French citizenship by descent

Article Breakdown

French citizenship by descent

France Passport CoverThe procedure for obtaining French citizenship by ancestry is rather simple. While foreign persons normally go through rigorous and lengthy naturalization processes to get French citizenship, those fortunate enough to have French ancestry may be considered French citizens without ever recognizing it.

Simply put, a person is French if one of his parents is a French citizen. Link This is true regardless of the applicant’s birthplace, lack of ties to France (whether economic, residential, or otherwise), or French language proficiency.

Children adopted by at least one French parent may also be entitled to claim French citizenship provided their ties to their biological parents were severed before the age of 18.

Individuals with French grandparents, in particular, may claim French citizenship if at least one of their parents successfully registers as a French citizen before they do.

With over 20 million people worldwide reporting French ancestry, it is possible that an astounding number of people could qualify to apply for French citizenship if they delve deeply into their family histories and demonstrate an uninterrupted lineage with a qualifying French ancestor.

The process of acquiring French nationality by descent

France Coat of ArmsTo obtain a first French passport, you must first apply for a certificate of French nationality by submitting a French citizenship by ancestry application.

Applicants are required to produce evidence proving their relationships with their French parent as well as their French parent’s citizenship status.

If granted, a certificate of French nationality will be issued, paving the way for an application for French citizenship and the issuance of a French passport.

It is important to highlight that in order to obtain French citizenship through ancestry, you will be faced with some uncertainty because the immigration authorities may reject your application if they discover that your parent lost his citizenship before you were born.

Loss of French citizenship, for example, may occur if neither the parent nor the ancestor from whom the parent gained French citizenship established a sufficiently long-term link with France.

About French Citizenship through Descent

Rounded France Flag IconHistorically, the notion of jus soli, which means “right of land,” has controlled French citizenship.

The same rule regulates citizenship in the United States, where any child born on the country’s territory, regardless of their parents’ nationality, instantly receives nationality.

However, when it comes to citizenship, France has gradually drifted away from jus soli and toward jus sanguinis, or the “right of blood.”

It’s all part of the increasingly politicized drive to prevent the children of immigrants from gaining French citizenship simply because they were born in France.

They can become French citizens in a variety of ways, but it is not automatic.

Since France made steps to make gaining citizenship more difficult, its citizenship by descent program has grown in popularity.

A person can become a citizen of the country through his or her parents, according to its rules.

Unfortunately, France only permits you to ‘go back’ one generation, whereas countries such as Ireland allow anyone who is even somewhat Irish to petition for citizenship by descent.

However, if you are fortunate enough to have a French parent and wish to obtain French citizenship, you will still need to demonstrate your eligibility.

It should be rather simple, however, because all you need is proof showing your parents’ French identity.

However, if your French parent is estranged or you have no way of locating him or her, it can be slightly more difficult. You’d have to rummage through archives to find some paperwork or proof that you have ties to France.

France Country Landscape Photo

Benefits of French citizenship by descent

“When one considers the advantages and perks that French citizenship entails,” Mr. Harvey said, “the current spike in enquiries for French citizenship-by-ancestry is scarcely surprising.” Being French not only allows you to live, work, and study in France and all 27 EU member states without a visa, but it also gives you access to the French passport, which will be the world’s third most powerful passport in terms of travel freedom in 2022.

In times of emergency, such as those triggered by COVID-19, French citizens have the right to seek assistance from the French government or any other EU member state’s embassy.


Could you be French and not realize it?

That is exactly how it works in terms of qualifying for citizenship by investment.

You may be aware that you have French ancestors but were unaware that this could make you eligible to seek for French citizenship – until today.

So, under what circumstances would you be eligible for French citizenship through ancestry?

There are several of them:

  • By descent, a person can become a French citizen if at least one of his or her parents was a French citizen at the time of his or her birth. This individual will be required to verify not just his or her own identity, but also the citizenship of the French parent in issue.
  • If a person over the age of 18 is born in a foreign country to a French mother (who was born in France or elsewhere), they may receive French nationality if and only if the mother held her French nationality at the time of their birth. Furthermore, the child’s parent-child bond with that French parent had to be formed while the child was still a minor.
  • A French citizen may pass on their nationality to their children by descent provided the person held their French nationality on the day of the children’s birth and the parent-child relationship was created when the child was a minor.

If you fall into one of the aforementioned categories, you may be able to petition for French citizenship by descent.

