A guide to French citizenship and permanent residence

A guide to French citizenship and permanent residence

Comments48 comments

After living in France for five years – or less in some cases – you can apply for French citizenship or a French permanent residence.

If you want to live in France long term or even permanently, you may be eligible to apply for French permanent residence or French citizenship after five years of living in France, although this time is reduced in certain cases such as being married or parent to a French national.

Whether you choose French citizenship or French permanent residence, both options allow you to continue living in France long-term, although some important differences exist between the two that can help you decide which is the best option. Find out the conditions and what you need to know to apply for French citizenship or French permanent residency.

Brexit: is now the time to apply for French citizenship?

As France allows dual citizenship, British citizens who qualify can consider applying for French citizenship to maintain access to living in the Eureopean Union (EU). However, no changes will be made to the freedom of movement of British citizens to France until the UK's exit is negiotiated, estimated to take a minimum of two years.

Should you choose permanent residence or French citizenship?

A French permanent residence permit allows you to stay in France for 10 years and, as it’s renewable, theoretically you could live in France indefinitely with this status. However, while you may share many of the same rights as French citizens (eg. in education, at work, in healthcare), you don’t share them all, for example, you can’t vote in elections or hold public office.

If you opt to become a French citizen you also become a citizen of the European Union (EU), and would enjoy freedom of movement throughout EU member states. You don’t have to give up your own nationality if you become a French citizen: you can have dual citizenship.

In either case, a 'continuous' stay in France for a set number of years is typically a requirement. Your 'continuous' stay can be void if you leave France for more than six consecutive months out of a total of 10 months, although exceptions exist in certain cases so you should ask your local authority.

Permanent residence in France

Once you have lived in France for five continuous years you may apply for a carte de resident, which is a renewable permanent residence permit that allows you to live in France for up to 10 years. Whether or not you are granted this will depend on your personal circumstances, such as the reason for your continued stay, employment and financial stability, how well integrated you are into French society and your language ability.

You lose the right to permanent residence if you leave France for more than two consecutive years.

EU/EEA/Swiss citizens
EU/EEA/Swiss citizens who have been resident in France for five or more continuous years have the option to apply for permanent residence without the need to prove income or employment.

EU/EEA/Swiss nationals are no longer obliged to hold this permit but without it they cannot qualify for state services, such as housing financial aid.

Non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens
Non-EU/EEA/Swiss family members can also apply for permanent residence after five years, and if it’s granted will retain the permit even after divorce or the death of the EU spouse.

Exemptions for family members or partners
The five-year residency requirement is reduced to three years if you are joining a family member who already has permanent residence, or if you are the parent of child with French nationality with temporary residence. Anyone who meets the conditions of French citizenship via birth also has right to permanent residence.

If you are married to a French national for more than three years you can apply for permanent residence immediately, even if you have not lived in France during your marriage. If you have been married for less than three years, then you can apply after three years of holding a carte de séjour (residence permit).

Read more about the conditions and where to apply for foreigners acquiring French permanent residence.

How to apply for French permanent residence

You can apply for either French citizenship or permanent residence at your local French préfecture (town hall), which will provide you information on what documents you need according to your personal situation. These may include documents proving your residence, an employment contract, bank statements, birth or marriage certificates and medical certificate.

Depending on which conditions you meet, you can consider either French permanent residency or EU long-term residence, the latter providing additional benefits to moving around and living in other EU members states. Read the rights and differences (in French).

The application process costs EUR 260.

Becoming a French citizen

You can become a French citizen with all the accompanying rights (like voting in French elections) through either naturalisation, marriage or birth (whether born in France or born to a French parent while abroad). You must be over 18 and be living in France. You don’t have to give up your original nationality when you become a French citizen but can have dual nationality.

You can apply to become a naturalised French citizen if you have:

  • have been living in France for five continuous years (less under certain circumstances, such as having studied in a French university, in which case it's two years);
  • can prove that you have integrated into the French community by speaking French and having a knowledge of French culture and society and the rights and duties of French citizens.

