Bitesize Guide to


As Brexit looms, some long term residents are wondering whether and how to apply for French nationality. This is one of two Bitesize posts that provides links to information sources for those considering this route. As decent French is a pre-requisite for becoming French, I make no apology for pointing to French-language sources. This post covers cases where people are in one way or another entitled to become French, and do so by declaration. In this scenario the French authorities examine your dossier to see if you meet the requirements and if they do, they declare that you are French. A second post will follow tomorrow on naturalisation by decree.

The first group is those who, maybe without realising it, are already French. If you have a French parent you may be able to just apply for a French ID card at your Mairie. If your paper trail is not complete, you might need to start by requesting a Certificat de Nationalité Français and if you were born outside France, you may need to start by getting your consular birth certificat or by getting your birth transcribed by the consulate. Contact the French consulate for the country you were born in for more information.

One scenario that concerns many readers is that of children born in France to foreign parents. The full scoop is here

Although young people in this case become French on their 18th birthday, life and young people being uncertain, there are good arguments for doing an advance request, possible from age 13.

A related corner case is that young people who move to France before the age of 6 and who have a French sibling can sometimes become French by declaration. More here

And another one: parents or grandparents of a French citizen who have 25 years residence AND are over 65 years old: Click here 

Finally, another common one : those who are married to a French citizen, if they meet certain conditions can become French by declaration: Click here 



Certificat de nationalité française (CNF)

Le certificat de nationalité française (CNF) est un document officiel qui sert à prouver la nationalité française. Il est délivré par le greffe des tribunaux d'instance. Le tribunal compétent dépend de votre lieu de naissance et de domicile. La démarche est gratuite. En cas de refus, vous ...

As decent French is a pre-requisite for becoming French, I make no apology for pointing to French-language sources. If you can't become French by declaration, you can apply to become French by naturalisation. Basically, you ask very nicely indeed to become French and if your request is accepted, France makes a decree that you are now French.

Note that becoming French through naturalisation is a privilege not a right (unlike routes such as marriage) and that reasons for refusal can include:

  • insufficient French

  • insufficient proof of integration

  • insufficient resources

If you are over 60 you are dispensed from the official language test, but you will still be interviewed in French and need to show the required level.

The decree route is long (up to several years) and requires a lot of paperwork and patience. It is handled at Préfecture level and every Préfecture does things a bit differently, so although I give a link to the general page at the bottom of the post you really MUST go and find your own Prefecture's list of documents and procedures. As well as language, naturalisation requires you to demonstrate a desire to really be French, and to integrate into French society.

It is worth pointing out that you can hold French and British nationalities simultaneously - neither country requires you to give up your other nationalities. If you hold both, when in France you are treated as French, and when in the UK you are treated as British. This means that if you get into trouble with the authorities in one country, you cannot call on the consular services of the other. In other countries you are treated as a national of the passport you used on the way in, so it's worth thinking about which passport to use when you travel.

Note that if you become French, you will retain Freedom of Movement. But it is not currently obvious whether you will be covered by the provisions of any future withdrawal agreement, as France will regard you as French.

Ther are a number of helpful Facebook groups, both in English and French. Some people on here are active on some of them, but as RIFT has no official link with any I'm not going to make recommendations. Easily found if you do a FB search.

General information here, but I cannot emphasise too strongly the importance of checking your own Préfecture's requirements as shown here.




La naturalisation est un mode d’acquisition de la nationalité française qui n'est pas automatique. Pour en bénéficier, vous devez remplir des conditions liées à la régularité de votre séjour en France, à votre intégration dans la communauté française, etc. Vous devez constituer un dos...

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