However, keep in mind that in France, all generations must be registered as citizens before you can apply for your own.

For example, if your parent has French ancestors through their own parents, they would have to seek for citizenship before you could get yours.

Similarly, if you have children, you must first register and get your French citizenship before applying for their respective French passports.

Finally, examine the possession d’état de Français, which loosely translates to “contract with France.”

You will not be eligible for citizenship if you or your parents have had no contact or links with French authorities for 50 years (such as passport renewal, voter registration, or consular registration) and have lived outside of France.

In other words, if your parent(s) have severed all ties with France, and you have as well, France will not entertain your citizenship application.

This makes France one of the most difficult countries to obtain citizenship by descent from.

However, if you can demonstrate recent cultural, professional, economic, family, or military ties to the country, you have a fighting chance.

How to Apply

Gathering the paperwork that verify your eligibility, as with any citizenship by descent program, is perhaps the most difficult element of the entire procedure.

And the weight of proof is all on you, so you must build a strong case for them to make a favorable decision.

The certificate of French nationality is what you will be requesting for. It is a government-issued document that can be used to confirm your French citizenship. To receive it, contact the Department of Nationality for French People Born and Established Outside of France.

You will have to provide the following documents to them when submitting your application for a certificate of French nationality:

  1. Identity proof – your passport
  2. Identification as a resident (a recent household bill, for example)
  3. A copy of your birth certificate demonstrating your parent-child relationship with the French parent in dispute.
  4. A copy of your parent’s (or grandparents’) birth certificate
  5. Any and all documents proving your parent(s)’ French nationality (e.g., national identity card, passport, consular registration card, certificate of nationality, military booklet, voter card, et cetera)
  6. Your parents’ marriage certificate or, if they aren’t married, a copy of the document recognizing and establishing parenthood.

Unless the applicant is unable to travel due to specific circumstances, the application must be submitted in person. Certain courts will accept documentation via mail in this scenario.

There are two additional requirements that genuinely make France one of the most difficult countries to get citizenship in:

  1. Interview-based proof of absorption into French society. On the official website, you may see what kinds of questions they might ask you.
  2. A language test. You will be asked to demonstrate your French language skills and ability to speak and write in French. A recognized certificate from a program of study at a Francophone institute can be used in place to prove your French language abilities instead of the test.

This nationality is not something you will be able to obtain without putting out any effort.

While many other nations do not require you to speak the language or even pass a cultural test (for example, Croatia just repealed its culture test), France is not one of them.

Unfortunately, the culture and language tests are not something that can be done for you, so you must decide whether you need the French nationality severely enough to spend time learning.

You will be eligible to apply for a French travel document – a passport – as soon as your citizenship application is granted. Here’s all you need to know about applying for one.

If your application is denied, you can file an appeal by contacting the Ministry of Justice directly.

French Ancestry is a prerequisite for French Citizenship by Descent

There are, however, restrictions on French citizenship by descent. According to Article 30-3 of the French Civil Code, a person is not granted French citizenship if neither the person nor their French parent has any ties to France.

Such linkages include renewing a French passport, voting registration, and French consular registration when residing outside of France.

Nonetheless, Article 21-14 of the Civil Code allows first and second generation descendants of French nationals or emigrans to obtain citizenship by demonstrating military, cultural, professional, economic, or family ties to France.

Obtain a French Passport through naturalization

After five years of continuous residence in France, a person over the age of majority may apply for French nationality via naturalisation.

During this time, the person’s primary source of income must be in France in order to be eligible to acquire French citizenship.

For applicants who have served in the French military or are refugees, the residency time may be totally eliminated. If the person’s residency time is completely waived, they must have lived legally in France for the two years preceding the application for naturalisation as a French national.

Otherwise, the residence period may be reduced to two years if the person has completed two years of higher study and successfully obtained a French certificate, or has significantly assisted France by their talents and qualities.

Only individuals who are regarded to be integrated into French society and accept its principles are eligible to become a naturalized French citizen.

The applicant must also be of good character: they must not have committed any criminal offense that resulted in a term of six months or more in prison, nor have they committed any tax evasion offences.

French citizenship by marriage

The spouse of a French citizen may seek for French citizenship. They must produce proof that they have been married for five years and have lived together. The applicant must be fluent in both spoken and written French, and both parties must be present to sign paperwork in person.

If a person is qualified for French citizenship because to ancestor links to France, their family members may also apply for French citizenship.

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