Nationality and Brexit: French ministry advice

The French Interior Ministry has created new information pages for Britons in France after Brexit; we have translated key sections of them.

How can the British living in France acquire French nationality?

There is no specific procedure to facilitate access to French nationality for British nationals.

Depending on their situation, they may use the procedure of naturalisation by decree (article 21-15 and following articles  of the Civil Code) or declarations of nationality in their capacity as spouse, ascendant or brother or sister of French citizens (articles 21-2, 21-13-1, 21-13-2 of the Civil Code).

                            

Can a minor child also acquire French nationality?

The procedure differs depending on whether or not the minor child was born on French territory.

If he or she was born in France to British parents, and subject to meeting the additional conditions required by law (five years' residency on French soil since the age of eleven), he or she may acquire French nationality by declaration under articles 21-7 (automatic acquisition on reaching adulthood) or 21-11 of the Civil Code (early acquisition by declaration, at age 13 upon declaration by the parents in the case of residency since the age of eight, or at age 16 in the case of continuous residency since age 11).

If he or she was not born in France, he or she can become French if one of his or her parents acquires French nationality (article 22-1 of the Civil Code).

Finally, article 21-22 of the Civil Code provides that “No one may be naturalised unless he has reached the age of eighteen. Nonetheless, naturalisation may be granted to a minor child who has remained a foreigner even though one of his parents has acquired French nationality if he can prove that he resided in France with that parent during the five years preceding the filing of the application”.

 

Will birth/marriage/death certificates have to be legalised or translated? And by whom? Must they be less than six months old? Must the original be provided or are copies sufficient?

The originals of civil status documents and their translation by a sworn translator are required for access to French nationality, but it is not necessary for them to be dated less than six months ago. British civil status documents are exempt from the need to be legalised.

British nationals born and/or married in former overseas colonies of the United Kingdom may produce reconstituted certificates. Those born in Hong Kong (under the British crown until 1997) are also exempt from Chinese authentication.

 

What is the expected waiting time after filing an application for access to French nationality?

In the case of nationality by declaration, nationality officials have six months from the date of application to examine the file. The minister in charge of naturalisation then has a period of one year in which to possibly refuse to register the declaration. Currently, this last period is about six months.

In the case of a request for access to French nationality by decree, the applicant legally has six months to prepare their file. The minister in charge of naturalisation then has a period of eighteen months from the creation of a complete file – a receipt slip is issued to the applicant while the application is processed – to take a decision. This period shall be reduced to 12 months where the applicant proves that he or she has been habitually resident in France for a period of at least ten years on the day on which the receipt is issued.

In practice, a period of 12 to 15 months, running from the time the application is submitted to the naturalisation offer, is normal.

 

What is the minimum period of residency in France that allows access to French nationality?

In accordance with the provisions of article 21-17 of the Civil Code, applicants for French nationality must prove that they have been habitually resident in France for the five years preceding the submission of their application. If they do not meet this condition, the application of the person concerned shall be declared inadmissible, pursuant to article 21-17 of the Civil Code.

This five-year period is reduced to two years for foreigners who have successfully completed two years of higher education with a view to acquiring a diploma issued by a French university or higher education institution (article 21-18, 1° of the Civil Code).

The reduction of the minimum period of residency to two years also applies to foreigners who have rendered or may render important services to France by their abilities and talents (article 21-18, 2° of the Civil Code). The implementation of these provisions remains rare. This category may include artists, internationally renowned writers or intellectuals, scientists whose work is authoritative, or very high level athletes.

Finally, the two-year period applies to foreigners who have an exceptional integration record, assessed in the light of the activities carried out or actions carried out in the civic, scientific, economic or sporting fields (article 21-18, 3° of the Civil Code).

Articles 21-19 and 21-20 of the Civil Code provide for exemptions from training courses, which should not apply to British nationals.

Those who apply for French nationality pursuant to articles 21-13-1 of the Civil Code (declaration of nationality as an ascendant of French nationals) must prove that they have been residing in France for 25 years. If the application is made pursuant to article 21-13-2 of the Civil Code (declaration of nationality as a brother or sister of a French citizen), the applicant must have resided there since the age of six.

How will the condition of legality of residency be assessed for British nationals wishing to apply for French nationality after March 29, 2019?

 After March 29, 2019, the condition of legality of residency for British nationals wishing to apply for French nationality will be assessed in the same way as for other foreign nationals.

