France to streamline citizenship application

20th April 2009, Comments 1 comment

The move will see regional state offices have a greater say in granting foreigners French nationality and cut back on application waiting time.

REZE – France plans to simplify citizenship applications by giving regional state offices a greater say in granting French nationality to foreigners, Immigration Minister Eric Besson said Monday.

Some 100,000 foreigners apply for French citizenship per year but the applications take years to be processed by local prefectures – which represent the states in the regions – and the immigration ministry.

As of January, a pilot project will be launched to allow the regional administrations in 20 of France's 101 departments to decide on citizenship cases, a measure that should cut down delays.

"Up until now, a foreigner eligible for French nationality had to wait for his dossier to be processed twice," said Besson, who travelled to the office for French nationality based in Reze in western France.

"Instead of having a double procedure, we will have only one at the prefecture level with the central government monitoring," said Besson.

If successful, the streamlined procedure will be extended to all of France as of 1 July 2010.

Union leaders complained however that the reform would deny foreigners equal treatment under the law as they would be subjected to local decisions.

"We are going to have 101 decision-making centres" for French nationality, said Marc Bonnefis from the CGT union.

"This is an absolute sham, a violation of the principle of equality," said historian Patrick Weil, an expert on citizenship issues.

Granting such powers to prefects, the governors of departments, will increase the risk of corruption or political favouritism, he said.

"That's why all major democratic countries have centralised naturalisation procedures," Weil said.

Foreigners can apply for citizenship in France after at least five years of residency but they must show some ability to speak French and have a demonstrated interest in French culture.

AFP / Expatica

1 Comment To This Article

  • carrie estill posted:

    on 20th April 2009, 14:21:41 - Reply

    Anything that speeds it up would be a help. I waited 4 years. I was a US citizen who had lived, worked here, owned an apt, and paid taxes for 5 years. I studied history, knew a lot about the regions, wine, food etc. The main interviewer only asked me questions about French, testing my knowledge of tenses and moods; she never asked me one question about culture. The first interviewer from the Police National (probably of Guadaloupian origin) was kinder and asked me a little about my life in France. Neither knew much about "French culture" in the sense of art or music. Yes, I passed and now my Mayor (previously indicted and out of politics for 2 years) is inviting me for a drink next Tuesday. We have met before as I enter the window flowerbox competition each year. However, the useless red tape and paper chase is just baffling. Because I was not married to a Frenchman, I was asked to dig up every paper related to me and my parents back to 1917.