So you’re interested in learning how to get French citizenship, but you weren’t born in France, you’re not married to a French person, you have no French relatives, and joining the French Foreign Legion is not an option. All of which are different pathways to French citizenship.
Don’t worry because there’s a way for you to become eligible to apply for French nationality through a process called naturalization, which involves legally living in France for a specific period of time.
It’s the most common route to French citizenship for foreigners and the pathway that I am currently going through.
However, the process to obtaining French citizenship can be complicated and confusing, especially if you’re not familiar with the legal requirements and procedures involved.
To help you navigate the process, I’ve compiled a comprehensive guide that will explain how to get French citizenship through naturalization. We’ll go over eligibility requirements, the application process, and the timeline for obtaining French citizenship and a French passport.
It’s important to note that this guide is just a starting point and that rules and requirements might change in the future. Therefore, you should conduct thorough research and consult the official French government website, which I’ve linked to within this article, before beginning your application.
How to get French citizenship by naturalization
What is naturalization?
Citizenship by naturalization is a way for foreigners to become a citizen of another country where they were not born.
This involves meeting specific requirements, such as residency requirements, language proficiency, integration into French society, adhering to legal and cultural norms, and fulfilling criteria set by the country’s government.
As a naturalized French citizen, you’ll have the same rights and responsibilities as a citizen born in France.
Benefits of becoming a French citizen
- You can live in France for as long as you want.
- You can pass on citizenship to your children.
- You’ll have access to French social security and health services.
- You and your children will have access to higher education with low tuition fees:
- You will have the freedom to travel, work, study, or live in any of the other European countries that make up the EU.
- You can vote and be elected in local and national elections.
- A French passport allows visa-free travel or visa-on-arrival access to many countries around the world, including any EU country and Schengen countries.
- You can eat baguettes and croissants anytime you want.
Requirements for French citizenship through naturalization
To qualify for French citizenship through naturalization, you must meet specific requirements set by the government of France.
Explore the main requirements below to understand how to get French citizenship.
- AGE: Must be at least 18 years old. (You can submit your application from the age of 17. If your application is accepted, you will be naturalized from the age of 18.
- RESIDENCY: You must be a legal resident living in France (usually after five years) at the time that you file your application. The number of years may be reduced for certain individuals. See the next section for more info.
- FRENCH LANGUAGE: You must be proficient in the French language and prove it, usually by passing a French proficiency test. This test is waived for certain individuals. See the next section for exceptions.
- KNOWLEDGE ABOUT FRANCE: You must be able to demonstrate a basic knowledge of French culture, history, and values. You can download the French citizen handbook (Livret du Citoyen) explaining the required knowledge.
- MONEY: You must be financially stable and be able to prove it either through a job or other income such as rental income, investments, savings, or other.
- NO CRIMINAL RECORD: Proof that you have no criminal record in the French legal system and any foreign country you have lived in for the past ten years. France’s “Certificate of No Criminal Conviction” is called an “Extrait de Casier Judiciaire.”
Exceptions for some requirements for naturalization through residency
Depending on your situation, you may be exempt from taking the French proficiency test, and the minimum years required to reside in France may be reduced.
Here are a few scenarios.
The length of time you must reside in France may be reduced in these circumstances.
Five years of residency:
For most, you will have to reside in France for five consecutive years legally. There are many types of resident permits that allow you to live in France legally. Our family had a long-stay visa for many years, which we had to renew annually for each family member.
After several years, we applied for our ten-year resident card called a “Carte de résident.”
Each of these visas and residency permits will have their own set of requirements.
Two years of residency:
If you’ve completed higher education in France, such as earning a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or Ph.D., you may be eligible for naturalization after just two years of continuous residency.
Zero: No minimum residency required:
- When you join the French Foreign Legion: However, you must serve for three years before becoming eligible. Only men can become legionnaires in the French Foreign Legion.
- When you are a refugee.
French language proficiency test:
Most pathways to becoming a naturalized French citizen also involve proving you can speak French at a minimum B1 level.
You can do this in several ways, but the most common way is to take a standardized French proficiency test, which will assess your ability to understand, speak, read, and write in French. These tests will provide you with a certificate indicating your French level. They can be used not only for immigration but for employment or education in French-speaking countries when French is not your mother tongue.
Here is a link to a more detailed description of the B1 level.
French proficiency tests recommended by the French government :
- TCF – “Test de Connaissance du Français,” which means “Test of French knowledge. Find a local testing centre in France here.
- TEF – “Test d’évaluation du français (TEF) which translates to “French Language Evaluation Test”
The language proficiency certificate you submit with your naturalization application must be less than two years old.
People who are exempt from taking the French language test.
Certain people are exempt from taking the language test. For example:
- If you have a diploma from a higher education institute in a Francophone country. (In some cases, a high school diploma from a French-speaking school will exempt you.
- If you have a French-language diploma with a minimum B1 level (DELF, DU, DCL)
- If you have a disability or a chronic health condition that prevents you from taking the proficiency test (You must provide a medical certificate that justifies this fact.)
- You are a refugee over the age of 70 years and have been residing in France for at least 15 years.
- You are over the age of 65. The age was increased in 2020 from 60 years old.
How to apply for French citizenship online
Once you meet the residency and language requirements, you should start gathering the documents you’ll need so you can apply to become a naturalized French citizen.
Here are the steps involved:
Step 1: Create an account on the French immigration website
The first thing you have to do is create an account on the official French government website specifically created for foreigners in France (Étrangers en France.)
