After living in France for five years – or less in some cases – you can apply for French citizenship.
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. This time reduces in certain cases such as marriage to or a parent of 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 an application for French citizenship to maintain access to living in the European Union (EU).
However, no changes will be made to the freedom of movement of British citizens to France until the UK’s exit from the EU is negotiated, 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. As it’s renewable, theoretically you could keep living in France indefinitely with this status. However, while you share many of the same rights as French citizens, 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 EU. As a result, you 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 French dual citizenship.
In either case, a continuous stay in France for a set number of years is typically a French citizenship requirement. Your continuous stay can be void if you leave France for more than six consecutive months out of a total of 10 months; exceptions exist in certain cases. Ask your local authority, the prefecture (French administrative offices representing the government at a local level). Examples of exceptions include serious illness, maternity, military service, study, or research.
Permanent residence in France
Once you live in France for five continuous years, you may apply for a carte de resident. This is a renewable permanent residence permit that allows you to live in France for up to 10 years. Whether or not you receive this depends on your personal circumstances, such as the reason for your stay, employment and financial stability, how well you integrate into French society, and your language ability.
You lose the right to permanent residence if you leave France for more than two consecutive years.
Any EU/EEA/Swiss citizen who lives resident in France for five or more continuous years can apply for permanent residence without proving income or employment.
EU/EEA/Swiss nationals are no longer need to hold this permit. However, without it, they cannot qualify for state services, such as housing financial aid.
Non-EU/EEA/Swiss family members can also apply for permanent residence after five years. You 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 only three years if you are joining a family member in France who already has permanent residence, or if you are the parent of child with French nationality with temporary residence, on the basis of family reunification. 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 your marriage was less than three years ago, 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). They provide 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 cost depends on the reason for the request; it ranges from €269 for family reunification (€250 plus €19 for the duty stamp) to €19 for asylum seekers and veterans. If you already have a one-year residence card and don’t present it at the time of application, you must pay an additional €9.
How to get French citizenship
You can become a French citizen with all the accompanying rights through either naturalization, marriage, or birth. You must be over 18 and be living in France. It isn’t necessary to renounce your original nationality when you become a French citizen but can have dual nationality.
You can apply to become a naturalized 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 for two years, contributing to the radiance of France, or possessing an “exceptional course of integration” in civic action, science, economics, culture or sports, 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 becoming a French citizen through naturalization 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 €55; see the procedure, where to apply, and application form here (in French).
If you want to know how to 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 have a good knowledge of the French language.
The time requirement increases to five years in certain cases. For example, if you cannot prove you lived together continuously in France for at least three years since your wedding.
If you married abroad, before acquiring citizenship your marriage must be registered in the French civil registry.
If you were born in France or to a French parent
Children born to foreign citizens on French soil can claim French citizenship by descent on their 16th birthday. They then receive citizenship at 18 years old if France was 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 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. You can also naturalize a minor if one parent has French citizenship and lived in France for more than five years.
If you were not born in France but born to a French parent, you can apply for a demande d’attribution (based on droit du sang, or blood relation) at your town hall. See conditions for children here.
Exceptions for French citizenship
You can apply immediately for French citizenship, without the five-year waiting period, if you:
- served in the French military or contracted voluntary engagement in the French or allied armies in the time of war;
- qualify as a refugee;
- have contributed exceptional services to France;
- come from a country where French is the official language and attended a Francophone school for at least five years.
If a foreign-born person is the child of a French parent, citizenship may be obtained as of right by petitioning for a French nationality certificate. It isn’t live in France to make this application.
How to apply for French citizenship
- Two copies of the French nationality application form;
- Copies of ID of the applicant and spouse;
- Proof of address;
- Birth certificate (with a certified translation if not in French);
- Marriage certificate obtained within the last three months;
- Attestation sur l’honneur des 2 époux, a declaration of honor, which both spouses must sign at the préfecture or consulate;
- Evidence of the relationship 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 acquired sufficient knowledge of the French language;
- Evidence that you don’t have a criminal record;
- Marriage certificates from any previous marriages and official divorce papers;
- Proof that you lived in France for at least three years since your marriage (if you lived abroad, a document proving you resided in France for at least three years after your marriage or a document proving your spouse’s registration in the French registry during your time abroad);
- Proof of employment or financial support.
The police, mayor’s office, and other government departments assess applications. There may also be an interview with the police. The process can take up to two years.
Unless you present an official language certificate, have a disability, or are over 60, you’ll have an interview to verify French proficiency.
If successful, you become a French citizen at a naturalization ceremony. You’ll receive a national ID card and a French passport. Single dependents automatically become French if they live with you and are included in the naturalization 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) and see here, and for other local departments and public services, see here.
- France Diplomatie – the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- 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 (click “EN” in the top right corner for English). There are offices all over France; look on the website for contact details of your nearest one.