Ap­ply­ing for French cit­i­zen­ship

Living France - - Lifestyle -

THE CRI­TE­RIA

You can ap­ply for French cit­i­zen­ship if: You are over 18. You have lived in France for at least five con­sec­u­tive years (less un­der cer­tain cir­cum­stances, such as hav­ing stud­ied at a French univer­sity). You can demon­strate that you have in­te­grated into French life and you speak rea­son­able French. You are of good char­ac­ter and morals. You don’t have a crim­i­nal record (mi­nor of­fences such as park­ing tick­ets and speed­ing fines don’t count). By be­com­ing a French cit­i­zen you will be en­ti­tled to the same rights and ben­e­fits as the French, in­clud­ing the right to vote in pres­i­den­tial and par­lia­men­tary elec­tions and to hold po­lit­i­cal of­fice. It would also al­low you to be­come a cit­i­zen of the Euro­pean Union, en­abling you to en­joy free­dom of move­ment within other EU mem­ber states and the right to live and work there with­out ap­ply­ing for visas. You don’t have to give up your own na­tion­al­ity, and you can have dual cit­i­zen­ship.

THE PA­PER­WORK

The fol­low­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion must be pro­vided, and any­thing writ­ten in English must be trans­lated by a sworn trans­la­tor: The Cerfa no. 127530*1 ap­pli­ca­tion form (this is avail­able on­line on the gov­ern­ment web­site im­mi­gra­tion. in­terieur.gouv.fr) Your birth cer­tifi­cate. Proof of iden­tity (e.g. pass­port). Proof of mar­i­tal sta­tus and whether you have chil­dren. Ev­i­dence of em­ploy­ment and res­i­dence in France. Ev­i­dence that you don’t have a crim­i­nal record. An at­tes­ta­tion de moral­ité to at­test that you are of good mo­ral char­ac­ter (a let­ter from your mairie would be suf­fi­cient).

STAMP OF AP­PROVAL

On our sec­ond visit, two weeks later, we ar­rived 45 min­utes early to find just six peo­ple wait­ing out­side in the cold. By the time we got in­side, how­ever, I was eleventh in the queue.

Once back with Claire, I handed over the cer­ti­fied trans­la­tion I had pre­pared, along with the deeds to the house which had been found in a dusty box file. “C’est par­fait!” she de­clared, stamp­ing a form with the words dossier com­plet and hand­ing it to us.

Un­for­tu­nately, she went on to ob­serve that it was un­for­tu­nate that we had re­turned this par­tic­u­lar week of all weeks, be­cause her col­leagues who for­mally re­ceive ap­pli­ca­tions for nat­u­ral­i­sa­tion were all away on a course. Keen to avoid com­ing back yet again, I asked whether I couldn’t just hand the file to her. Sadly not. It would seem pro­ce­dures are pro­ce­dures, even in France.

On visit num­ber three we ar­rived an hour early to find our­selves sec­ond in the queue be­hind the Pol­ish man who had been there since 6am that morn­ing. The process of hand­ing in the file took less than 20 min­utes, the time spent pass­ing the same doc­u­ments and copies from my plas­tic sleeves one by one, this time to the charm­ing Cather­ine. I have to say that all the staff mem­bers we en­coun­tered at the sous-pré­fec­ture were charm­ing and friendly. (This is un­usual enough for French fonc­tion­naires to de­serve a men­tion here). Hav­ing handed ev­ery­thing over, we were given an ap­point­ment for a for­mal in­ter­view two weeks later.

This time, there was no need to queue in the cold or take a num­ber, and breez­ing past the hud­dled masses clutch­ing their tick­ets was heady stuff in­deed. Once in her of­fice Cather­ine asked us about our ed­u­ca­tion and em­ploy­ment his­to­ries, our so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties and our friends, all with a view to es­tab­lish­ing whether our mar­riage is real or a sham for the pur­poses of nat­u­ral­i­sa­tion.

To my re­lief, it ap­peared that she didn’t sus­pect a sham for she pre­sented me with a for­mal re­ceipt signed by the head of the sous-pré­fec­ture him­self, which showed that the for­mal part of the ap­pli­ca­tion was in or­der. But there was more to come.

LOST IN TRANS­LA­TION

The fol­low­ing day my wife rang me at work, some­what shaken, be­cause three huge po­lice­men had just rung the door­bell and handed her an en­ve­lope with the word con­vo­ca­tion on it. This means ‘sum­mons’ in English.

De­spite the ti­tle, it turned out to be noth­ing more se­ri­ous than an in­vi­ta­tion for us both to at­tend an in­ter­view at the lo­cal po­lice sta­tion in or­der to an­swer yet fur­ther ques­tions about my ap­pli­ca­tion for French na­tion­al­ity.

We were re­ceived by a charm­ing (yet again) young po­lice­woman in a dis­pro­por­tion­ally huge blue sweater (it seems that she may have been wear­ing a stab vest un­der­neath it) who asked us nu­mer­ous ques­tions about where we had lived since we got mar­ried all those years ago, and, some­what to our sur­prise, whether we came from a monog­a­mous or polyg­a­mous cul­ture. I tried to make her laugh, won­der­ing whether it wasn’t too late to be­come polyg­a­mous, but weak hu­mour and po­lice in­ter­views clearly don’t go to­gether.

Mov­ing on to her next ques­tion, she gave me a long, hard look and asked, “Estce que vous êtes connu au Com­mis­sariat en tant qu’au­teur?” This I un­der­stood to mean “Are you known to the po­lice as an au­thor?” I have in fact writ­ten three books about France but was as­ton­ished that she might have heard of them.

How de­tailed, I won­dered, can the French po­lice data­base be? I sat up straighter and was just start­ing to smile mod­estly prior to mak­ing some self­dep­re­cat­ing re­ply when I re­ceived a sharp el­bow in the ribs from my wife, who hissed, “She’s not ask­ing about books! She’s ask­ing whether you’re a known crim­i­nal.” Ah! I swiftly changed the self-dep­re­cat­ing re­ply into an un­am­bigu­ous “non!”

Hav­ing man­aged to deal with the re­main­ing, less trou­bling ques­tions suc­cess­fully, all that’s left to do now is wait. In a mere year’s time, I should be granted French na­tion­al­ity, an event which will be marked by my be­ing pre­sented with a French birth cer­tifi­cate (though con­tain­ing all my orig­i­nal in­for­ma­tion). A new birth cer­tifi­cate! At my age! Re­ju­ve­na­tion in­deed!

But that’s not all. All re­cently nat­u­ralised lo­cals are in­vited to a cer­e­mony with Mon­sieur le Maire where we will sing the French na­tional an­them and drink cham­pagne to mark the oc­ca­sion.

I shall have to make sure I re­vise the words of La Mar­seil­laise be­fore­hand. Charles Ti­money has lived and worked in France for over 30 years. He lives just out­side Paris with his French wife Inès and is the au­thor of Par­don My French, A Cer­tain Je Ne Sais Quoi and An English­man Abroad

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