May 15, 2024


 min read

French Citizenship: Everything You Need to Know








French Citizenship: Everything You Need to Know


Why France?

France, with its rich cultural heritage and high standard of living, is an attractive destination for immigrants and visitors alike. France has experienced significant waves of immigration, with a notable surge commencing around 1850 and persisting steadily thereafter. The majority of immigrants came from neighboring countries such as Italy, Spain, Belgium, and Switzerland, and they were quickly integrated into the national population. In recent decades, France has also seen a substantial influx of immigrants from Arabic-speaking countries, particularly from North Africa, including Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. This migration was initially driven by France's labor needs during the post-World War II economic boom and has continued due to both political unrest and economic opportunities.

It is the world's seventh-largest economy, and its capital, Paris, is a principal global city with significant influences in politics, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts. France's diverse climate and geography, along with its population of over 68 million people, of which about 12.5% are immigrants, make it a microcosm of global culture and an ongoing beacon for people seeking new opportunities in Europe.

While taxes may run high in France, they correspond to extensive social benefits, underpinning the nation's attractiveness for relocation and residency. As a leading country in the European Union, France plays a significant role in European politics and economics, enhancing the value of its citizenship. Obtaining French citizenship unlocks one of the world's most influential passports, affording unparalleled mobility and residency privileges across Europe.

Benefits of French Citizenship

Obtaining French citizenship brings with it a range of legal, social, economic, and political benefits that enhance the overall quality of life for citizens, as outlined below. 

Visa-Free Travel

French citizens enjoy visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 188 countries, including the USA, UK, Canada, and countries across the EU. This extensive travel freedom not only facilitates personal and business travel but also reflects France's strong international relations, enhancing global mobility and opportunities for cultural and economic exchange. This unrestricted access contributes significantly to the more than 25 million international trips made by French citizens annually.

Right to Vote and Participate in Elections

As a fundamental democratic right, French nationals are entitled to vote in all national, local, and EU elections. This participation enables citizens to influence political decisions and actively engage in shaping the policies of both their country and the European Union.

Right to Hold Public Office

French citizenship provides the opportunity to stand for public office, offering a platform to contribute to and lead within governmental and legislative frameworks. This is crucial for a representative democracy and allows for diverse leadership. Approximately 10% of the French legislature is composed of individuals with an immigrant background, illustrating the inclusivity of the political system.

Consular Protection Abroad

French citizens traveling or living abroad benefit from the protection and assistance of France’s global network of embassies and consulates. In 2023, French consular service were instrumental in assisting over 50,000 nationals abroad, showcasing the government's commitment to its citizens’ safety worldwide.

Unrestricted Entry and Exit

French citizens can freely enter and exit France without restrictions, a privilege that underscores the country's commitment to the free movement of its people. This right is particularly beneficial for personal and professional mobility, with over 20 million French citizens traveling internationally each year.

Social Benefits and Services

The French healthcare system is often highlighted as exemplary, regularly ranked among the top globally for both performance and accessibility. France allocates significant resources to social benefits, including health care, unemployment insurance, and family support services. Additionally, the country's unemployment rate has been improving, with a decrease to around 7.4% in early 2023. 

Access to Higher Education

French citizens benefit from highly subsidized higher education and access to prestigious institutions. In recent years, the government has also increased funding for scholarships and financial aid, making higher education more accessible to all. In 2023, over 2.9 million students were enrolled in higher education across France. France is home to some of the world's best institutions, such as the Sorbonne and Ecole Normale Supérieure. 

Property Ownership

French citizens face fewer restrictions on property ownership, which can include incentives and lower tax rates for property acquisition and ownership, fostering a stable real estate market. Over 60% of French citizens owned their homes, supported by favorable mortgage rates and government programs.

Business Ownership and Investment

French nationals often experience fewer barriers in business operations and may have access to government grants and incentives, promoting entrepreneurship and investment within the country. In 2020, France had approximately 4.2 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which make up 99.9% of the total business population. From 2020 to 2022, the total number of firms increased by 7.7%.

Inheritance and Succession Rights

French law ensures that citizens have the right to inherit property and pass on assets, providing financial security and continuity for future generations. In France, over €100 billion is passed down each year through inheritance, demonstrating the significance of these rights.

Military Service

While military service in France is voluntary, citizens who enlist gain access to specialized training and career opportunities, further enhancing their professional and personal development. 

Citizenship for the Whole Family

French citizenship laws extend benefits to immediate family members, promoting family reunification and providing a supportive environment for families to thrive in France. This includes spouses, children, and parents, with family reunification processes facilitating over 10,000 new citizenships annually.

Tax Benefits

French citizens benefit from a progressive tax system and are not taxed on worldwide income unless they reside in France. This system, combined with various tax treaties, minimizes the tax burden, making it financially advantageous for global citizens. In 2023, the number of French citizens taking advantage of double taxation treaties exceeded 500,000, reflecting the financial benefits of French citizenship.

French Dual Citizenship

Approximately 40% of the population in France possess dual citizenship. French law officially recognized the allowance of multiple citizenship for both men and women on January 9, 1973. This legal recognition means that holding more than one nationality does not impact an individual's French citizenship status. 

Acquiring French citizenship while already holding citizenship from another country involves certain conditions. These conditions typically include demonstrating integration into French society, such as proficiency in the French language and knowledge of French culture, as well as meeting tax residency requirements. Once these conditions are met, individuals can apply for French citizenship without renouncing their existing citizenship.

Dual citizenship in France offers numerous benefits, including the ability to live, work, and study in both France and the individual's other country of citizenship without restrictions. It also provides access to various social services and benefits available to French citizens, including healthcare and education. Additionally, dual citizens can participate fully in the political process in both countries, exercising their right to vote and run for office. 

How to Get French Citizenship?

Gaining French citizenship involves several pathways, primarily naturalization, marriage, and descent. Each route has its own  peculiarities and requirements, as described below. 

Citizenship by Birth

France recognizes citizenship by birth, but it is not automatically granted to all children born on French soil or in its overseas territories. Generally, children inherit the nationality of their parents, meaning children born to foreign nationals in France will also be foreign nationals.

However, there are exceptions to this rule:

  • If one parent was born in France, the child may claim French citizenship regardless of the parent's nationality.
  • If a parent was born in Algeria before its independence from French colonial rule.
  • If the child would be stateless otherwise.

Children born in France who wish to obtain citizenship by birth must meet certain criteria:

  • Children aged between 13 and 16 must have resided in France continuously since they were 8 years old.
  • Those aged between 16 and 18 must have lived in France continuously from the age of 11. At 18, the state automatically initiates citizenship proceedings for them if they meet these residency requirements.
  • Young adults over 18 are eligible for French citizenship if they have lived in France since the age of six, attended school in France, and have a sibling who is a French citizen.

Citizenship by Descent

French citizenship by descent is primarily available to children with at least one French parent. However, the parent must have maintained significant ties with France for their child to be eligible for citizenship.

Children are less likely to qualify for French citizenship if the parent has resided outside of France for 40 years. Eligibility for citizenship by descent requires that the child or their parent has maintained a connection with France for at least 50 years. Alternatively, applicants can qualify if they demonstrate substantial economic, cultural, familial, military, or professional ties to France.

Furthermore, grandparents and parents of French children can also apply for citizenship by descent if they are over the age of 65 and have lived in France for at least 25 years.

Citizenship by Marriage

French citizenship through marriage provides a pathway for non-French individuals married to French citizens to acquire French nationality. This process allows them to permanently join their spouse in France.

To qualify for citizenship via marriage, applicants must satisfy specific criteria and submit the necessary documentation to establish their eligibility. The key requirements include:

  • Being married to a French citizen for at least four years.
  • Residing in France for a minimum of three years following the marriage, with at least one of those years being continuous.

