenship) – step by step.

Applying for French Nationality or citizenship is a possibility for expats who plan to reside permanently in France, and it brings with it a number of benefits. However, the application process is long and comprises multiple steps, so it’s not a decision to be taken lightly, nor is it a requirement for permanent residency in France.

As a long-time resident of France with strong family ties to the country, and as a British citizen living in the EU post-Brexit, I’ve decided to seek French citizenship as it will afford me greater security and citizen’s rights in the country that I call home. In this series of articles, I’m going to be taking you through the process with me, step by step, from putting together my dossier and taking my French language exam to (hopefully!) receiving French nationality at the end of it.

In the first of this article series, let’s take a look at the basics: What is the difference between French nationality and permanent residency, who is eligible to seek French nationality, and what are the base requirements? I will go into each step in more detail in the following articles.

Disclaimer: Please note that any screenshots or specific details of my own French nationality application apply to my situation only and are provided only to give you an insight into the process and what to expect. These are not intended as a blueprint for your own application, as your situation may be completely different to mine!

Also, please remember that I am taking you through the process with me in real time! This means there is the possibility that I have made errors on my application form or will be asked to submit extra documents as I continue in the process. There is also (unfortunately!) no guarantee that my application will be accepted and that I will be granted French nationality.

What is the difference between French nationality and permanent residency?

First things first, what does applying for French nationality mean, and how does it differ from being permanently resident in France?

Expats, including both EU and non-EU citizens, who have lived in France for more than five years will generally be able to apply for a permanent residency card or Carte de résident permanent. This card is typically valid for 10 years and is renewable, affording the holder the right to live, work, or run a business in France for that time period.

In order to apply for a Carte de résident permanent, you must have been living in France for a minimum of five years uninterrupted, pass a French language test, have sufficient income, and be “integrated into French society”. The residency card affords a certain amount of security over your right to stay in France, and it can generally only be revoked if you were convicted of committing certain crimes or going against the terms of your residency. However, it does not give you the right to vote (although EU citizens resident in France may vote in local and European elections), nor does it give non-EU citizens the right to unlimited travel or residency in other countries of the EU.

You can learn more about the path to residency in France here and about the Permanent Residency Card here.

Taking French Nationality means becoming naturalised and, therefore, becoming a French citizen. The benefits of becoming a French national mean that you will then be afforded all the same rights as a French citizen. French citizenship offers full security of being able to live and work in France regardless of whether your circumstances change, and it can only be revoked in very extreme cases (such as committing a terrorist act). As a French citizen, you will also be able to pass this citizenship on to your children.

Just like French citizens, you will have the right to vote in local parliament and presidential elections, and stand for office – you could even run for president if you wanted to!

Finally, becoming a French citizen also means becoming an EU citizen, granting the right to freedom of movement within the EU. You may also travel or even live outside of France for long periods without losing the right to residency in France. After all, as a French citizen, France will always be your home!

Can I (and should I) apply for French nationality?

Applying for French nationality is a long and difficult process, so it’s certainly not for everyone. It’s important to note that it is not essential to become a French national in order to live permanently in France, and many long-term residents do not choose to become French citizens.

Before you decide to undergo the lengthy application process, it’s important to ask yourself why you wish to become French. Do you consider France to be your home? Is France the place you see yourself living for the rest of your life? Do you speak French and feel fully integrated into French society? In my opinion, answering yes to these questions should be the bare minimum before considering taking this step.

Do I have to give up my own nationality to become a French citizen?

It’s important to consider whether you are able to become a French citizen without giving up your own nationality and if this is something that works for you. Some countries, such as France, the UK and the US, allow citizens to hold dual nationality, meaning that you can be a citizen of two countries (or sometimes more) at one time. You could, therefore, have both a French and a UK/US passport, and enjoy citizen’s rights in both countries.

However, other countries do not allow dual nationality, meaning that in order to become a French citizen, you would be required to renounce your citizenship of your birth country. It’s important to consider carefully whether this is the right choice before continuing with your application for French nationality.

Who is eligible to apply for French nationality?

There are two ways to become a French citizen: by declaration (in instances where you are legally entitled to citizenship) or by decree (whereby you request to become a citizen).

Note that I will personally be applying for French nationality by decree, which means that I do not have any legal right to citizenship (such as French parents, etc.). While I am, of course, hoping that my application and integration into France will be sufficient for the French government to award me with citizenship, my application will be considered on an individual basis, and this request may not be granted.

