French Citizenship By Descent

Those who are the children of a parent who is a French citizen or was a French citizen at the time of their birth may be eligible for French citizenship. The application process is fairly straightforward; however, it is important to ensure that applicants are eligible, meet criteria, and have the correct documents.

This is why it is advisable to have a lawyer who is an expert in immigration law assist you in your application. Lawyers can help deal with the French authorities and help collect all that is needed for a successful application to obtain French citizenship. At Total Law, our team are experts in immigration law, so give us a call at +1 844 290 6312 today to get started.

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    The French Citizenship By Descent

    Those who are Canadian, American, or Australian likely have ancestors who originated in Europe, and those who are lucky enough to have French descendants recent in their ancestry may be eligible for citizenship by descent. Citizenship by descent is the second-cheapest way to get citizenship.

    France’s citizenship used to be governed by the jus soli principle, which means the right to soil. The US functions on this premise as well in terms of the law of citizenship. It means that any child born in the territories of this country, regardless of the parent’s nationality, will automatically acquire the country’s nationality.

    However, France moved away from the jus soli principle and moved more towards the jus sanguinis principle, which instead means ‘right of blood’ regarding citizenship.

    Since France made this move, citizenship by descent has become more desirable. This principle allows individuals who have parents of French nationality to become citizens of France. However, the downside of this is that France will only allow applicants to go back a single generation to a French parent, not a French grandparent.

    For those who do have a French parent, however, citizenship in French can be desirable, and the individual will only have to prove their eligibility for French citizenship.

    Proving French citizenship by descent eligibility is fairly easy, as all that is required is documentation of the parent’s French nationality.

    Yet, this can be complicated if the French parent is estranged or if the applicant does not have a way of tracking them down. This would result in the applicant needing to dig through archives to produce paperwork or proof that they do indeed have ties to France.

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      French Citizenship By Descent Eligibility Criteria

      Certain eligibility criteria would make an applicant eligible for French citizenship by descent. The scenarios that would make an individual eligible for French citizenship through their ancestors include the following:

      • A person is eligible to become a French citizen through descent if at least one parent was a French citizen when they were born. This individual will need to prove both their identity and the identity of the parent as well.
      • Should an individual be over 18 years of age and be born in a foreign country to a mother who was French, who may have been born in France or elsewhere, they may be eligible. This applicant is only eligible if, at the time of their birth, their French mother retained their French nationality. Additionally, the parent-child relationship with the French parent needs to have been established while the child was a minor.
      • French citizens can pass their nationality onto their child through descent if, on the day their child was born, they retained their French nationality and their parent-child relationship was established while the child was under 18 years of age.

      Those who fit in the categories for one of the situations above may be eligible to apply to obtain French citizenship by descent. Yet, France does require that all generations be registered to be citizens before the applicant applies.

      This means that if a French parent has their roots through their parent, then they need to apply for their citizenship before their child can apply for citizenship.

      Equally, this would mean that those who have children must first register and obtain their French citizenship before they can apply for their children to have citizenship and receive their passports.

      In cases where an applicant and their parents have not had anything to do with France for five decades or so and have lived outside of France for this period as well, there will be no eligibility for citizenship.

      This means that individuals and their parents who have no links to France will not be eligible for an application.

      Due to this, citizenship by descent can be difficult to acquire in France. However, those who are eligible and who can prove this will find that French citizenship can be easily acquired.

      French Citizenship By Descent Application Requirements

      French citizenship via descent is an easy way to get French nationality if you have at least one parent who is a French citizen. There are certain eligibility criteria and documents that must be provided for this application, however.

      Ensure you meet all eligibility criteria and have all required documents prepared before you apply.

      The eligibility criteria for the French citizenship-by-descent application process are as follows:

      • The applicant must have at least one parent who was a French citizen at the time of their birth.
      • The child must have been born in wedlock or must at least be recognized by the French parent.

      The documents required for this application include the following:

      • The French parent’s birth certificate must be provided.
      • The applicant’s birth certificate must be provided.
      • The applicant must provide the marriage certificate of their parents.
      • The applicant must provide proof of the French parents’ French citizenship.
      • There must be evidence of the residency of the French parent if they are living abroad.
      • Applicants must be sure to provide any other relevant documentation for the application, including divorce decrees and adoption papers, if relevant.

      There are some other requirements that the applicant must meet for their citizenship by descent application.

