Once again, it’s time to address dual citizenship by descent – also known as jus sanguinis (“right of blood”). So far I have delved into Irish dual citizenship and Italian dual citizenship. Numbering among the 27 members of the European Union (EU), Ireland and Italy have dual citizenship laws that are fairly easy to decipher. Today, however, France is on the docket, and I can tell you right now, the topic of French dual citizenship has proven to be as enigmatic as a French film.
Admittedly, researching dual citizenship with France is no easy task. It could be in part due to the fact that France has only allowed dual citizenship since 1973 and has undergone a number of legislative changes in regard to French nationality. It also is the last hold-out in the EU to still recognize jus soli (“right of soil”) to some extent; though it no longer confers nationality strictly on territorial birthright. Additionally, unless you speak fluent French, the language barrier can make the process difficult.
With that said, I scoured more than 30 websites trying to get definitive information on the subject of French nationality, finding the answers to be, at times, a mystère. While I can read and understand French to some extent, I am not fluent in the language, and therefore have to count on page translations. I even viewed some unofficial posts for further insight, but found contradictory information, with some people saying, “It’s possible,” and others saying, “It’s impossible.” For the record, French dual citizenship by descent is not impossible, but it is a tad daunting.
For the purposes of this blog, I have relied only on information found on official websites for French embassies and consulates, as well as the Code de la Nationalité Française (Code of French Nationality), especially “Title II – Chapter I: The French by Descent (Articles 17-19).” I also reference the Demande de Certificat de Nationalité Française, the actual application form, to ascertain what is considered grounds for French citizenship.
If you are a United States citizen, there are a number of ways you can obtain French dual citizenship:
- Birth: If one of your parents is a French citizen (the Law of 1973 established equality for men and women in regard to citizenship laws)
- Residence: If you have lived and worked legally in France for five years
- Marriage: If you marry a French citizen and then live in the country five years
- Service: If you serve in the French Foreign Legion for at least five years
- Study: If you earn a Masters Degree from a French University after studying in France for at least two years
Since our concern is dual citizenship by descent, and since birth to a French citizen is fairly cut and dry, I am going to focus on French dual citizenship by jus sanguinis through the grandparental line.
In general, to achieve French dual citizenship, you must obtain a French Nationality Certificate (CNF) – Certificat de Nationalité Française. The CNF is an official document that allows a person to prove their French citizenship. To earn a CNF you must first submit a Demande de Certificat de Nationalité Française. You will see on page 2 of the form the questions pertaining to the applicant’s grandparents: names, dates of birth, marriage dates, place of residence for both grandmother (grand-mère) and grandfather (grand-père).
The documentation you will need includes, but is not necessarily limited to:
- Your grandparents’ birth certificates. These can be obtained from the city hall (marie) in the cities of their births. When requesting such documentation, remember to include a self-addressed stamped envelope and a letter explaining who you are, along with your grandparents’ names, dates and places of birth, as well as each of their parents’ names.
- An original copy of your parents’ birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, address, etc. (even and especially if they were born in the U.S.)
- A copy of your original birth certificate, address, etc.
All documentation must be translated by an official translator, known as an assermenter translator. The best way to locate an official translator is through your local French Consulate.
Additional to the documentation, you must also be able to prove that:
- You are at least 18 years of age
- You are of good moral fiber (through an attestation de moralité from a French citizen)
- You have no criminal history
- You have a current, primary residence is in France
- You have assimilated into French life*
- You have a command of the French language* – enough to function in daily life
*Since 2003, to control immigration, the “Sarkozy law” requires an applicant to prove his assimilation into the French community in a personal interview, as well as to be evaluated on his/her knowledge of the French language and the rights and duties conferred by French nationality.
If you live in France, you can take your documentation to a local tribunal d’instance (magistrates’ court) for processing. According to the Consulate General of France, if you live abroad at the time of application, you must send the completed form (in French) to the district court of the 1st arrondissement of Paris (Service de la nationalité des Français établis hors de France, 30 rue du château des rentiers, 75647 Paris Cedex 13). You may also go through your area French consulate or embassy. Processing of your application can take up to two years, provided you submit all of the necessary information and documentation.
If you fall within one of the categories allowing French dual citizenship, and you need help in the application process, consider hiring a professional genealogy service who knows the score on submitting the proper forms and documentation. RecordClick staffs professional genealogists in a number of EU countries, including France. A professional genealogy research service such as RecordClick can assist you in the French dual citizenship process.
The history of France’s Nationality Law from the new Civil Code of 1803 to present day is extensive. The French nationality law as we know it today was established by 1889, and includes a mixture of laws based on jus soli and jus sanguinis. The NATAC project – “Acquisition of Nationality in EU Member States: Rules, Practices and Quantitative Developments” – was conducted between September 2004 and November 2005. Chapter 5 of the report, which deals with France, was researched and written by Patrick Weil and Alexis Spire, and explains the history of France’s Nationality Law.
For your reading pleasure and information, please see my blogs on dual citizenship: