May 15, 2024


 min read

French Citizenship by Descent: The Ultimate Guide 2024








French Citizenship by Descent: The Ultimate Guide 2024


Citizenship by Descent: What Does It Mean?

Citizenship by descent refers to acquiring citizenship of a country based on one's ancestry. This method is often considered the most cost-effective route to obtaining a second citizenship. For individuals from countries like the United States, Canada, or Australia, it is quite possible that their forebears came from Europe, making them potential candidates for European citizenship-by-descent programs. These programs typically recognize the descendants of citizens who emigrated, were forced to leave, or were expelled during historical periods of significant upheaval or migration.

The process of securing a passport through this method can vary widely in difficulty, influenced heavily by the specific legal frameworks and requirements of each country. While the process may require considerable effort, including extensive research and bureaucratic navigation, the potential rewards are significant. Holding a second passport can provide greater personal freedom, increased travel options, and additional security in global uncertainties.

Moreover, while there might be some drawbacks to holding citizenship in more than one country, such as tax implications or additional legal responsibilities, the advantages, including enhanced mobility and access to social services, often significantly outweigh these considerations. This pathway is especially worth considering for those willing to dive deep into their family history and traverse the necessary legal landscapes to unlock the benefits of dual citizenship.

French Dual Citizenship by Descent

The importance of having an additional passport has been highlighted by the global context after 2020, driving many to reconsider their citizenship status. As a result, there has been a surge in interest in acquiring a second citizenship, especially within the European Union. 

France, in particular, has become a desirable destination for those looking to secure citizenship through descent. French dual citizenship allows an individual to be a citizen of both France and another country, enjoying the rights and privileges offered by both nations.

France has historically adhered to the 'jus soli' principle, or 'right of soil,' which grants citizenship to anyone born on its territory, similar to the law in the United States. However, in recent years, France has shifted more towards the 'jus sanguinis' or 'right of blood' approach, making descent an increasingly important factor in citizenship acquisition.

Under French law, citizenship by descent can be claimed if one of your parents is French. To qualify, applicants must provide proof of their French parent's nationality, which typically involves gathering essential documents such as birth certificates or national ID cards.

The process might get complicated if the French parent is estranged or if there are difficulties in obtaining the necessary documentation. In such cases, applicants might need to explore archives or find other means to demonstrate their connection to France.

French Citizenship by Ancestry Program (CAP) Overview

The French Citizenship by Ancestry Program (CAP), known also as citizenship by descent, focuses on individuals who wish to establish their citizenship through their direct lineage. This program is underpinned by Article 18 of the French Civil Code, which stipulates that a child with at least one French parent is entitled to French nationality.

Under this program, having a French grandparent can also significantly boost your eligibility for French nationality through ancestry. The key points about this program are that your place of birth and current residence do not impact your eligibility. Moreover, there is no requirement to have lived in France or speak French.

The program not only facilitates legal and economic mobility but also addresses more personal aspirations, such as connecting individuals to their familial roots and history. Each day, numerous inquiries are received from potential applicants eager to understand this process and secure a French Birth Certificate, an essential document for affirming their French heritage and claiming their citizenship rights.

Eligibility Requirements for French Citizenship by Ancestry

To be eligible for French citizenship through ancestry, you must have French roots. The following is an overview of the scenarios where you might qualify:

  • Parental Citizenship. If one of your parents was a French citizen at the time of your birth, you could be eligible for citizenship. This requires not only proof of your identity but also evidence that your parent was a French citizen.
  • Maternal Citizenship for Adults. Adults born abroad to a French mother (who was also born in France or another country) may claim French nationality if their mother had retained her French citizenship at the time of their birth. It is also necessary that the parent-child relationship be legally recognized while the individual is still a minor.
  • Transmission of Citizenship. French citizens can pass on their nationality to their children if they were French on the child's birthdate and the parent-child relationship was established during the child's minority.

The process requires that all preceding generations be registered as citizens before you can apply. For instance, if your parent derives their French roots from their parent, your grandparent, they must first secure their citizenship before you can apply for yours. Furthermore, your French citizenship needs to be confirmed and registered before you can apply for French passports for any children you might have.

Another critical factor is the requirement of a "possession d’état de Français” (ties with the country), which could disqualify you if neither you nor your parents have had any official interactions with France, such as passport renewals or voter registration, for over 50 years while residing abroad.