These conditions ensure that the marriage is stable and the non-French spouse is well integrated into French society.

Citizenship by Adoption

In France, there are two main types of adoption: simple adoption and plenary adoption. Simple adoption maintains the child's legal ties with their biological family, akin to an open adoption. Conversely, plenary adoption, similar to closed adoption, completely severs these ties.

French citizenship is granted only through plenary adoption. Under French law, children who are plenary adopted are treated as if they are the biological children of the adoptive parents, affording them the same rights, including eligibility for citizenship. The process for these children to acquire citizenship is relatively straightforward, requiring basic documentation, though specific timelines must be adhered to, which can vary based on the individual's age and other circumstances.

Eligibility criteria for acquiring citizenship through adoption include:

  • The individual must have been born or adopted in France, or have at least one parent who is a French citizen.
  • At least one parent must have resided in France for a minimum of five years. This duration may be reduced under certain conditions, such as if the parent is serving as a civil servant abroad.

French Citizenship by Investment

While France does not offer a direct citizenship by investment program, it does have the French Tech Visa. This visa is part of the broader French Tech initiative aimed at bolstering the French tech ecosystem and positioning France as a global hub for technology innovation.

The French Tech Visa is a fast-track visa program targeted at attracting foreign tech talent to France. It facilitates the entry and residence of qualified individuals who wish to work in the French tech sector. This program encompasses several categories of tech professionals:

  • Start-up Employees: Individuals employed by start-ups that are recognized as part of the French Tech Hubs are eligible for this visa.
  • Scale-up Employees: Those working for scale-ups that have been endorsed by the French Tech Mission can also apply.
  • Investors and Entrepreneurs: Investors and entrepreneurs with a project validated by the French Tech Mission are eligible to apply for this visa.

The French Tech Visa grants a four-year renewable residence permit, enabling holders to live and work in France. It simplifies the application process and offers additional benefits, including access to business incubators, co-working spaces, and various networking events, all designed to support their professional activities within France. Citizenship is available after 5 years of residency. 

French Foreign Legion Citizenship

After serving in the French Foreign Legion for three years, a legionnaire can formally request naturalization. To qualify for French citizenship, the individual must have served honorably and under their real identity, which must be recognized by the French government. However, in practice, the approval process for citizenship typically requires more than five years of service, often around eight years.

Additionally, there is another route to citizenship for legionnaires: if they are seriously wounded during a military operation, this "blood price" can qualify them for naturalization. This rule acknowledges the sacrifices made by foreign legionnaires in service to France.

French Citizenship for Students

To apply for French citizenship, an individual generally needs to have resided in France for at least five years with a regular residence permit. It is important to note that time spent in France under a student visa does not count towards these five years of required residency.

However, there is an exception for those who have obtained a French diploma. For these individuals, the residency requirement is reduced to only two years. This special provision is designed to facilitate the pathway to citizenship for international students who graduate from French institutions, recognizing their educational commitment and integration into French society.

This policy aims to attract and retain skilled individuals who have been educated in France and are likely to contribute positively to the country's economy and cultural life.

French Citizenship by Naturalization

For individuals over the age of 18 who have resided legally and continuously in France for five years, applying for citizenship by naturalization is a viable option. However, applicants must fulfill several specific requirements:

  • Proficiency in the French language at a minimum level of B1.
  • A good understanding of French culture, history, and society.
  • Stable and sufficient income to support themselves and their household.
  • No criminal convictions resulting in imprisonment of six months or more.

The standard five-year residency requirement can be reduced under certain conditions. For example:

  • If an individual has graduated from a French higher education institution after two years of study, they may apply for citizenship after only two years.
  • If an individual has demonstrated an exceptional integration into French society through sports, culture, or another significant contribution, the waiting period might be shortened.

There are also specific scenarios where individuals might be eligible for French citizenship without the standard waiting period:

  • Refugees.
  • Individuals who have served in the French military.
  • Those who joined the French or an allied military during a time of war.
  • Individuals who have performed exceptional services for France.

