For members


How you could qualify for French citizenship in under five years

For most people looking to apply for citizenship in France, they have to live in the country for five consecutive years - but, under certain circumstances, you could apply sooner.

How you could qualify for French citizenship in under five years
Note: The French President does not attend every citizenship ceremony (Photo: Michel Euler / POOL / AFP)

Here, we explain how you could shave some time off your residency qualifying period before you can apply for citizenship. The application process can last up to two years on top of the qualifying period. And as ever there are many criteria applicants are required to meet so it’s not just a question about time qualifying periods. 

READ ALSO Am I eligible for French citizenship?


Marry a French citizen, and you can qualify for French citizenship after four years rather than five.

However, you still have to pass language and cultural knowledge tests.

This also applies to a foreign national living with their French spouse outside France – as long as they too have been married for five years.

READ ALSO How to become a French citizen via marriage


Postgraduates who have studied at a French university for at least two years can qualify for citizenship after two years of residency. However it’s not as easy at that in reality given applicants must meet other criteria such as prove they have a stable job and income which obviously may take longer.

Postgraduate applicants still have to pass language and cultural knowledge tests, prove you have integrated into the French way of life, and demonstrate you have the means to live in France, which usually comes via work.

READ ALSO TEST: Is your French good enough for citizenship and residency?

The ancestor rule

If you have a parent who was a French citizen at the time of your birth, you can obtain citizenship via ancestry at any time. You will need full documentation for yourself and your French parent, and also need to prove that they have maintained some ‘connection’ with France in the past 50 years – this could be evidence of residency in France, registration with a French consulate or a voter registration to show they have voted in French elections.

READ ALSO How to obtain French citizenship through ancestry

Military ties

You do not need to complete any qualifying period if you have served in the French military, or enlisted for the French or an allied military in a time of war – but, you need to serve your time in the army, navy or air force, first… 

Anyone who joins the French Foreign Legion can apply for French nationality after three years of service. Depending on each applicant’s service record and willingness to integrate, this application will generally be granted.

Exceptional service

If you can render (or have rendered) important services to France given your abilities and talents, or have completed an exceptional integration process (such as activities or actions in civic, scientific, economic, cultural or sporting fields), you can apply for citizenship after two years. 

‘Exceptional service’ can include an act of heroism. In 2018, then 22-year-old undocumented immigrant Mamoudou Gassama rescued a four-year-old who was dangling from a balcony in Paris. His bravery was recognised with French citizenship.

READ ALSO Who is ‘le spiderman’ – the Malian migrant who saved a toddler’s life?

And numerous foreigners who worked on the frontline during the Covid pandemic have been offered fast-track citizenship.

It is important to note that no minimum residency is required for the following applicants:

  • Anyone with refugee status;
  • Anyone who comes from a French-speaking country and speaks French as the mother tongue;
  • Anyone who comes from a French-speaking country and has been educated for 5 years or more in a French-language teaching establishment.

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For members


Reader question: Can you lose your French citizenship if you commit a crime?

The path to getting French citizenship is long and arduous - but once you've got it, can you lose it again if you are convicted of a crime? What about during the 'two year rule' period?

Reader question: Can you lose your French citizenship if you commit a crime?

One of the things you need to do when applying for citizenship is prove that you have not been convicted of a crime by providing your extrait de casier judiciaire (criminal records check).

Depending on your criteria for citizenship, you may need to demonstrate a clean record going back 10 years – both in France and in any other countries you have lived in during that period.

Getting your French casier judiciaire is fairly straightforward – you can apply online, the document is sent by email within a few days and the service is free. Other countries have different systems which may be more complicated, time-consuming and expensive.

Citizenship is highly likely to be refused to anyone who has:

  • Conviction(s) for acts against the fundamental interests of the nation, or conviction for serious and / or violent offences;
  • Conviction(s) for crimes against the public administration (crimes committed by persons holding a public office);
  • Conviction(s) for acts of insubordination in relation to performance of national service;
  • Engaged for the benefit of a foreign state, in acts incompatible with the quality of French national and commission of acts that are prejudicial to the interests of France.

Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis but it’s unlikely that citizenship would be refused due to a previous conviction for less serious crimes including driving offences.

READ ALSO French citizenship: How long does it take for your application to be dealt with?

But what about once you have your French citizenship?

Now we know readers of The Local are fine, upstanding, law-abiding citizens but let’s say that you do find yourself in front of a French court after becoming French.

Well, chances are you’re not about to lose citizenship for most types of criminal convictions.

But not all. There are several circumstances in which people may be stripped of French nationality. 

  • If you are convicted of a crime or an offence constituting undermining the fundamental interests of France;
  • If you are convicted of a crime or an offence constituting an act of terrorism;
  • If, while in public office, you are convicted of a crime or an offence constituting interference with public administration. For example, infringement of individual freedom, discrimination;
  • If you have not complied with the obligations arising from national service;
  • If you have acted for the benefit of a foreign state, incompatible with being French.

It is also possible for a person’s nationality revoked if the following two conditions are applicable:

  • If you are are active in a foreign army, public service or international organisation of which France is not a member, and;
  • You refuse to stop this activity despite a government order.

Being convicted of an ‘ordinary’ crime such as burglary or assault – or driving offences – would not result in your losing citizenship.

Does it matter when you became French?

You might have heard talk of the ‘two-year rule’ – this concept is often misunderstood, but in fact just means that your French citizenship can be annulled if you are found to have lied on the application or if the official in your case has made a mistake and you are not eligible for French nationality. In both cases, this can only happen within two years of your being granted citizenship.

Find a full explanation of the two-year rule HERE.

Once the two years have passed your citizenship cannot be annulled, but you can be stripped of citizenship in the circumstances described above.

There is a timeline of sorts here though.

Citizenship can only be stripped if the crime as outlined above was committed either before acquiring French nationality or within 10 years of acquiring French nationality.

This timeline is extended to 15 years in the event of an attack on the fundamental interests of the Nation or an act of terrorism.

Crucially, no person can be left stateless under French law – this means that only those who have dual nationality can be stripped of French citizenship. Therefore people whose home country does not allow dual nationality and who gave up their original nationality to become French cannot lose their French citizenship.

Anyone who is French by birth cannot lose their French nationality.