Having said that, understanding the requirements is crucial before you begin the application process for French citizenship by descent. You will need to submit the following supporting documents along with your application:

  • A passport for identity verification;
  • Your birth certificate to establish the parent-child relationship;
  • The French birth certificate of your French parent;
  • Documentation proving your parent’s French nationality, such as their passport, national ID, or a French nationality certificate;
  • Any relevant marriage certificates, especially if claiming citizenship through a French mother or father who was married at the time of your birth;
  • Official documents confirming the recognition of parentage if the parents were unmarried;
  • For adopted children, complete and officially recognized adoption papers are necessary.

In addition, applicants should have no serious criminal convictions and must not have engaged in activities deemed harmful to France’s interests. 

How Do Apply for French Citizenship by Descent?

Applying for French citizenship by descent involves a detailed and structured process, requiring applicants to meticulously prove their French lineage and fulfill specific administrative requirements. Below is a more detailed breakdown of each step involved in applying for French citizenship by descent:

Confirming Eligibility

To be eligible for French citizenship by descent, you must have a direct French ancestor. This means you must be the direct descendant (child, grandchild, or great-grandchild) of at least one French citizen. Verifying this involves checking that your ancestor was a French citizen at the time of your parent's birth and that citizenship was passed down appropriately through the generations.

Document Collection

Gathering the required documentation is crucial and can be time-consuming. Essential documents include a valid passport for proof of identity, recent utility bills or residence certificates for proof of residence, and birth certificates for both the applicant and their French ancestors to establish lineage. Evidence of the ancestors' French nationality, such as French ID cards, passports, or nationality certificates, along with marital status documents and, if required, proof of integration and French language proficiency, are vital for the application as well. 

Applying for the Certificate of French Nationality

The application for a certificate of French nationality is a formal request to be recognized as a French citizen. This certificate is pivotal, as it serves as official proof of your French citizenship. You must submit your application to the Department of Nationality for French People Born and Established Outside of France, typically located within French consulates. The application process requires a fee (around €55), payable in tax stamps at the French consulate.

Language and Cultural Integration

French citizenship by descent not only requires proving a bloodline but also demonstrating ties to French culture and language:

  • Language Proficiency. You must prove your ability to speak and understand French, typically through a language test. Educational credentials from French-speaking institutions may also be accepted.
  • Cultural Integration. Sometimes, an interview may be conducted to assess your integration into French culture and society, including knowledge about the country's customs, laws, and history.

Review Process

After submission, your application will undergo a review process by the French authorities. You will receive confirmation that your application has been received.The authorities will examine your documentation and background, which can take 8-16 months. They may request additional information if necessary.

Decision and Following Steps

If approved, you will receive a certificate of French nationality. With this certificate, you can apply for a French national ID card and a French passport. If your application is denied, you have the option to appeal. Appeals can be made through judicial avenues or directly to the Ministry of Justice.

Given the complexity of the process and the strict requirements, many applicants choose to hire legal professionals specializing in French nationality law to guide them through the process and increase their chances of success.

Other Options to Get French Citizenship from Golden Harbors Experts

Gaining French citizenship can be achieved through various pathways, each with its own specific criteria and procedures. Citizenship by birth on French soil does not automatically confer nationality unless the child or a parent were also born in France or the child would otherwise be stateless. For those not born to a French parent, citizenship by naturalization is accessible after five years of legal residency, provided applicants show sufficient French language skills, integration into French society, and financial stability. 

Citizenship by descent requires proving a direct lineage to a French citizen and continuous ties with France by the applicant or their French ancestor within the last 50 years. Citizenship by marriage allows a spouse of a French citizen to apply for citizenship after four years of marriage, assuming at least three years of residence in France. For the adventurous, serving in the French Foreign Legion presents a unique route, with eligibility for citizenship application after three years of service and immediate eligibility if wounded in service.

Moreover, France offers a French Tech Visa for international tech talents, which leads to a renewable four-year residence permit. This is part of the broader goal to enhance France's tech ecosystem and does not directly grant citizenship but allows applicants to pursue naturalization after five years of residency under general French citizenship regulations.

Golden Harbors specializes in assisting clients with a comprehensive range of French residency and citizenship applications. Whether you are exploring citizenship by birth, descent, marriage, naturalization, or unique avenues like the French Tech Visa, our team provides expert guidance and support throughout each step of the process. Leveraging our in-depth knowledge of French immigration laws and our strong network within France's administrative frameworks, we are dedicated to helping you navigate the complexities of acquiring French residency or citizenship based on your individual circumstances and goals.


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