These provisions recognize and reward contributions to French society and the commitment of individuals integrating into and enriching the country.

French Citizenship Requirements

When applying for French citizenship, the documentation and requirements vary depending on the route taken: citizenship by descent, citizenship by marriage, citizenship by naturalization, or citizenship by birth or adoption. Please see the table below.

Type of citizenship Required Documents
Citizenship by Descent The French parent’s birth certificate.
The applicant's birth certificate.
The marriage certificate of the applicant’s parents.
Proof of the French parent’s citizenship.
Evidence of the French parent’s residency if living abroad.
Relevant documentation, such as a divorce decree or adoption papers, if applicable.
Additional Requirements:
The applicant cannot have a conviction for any serious crime.
The applicant must not have engaged in activities harmful to France's interests.
Renunciation of any other citizenship upon acquiring French citizenship, if applicable.
Citizenship by Marriage A valid passport or other form of ID.
A passport photo.
Two signed copies of the declaration form.
Marriage certificate.
Proof of the French spouse’s citizenship.
Evidence of shared residency (e.g., utility bills, rental contract).
Proof of the spouse’s French language proficiency (e.g., language test, diploma).
Criminal record certificates from the spouse's home country and France.
Evidence of dissolution of any previous marriages, if applicable.
Additional Requirements:
Demonstrable integration into French culture and society.
Renunciation of any other citizenship upon acquiring French citizenship, if applicable.
Citizenship by Naturalization Proof of ID (ID card or passport).
Proof of residency in France (e.g., rental contract, utility bills).
French language proficiency certificate.
Criminal record certificates from the applicant’s home country and France.
Evidence of integration into French society (e.g., employment contract, volunteer work).
Additional Requirements:
Renunciation of any other citizenship, if applicable, upon acquiring French citizenship.
The application process may take up to two years.
Citizenship by Birth or Adoption Proof of ID (ID card or passport).
Birth certificate or decree of adoption.
Proof of a parent’s French citizenship or their residency in France.
If born outside of France, proof of the parent’s French nationality at the time of birth.
Additional Requirements:
If born in France to non-French parents, application for French citizenship can be made before the child turns 18.
If born to French parents outside of France, application for citizenship is possible until the child turns 18.
Those adopted must be at least 16 before the adoption is finalized.

Each path to French citizenship has specific requirements tailored to the circumstances of the applicant, emphasizing proof of identity, residency, integration, and loyalty to French values and laws.

Applying for French Citizenship

Obtaining French citizenship can be a significant milestone, and the process involves several steps and requirements. The general steps involved in applying for French citizenship are as follows:

Determine Eligibility

Before applying, ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria. This can include residing in France for a continuous period (typically five years), proving integration into French society (such as language proficiency, real estate ownership, a current French bank account,etc.), and having a stable income.

Gather Required Documents

You will need a variety of documents, including:

  • Proof of identity and nationality (e.g., passport).
  • Proof of residence in France (e.g., residence permit, utility bills).
  • Birth and marriage certificates (if applicable), translated into French.
  • Proof of financial stability (e.g., tax returns, pay slips).
  • French language proficiency certificates.
  • Any documents related to criminal records to prove good character.

Application Form

Complete the application form for naturalization. This form can be obtained from your local prefecture or downloaded from the official French administration website.


After submitting your application, you may be required to attend an interview where you will be asked about your reasons for applying, your understanding of the French language, and your knowledge of French culture and society.

Final Decision

The prefecture will review your application and make a decision. This process can take several months. If your application is successful, you will be invited to attend a citizenship ceremony.

Citizenship Ceremony

During the ceremony, you will be required to sign a charter agreeing to adhere to the principles and values of the French Republic. After this, you will receive a French nationality certificate and apply for a passport. It typically takes 2-4 weeks to receive a French passport.

How to Get French Citizenship as an American?

Obtaining French citizenship as an American involves fulfilling several stringent criteria, primarily centered around residency and integration into French society. 