If you are obtaining French citizenship through naturalisation or marriage, you must sign the Reception and Integration Contract (CAI). This form is valid for 12 months, after which you will be evaluated to see whether you have met the requirements of the CAI, for example, have become sufficiently proficient in French or taken a civics class.

The application costs EUR 55; see the procedure, where to apply and application form here (in French).

You can become a French citizen after four years of marriage to a French citizen, as long as:

  • you are still married to each other;
  • your spouse retains his/her French citizenship; and
  • you can prove that you have a good knowledge of the French language.

The time requirement is increased to five years in certain cases, for example, if you cannot prove you have lived together continuously in France for at least three years since your wedding.

If you were married abroad, before acquiring citizenship your marriage must be registered in the French civl registry.

If you were born in France or to a French parent
Children born to foreign citizens on French soil can claim French citizenship on their 16th birthday and be granted full citizenship at 18 years old provided France has been their main residence for five consecutive years since the age of 11. Read the conditions.

An amendment to French law in 2015 also makes it possible for children to acquire French citizenship at 18 years old if they have lived in France since the age of six, attended a French school and have a sibling who obtained French citizenship.

If you are the foreign parent of a child aged at least 13 years old and resident in France since eight years old, you can claim French citizenship on their behalf in front of a magistrate. If one parent has French citizenship and has lived in France for more than five years, a minor can also be naturalised.

If you were not born in France but you were born to a French parent, you can apply for a demande de attribution at your town hall. A full list of required forms is found here.

Foster and adopted children can also claim French citizenship if their guardian is a French citizen.

Exceptions for French citizenship
You can apply immediately for French citizenship, without the five year waiting period, if:

  • you have served in the French military;
  • you qualify as a refugee;
  • you have contributed 'exceptional services' to France;
  • you come from a country where French is the official language and have attended a Francophone school for a minimum of five years.

If a foreign-born person is the child of a French parent, citizenship may be obtained as of right by making a petition for a French nationality certificate. You are not required to live in France to make this application.

How to apply for French citizenship

If you fulfill the above conditions, you can apply for citizenship at your local préfecture. To apply, you will need to submit a declaration request (demande d’acquisition par declaration) with copies of the following, if applicable to your situation:

  • Two copies of the application form form, signed and dated;
  • Copies of ID of both the applicant and spouse;
  • Proof of address with your full name;
  • Birth certificate (with certified translation if not in French);
  • Marriage certificate obtained within the last three months;
  • Attestation sur l'honneur des 2 époux, a document, which both spouses need to sign in person at the préfecture or consulate;
  • Evidence of the relationship or married life such as birth certificates of the spouses’ children, a mortgage contract, joint tax notice, property deeds or shared bank account;
  • Proof of the spouse being a French citizen at the time of marriage;
  • Proof that the applicant has acquired a sufficient knowledge of the French language, such as a French language diploma or certificate.;
  • Evidence that you don’t have a criminal record, for example, a criminal record certificate from your country of residence for the last 10 years;
  • You may be asked to show proof of employment or financial support.

Your application will be assessed by the police, mayor’s office and various other governmental departments, and you may also be interviewed by the police, in a process which can take up to two years.

If successful, you will become a French citizen in a naturalisation ceremony, and given a French national ID card and a French passport. Any unmarried dependents automatically become French if they live with you and are included in the naturalisation decree.

For more information

  • Service-Public – this website is for the French government's public services (in French), with information on how to acquire French nationality. To find the contact details of your local mairie (town hall) see here, and for other local departments and public services, see here.
  • France Diplomatie – this webpage is the English version of the website for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for more information on visas and migration to France.
  • OFII -– this is the English language version of the website for the L'office Francais de l'immigration et de l'intégration, the French agency in charge of migration. There are offices all over France; look on the website for contact details of your nearest one.