Article 21-27, paragraphs 2 and 3 of the Civil Code provides that: "No one may acquire French nationality or be reintegrated into it if he has (...) been the subject of an expulsion order not expressly revoked or repealed, or of a ban from the French territory not fully enforced. The same applies to a person whose residency in France is irregular with regard to the laws and conventions relating to the residency of foreigners in France.”

However, in accordance with the principle of legal certainty, transitional provisions are envisaged so that British nationals who resided in France for several years before March 29, 2019 and who could, as such, have claimed French nationality under the legislation prior to that date, could apply for access to French nationality without being barred on grounds of irregularity of their residency.

 

Do the British have to renounce their original nationality if they acquire French nationality?

France accepts the existence of dual or multiple nationalities. The same applies to the United Kingdom, so that the British national who acquires French nationality is not required to renounce their former nationality.

 

Can the fact that a British person living in France has family ties in the United Kingdom prevent the acquisition of French nationality?

Under the terms of article 21-16 of the Civil Code: "No one may be naturalised if he does not have his residency in France at the time of signing the naturalisation decree.” Similarly, articles 21-13-1 and 21-13-2 of the Civil Code require the applicant to have his residency in France.

To be considered as having his or her residency in France, the applicant must have fixed there in a stable manner the "centre of his or her material interests and family ties" (EC, Section,  February 28, 1986, Minister of Social Affairs and National Solidarity v. Bouhanna, 57464 and Section, same date, Akhras, 50277).

The presence abroad of the spouse and minor children makes the application inadmissible in principle. However, the mere fact that a spouse is habitually resident abroad does not exempt the minister from examining whether or not the applicant meets the residency requirement, taking into consideration certain particular circumstances that he or she may be able to demonstrate (EC, 13/10/2006, M. Saidouni, No 282099). The authority in charge of deciding on an application must carry out an overall examination and take into account the particular circumstances of the applicant's situation.

 

Can the fact that a British person living in France derives his or her income from a foreign country prevent the acquisition of French nationality?

For the purposes of articles 21-16 and 21-13-2 of the Civil Code, the application is admissible as long as the person concerned has in France the centre of his or her family ties and of his or her material interests, i.e. he or she must have stable and sufficient personal income from a French source.

These incomes can come from various sources: work, salaried or not, retirement pension, movable or immovable assets.

It is generally accepted that the applicant does not have his or her residency in France, within the meaning of the case law, if he or she has income which is mainly of foreign origin, whether in the form of salaries, financial investments or real estate assets.

The stability criterion is essential for the application to be admissible. This stability is established by factors such as the spouse’s work, schooling of the children in France or ownership of a property in France.

 

Can the fact that a British person living in France works in Switzerland or Monaco prevent the acquisition of French nationality?

Switzerland

The mere fact that an applicant is working as an official in an international institution with its headquarters in Switzerland would not prevent their naturalisation if other elements prove that he or she has a stable family life established in France for several years (children in school etc.), that he or she has acquired property, that he or she has paid taxes in France, that he or she has received income paid into an account opened in France, etc.

The same shall apply to a ‘frontier worker’ applicant working within a company whose registered office is located in Switzerland, subject to the production of evidence (see above) establishing that the applicant has fixed in France in a stable manner the centre of his or her family and professional interests.

The Principality of Monaco

Article 65 of Decree No. 93-1362 of December 30, 1993 provides that "Residency in the Principality of Monaco shall be treated as residency in France for the purposes of article 21-26 of the Civil Code". The fact that a candidate works in Monaco is therefore not discriminatory in the context of a request for access to French nationality.

 

How can a British citizen living in the United Kingdom apply for French nationality?

In the context of the acquisition of French nationality by declaration, marriage to a French spouse, for at least four years, allows a British resident in the United Kingdom to apply for French nationality (article 21-2 of the Civil Code).

In the context of the acquisition of French nationality by decision of the public authority (naturalisation): a British resident in the United Kingdom may acquire French nationality provided that he or she can prove that he or she has a status equivalent to [French] residency (article 21-26 of the Civil Code).

Under the terms of this article, “Is deemed to be equivalent to residency in France when such residency is a condition for acquiring French nationality: 1° Residency outside France of a foreigner who carries out carries out  work for the public sector or the private sector on behalf of the French state or for an organisation whose activity is of particular interest to the French economy or culture".

Travelling 

Residency rights 

Integration 

Elections 

Driving licences 

Stay informed:
Sign up to our free weekly e-newsletter
Subscribe to access all our online articles and receive our printed monthly newspaper The Connexion at your home. News analysis, features and practical help for English-speakers in France

Comment

Loading some business profiles...

Loading some classifieds...