Applying by declaration

Applying for French nationality by declaration is possible in the following circumstances:

  • If you have been married to your French spouse for at least four years. Find out more here.
  • If you are over 65, are the parent or grandparent of French children, and have lived in France for at least 25 years. Find out more here.
  • If you were born in France to non-French parents or lived in France for at least five years since the age of 11, you can apply for nationality when you turn 18. There are also other possibilities for those under the age of 18 – see here.

Applying by decree

Applying for French nationality by decree (par décret) is possible in the following circumstances:

  • You are currently resident in France.
  • You have been living in France for a minimum of five years consecutively and within interruption.
  • You hold a valid residence card (except for EU citizens).
  • You are over 18 years old.

What are the requirements to apply for French Nationality by decree?

Naturally, France does not make it easy for expats to become French citizens, and being awarded citizenship is a privilege reserved for those who are fully settled and integrated into French life.

If, like me, you are requesting nationality by decree – une demande d’accès à la nationalité française par décret – you will need to file an official application via the online portal, NATALI, which you can find here. You will need to provide a sizable ‘dossier’, including various official documents. We’ll go over the full list of requirements in more detail in another article, but here is an overview of the basic pre-requisites:

  • Proof of sufficient and stable resources.
  • Certificate of B1 level French (speaking, writing, and comprehension).
  • Demonstration of integration into the French way of life, including passing an oral exam on French history, politics, and culture.
  • Proof of ‘good moral conduct’, i.e. a clean criminal record.

Moving to France?

From applying for your visa and opening a French bank account, to integrating in your new community – FrenchEntrée is here to help! Let our Essential Reading and Visa & Residency articles guide you through the whole process, then visit our Owning Property, French Tax, Healthcare, and Life in France zones for everything else you need to know.

Disclaimer: Our Essential Reading articles are designed to give an overview of the visa requirements and procedures for moving to France. We always check our information against the official government information made available to the public, however, please remember that all visa applications are considered on an individual basis and the exact requirements, fees, or application procedure may vary. Unless you are an EU citizen, obtaining a French visa is not a right, and we cannot guarantee that your visa will be approved.

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FrenchEntrée's Digital Editor, Zoë is also a freelance journalist who has written for the Telegraph, HuffPost, and CNN, and a guidebook updater for the Rough Guide to France and Rough Guide to Dordogne & Lot. She lives in the French countryside just outside of Nantes.

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  •  Magalie Jno Baptiste
    2024-06-06 02:07:48
    Magalie Jno Baptiste
    Hi Ms.Zoe, How are you? I am Magalie Jno Baptiste I am 38 years old. I was born in Guadeloupe. My parents are naive of the Commonwealth of Dominica. When I was about 2 1/2 years old my parents came back to live in Dominica. I did not go to school Guadeloupe. I have been living here in Dominica for my whole life. NONE of my family are French nationals. Do you think I am qualified to obtain French citizenship because I was born in Guadeloupe? And if yes, how do I go about applying for French citizenship whilst living here in Dominica? Can you please give me some advice. Thanking you in advance. Magalie


  •  Dimple
    2024-05-18 03:04:00
    Hello Zoe, I have studied in France for 2 years and working here for more than 5 years. My Question is: "Do we need to write a French exam even if we do our studies ?" to apply French Nationality.


    • Zoë Smith
      2024-05-28 09:19:10
      Zoë Smith
      Hi Dimple, There are exceptions for those who have undertaken certain studies in French. Kind regards, Zoe


  •  El M
    2024-04-16 11:53:13
    El M
    Hi, would you be able to elaborate on applying for nationality by decree, especially the requirement to be living in France for a minimum of five years consecutively and without interruption? What is considered an interruption? Can you not leave the country at all for five years, or is there a specific amount of time per year you have to be in country? What if you are a grad student and will be doing field work out of the country for at least a few months? Would appreciate any further clarification about this.


  • John Mathe
    2024-03-24 02:01:22
    John Mathe
    I was born in Paris as a teenager I lived in uk and as IWas training to be a solicitor Idecides to relinquish my French nationality as IWas a dual national. Can I renew my French nationality as someone born in Paris John


  •  Allison Saunders
    2024-03-15 04:21:04
    Allison Saunders
    Thank you Zoe for the intersting article - you're a few months ahead of me so I will be interested to follow your progress. One question for now, I've noticed on the application for nationality by decree that it recommends that you add details for brothers, sisters and parents. For family members who are women it only asks for Nom so doesn't specify nom de naissance or nom d'usage as it does for the applicant themselves. Would you recommend we always provide nom de naissance unless specified for family members?


  •  Kerry Gilmour
    2024-02-25 07:36:08
    Kerry Gilmour
    The person making application, do they require their parents original birth certificate?


    •  Syed
      2024-05-14 04:52:49
      Hi Zoë How are you? I hope you can help me . I am British citizen now live in France nearly 8 wife n my daughter is french nationals. Now am going to apply for nationality french I have all the documents required already (Except my parents birth certificate n My father is died in 2001 ,my mum still is alive I have my birth certificate original from Bangladesh where mentioned my Father ,n my Mother name in my birth Question is to you Do I still need ou obligé provide my mum birth certificate n my father death certificate to apply for french nationality. As I don't go Bangladesh for long time Is really difficult to it from Bangladesh. What do you think still I can submit the application without my parents birth certificate??. I hope you will answer my request please. Have a nice evening


    • Zoë Smith
      2024-03-04 14:00:41
      Zoë Smith
      Hi Kerry, Yes, parents birth certificates and marriage certificate (if applicable) are on the list of required documents for nationality. Kind regards, Zoe


  •  Jesse
    2024-02-22 02:36:55
    Hello Zoe, If I take French nationality by decree, as you are doing, do I have to pass a French driving test or can I continue to drive on my British driving licence? I would really appreciate an answer, thank you!


  • Alan Bezzant
    2024-02-13 02:41:01
    Alan Bezzant
    Can one start the process of applying for citizenship before the 5 years have fully elapsed? Just wondering if you can submit your application 3 or 6 months earlier given the processing time. Many thanks


    • Zoë Smith
      2024-02-13 16:33:49
      Zoë Smith
      Hi Alan, As the five years of residency is one of the prerequisites of the application, I wouldn't advise applying early as your application would likely be rejected on this basis. However, you can absolutely create an account, gather all the documents and start filling in your application prior to sending it off. I began preparations about four months before I sent off my application. Kind regards, Zoe


  • Shahpour Zangeneh
    2024-01-29 12:10:47
    Shahpour Zangeneh
    Hi. What documents are required to get French nationality for British Citizen? Thanks


  •  Barua kali
    2024-01-29 06:07:29
    Barua kali
    I am in France 2010 I am still working France I am Bangladesh passport holder I am marag but family stay in have card salarie so I am interested to take franch passport that is possible? Not my family are not interested came in France parsonal problem.


  •  Joel Noe
    2024-01-15 11:04:18
    Joel Noe
    Hi, I was married in France to a French woman and we were married for 5 years. I now giveback in the USA but I still have my Carte de Sejour which was issued for a 10 year period and is soon to expire. Can I still get citizenship ?


    • Zoë Smith
      2024-01-16 11:42:54
      Zoë Smith
      Hi Joel, As I understand it, French citizenship applications by naturalisation are only possible for those currently resident in France for a minimum of five years prior to the application. Kind regards, Zoe


  •  Michelle
    2024-01-13 06:40:10
    This is really interesting and detailed…. I look forward to following your experience! I have a couple of questions about translations, as I find conflicting information on various sites. As a UK citizen, can I provide my original birth certificate for translation, or does it need to be a “recent copy”? If so, how do I get a recent copy?? I had my birth and marriage certificate translated years ago for a carte de séjour. Is this still a valid translation? Again, advice on this seems to vary…. And a final translation question - for British citizens, we need to use a translator who is “assermenté”, but do not have to have the translations “apostille” - is that correct? Thank you in advance!


    • Zoë Smith
      2024-01-16 11:40:40
      Zoë Smith
      Hi Michelle, As far as I understand, birth certificates must be issued within the last six months, which, of course, implies that translations must also be recent. In the UK, you can apply for a copy of your birth certificate from the County Council where you were born - for example, I was born in Nottingham, so I simply googled "Nottingham birth certificate" and it came up straight away. The process may vary slightly between councils but it should be relatively straightforward - just make sure to allow extra time for it to be posted to France. As for translations, they must be carried out by a certified translator - see our article How to Get Documents Officially Translated in France for more on this. I will also go through my own application and all of the documents required in another article soon. Kind regards, Zoe


      •  Michelle
        2024-01-17 08:04:47
        Thank you for your reply, Zoe. So if I understand, I would need to apply for a copy of my birth certificate issued now, rather than using the original issued when I was born? I had always thought that the UK birth certificates were always dated the day your birth was originally declared.


