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A guide to French citizenship and permanent residence

27th March 2014, Comments10 comments

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

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 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 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.

Getting residency in the Netherlands: Dutch residence permits

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.

Read more:


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.


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



Updated from 2012



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10 comments on this article Add a comment

  • 7th November 2012, 14:12:44 Mary B. Adams posted:
    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.
  • 9th November 2012, 20:42:11 Frank Jackson posted:
    Do you have to give up current nationality to become French ?
  • 11th November 2012, 01:21:17 T posted:
    No need to give up current nationality..
  • 16th March 2013, 21:31:16 Irene posted:
    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!
  • 6th September 2013, 22:14:42 Lesley posted:
    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?
  • 25th September 2013, 14:30:55 Therese posted:
    What level of French do you need to have?
  • 28th October 2013, 20:08:58 Michell posted:
    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.
  • 6th January 2014, 20:42:36 JACK posted:
    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?
  • 18th November 2014, 08:42:07 charlie posted:

    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]

  • 4th February 2015, 19:21:43 Jw posted:
    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

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