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FRENCH CITIZENSHIP

When are children born in France eligible for French citizenship?

French citizenship carries plenty of advantages but it is not always a straightforward process - even if you were born here.

Being born in France doesn't always guarantee you French citizenship.
Being born in France doesn't always guarantee you French citizenship.(Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP)

Children born to foreign parents in France are automatically given French nationality in the following circumstances:

  • One of the parents was born in France, even if they are not a citizen;
  • One of the parents was born in Algeria before 3 July 1962;
  • The child is born stateless – their parents have no legal nationality; the parents are unknown; the parents come from a country where nationality is only given if you were born there. 

In any other situation, a child born to foreign parents in France can only become French at the age of 13, if they meet a number of conditions. 

Age 13-15

Those born in France to foreign parents can apply to become French between 13-15 if the following criteria are met:

  • The child has lived in France on a regular basis – this means they have spent most of their time in France since the age of 8-years-old
  • The child is living in France at the time of their application
  • The child consents to becoming French (unless they do not have the mental or physical capacity to do so).

One of or both of the child’s parents or legal carer must write a déclaration de nationalité française on behalf of the child – be sure to make two copies. On the declaration, you will need to provide the name, surname, date of birth and place of birth of the minor and their representative.

This declaration must be sent by post or handed directly to your local tribunal judiciaire (find your closest one here). 

You will also need to provide the following:

  • Birth certificate less than three months old (you can apply for a copy of your birth certificate at any age in France);
  • ID document;
  • Recent ID photos;
  • A titre de séjour of the foreign parent or representative with an official overseas ID document;
  • Proof that the minor lives in France;
  • Proof that the minor has been frequently living in France and has resided in the country for at least 5 whole years since the age of 8;
  • Proof that the legal representative of the child has parental authority (birth certificate or adoption certificate).

Original versions of these documents, rather than photocopies, are required. 

If the child has children of their own who live with them, birth certificates and added proof will be required. In some circumstances, the tribunal may ask you to have the child medically examined to check their physical and mental capacity to voluntarily ask for citizenship. 

Any documents written in another language must be translated into French by a registered translator

Once you have submitted evidence, the child is given a récépissé or receipt and an interview is organised to ensure that the child has given their consent. 

Judicial authorities have six months to register the declaration – or refuse to give nationality. They can change their mind after two years if they discover retrospectively that the legal conditions for nationality are not met or if you have lied on the form. 

If the request for nationality has been confused, you can contest it in the sixth months following the decision. You will need to hire a lawyer to do so. 

Age 16-18

Those born in France to foreign parents can apply to become French between 16-18 if the following criteria are met:

  • They live in France at the time of applying;
  • They have lived in France regularly since the age of 11, for a period of at least five years.
  • They consent to becoming French (unless they do not have the mental or physical capacity to do so).

Unlike for those aged 13-15, this age group can deliver the necessary documents without parental authority. 

The declaration of nationality can be sent by post or handed over in person by the applicant. 

All the same documents are necessary as for the 13-15 age group. 

Adults 

If you over the age of 18 and were born in France to foreign parents, you can apply for citizenship if you meet the following conditions: 

  • You lived in france at the age of 18;
  • You lived in France regularly for a period of at least five years since the age of 11;
  • Your parents are not diplomatic agents or consulate staff 

Officially, if you meet the above criteria, you become French automatically at the age of 18. 

However you should apply for a certificat de nationalité française at the age of 18. To do this, you will need to present proof that you have lived in France regularly for a period of five years since the age of 11 (school certificates, work contracts etc.)

What if one of the child’s parents obtains French nationality?

If a child’s parent has just obtained French nationality by applying for citizenship, the child become French if the following conditions are met:

  • The child lives in France with this parent (at least part-time in the case of divorce);
  • The name of the child is mentioned on the naturalisation decree of the parent.

It is possible to apply for naturalisation of a child living overseas if one of their parents has become French. However, the child must have lived in France with the newly-French parent for at least five years prior to the request being made. 

If the parent becomes French by the time their child has reached the age of 18, the child cannot then become French through their parent. 

What if one of the child’s parents was born French? 

A child whose parents are French at the time of their birth is considered French, even if the child was born overseas. 

If the parent loses their French nationality once the child has become an adult, this has no impact. 

If the lineage of the child is contested once they become an adult, French nationality will not be stripped from them. 

What if the child has been adopted by French parents?

An adoption plénière (full adoption, in which there is a total break with the original parents of the child) signed before the child is born can bestow French nationality on that child at birth. 

If the adoption happened overseas, it will only be possible to apply for French nationality this way if the adoption has the same legal standing as an adoption plénière in France. 

An adoption simple (in which a link with the original parents is somewhat maintained) does not automatically guarantee French nationality. 

The following conditions must be met:

  • The child must be less than 18-years-old at the time they apply for citizenship;
  • The child must live in France when the application is made, unless they have been adopted by a Frenchman living abroad;
  • The person who adopted the child must have been French at the moment of the adoption itself. 

The process of applying for citizenship is the same as for children born in France to non-French parents, except that you will also need to provide adoption documents. 

What other ways can I get French nationality? 