        • Zoë Smith
          2024-01-17 10:35:24
          Zoë Smith
          Hi Michelle, Yes, you are correct in both instances. In the UK, typically we do not "update" birth certificates - they are issued once and you may request copies at a later date. However, in France, birth certificates are more like a "life certificate", updated to include details of marriages, divorces, children, etc. This is why the French system requires a "recent" birth certificate, and while it doesn't really make a difference with a UK certificate, the rule must still be upheld by Brits. A second reason is that typically in the UK, the original is a shortened version of the birth certificate which doesn't include all the details of both parents - when you request a copy, you will need receive the longer version which is required by the French authorities. I hope this helps clarify things! Zoe


  • P Adam
    2023-11-05 12:11:07
    P Adam
    Hi Zoe I am algerian citizen born in 1959 before independence of Algeria and at that time France use to consider Algeria as Fench territoy and hence my parents and I were considered as french but never hold French passport. Am I French now? Or can I apply for French citizenship by Declaration/Descent. Thanks


  •  Alice Lemaitre
    2023-10-30 06:55:56
    Alice Lemaitre
    Hi my french father is on my UK birth certificate but my birth was never registered with the french authority. Can I apply for french nationality? From the UK?


  •  Mohanram. C
    2023-10-09 05:24:04
    Mohanram. C
    my grandfather born in Franceindia and service in military for 1950 to 1967 but my grandfather didn't singned in the decleartion in indianfranco1962 so that he was last his French nationality and my grandmother born in birthish india and my grandmother and grandfather married in 1951 in Franceindia so that my grandmother get French nationality in 1995 And grandmother having birth certificate, marriage certificate, nationality certificate, carte ,French passport and my grandmother is death in 2018 and my father didn't get apply for French nationality and my father also death in 2011 and i have born in 2004 mam will i get French nationality by naturalisation please 🙏 reply madame


    • Zoë Smith
      2023-10-11 14:57:22
      Zoë Smith
      Hi Mohanram, Applications for French nationality based on family connections are very strict and won't generally be issued for an adult child solely on the basis of their parents having a French passport. However, all situations are different and if you would like me to put you in touch with one of our partners that specialise in visas, I would be happy to do so. You can email me at [email protected]. Kind regards, Zoe


  • Tim Tarby-Donald
    2023-09-13 09:17:12
    Tim Tarby-Donald
    I’ve been through the process of acquiring French nationality through marriage over the last couple of years. My final step was the meeting with the Vice Consul at the French Consulate in London at the start of March and I hope to hear the result any day now! Happy to discuss if you would like me to contribute some articles on that process from my own perspective. I’m a Brit living in the UK married to a French woman for 23 years - she lives in the UK too but we are planning to move to France in the coming years.


    • Zoë Smith
      2023-09-14 16:20:00
      Zoë Smith
      Hi Tim, Congratulations on completing your nationality application and fingers crossed you will receive it soon. I'm sure readers would love to hear your experiences - I'll get in touch via email. Best regards, Zoe


  •  phil hatswell
    2023-09-12 06:42:18
    phil hatswell
    Hi Zoe In your article about French Nationality/Citizenship you state "As a French citizen, you will also be able to pass this citizenship on to your children." Does this ability to pass on citizenship to your children apply to all children of any age, only those unger 18 or only those born after you become a French citizen? My wife and I have lived and run a business in France for 13 years and both have a carte de sejour. We have not felt the need to become French citizens, but post-Brexit it would help enormously if our two grown up sons could obtain French passports via this method. Thanks Phil


    • Zoë Smith
      2023-09-14 09:09:29
      Zoë Smith
      Hi Phil, This refers to children born or raised in France to naturalised citizens - it is not a right that you can pass on to adult children if they were already over 18 at the time of your naturalisation (more on that here). However, were your children to become resident in France and later make their own application for nationality, I am sure that having parents who are already French citizens would help their case for 'integration' into France. Best regards, Zoe