Applying for citizenship

Home in France for 5 years

Now that we’ve lived in France in a “habitual and continuous manner for five years” it’s possible to apply for citizenship. That time requirement can vary, for example, if you got your university degree here, or have a French sibling, spouse, or parent/grandparent/great grandparent but in my case it will be a Demande de naturalisation par décret (Request for naturalization by decree). That just means that I have to be integrated into the community, have a sufficient knowledge of the language, history, culture and society, as well as the rights and duties conferred by French nationality and adhere to the principles and values of the Republic. Whew, sounds like a tall order so I’d better get started!

Actually, if you’ve been reading the blog recently you’ll know that the preparations have been underway for some time. The language requirement (B1 to be one) was taken care of in March and two weeks ago we received our 10-year residency cards (Five to ten) which means we can legally stay here while my naturalization request is being processed. Bill wants to get better prepared to tackle the language test so this decade-long card should give him plenty of time as well. Although there are national guidelines regarding what documents to submit depending upon your situation (https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/N111), each office that does the processing can have their own list. In my case it’s the Préfecture in Montpellier and below is what they have requested, in this specific order, along with some of my observations:

  • Application form Cerfa n°12753*03 https://www.formulaires.service-public.fr/gf/cerfa_12753.do  2 originals. This is a fillable pdf but some of the fields did not fill in correctly. We downloaded a free pdf editor and used text boxes to make it work. The list of required documents said to include 2 originals of this completed form. On the form itself, including at the top of page 1, it says to submit 2 copies of each page. We printed 4 originals of each page and I signed 4 times on the appropriate line.
  • A tax stamp for 55 euros downloaded from within my account with the French tax authority. This is valid for 12 months and can be refunded up to 18 months after purchase. If my final interview is in 2 years, for example, I may need to pay for a new, valid stamp and forfeit the initial 55 euros.
  • 2 ID photos conforming to these government standards https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F10619 We took and printed these at home since they are the same as we needed to renew our residence cards for each of the last 5 years. Although the application form has a spot to adhere a photo, we put my 2 photos in an envelope and placed them in the order indicated with the other documents.
  • 1 large stamped trackable envelope valid for a weight equal to or greater than that of all your documents. This is used to return all of your application documents to you should you forget to include an item that has been requested on the processing office’s list. The post office, locally and online, is indefinitely out of stock of these envelopes but they have a stiff cardboard sleeve version that I bought. It was hard to fold and I included a printout from the post office website showing the out of stock status.
  • 3 regular size self-addressed stamped envelopes. These can be used to contact you regarding the status of your application.
  • An original of your birth certificate with an apostille attached from your birth state’s Secretary of State, both translated by a French court-appointed translator from this list: https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F10619 I followed a recommendation from the Facebook group “Applying for French Nationality” and paid an average price of 33€ per page.
  • A photocopy of my parent’s wedding certificate (no apostille required) translated.
  • Passport photocopies of the identity pages plus all pages with entrance/exit stamps.
  • Photocopy of my 10-year residence card
  • An original of our wedding certificate with an apostille from the Secretary of State attached, both translated as above for my birth certificate.
  • An original, with translation, of my FBI Identity History Summary that can be arranged at this site https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/identity-history-summary-checks The cost was $18 by credit card and you had to mail a full set of your fingerprints (I sent 2 sets, just in case they couldn’t read the first set). The fingerprint form plus directions for legible prints can be found at the website above. We ordered fingerprint ink pads from Amazon and watched videos on how to take fingerprints on YouTube. Within 2 weeks I received an email from the FBI with the 1-page summary and a week later the same report came in the mail. Since the mailed original is identical to what I printed from the email, I kept the envelope it came in to prove that it had been mailed to me.
  • Proof of a French language level of at least B1. Although the school where I took the DELF language exam says that the Préfecture will accept the signed Attestation de Réussite (Certificate of Achievement) I picked up from the testing center about 8 weeks after the exam, I will ask for the diploma to take with me to the interview.
  • Photocopies of both Bill’s and my 10-year residence cards
  • Pension benefit verification letters, translated, plus the most recent pay stub. These can be printed from your Social Security account, for example, but I also included the most recent bank statement showing the direct deposit.
  • A Tax Status Statement (bordereau de situation fiscale, modèle P. 237) to be requested online from the French tax authority showing that you owe no taxes. This was emailed to me in less than 24 hours by following these directions: https://www.impots.gouv.fr/portail/particulier/questions/jai-besoin-dun-bordereau-de-situation-fiscale-comment-lobtenir
  • Tax notices (Les avis d’imposition) for the last 3 years printed from my French tax account.
  • Photocopy of the “Certificate of Home Ownership” (l’attestation de propriété délivrée) issued by the attorney (le notaire) who handled the closing.