Read more:


This article is for general information only and you should always seek advice from the French consulate if you have any queries about your particular circumstances.


Have a question? Post your question on Expatica's Ask the Expert service to see if we can help.  

Updated 2016.

Comment here on the article, or if you have a suggestion to improve this article, please click here.

If you believe any of the information on this page is incorrect or out-of-date, please let us know. Expatica makes every effort to ensure its articles are as comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date as possible, but we're also grateful for any help! (If you want to contact Expatica for any other reason, please follow the instructions on this website's contact page.)

Captcha Note: Characters are case sensitive
The details you provide on this page will not be used to send any unsolicited e-mail, and will not be sold to a third party. Privacy policy .

48 Comments To This Article

  • Javier posted:

    on 26th September 2016, 16:36:03 - Reply

  • karin posted:

    on 1st September 2016, 02:11:13 - Reply

    Can a child born in France of French parents who was adopted at age three by an American couple qualify for a french passport? She is now an adult.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • RIRI posted:

    on 30th July 2016, 12:58:13 - Reply

    I have lived in France for nearly 14 Years, my daughter was 1 we arrived she has been scolarised here in France for well over 8 years, my son was born inFrance he is now 7 with a french birth certificate, can I get french nationality on their behalf in front of a magistrat, if so who do I contact as with regards to initialising this procedure?

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert service.]

  • Edward posted:

    on 21st July 2016, 20:22:51 - Reply

    I am married to a French lady and over 60, would you send me the information you posted about? Please

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Anton posted:

    on 18th July 2016, 18:03:54 - Reply

    Re: No language test. I've got the details of what you need to have if you are applying on the basis of marriage and it definitely says that those over 60 don't need to prove your language skills. I expect but am not sure that that is the case if you are applying on the basis of length of time in France.
  • Jackie posted:

    on 13th July 2016, 20:41:51 - Reply

    I read somewhere that if you live in France for 5 years and are over 60 you can obtain citizenship without taking language test - does anybody know if this is correct?

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Arj posted:

    on 13th July 2016, 16:36:55 - Reply

    I am naturalised British citizen. I currently live in England. I am planning to move to France and get French citizenship Can you please guide me that what I need to do regarding this what are the requirements? How many years I need to stay in France out of how many years?
    At the time of citizenship do I need to show proof of employment or money or something else?
    Looking forward for some advice.
    Thank you

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Thiru posted:

    on 12th July 2016, 10:25:20 - Reply

    I am an Indian citizen born to a french mother. I filed my application in India and got a confirmation in Oct 2011. I went to the local consulat couple of times to follow up and I was told I will be notified about any further confirmation. Its been 5 years since I was told my application is complete but never they decided.
    I am currently in australia for my PhD. If I want to follow up my app and find out its status whom should I be contacting ? The local consulat in India where I filed my app ? or through local consulat in Aus ? or directly to france ? only by post ?

    Kindly advise. Thanks in advance.


    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Castagna posted:

    on 7th July 2016, 16:36:49 - Reply

    I am an American married to an EU citizen, thus I have a right to a Permanent Residence card or did anyway. However, when I showed the prefecture in Draguignan (VAR) this information which is available on the French government website, they didn't want to know. Also, the government website says that people applying for citizenship are not required to provide a language certificate if they are over 60. Draguignan has written on their citizenship list age 70. How do you fight that?

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • David posted:

    on 6th July 2016, 15:28:41 - Reply

    Dear Tim,

    I am British, my wife (now deceased) was French by birth and British by naturalization. My daughter was born in Singapore and on her return to France was able to obtain a French passport in addition to her British one, which was issued in Singapore. This seems roughly in line with your situation.

    I believe that the most important aspect is the registration of her birth at the nearest French consulate and then using this registration to obtain a French birth certificate in France. With this French birth certificate she can obtain a French passport.

    I'm afraid that I do not know whether there is a time limit to the consular registration, nor whether you or your wife or your daughter need to be resident in France.

