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The Path to French Citizenship Part I

For Americans there is no easy way to get permission to live and work in France. I’m currently on a student visa which allows me to stay and work part-time in France, but the first year on that visa is quickly running out. While student visas can be renewed, it comes at the cost of paying for either university or French courses. Luckily for me there is a chance that I can become a dual citizen by applying for French Nationality. There are a few different ways to become a French citizen but in my case I will be applying through two generations of grandmothers of whom were born in France.

My great-grandmother was born in France and moved to the US after WWII bringing with her my grandmother who was only a baby at the time. There is a lot written on the internet about who qualifies for French citizenship, some places I’ve found that grandchildren do not qualify for French citizenship through their grandparents while other places I’ve found people in just that situation claiming that it had worked for them. After a couple years of research and wishing I could gain dual nationality with France I was ready to apply. Living in France means I would submit my application to the local tribunal d’instance. After searching out the website for my local office, I found their list of required documents specific to each type of person wishing to apply for citizenship. This is where I finally found the most convincing evidence yet that I may actually be successful in my application for French citizenship – it specifically lists children born to French grandparents provided they were present at the child’s birth.


Documents I would have to submit to prove my right to French nationality were obviously both of my grandparents’ birth certificates. This was actually much easier than I expected it to be. To obtain their birth certificates I sent a letter to the marie (or city hall) in the city that each of them were born in along with a self-addressed prepaid envelope for them to mail the certificates back in. On the letter I included who I was and what I wanted along with my grandmothers’ names, date and place of birth, and their parents names. Surprisingly the birth certificates were sent to me within three days of my request, lightning fast for something in France. Along with two generations of grandparents in France, I had to submit both my own and my fathers original birth certificates from back home in the US. Both of our birth certificates had to be translated by an official translator, or assermenter translator, which cost me 30 euros each. The last thing I needed was proof of residence in France, for which I used my proof of renters insurance issued by my bank. I’ve always heard that the French love paperwork so I added a few other documents to my application one of which was my employment contract. I figured proof of a permanent work contract couldn’t hurt my application.

With all my documents collected and my application form filled out I headed to the tribunal d’instance in town to submit my paperwork. It was a bit nerve-wracking waiting to speak with the women waiting behind the window to accept my application because I knew I would have to speak some French. I’ve read at some point during the application process I will have to have some sort of interview to prove my level of French is sufficient to carry out normal day-to-day life in France. While I can speak some French, I was banking on the process taking some time and that test not being anytime soon, however I still had to talk to the woman at the window when I turned in my application. I was afraid she could have deemed my level too low right then and there and tossed my file in the trash. Luckily I stumbled my way through it with only a bit of English from the woman and in the end it was extremely easy.

I’ve heard the process of applying for French citizenship could take as much as a year or longer. The woman who accepted my file didn’t tell me how long I should expect to wait for a response but from what she said I left feeling like it may not take as long as I’ve read. She took my phone number and said if she needed anything else from me she would let me know and other than that they would send my certificate of nationality in the mail. I doubt it will be as easy and straightforward as she made it sound but I will be crossing my fingers that it is. Now I just wait for a response…

Continue reading – The Path to French Citizenship Part II

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