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Is French nationality my right if I am married to a French person?

We take a look at general conditions that open a door to naturalisation 

We take a look at general conditions that open a door to naturalisation in France Pic: justit / Shutterstock

Reader question: my wife is French. Does that give me the right to French nationality? If so, what is the process?  K.B.

It might do but it is not granted automatically and depends on certain conditions. First, your wife must have been French when you got married.

Then, there are conditions relating to the length of the marriage and time spent together in France.

You need to have been married in total for at least four years. This rises to five years if you have never lived together in France for a period of three continuous years or more and if your wife was not on the ‘French people abroad’ register at the French consulate in the foreign country or countries where you have lived. 

You should also have been living together  throughout the marriage. If you were married abroad, the marriage must have been recorded in the French état civil registers, which is done at a consulate or embassy. This is required where a French person marries abroad and ensures the marriage is recognised in France.

If you live in France, you apply to your prefecture, and you need to show you have a valid residency card if you are a non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizen. If abroad, you apply to your French consulate. In either case, you must not be subject to any expulsion order or ban from staying in France.

There is, however, no rule that you must be living in France at the time you apply, or have a current residency card or visa for France, Paris-based immigration lawyer Haywood Wise confirmed.

You should also demonstrate a European B1 ‘intermediate’ level of French, with a suitable diploma, unless you have health reasons exempting you from taking a test.

Certain criminal convictions can also be a bar and if you have lived abroad in the last 10 years, you need to provide a foreign criminal record extract (this is like the UK’s Disclosure and Barring Service.

You can find more details of where to apply and what documents are needed at the Ministry's website. Depending on the location, this normally has to be done in person or by registered delivery post.

Related articles:

How can a Briton visit France for extended stay with their EU spouse?

‘How I went about applying for French citizenship’

Explainer: France’s Brexit residency cards and foreign travel

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