This website handles things such as residence permits and other services for foreign individuals residing in France.
Why create an account?
Thanks to a new online portal called NATALI, foreign nationals can now submit citizenship applications online from the comfort of their home. The NATALI platform is a huge time-saver.
Before February 6, 2023, you had to walk into a prefecture or send your citizenship application and documents physically by mail.
Now, you upload digital copies and scans of your supporting documents directly to the NATALI platform.
- You can also track the process of your French citizenship application.
- Receive messages for new document requests and instantly upload them.
Applicants cannot use the portal at present. Unfortunately, if they live in the French overseas departments of French Polynesia, French Guiana, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Saint-Martin-Saint-Barthélémy, New Caledonia or Wallis and Futuna, you cannot use the online NATALI portal.
Create your account here:
Step 2: Gather your documents
If you’ve been living in France, you’ve already gone through the process of applying for your French residency permit and know how daunting it can be to collect all the documents.
This will be no different. Many of the documents you provided for your French residency will be the same, but many will not be.
All documents, including marriage and birth certificates not written in French, must be translated into French by a certified translator (traducteur agréé). Additionally, these documents may need to be legalized, which could involve obtaining an apostille. The legalization process ensures that your foreign documents are officially recognized in France, and are not fake.
Luckily, there is a new and very helpful interactive wizard on the official French government website that will guide you through a series of questions to determine which documents you will need to provide with your French naturalization application.
Once completed, you can download your personalized list of documents that you’ll need to collect and digitize.
It will look something like this.
Example of documents you’ll have to upload to the NATALI platform.
Although you’re uploading digital copies, make sure you also have the originals which you will bring to your in-person interview.
Keep in mind that the documents you’ll need to provide will depend on your situation.
For example, if you’ve been married or divorced, you’ll need copies of those documents. If you have children, you’ll have to provide copies of their birth certificates and their certificate showing proof that they are enrolled in school if they are minors.
- VALID RESIDENCE PERMIT: Front and back copy of your (titre de séjour.) You don’t need a residence permit if you are a citizen of an EU country, Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Norway.
- IDENTIFICATION: Photocopy of a valid identification such as a Passport.
- PROOF OF FRENCH LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY: A certificate to prove French language skills (level B1) or equivalent, such as a high school or university diploma from a school where French is the spoken language.
- CERTIFICATE OF NO CRIMINAL RECORD: You’ll need one for every country you’ve lived in for the past ten years, including one for France, where it’s called an “Extrait de Casier Judiciaire.”
- BIRTH CERTIFICATES: Of everyone. Yours, and your parents also. If you are married or have children, you’ll need to upload theirs, too.
- MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE(s): If you have been married more than once, you must also provide all of these certificates and divorce papers.
- FRENCH TAX STATEMENT: For the past three years.
- PROOF OF FINANCIAL STABILITY: Usually, bank statements, investment accounts, pay stubs, a work contract, etc.
- PROOF OF ADDRESS: If you own your own home in France, you’ll need to upload a copy of the Property deed of your residence issued by a notary. If you rent, you have to submit a recent utility bill, the last three rental receipts, “quittance de loyer,” and your rental contract.
Remember, to get a personalized checklist of the documents you’ll need to provide, use the interactive wizard on the official French government website.
Step 3: Fill out the online application
It’s time to fill out the online French citizenship application form, where you’ll provide information about you and your family. You can do this part at any time and save your data to finish at a later date.
Once you’ve answered all the questions, you’ll automatically be moved to the next step, which is to upload all your supporting documents. You’ll need to make sure that all the necesary documents have been translated and notarized before you digitize them and upload them.
And finally, once that step is complete, you can pay for your application fee.
How much does it cost to apply for French citizenship
The total cost for processing your French nationality application is €55. To pay, you need to purchase a fiscal stamp online called a Timbre fiscal électronique online. You’ll be prompted to pay the fee on the NATALI platform.
But that’s just the cost of processing your French citizenship application.
There are other costs that you need to factor in, such as:
- The cost of obtaining official documents such as marriage and birth certificates from your home country.
- The cost to get your documents (not in French) translated to French by a government-approved translator (traducteur agréé).
- There will be additional costs associated if you have to get your documents legalized in France.
Step 4: Attend an interview: But study first
After you’ve completed and paid for your French citizenship application using NATALI, you wait.
You will be asked to attend an in-person interview with a French immigration officer at your local prefecture in France.
During the interview, you will be asked questions about your background and be tested on your knowledge of French history, culture, society, and values.
French citizen booklet
To prepare for your naturalization interview, it’s important that you download and study the French citizen booklet (Livret du Citoyen.)
This book has all the information and knowledge that you will be expected to know, such as:
- Information about the French Republic
- Key moments in French history
- Information about the French government and how it’s structured
- Values and rights of a French citizen
- Your civic duties as a French citizen.
You might be interested in reading Fleur-de-lis: The National Flower of France isn’t what you think it is!
Step 5: Wait: How long will it take to become a French citizen?
Once you send your application to the French government and you’ve completed your interview, it can take anywhere from 6 months to two years to receive a positive or negative answer about your French naturalization status.
Step 6: Celebrate
If all goes well, you’ll get the good news that you qualify for your French citizenship and can attend an in-person naturalization ceremony.
Don’t forget to apply for your French passport, which you usually can do at your local Mairie (town hall.)
Good luck on your journey towards becoming a French citizen and “Vive la France!”