France to streamline citizenship application
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