Q&A: Ask the experts
Our experts give their advice on applying for citizenship, making a will, and planning permission
Q I’m British and married to a Frenchman, and we live in the UK. Am I eligible to apply for French citizenship as a result of my marriage, or do we have to be living in France for me to apply? If I am eligible, what would the process be to apply? ANNE WILSON
Yes, if you are married to French national you can apply for French nationality. You must be able to prove that you have been married for five years and live together. Becoming a French citizen is a lengthy procedure that involves collecting a multitude of documents. Documents required for submission include the following:
An official copy of your birth certificate with apostille (British nationals can order an apostilled birth certificate online). Official copies of your parents’ birth certificates which your parents must request themselves. If one or both of your parents are deceased, you may be asked to submit an official copy of a death certificate instead. Official copy of your parents’ marriage certificate or licence. Official copy of your marriage licence. Photocopy of spouse’s ID (foreign passport or French ID). Children’s birth certificates. Official copies of all the listed documents must be translated into French by a court-approved translator. The translated versions are valid for three months only, so it is a good idea to wait until you have collected the rest of your documentation for your dossier before getting the translations done. You must also submit two citizenship request forms, which are available online, a criminal record check and a form called Bulletin No.3, stating that you have no criminal record in France. You also need to submit two ID photos, a copy of the photo page of your passport and photocopies of the front and back of your French ID card ( carte de séjour), if applicable. You’ll also need a timbre fiscal in the amount of €55 (correct at the time of writing). Available for purchase at tobacconists, these stamps are worth the cash amount printed on them and are to be submitted in a sealed envelope marked with your name.
You will also be required to take a French language test at a governmentapproved language centre. Submit a photocopy of your test certificate with your dossier (you will be asked for the original at your interview with the préfecture). This test is not necessary if you already have a diploma in French or a certificate stating that you have passed recognised French language tests. If you are still learning French, you may submit an attestation (statement) from a language school that is certified as a French language integration centre.
Q I am buying a farm in France and have plans to turn it into a gîte. This cash purchase is solely in my name and I am using funds from the sale of my UK property. Both my husband and I have new UK wills. My property will pass to my husband on the event of my death happening first but then on to my five children in equal shares after his death. His share of his own UK property (of low value) is being left to his three daughters. My question is will these wills still stand in France? JULIA LLEWELLYN
TOP TIP If you have assets in both the UK and France, think carefully when making a will
AIf the UK will preserves the reserved inheritance of your five children and it states that UK law is expressly designated as the chosen law by the legatee, it can govern the succession of the French property.
This also means that if your UK will does not meet the requirements of French law, these provisions will be void since the right of the children to a minimum inheritance from the succession of their parents overrides any different provisions. Therefore, the transfer of the property to your spouse before your children inherit may be considered as a threat to their rights.
Should the UK will not be applicable to the succession of the French property, it will be French rule of law that applies, therefore the surviving spouse would only receive one quarter of the property in full ownership, whereas your five children will share the other three quarters in equal parts.
To avoid any conflict, I would advise drawing up a will that provides for the division of the ownership of the property (under the French concept of ‘ démembrement de la propriété’) accordingly between your spouse and the children. Moreover, in the case you have not yet signed the deed of sale, it would be useful to discuss this option with your notaire as of now.
Furthermore, because of the uncertainty about the future both with regard to Brexit and the circumstances in which your succession will happen, a French will registered in France would cover any outcome.
Under French law, you have two possibilities to draw up a will. Either you draft a will with a notaire or you draft a fully handwritten will which must fulfill three conditions: firstly, that it is written entirely by hand, it is precisely dated, and that it is signed. To avoid any risk of cancellation or misinterpretation, I advise you to contact a legal professional to make sure that it is in compliance with French law. Whatever choice you make, please bear in mind that in any case the applicable tax regime will be the French one.