Applying for French NationalityIn order to apply for nationality/citizenship, you have to be resident in France for at least 5 years.

If you are under 60 you must produce a certificate from an approved training establishment showing that you have sufficient knowledge of the language – ie attend a course and pass an exam – over 60 you are exempt from this but must show at the interview when you apply that you have sufficient knowledge of the language. You don’t need to be bilingual – just be able to conduct a simple conversation and answer a few simple questions. The interview is entirely in French anyway – what would you expect? In either case you need to be able to show at the interview that you have an appreciation of the history and culture of France. That is set out in a livret du citoyen which you can download as a PDF document. Read the livret and make sure you know the names of at least three presidents – Hollande, Sarcozy and De Gaulle will suffice – plus the name of the current prime minister. And don’t forget the date of the French revolution.  I was also asked the date the Americans launched the attack to liberate France (D-Day). I didn’t think that it was appropriate to add that Britain and Canada also took part in the landings, not to mention Free French, Poles and other nationalities.

Have a look at https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F2213 for details, including a link to download the livret du citoyen, and https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/R16995 to download the application form and an information sheet which sets out the documents you must produce – loads of them. 

If you haven’t downloaded the application form, info sheet and livret de citoyen, now is a good time to do so. Print out at least 3 copies of the application form, one to use as a first draft and 2 to be submitted in due course.

I would suggest that you download the Charte de Droit et Devoirs du Citoyen Français (citizens charter) – Google it – as soon as possible, as you WILL be asked about things in it. I was certainly asked a few questions. Learn about the tricolor, La Marseillaise, the motto (Liberté etc), the national symbol (Marianne – the lady on French postage stamps) and the Jour National or fête national (they don’t call it Bastille Day). I went through the charte many times with a highlight pen marking anything I thought I might be asked about. In particular note the word laïque – laïcité means the separation of state and church – I did not previously know that but someone advised me to learn about it. As for the duties, these are basically to fight for the country if necessary (if you are not too old for that), not to do anything against the interests of the state, and to pay impots/taxes. At the interview you will be given a copy of the charte to read and sign.

Note that documents such as birth and marriage certificates must be no more than 3 months old at the time you lodge your application. Originals from years ago are not acceptable. You can order up-to-date copies online from the General Register Office https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates for £9.25 per document. Don’t order them too soon as the three months may expire before you lodge your application. You will need official copies of your own and your parents birth and marriage certificates, and if you have been divorced an official copy of your divorce decree. Presumably you know your parents birthdays and the years they were born and that is sufficient. If you don’t know the years but have a rough idea, the GRO will search the year before and after if they can’t find the entry. I had my parents death certificates which gave me all the info I needed – date and place of birth which both have to be given on the application form. Although the death certificates are not required for the application, it might be worth getting copies now if you don’t already have them just for the information they contain.

All of the required certificates have to be translated by a court approved translator – I used Masha TANIA (maschatania@hotmail.com Tel 02 31 67 60 55). She was the cheapest I could find. I paid 180€ for 6 documents. Some quoted 40€ each, and others were outrageous.

I was also asked much later for a copy of my ex-wife’s birth certificate, which is not referred to in any of the official documents. The préfecture didn’t insist on this being translated.

Once you have the application form I would suggest you have a word with your préfecture. I did this while I was there for other things, and they fixed a date for my interview there and then, which was for 4 months later. If you haven’t downloaded the application form, info sheet and livret de citoyen, now is a good time to do so. Print out at least 3 copies of the application form, one to use as a first draft and 2 to be submitted in due course.

I was told that I could lodge my application at the interview. This gave me loads of time to prepare everything. Once you have the date fixed you have a time scale for requesting the certificates and having them translated.

The application form has pages on which you must list all addresses you have lived at and all jobs you have had, with dates. I suggest making an early start on listing this information. You need dates for these, although I am sure that approximations for many years ago will be OK. It took me many hours to prepare as I had to dig out old papers to get the information. In both cases they should start with the most recent. I prepared mine in Word and, after adjusting the spacing and using tabs to create columns in a printed copy to fit the relevant pages, printed them directly onto those pages – much neater than writing them out by hand, and easier for officials to read. I was told (I can’t remember by who) that they must be on the printed form itself, and not on a separate sheet of white paper. If necessary print extra copies of the relevant pages.

You will also need a copy of the deeds of your house – my préfecture said the first couple of pages containing price, names and description of the property, plus the later pages containing signatures was sufficient rather than copying the whole 20-odd page document. Take the original to the interview.

Next you need details of income in the form of pay slips if that applies. In my case I only had UK state pension, and I supplied a copy of the letter from the UK Department of Work & Pensions telling me when my pension started together with a list of payments received. At the time I had only been receiving pension for a few months so it was a short list.

Then you need copies of your avis d’imposition ou non-imposition statements which you receive a while after you file your declaration de revenues (tax return) for the last 3 years and a bordereau de situation (schedule of taxes due and paid) for the previous 3 years. Just ask your tax office for this.

If you have lived in France less than 10 years you need to obtain a criminal record check from the UK – it’s easy to get this online from https://www.acro.police.uk/subject_access.aspx . If you have been resident for over 10 years, this is not required.

Once I had all of the documents, I sorted them into the order in which they are set out in the information sheet. I suggest you get one of those folders with transparent, drop-in pockets, or use a ring folder and individual transparent pockets. It makes it so much easier when you turn up at the préfecture. Even then, during my interview we finished up with a desk covered in papers.

For me it was a laborious task, but it paid dividends when I received the letter saying I was now a French citizen.

That’s about it. File the papers and wait.

Researched and compiled by @Jon Doe