  • murtaza posted:

    on 5th July 2016, 23:20:35 - Reply

    hey sir i am murtaza anwar i am pakistani national and i lived in france last 6 in half year but my father is british national who can i apply french residencies it,s posable i am 33 and still single reply me thanks

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • David posted:

    on 5th July 2016, 21:46:08 - Reply

    Dear fiona,
    I'm not quite sure how this website functions. My e-mail address is: david@pinnington.com should you have any more information on this law.
    Thank you, David

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • David posted:

    on 5th July 2016, 11:24:59 - Reply

    Dear fiona,
    I tick all the boxes: I have a French daughter, I am 72 and have been resident in France for 29 years.
    Could you tell me how to obtain a copy of the new law and when it will come into force?
    Thank you,

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • fiona posted:

    on 4th July 2016, 21:02:40 - Reply

    Under a new law you will soon be able to get french nationality by being the parent or grandparent of a french national but only if you are 65 or older and have lived in France for more than 25 years.
  • Andy posted:

    on 3rd July 2016, 09:49:24 - Reply

    Hello, are your chances nullified if you have been in receipt of RSI of Caf at the time of application or at all during the 3 year period prior to applying?

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Sarah posted:

    on 29th June 2016, 00:36:43 - Reply

    I am planing to study my bachelor degree in France (I want to get the student visa), so I wanted to ask, does the years that I spend in France on student visa count or not?

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • tim posted:

    on 27th June 2016, 16:35:25 - Reply

    I am British, my ex wife has dual French/British nationality> our daughter was born in the UK and lives in the UK.
    Is she entitled to French citizenship because of her mother's French nationality?

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • ghazalamalik posted:

    on 26th June 2016, 13:46:21 - Reply

    Hello. I am a Pakistani. My name is Ghazala Malik. My husband is a French national.i have a daughter as well.can I apply for the nationality? Can I have number of your correspondent here in Pakistan?
    Thank you.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • may1 posted:

    on 24th June 2016, 14:25:25 - Reply

    I am british born but have a french passport obtained by marriage back in the 70s issued by the consul in London. after the divorce I allowed the passport to expire - can I renew the passport now - do I still have french nationality I have since remarried but have never given up french nationality just didn't renew the passport.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • mustafa posted:

    on 26th April 2016, 07:36:32 - Reply

     I am an Afghan I live in Kabul I want french residency please help me what document you need


    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Rajkumar posted:

    on 3rd March 2016, 13:02:23 - Reply

    thanks for sharing....i have one doubt...my grand father and grand mother already had french nationality..we're indians now my mother was applied for french nationality. i want to know there is any possibilities for get nationality to my mother.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Morwrei posted:

    on 26th February 2016, 11:55:36 - Reply

    Hi, I've been living in France for 15 years. y daughter was also born here 18 years ago but we went back to the US for 3 years before returning to France. My ex husband is French so she is also French and American both. I also have a son attending University here who has also lived here for 15 years. My other son who lived here for 8 years is back in the US but wants to return to France but he has been gone for 7 years so not sure what to do to get him back. My main question is what is the fastest way for me to go about becoming French? Would it be since I am the parent of a French national or since I've lived here 15 years. Thanks.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Waleed posted:

    on 13th January 2016, 21:33:34 - Reply

    Sir We Live in greece we are residence of greek we from pakistan and we want to come france because we dont have work here we have family 1 chlidren and wife husbend we want to settlement in france with legal taype we have all paper but we dont have france work parment so what kind of law for us .please help us we are in trouble please help us

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Sheldon posted:

    on 11th January 2016, 17:14:27 - Reply


    My father and Grandmother are born and raised in Guadeloupe, however I was born in the Commonwealth of Dominica and would like to apply for my National Identite.