You don’t have to be born in France to obtain French nationality. 

There are two main alternative routes for applying for citizenship – through residency or through marriage. 

  • Residency 

If you are applying through residency you need to have been resident in France for at least five years.That can be reduced to two years if you have completed postgraduate studies at a French university.

Those applying via residency will also need to prove they can speak French to B1 level, they have an adequate knowledge of France, its culture, history and politics and also show they have integrated into and appreciate the French way of life.

They will need to show they have a clean criminal record (for those who have less than 10 years residence in France) and that their tax payments are up to date, including tax return notices for the three years prior to filing the application for French citizenship. They will also need to prove they are financially sustainable. In other words they have a job or some other form of income.

  • Marriage 

If you are applying through marriage you need to have been married for four years, but do not actually need to be living in France. 

If you have children born in France you can apply for citizenship on their behalf once they turn 13, and if you get citizenship your children are also given citizenship.

If you get into a PACS (which is like a civil partnership) with a French person, you do not automatically get nationality. 

  • Other

There are some other less common ways to get citizenship. One is to join the French Foreign Legion, as anyone who serves five years in the Legion or who is injured on active service qualifies for citizenship (although you might want to check out what their training involves first) and the other is to perform an outstanding service for France.

Some people who have achieved something superb are offered French nationality and foreigners who worked on the frontline during the Covid pandemic have been offered fast-track citizenship

You can read more about applying for French nationality HERE

This article serves as guidance on how to obtain French nationality but in certain circumstances, additional documents and procedures may be required. If you are in any doubt, contact your local tribunal.

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FRENCH CITIZENSHIP

French bureaucracy: How to get a document ‘apostillé’

When doing certain French admin tasks you could be asked to present 'aspostillé' documents - here's what that means and how to do it.

French bureaucracy: How to get a document 'apostillé'

The most common reason for needing a document apostillé is if you’re applying for French nationality – when you may be asked for apostillé (or sometimes referred to as legalisé) copies of certificates including birth, marriage or divorce certificates.

An apostille is used to authenticate a seal or signature of an official on public, government issued documents.

Essentially, it functions similarly to a notarisation to certify a document on an international level to any of the countries that recognise the 1961 Hague Convention. It allows governments of different countries to recognise the legal standing of documents issued outside of their borders.

For this reason it’s only if you are presenting non-French certificates to French bureaucrats that you would need an apostille – how to get one varies depending on where the certificates were issued. 

EU

Documents issued within the EU are generally recognised by France, so you will not need birth, marriage or divorce certificates apostilled if they were issued in an EU country.

UK

Documents issued in the UK generally do not need to be apostilled (though you will still need forms like your birth certificate to be translated by a court approved translator). This is because France and the United Kingdom have a longstanding bilateral agreement, meaning official documents from the UK are recognised in France. 

READ MORE: Certified translations: What are the rules for translating documents into French?

However, if you find that you do need a UK document apostilled, you can either apply online or submit your documents by post or in person.

This process typically takes up to 20 days. You can learn more HERE.

Other non-EU countries

For Australians, only the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) can legalise documents.

In-person appointments can be made with the Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne passport offices, but there is often high demand. Otherwise, documents can be apostilled by the post. You can find information on how to do so here.

As for Indians, in most cases, you should be able to request that your vital documents be apostilled using the E-Sanad online service. If this does not apply to you, then you can find further information on the Ministry of External Affairs website.

Americans

For Americans, the process can be a bit complicated as it varies from state to state.

For a birth certificate you will usually first need to request a new copy of your birth certificate (long-version).

READ MORE: Birth certificate: Why you need it in France and how to request one

Some states’ vital records can be requested using the website VitalChek, while others will require you to go through the state’s Department of State. While it is not standard, some states may also allow you to add the apostille request on when using the website VitalChek.

In most cases, however, you will have to request your birth certificate first and then send a separate request (along with the birth certificate) back to the state’s Department of State to request that it be apostilled – many people save time by having their documents mailed to a US address (eg a parent or sibling’s address) and then asking them to send off the apostille request.

This will likely involve filling out a form (here is an example from the State of Texas), in which you will include the name of the country where the document will be recorded, the check or money order reference number (typically card payments are not available, but this will depend on your state), as well as a self-addressed, pre-paid envelope.

Some state offices may also allow walk-ins to get documents apostilled. If you plan to be in the United States after requesting your birth certificate, consider doing this as it may save you time. In this case, some offices may accept payment by cash or card. Most states do not offer an online service for apostilling documents.

Keep in mind also that an apostille can only be done by the relevant government body that first issued the document. As such, if you were born in Maryland but your family now lives in New York, then you will still need the state of Maryland to apostille your birth certificate.

Depending on the state, you check their Department of State website to see the timeline for apostilles – for instance, the State of California updates its page to reflect the date of receipt that they are currently processing.

Are there other situations where one might need a document apostilled?

For those getting married or PACSed in France, they will need an apostilled and translated newly issued birth certificate. 

READ MORE: What you need to know about PACS v marriage in France

If you are hoping to adopt a child outside of the country while living in France, then you will likely also need to get relevant vital records documents for the child apostilled by their respective country of birth.

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