Student born in France barred from French nationality

Franco-British actor Kester Lovelace, from Paris, told us how his son, right, has been refused French nationality

An actor from Paris contacted Connexion to tell how due to the complex rules on changes of nationality his son has been unable to become French despite being born in France.

The young man, Louis, aged 21, has lost his right to become French after living in the UK since the age of 16 to do A-levels and to attend university.

If Brexit goes ahead he will also, therefore, lose his EU citizenship, as well as his automatic right to live in France unless he comes before the end of the transition period (assuming there is an exit deal). His father told Connexion his son now feels "doubly punished" by the nationality refusal due to living outside France when he was 18 plus his impending loss of EU nationality and free movement rights. 

His father still lives in France, but while the draft Brexit agreement contains protection for children of British people established in France before Brexit, this is limited to dependent children or those aged under 21. Furthermore, although the father recently became French, there are no special residency privileges for French people’s adult children of foreign nationality unless they will be dependent on and supported by the French parent (in which case they can claim a ‘child of French citizen’ 10-year residency card).

This comes as increasing numbers of British people are applying to become French, usually via the process of naturalisation, with numbers steadily rising, from 320 acquisitions of nationality in 2015, to 439 in 2016 and 1,520  in 2017.

Louis, who graduates next summer, has lost out because he was born to English parents who lived in France, but they did not claim French nationality for him by déclaration before he left, as would have been possible. Since then the fact of him studying in the UK has so far barred him from obtaining nationality by the standard process of naturalisation as the authorities consider he has not had his home in France for the required five-year period.

English-born actor Kester Lovelace, who has been living and working in Paris for 30 years and recently became French himself, said he and his former wife never thought of applying for automatic French nationality for their son by déclaration when he was aged 13-16 (which is allowed on condition of the child having spent at least five years living in France since the age of eight). After this a young person can claim it themselves if they are aged 16-18 and live in France and have done so for at least five years in total since age 11, or otherwise they obtain it automatically under the same conditions if they are living in France when they are aged 18.

Their son applied for naturalisation last year, but was rejected this spring, said Mr Lovelace. He said this was on grounds that his ‘professional and family ties’ were not proven to be in France and was despite the fact he had argued his ‘official residence’ was in Paris with his parents.

“We appealed against the decision, but to no avail,” Mr Lovelace said. “The only legal advice I’ve had is that the key to it all is residence. If he is not resident in France, he cannot claim French nationality, unless he spends five consecutive years in France. We have the mayor of my arrondissement in Paris and the senator of our district on our side. They have written letters to the Prefect and the Minister of Interior.”

He added: “My point is not to contest French law, as such, but find out if there’s a possibility of them making an exception in this case. Because of Brexit, my son will lose his European status, and become a third class citizen. The idea that he should have to spend five consecutive years in France at his age, when all his generation grew up on free movement, is very hard to take.

“He might not even be able to get a job in France, or any other EU country and have difficulties finding a place to rent, and yet he was born in France and lived the first 16 years of his life here and his parents and two half-brothers are also living here.” His son "feels more French than British", he said, and they consider that he has "failed on a technicality".

If you or a family member are in a similar situation – having left to study outside France without realising the risk of not claiming French nationality beforehand – let us know at news@connexionfrance.com

According to government website service-public.fr  naturalisation requires a five-year period of residence and 'residence' in this case is broader than ‘domicile’ and involves notions of professional and family ties. For example it says a person may physically live in France but if their spouse and/or children are abroad their application might be refused.

It adds however, that living outside France usually excludes applicants apart from in limited cases, notably:

  • They work for the French state or another body which is strongly linked to the French culture or economy
  • They live in Monaco
  • They are in the French services
  • They volunteered for French national service
  • They are married to someone who fulfills the criteria of residence in France

Franco-British honorary avocat Gérard Barron said that it is true that in his analysis the only solution would be to return to live physically in France for a five-year period. “I sympathize with the family’s dilemma which is not of their making but have to say that this is just another bit of collateral damage caused by Brexit, which those who voted for it will just say is for the greater good,” he said.

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