    I can speak French moderately and am able to get around if in a French country, what must I do to get my national identite? Thank you in advance.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Darcy posted:

    on 4th December 2015, 01:48:03 - Reply

    I am looking for the name of a good lawyer in France that understands the laws in regards to family laws and child support between Canada and France. Any help is appreciated.
  • Pegah posted:

    on 2nd November 2015, 10:41:02 - Reply

    I was born in france in 1987 but i dont have nationality, there is a low which mention if my chil born in france she can have nationality automatically
    Is it true? Do i have to live there?
    Thanks a lot

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on Ask the Expert service]

  • patricia posted:

    on 28th October 2015, 16:19:10 - Reply

    If you are already a french citizen you can apply for a passport at the French Embassy or Consulate in your city.
    If you are not a French citizen, you need to apply for Citizenship first before you can apply for a passport. Again, contact the Embassy or consulate in your city.

  • Daynorys posted:

    on 20th October 2015, 17:29:55 - Reply

    Hi there..! My name is Daynorys,I'm cuban citizen and my husband is French citizen,we been married for 6 years now.But with are living in the UK. How can I apply for a French Passport living in the Uk.
    Please if anyone can help me with any information related to my situation, will be very helpful.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on Ask the Expert service]

  • Frankie posted:

    on 15th October 2015, 10:18:32 - Reply

    Hi, Do I need to get marriage certificate etc translated?

  • Ledian posted:

    on 9th October 2015, 18:50:56 - Reply

    Hi I am the 4th generation of French descent born in Cuba of last name Fontanille since my grandfathers' mother was Manola Fontanille mother of my grandfather Alfredo Rubio Fontanille . I Live in USA and I nerd to know what to do to Get my French citicenship.please anyone could help me???? My e-mail is lediantorres@yahoo.com thankss God bless

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on Ask the Expert service]

  • isaac posted:

    on 1st October 2015, 07:50:03 - Reply

    All what you stated here are theoritical in pratical he doesn't applicable. In france each department has thier own law which is different from one department to another. Ironically there is no central law in france that governs how you can get your right to stay or your citizenship, some people live in france more than 10years renew more than 5 times temoprary "card de sejour" yet they were not given right to become a citizen nor permanet resident!. in this case he doesn't matter you renew 5 times or you stay in the country more than 5 years or more all the depends on the decission of the "perfect" of each department.

  • Tany posted:

    on 21st September 2015, 14:15:23 - Reply

    Hi there - I was wondering if anyone replied to you on this? Or if you have received any info you can share? Thanks!
  • singh posted:

    on 16th September 2015, 17:08:31 - Reply

    I am indin and I want residence card in France..what documents needs ?please reply

    [Moderator's note: Please post questions on our Ask the Expert service]

  • roselle posted:

    on 15th September 2015, 03:48:07 - Reply

    hi please help me about visit in my mom to france,she is resedens in france she work there in more than 15 years but she prblm is she dnt knw how to apply invitation to her fmly bcoz she apply in single mother when she come in frnce and now she so hard to invite me and my fmly bcoz im married now so plse help us how to visit my mom ?

    [Moderator's note: Please post questions on our Ask the Expert service]

  • Irene posted:

    on 3rd August 2015, 20:41:02 - Reply

    Thank you very much for your informative post. One thing it doesn't mention, however, is the vital importance of one's professional and financial situation to be able to apply for French citizenship by naturalization. In order to be eligible, the applicant has to show HELTHY tax returns for the last three years prior to application (as a proof of his or her "stable and sufficient income", as the French authorities call it), and the proof of adequate employment, also for the last three years. Until recently, only applicants holding a CDI (a permanent work contract) were eligible for citizenship by naturalization; a couple of years ago, however, this was waived and now any person exercising a profession (even self-employed or those registered as unemployed, provided his resources are still "stable and sufficient") can apply. However, receiving any kinds of social benefits such as RSI or CAF basically nullifies one's chance of positive outcome.

    This is a hugely important, vital aspect that most French citizenship advisors somehow tend to overlook.
  • Aidile posted:

    on 11th June 2015, 23:40:54 - Reply

    How big of a chance if someone who was adopted by a French citizen applies for a French citizen despite not being well versed in the language? They've lived in the country for 4 years now, and I know it would be best to wait for the 5th year but is it possible to process it faster if there was this kind of situation, or not?