To begin, you must have lived in France for at least five consecutive years on a suitable residence permit. 

Initially, the residency starts with a long-stay visa, which must be converted into a residence permit. The French government offers various types of residence permits based on your stay's purpose, including options for financially-independent persons, students, workers, and family reunification.

Once you establish long-term residency, you must demonstrate your integration into French society. This includes proving proficiency in the French language, typically validated through a B1 level language test in accordance with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Applicants are also required to show their knowledge of French society and adherence to its values, often necessitating the completion of integration courses or a civics test. 

The application process itself involves gathering and submitting a comprehensive dossier of documents to the local prefecture, including proof of identity, financial stability, language proficiency, and cultural integration. Following the submission, an interview may be conducted to further evaluate your ties to France. Approval can take over a year, but successful applicants are invited to a naturalization ceremony, marking the formal grant of French citizenship. Notably, France permits dual citizenship, allowing Americans to retain their U.S. citizenship alongside their new French nationality.

4 Tips to Get France Citizenship by Golden Harbors Experts

Golden Harbors Experts, with our profound insight into French immigration laws and processes, ensure a streamlined and effective pathway for clients aspiring to acquire French citizenship. Drawing on our vast experience in facilitating citizenship application process, here are four essential tips to enhance your prospects:

  1. Comply with Residency Requirements
    To qualify for French citizenship, you must fulfill specific residency requirements. Generally, you need to legally hold your residency status in France for at least five years and show ties to the country (having real estate, bank account, insurance, etc.) This shows your commitment and integration into French society, which are key factors considered in your citizenship application.

  2. Demonstrate Language Proficiency and Cultural Integration
    A critical requirement for French citizenship is demonstrating proficiency in the French language. Applicants are usually required to pass a language test, showing they can speak French to a level consistent with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages at B1 or higher. Additionally, showing an understanding of French history, culture, and values can greatly support your application. Engaging in community events and cultural activities can provide tangible proof of your integration.

  3. Stable Employment and Economic Contribution
    Having stable employment or a steady source of monthly income (at least €3,000) in France plays a significant role in your citizenship application. This demonstrates your economic integration and ability to support yourself and any dependents. Continuous employment and financial stability can significantly strengthen your application, showing you are a contributing member of society.

  4. Professional Advice and Legal Assistance
    Navigating the path to citizenship can be complex. Therefore, consulting with professionals who specialize in French immigration law is highly recommended. Golden Harbors can guide you through the application process, ensuring you meet all legal requirements, help in preparing and submitting all necessary documents, and provide assistance in overcoming any potential challenges along the way.


How Hard is it to Get French Citizenship?

In general, it is not hard to get French citizenship. However, it can be quite challenging, as it involves meeting strict requirements such as a minimum 5-year residency, language proficiency at a B1 level, and a solid understanding of French culture and history. Applicants must also demonstrate economic stability and have a clean criminal record. 

What is the Easiest Way to Get French Citizenship?

The easiest way to obtain French citizenship is often through descent, where having at least one French parent automatically qualifies you. Another streamlined path is through marriage to a French citizen, especially if you have been married and living in France for at least 3 years. Additionally, graduates of French higher education institutions can benefit from a reduced residency requirement, needing only 2 years in France to apply for citizenship. Each of these methods comes with its own set of requirements but generally involves less bureaucratic processing compared to other pathways.

How Long Does it Take to Get French citizenship?

The process of obtaining French citizenship can vary in duration, but it typically takes about 18 to 24 months from the time of application submission to receive a decision. This timeline can be influenced by several factors, such as the completeness and accuracy of the application, the specific circumstances of the applicant, and the workload of the processing office. Delays are not uncommon, and applicants may need to be prepared for a lengthy process.

Can You Get French Citizenship In 3 Years?

Yes, obtaining French citizenship in 3 years is possible under specific circumstances, such as serving in the French Foreign Legion, where members can apply for citizenship after 3 years of service. French law also does offer a reduced residency requirement of 2 years for individuals who have completed at least 2 years of study at a French higher education institution.