A few general tips:

Separating the sections
  • On the application form you must show the dates and addresses for every job that you have ever held and every place where you have ever lived. Luckily, or worryingly, I simply Googled my name and most of those addresses were quickly revealed. With that to jog my memory I assembled the list of jobs to match.
  • Yearly tax and bank records are a common request for immigration purposes. These are typically available online from the appropriate authorities; however, having your own pdf copies stored on your computer will ensure that these are always accessible to you.
  • US vital records (certificates of birth, marriage, etc.) can often be ordered through third-party vendors at an extra cost but we chose to deal directly with the issuing agencies. That required sending self-addressed US stamped envelopes from France to the various state health departments in America. Via the US Postal Service website we ordered airmail stamps to be delivered to my brother’s US address and he and his wife kindly forwarded those to us.
  • We assembled all of my documents in the exact order requested and divided the sections outlined on the “Documents to be Provided” list ( Basic, Civil Status, Income, etc.) with colored paper wrapped around each section. Bill printed a colored stripe down the center of white sheets of paper that we then folded as seen in the photo above. Many people have said to avoid paperclips, sheet protectors, notebooks or anything else that would impede the quick handling of your file. 
  • You do not give up your US citizenship to become French. I will eventually have passports for both countries.

So what’s next? The day after mailing my application the post office website showed that it had been delivered and a week later I received the return-receipt-requested postcard saying that my packet of papers had been received by the Préfecture in Montpellier. Perhaps 2 months or so later a letter, an email, or a phone call acknowledging that my application is complete, that it has been accepted and that two interviews (one with the police and one with immigration) will be set up for me to show that I meet all of those criteria (integration, knowledge, respect, etc.) mentioned in the first paragraph of this blog post. That could be 2 years from now, but I’ll remain optimistic. With 100,000 people each year becoming French, I can understand the wait. It will be worth it.

15 thoughts on “Applying for citizenship

  1. This is all very similar to the hoops – er, requirements we just went through getting our daughter’s student visa for the Czech Republic. Double, triple, and quadruple checked, because the list was so specific (and as in your case, could vary among the various consulates here in the US).
    I think that the most difficult part for Jill and I (when the time comes) will be listing every job. Having made our livings as actors for as long as we did, there were years when we did as many as half a dozen shows at different theatres. Multiple that by 30 years and we’re going to kill a lot of trees typing out all those jobs! Not to mention remembering all of the dates!!)
    Bonne chance pour ton entretien!

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    1. Thanks, Rob! If it’s any consolation, this process is being transformed into an online application. In fact, it’s already being tried out in a few departments first before going nationwide. You still have to provide all of the same information but at least you don’t have to use any paper.

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  2. How wonderful. Congratulations on starting the process – it must feel great. As with your correspondent, above, I’ll find the jobs bit challenging, and also the former addresses part, but I’ll have a look at my old resumé and then try to fill in the gaps!
    I’m about to order the language test book you suggested in B1 to Be One.
    You’ve inspired me to get it done. Thanks for the very helpful blog post!

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    1. Thank you, Katherine, and that’s great that you are going to follow through! Once you feel comfortable in the language, as I think you already do, it’s more about feeling comfortable with the format of the test. If you do the exercises in that book and look at some of the other links in the blog post, you will succeed!

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    1. That is great. We have to have our French citizenship before we can apply for a French passport. We still will maintain our US citizenship and a passport after becoming official French citizens.

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  3. Congratulations on pulling all that together! I am also going through Montpellier (via marriage).

    They used my 2 SASE like this:
    1) they notified me that they had accepted my dossier
    2) they gave me an appointment for my integration interview
    3) they returned this to me at my interview

    They accepted my DELF certificate, and never asked for the diploma. Still, smart to take it with you, if it’s easy to get.

    I didn’t have a gendarme visit, and my préfecture interviewer said that they don’t always do this, and to not worry about it.

    They sent my dossier to SDANF pretty quickly after my interview – for some situations and some préfectures, this isn’t always the case.

    Your tax stamp only has to be valid until they accept your dossier (not all the way to your interview), so you’re unlikely to lose that money.

    Fingers crossed for you!

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    1. As Cole Porter wrote in his 1934 song “Anything Goes”, “In olden days, a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking. But now, God knows, Anything goes.” If that wedding certificate is not available (for whatever reason!) you can send in their birth certificates 🙂

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    1. Any legal document to get your parents’ legal names, birthplace and birthdates for your new French birth certificate.

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  4. Is your DELF exam school local? Wondering if those are plentiful or perhaps less so and you might have to go farther afield.

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    1. It was online but many brick and mortar language schools also offer preparatory classes. The testing center was local.

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