    [Moderator's note: Please post questions on our Ask the Expert service]

  • edwin posted:

    on 10th May 2015, 01:01:15 - Reply

    I have a spanish residence permit and a spanish driver licence and my fiancee and i have three kids my fiancee have the french residence permit and we are planing to marry and after the marraige i will join my family in france ,my question is ,after the marriage i will apply for french document so i can live in france ,is it possible for me to use my spanish driver licence and there in france, and again is it allowed to have two eu residence permit?,iam confused about all this

    [Moderator's note: Please post your questions in our forums.]

  • HenryStAnge posted:

    on 26th April 2015, 01:09:39 - Reply

    My wife wants to stay in French Martinique and I have my Carte Senjour. What document(s) do I need in order for my wife to stay for a few months in the french country?

    [Moderator's note: Please post your questions on our forums

  • Jw posted:

    on 4th February 2015, 19:21:43 - Reply

    The French, and generally speaking, French Africa are widely considered dodgy folk. What assurance do I have that if I strictly follow the instructions to naturalisation (bearing in mind that I will be bring about a couple thousand Euros with me to France) that after 2 or 5 years, apply for and get French citizenship? Afterall, I've already heard a few complaints, besides Michell's story
  • charlie posted:

    on 18th November 2014, 08:42:07 - Reply

    Can you qualify for dual nationality if you have a French grandparent?
    [Moderator's note: Please direct questions to our Ask the Expert free service]

  • JACK posted:

    on 6th January 2014, 20:42:36 - Reply

    I was born in Algeria (a French Department) at the time. I have a birth certificate with Filiation. I have lived in Algeria for 19 years, went to school, worked, paid taxes, but now I want to apply for French Citizenship but I was rejected because my father was not French. does it make sense?
  • Michell posted:

    on 28th October 2013, 20:08:58 - Reply

    I am Swiss and have been married to my husband for 18 years. We live in Botswana and last year we decided to apply for my citizenship (as everyone except me is a French citizen). Even though they (the embassy) know that we are together we had to provide the title deeds for our home and even though I speak perfect French I still had to prove that I had studied in French, I sent my University degree from Geneva and the Consul told me that she was not sure if it would be accepted. Its been a year and still no news.
  • Therese posted:

    on 25th September 2013, 14:30:55 - Reply

    What level of French do you need to have?
  • Lesley posted:

    on 6th September 2013, 22:14:42 - Reply

    I was wondering, I just got married to a French national, I know i have to wait the 4 years etc....however i was wondering if anyone can give me an idea of the type of questions asked in the interview? I was told at the embassy its just to make sure that you can get along on a daily basis in a French country but i'm not sure what that means. Can anyone help please?
  • Irene posted:

    on 16th March 2013, 21:31:16 - Reply

    Thank you very much for the excellent post! Another important point which, I'm afraid, is not covered here is that the so-called "integration into the local community" criteria must include a _work contract_ with a salary of no less than 1,5 SMIC (about 1600 euro). I'm surprised that this highly important detail is not covered by most articles on the subject of French citizenship; however,if one can't show "ressources souffisantes et regulieres" of at least 1,5 SMIC a month, one can effectively forget about ever acquiring French citizenship. And finding a job that pays this sort of money in France is no small feat!
  • T posted:

    on 11th November 2012, 01:21:17 - Reply

    No need to give up current nationality..
  • Frank Jackson posted:

    on 9th November 2012, 20:42:11 - Reply

    Do you have to give up current nationality to become French ?
  • Mary B. Adams posted:

    on 7th November 2012, 14:12:44 - Reply

    Thanks for this writeup. Concerning the application time, you wrote "up to 18 months from the initial submission" but in fact I was told up to 18 months following the initial interview... which is even longer.