A guide to French citizenship and permanent residence
After living in France for five years, 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 able to apply for permanent residence or become a French citizen. Both of these options allow you stay living in France, but there are some differences between the two.
A 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 (e.g. in education, at work, in healthcare), you don’t share them all – you can’t vote in elections or hold public office, for example.
If you become a French citizen, you also become a citizen of the EU, and would enjoy freedom of movement throughout the Union. You don’t have to give up your own nationality if you become a French citizen: you can have dual citizenship.
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 allowing 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 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.
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 two 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.
If you have been married to a French national for more than three years you can apply for permanent residence immediately. 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).
How to apply for a French permanent residence
You can apply at your local French préfecture (town hall). You’ll need to take along various documents, according to your personal situation. These may include documents proving your residence, an employment contract, bank statements, birth or marriage certificates and medical certificate.
Becoming a French citizen
You can become a French citizen with all the accompanying rights (like voting in French elections), through naturalisation, marriage or birth. 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);
- 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.
You can also become a French citizen after four years of marriage to a French citizen (five if you do not live together all the time), 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.
How to apply for French citizenship
If you fulfill the above conditions, you can apply for citizenship at your local préfecture. You’ll need your passport/national ID, birth certificate and proof of address, as well as other documents, which could include:
- a marriage certificate (if applicable).
- evidence of married life (e.g. joint tax notice, property deeds), if appropriate.
- French language diploma or certificate.
- evidence that you don’t have a criminal record.
- evidence of employment and residence in France.
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.
If you were born in France
Children born to foreign citizens on French soil can claim French citizenship on their 16th birthday and be granted full citizenship at 18 as long as France has been their main residence for five years since the age of 11.
If you are the foreign parents of a child aged at least 13 and resident in France since 8 years old, you can claim French citizenship on his or her behalf in front of a magistrate. If one of the parents has French citizenship and has lived in France for more than five years, a minor can also be naturalised.
For more information:
- 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.
- DIRECCTE – this is the French language website for the French Labour Ministry Directions régionales des entreprises, de la concurrence, de la consommation, du travail et de l'emploi. Go the main website and you can be redirected to the French region you need.
- 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.
- Service-Public – this website is for the French government's public services (in French). To find the contact details of your local mairie (town hall) see here, and for other local departments and public services, see here.
Note: the information in 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.
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Updated from 2012