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Becoming a French citizen means paper, plenty paper

Since the Brexit vote there has been a surge in applications for French citizenship as a way of ensuring that long-time residents do not suddenly become unwelcome in France after 2019.

Starting the process may be made easier for some dyed-in-the-wool Britons as France allows dual-citizenship but the application for naturalisation is a serious and time-consuming move which could take years to complete.

The first rule of thumb is that (unless you are married to a French person or one of your parents was French) you be must be over 18 and have lived in France for more than five years. You must also be of good reputation and with no serious criminal record with a sentence of longer than six months. You must also show how well you are integrated into French society by showing knowledge of its language, culture, history and society. Finally, you must sign a citizen’s rights and duties document.
Plus, there are some forms to fill in, some translations and some interviews to attend.

The website is a useful hand-holding site giving the conditions you must satisfy, the steps to follow and all the documentation needed to apply for la nationalité française par décret – but it is all in French.
Happily, for the over-70s who have lived in France for more than 15 years they do not need to take the French language test.
Applications are made on the Cerfa n° 12753*02 form that can be downloaded from the Accueil-etrangers site and, once all the document gathering is completed, this is handed in at the local prefecture along with a €55 timbre fiscale.
This form must be filled in by hand – and has to be done twice.

It is a seven-page form for a round-up of your life both in France and elsewhere. It contains: address, family details, birth details, parents’ details, other family members’ details (with dates of birth and addresses), children’s details (ditto), work in France and elsewhere (ditto), previous addresses in France and elsewhere.
The final page has a section for any updates since the form was first submitted – a quasi admission that processing your application form is likely to take some time – and, on the bottom of page seven, space for a signature and date (plus, and do not lose this, a receipt).
Along with the application form there is an extensive list of supporting documents that must be supplied and, if necessary, translated. All originals must be supplied – although photocopies may be given as long as the originals are presented – but they must be certified. There is no date limit on the translations, but there may be on some of the original documents. Check with the prefecture in advance.

The Accueil-etrangers site lists all the documents needed and we have been advised by one applicant (who is applying in a different way as she is married to a Frenchman): “Download the list and follow it to the letter. Do not presume some forms do not apply to you.”
These include birth and wedding certificates (divorcees’ wedding and divorce certificates), parents’ birth and marriage certificates, passport, proof of residence, three years of work records or pension details, tax details for three years, summary of any police record if in France for less than 10 years, two 35x40mm photos, plus a stamped, addressed envelope.

One document will be the language test which is done as a one-off chat if you have a French studies diploma or are over 60. This will check language skills and knowledge of French life, history and culture, with the latter part based on the 28-page Livret du Citoyen (on the Accueil site).
Others (apart from over-70s) must hold a Level B1 Oral CEFR certificate with tests done at many centres across France.

Candidates for citizenship may be asked for a chat on their language skills and French knowledge... how would you do?

1– The Arc de Triomphe is linked with whom: General de Gaulle, Napoleon, Julius Caesar?
2 – Gothic cathedrals were built in which historical time: Middle Ages, French revolution, Ancient history?
3 – Before it was destroyed, the Bastille was: A
prison, a hotel, a theatre?
4 – In which of these countries is French not spoken: Switzerland, Spain, Algeria?
5 – Which of these is a museum: The Louvre, Galeries Lafayette, Futuroscope in Poitiers?
6 – Laws are voted on by: The President, residents of France, National Assembly and Senate?
7 – Which politician created the system of free and obligatory public education: Jules Ferry, Luc Ferry, Jules Grévy?
8 – The 16th century religious wars were between: Catholics and Protestants, Christians and Muslims, public and private schools?
9 – The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen is linked with which event: Liberation of Paris, creation of Europe, the French Revolution?
10 – Catholicism is: The official religion, A religion like others, Banned?

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