Can You Buy French Citizenship?

No, you cannot directly buy French citizenship. France does not offer a citizenship-by-investment program like some other countries. However, France has programs like the French Tech Visa, which can lead to residency for those who make significant economic contributions, but citizenship itself must be obtained through traditional routes such as naturalization, marriage, or descent, following the standard legal and residency requirements.

What Level of French Do You Need for Citizenship?

For French citizenship, applicants need to demonstrate a minimum level of B1. This intermediate level means you should be able to handle basic conversations in French, express opinions, understand main points in text or speech on familiar matters, and describe experiences and events in a straightforward manner. This language proficiency is a key requirement to ensure that applicants can effectively integrate into French society.

Can you Lose French Citizenship?

Yes, it is possible to lose French citizenship, although such cases are rare and occur under specific circumstances. French citizenship can be revoked if it was obtained through fraudulent means, such as false declarations or withholding relevant information, usually within 10 years of naturalization. Additionally, citizenship can be revoked for acts considered seriously detrimental to the national interests of France, such as terrorism. 

What is the Easiest EU Country to Get Dual Citizenship as an American?

The ease of obtaining dual citizenship in an EU country can vary greatly based on an individual's circumstances, such as ancestry, investment capabilities, and length of residency. Some of the EU countries considered relatively easier for Americans to obtain dual citizenship include:


Ireland offers one of the easiest pathways to dual citizenship for Americans who can claim Irish ancestry. If one of your grandparents was born in Ireland, you may be eligible for citizenship by descent. The process is straightforward and does not require you to live in Ireland.


Similar to Ireland, Italy allows Americans to claim citizenship through descent if they can prove that their ancestors were Italian and did not renounce their citizenship before emigrating. This can go back several generations, and there is no generational limit, making it a popular option for those with Italian heritage. Moreover, it is possible to apply for a Golden Visa in Italy and get citizenship after 10 years of residency. 


Portugal offers a path to citizenship with a relatively low residency requirement. After five years of legal residency, individuals can apply for citizenship. Portugal is also known for its Golden Visa program, which requires a significant investment but can lead to residency and eventual citizenship.


Spain offers a similar investment route with its Golden Visa program which leads to citizenship by naturalization after 10 years. Additionally, for Americans with Sephardic Jewish heritage, there is a streamlined process for claiming Spanish citizenship based on historical connections.


Residence Benefits

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Visa-free entry

to the EU and the Schengen area countries


Global mobility and freedom

within 3 months


Access to EU banking system

the right to open and service accounts in reliable class A EU banks


Global mobility and freedom

expansion, entry into the international market, filing a company in France allows you to renew a residence permit via a business for the whole family


Return on Investment

option to buy a real estate property with potential of passive income, and the prospect of selling assets in 5 years


Global mobility and freedom

for investors who have been in France for 5 years and have filed tax returns for the last two years


No restrictions on dual citizenship

there is no need to renounce your existing citizenship in the future when obtaining French passport


Global mobility and freedom

main applicant's family members (spouse, financially dependent parents and children) can apply for a residence permit as part of family reunion


Residence Permit

Processing Time and Terms

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Sign a service agreement, fill out application forms, and pay the initial service and due diligence fees.


Sign a service agreement, fill out application forms, and pay the initial service and due diligence fees.


we prepare the documents required for submission to the French Embassy and the French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII)


real estate property purchase or lease in France.


registration for a national visa "visiteur" at the Embassy of France.

visit France to register documents in OFII and register your residence permit.

There are Always Options to EXPAND YOUR BOUNDARIES! Let's Discuss Yours

Every client is unique

Every case requires an individual approach and solution. Our years of experience in the industry allow us to provide both.

We will answer all your questions and provide detailed information about the available second passport and residency programs to help you make the right choice.


Lead Attorney at Golden Harbors

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Lead Attorney at Golden Harbors