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A guide to becoming a French citizen in a post-Brexit world

AFP | An image of France's national symbol, Marianne

With Britons living across the EU now wondering what Brexit will mean for their legal status abroad, many in France are looking to become citizens – a protracted process that mainly involves collecting a vast array of documentation.

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This article has been updated to reflect changes to the requirements for French naturalisation that came into effect in 2018.

Becoming a French citizen is a lengthy and often disheartening process that mainly involves collecting a multitude of documents related to your origins, employment status and French tax history, among other personal details. Anyone who has lived in France continually for five years or more can apply. British and US nationals do not need to renounce their current citizenships to become French.

Keep in mind that most of your documents need to be less than a year old when you submit your dossier de naturalisation.

Documents required for submission:

For the official list in French, click here or here. Note that the two lists do not agree on all requirements, so when in doubt opt to provide more information rather than less.

A personalised list of documents you need to provide for your dossier, based on your individual situation, is available online. Note that the list is not necessarily comprehensive and you may still be asked for many of the additional documents listed below.

Citizenship request form. You must submit two completed Cerfa No. 12753*02 forms, which are available online.

An official copy of your birth certificate issued by the same authority that issued the original. The official copy must be less than a year old when you submit it with your dossier. British nationals can order a copy of their birth certificate online here while US citizens can request one here.

US citizens must then request an apostille for your birth certificate from a local branch of the State Department. (Please note that an apostille is different from either certification or notarisation. For more on US apostilles, click here.) If requesting a US birth certificate at the link above, be sure to select the "for apostille/authentication" option when asked why you need the document.

N.B.: Your birth certificate must be translated into French by a court-approved translator (click here for a list). The translated versions are valid for three months only so it is a good idea to wait until you have collected the rest of your documentation for your dossier before getting the translations done.

Proof of parentage.Photocopies of your parents’ birth certificates, a photocopy of their death certificates or a photocopy of your parents’ marriage certificate. Note that government websites now say it is no longer necessary to have your parents' birth certificates nor their marriage licence translated by a government-approved translator, as was previously required. A photocopy of the original and a photocopy of a French translation should now suffice (but you may want to check with your local prefecture to be sure).

Préfecture de Police. "Documents concerning your parents serve only to verify your ancestry. It is thus unnecessary to send originals (photocopies are sufficient); to have the documents legalised or apostilled; or to have them translated by a government-approved translator."

Your marriage licence, if applicable.

Photocopy of your spouse or partner’s ID (foreign passport or French ID).

If you are divorced, you must furnish all of your past marriage licences and the associated divorce judgments, and they most be apostilled. If you are merely separated, you can note this on your Cerfa form under "Situation familiale".

Children’s birth certificates. If you have children who are minors, you must submit copies of their birth certificates.

Official copies of birth, marriage and death certificates can often be ordered online. British citizens can request them by clicking here, Americans can obtain them here.

Criminal record check. If you have lived in France for less than 10 years you must furnish a form from your national police stating that you do not have a criminal record in your country of origin (you must also do this for any country you have lived in over the past decade). British citizens can make this request online. US citizens must get their fingerprints taken by a certified authority and then submit them to the FBI by mail. (To get fingerprints taken in Paris, click here.)

Bulletin No. 3. The Bulletin No. 3 (or Demande d'extrait de casier judiciaire) certifies that you do not have a criminal record in France. You can order it online and it will be mailed to your house in about a week. 

Two ID photos. 23x45mm, with your full name and birth date written on the back.

Foreign passport. A copy of the photo page of your passport.

French ID. Photocopies of the front and back of your French ID card (carte de séjour), if applicable.

Timbre fiscal in the amount of €55. Available at many tobacconists or for purchase online, these stamps are worth the cash amount printed on them. To be submitted in a sealed envelope marked with your name.

French language test. A language test (Test de français international or TFI) must be taken at a government-approved language centre such as ETS Global. Submit a photocopy of your test certificate with your dossier (you will be asked for the original at your interview with the prefecture).

This test is not necessary if you already have either (a) a diploma from a French authority stating that you have attained language level “V”, (b) a diploma stating you have attained level “B1” from a Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR or CECR) authority, or (c) a certificate stating that you have passed either the TCF, TEFDELF/DALF, DCL or BULATS French language tests.

If you are still in the process of learning French, you may submit an “attestation” (statement) from a language school that is certified as a French-language integration (Français langue d’intégration) centre.

The language requirement is waived for those over 60.

Proof of residence. If you are renting in France, a photocopy of your lease agreement and photocopies of your rental receipts for the last three months. If you own an apartment, a photocopy of the first few pages of the deed that contain identifying information.

Telephone and/or electricity bill. A photocopy of your last bill(s). Submit both if you can.

Proof of employment. If you are employed in France, you will need a copy of your employment contract and a recent "attestation" from your employer’s HR department stating how long you have been employed there, your title and your salary. You will also need to submit photocopies of your last three pay slips.

Bordereau de situation fiscal (a form from the French tax authorities saying you are up to date with your payments). This can be obtained in person from your local tax office. You can also request it online: For more information about doing so, click here (you must first create an account using your numéro fiscal if you have not done so already).

French tax bills. Photocopies of your French tax bills (avis d’imposition) from the last three years.

Next steps:

Once you have amassed the documentation required, you must submit your dossier to the local Préfecture de Police by registered mail ("recommandé avec accusé de réception"); note that in-person submissions are not accepted. The authorities then have a full year to respond, at which point you will receive a summons ("convocation") to appear for a brief interview at which you will be asked about your personal situation as well as some basic questions about France, e.g., the colours of the flag, the name of France's national symbol (Marianne) and perhaps some questions regarding the French national ideal of secularism (la laïcité).

If you are missing any documentation you will be told so at your interview and given six months to provide it. Your completed dossier will then be sent to the Interior Ministry for official consideration.

The list above is by no means meant to be exhaustive; the documents you will be required to submit will vary based on your personal circumstances. For example, if you have been married to a French citizen for at least four years, some of the document requirements may be waived. You will, however, be required to furnish other documentation concerning your spouse and may be interviewed (separately) about details of your life together.

For the home page of the Préfecture de Police on how to become a naturalised French citizen, click here.

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