      • The applicant needs to have no history of being convicted of a serious crime.
      • The applicant must never have engaged in any activity that could be perceived as harmful to the interests of France.
      • The applicant may be required to renounce any other citizenship (although dual citizenship is often applicable). Therefore, in some cases, the applicant must be prepared to renounce any other citizenship upon the acquisition of French citizenship.

      France Citizenship By Descent: Application Process

      The French citizenship by descent program is much like other citizenship routes. Therefore, the applicant needs to gather together all their documents to prove their eligibility, and this is probably the most challenging part of the process.

      Obtaining the proof is up to the applicant, and a case must be built for a favourable decision.

      This application is to obtain a certificate of French nationality, which is an official document that will prove citizenship in France.

      Therefore, the department to which applicants should send their applications needs to be the Department of Nationality for French People Born and Established Outside of France.

      The application process will require the following documents to be presented:

      • Proof of ID, such as a valid passport.
      • Proof of residency, such as a household bill.
      • A copy of the applicant’s birth certificate that indicates the parent-child relationship to the French parent.
      • A copy of the French parent’s birth certificate.
      • Any documents that can aid in establishing the parents as being French nationals. Some documents that this could include are:
        • A national identity card.
        • Passports.
        • Consular registration cards.
        • Military booklets.
        • Certificate of nationality.
        • Voter cards.
      • A marriage certificate of the applicant’s parents. However, if the applicant’s parents are not married, then a copy of the certificate that recognizes and proves parentage is required.

      This application will need to be done in person, unless there are specific circumstances that would prevent it, such as an inability to travel. If the individual is unable to travel, then the courts would accept paperwork by mail.

      It is always best to provide any supporting documents that can aid in proving the relationship and that may assist in a successful application.

      As well as the above paperwork, the applicant will need to meet two other requirements:

      • The applicant must provide proof of integration into French society, which will be tested through an interview.
      • A language test must be taken. The applicant will need to prove that they can write and speak in the French language. Yet, should the individual have a recognized diploma from a course of studies at a French institute, taught in French, this could serve as a substitute for taking the test.

      Once the application is completed and submitted, the applicant must simply wait to learn if their application was successful. Those who have a successful application will obtain French citizenship and are then able to apply for a French passport.

      However, should the application be denied, the applicant will be eligible to appeal against this decision by directly contacting the Ministry of Justice.

      Common Reasons For Application Rejections And How To Avoid Them

      Applications can be rejected for French citizenship by descent if there is not enough proof of the applicant’s ancestry. If there is insufficient proof of the applicant’s parent’s French nationality, the application may be rejected.

      Additionally, should the applicant not provide all necessary documentation and the documents not be adequately translated, it is also possible to receive a rejection for this.

      Applicants applying for French citizenship by descent also need to pass the culture and language skills tests. If the results of these tests are not sufficient, then the application may also be rejected.

      Applications can also be rejected on grounds of criminal activity or the applicant’s previous engagement in activities that France may deem unsafe or a risk to the country.

      Although unlikely, it is also possible that a rejection may occur if the applicant has stateless parents and proof of previous French citizenship by descent is not 100% confirmed through the supporting documents.

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        Other Possible Routes To Obtain Citizenship In France


        There are many other ways to obtain French citizenship. Residence permits can be acquired by those who have a French spouse, for example. Additionally, applicants can obtain French nationality by naturalization, birth, or adoption.

        Naturalized French citizen applicants obtain their citizenship by filling out certain criteria, including language proficiency and residency.

        Those who obtain French citizenship by marriage do so by being married to a French citizen.

        Those who are born in France or who have French parents will also be eligible for citizenship in France.

        Citizenship By Marriage

        It is possible to acquire French citizenship by marriage; this is a legal way for non-French spouses of a French national to obtain French nationality to be with their spouse. Those who apply for this type of citizenship still need to provide all required documents and meet certain eligibility criteria.

        Citizenship By Naturalization

        Obtaining French citizenship by naturalization enables the applicant to obtain nationality if they have lived in France continuously for a specific amount of time.

        This route to citizenship does have a set of strict eligibility criteria and some requirements that the applicant needs to meet to be eligible for it. The current required time frame to be living in France to be able to apply to become a naturalized French citizen is five years.

        Citizenship By Adoption Or Birth

        French citizenship is possible for those who are born in France or adopted in France by at least one parent from France. This is one of the simplest applications of all, and the required documents are simple, but there are specific timelines that must be adhered to depending on the circumstances of the application and the age of the child.

        In this case, at least one or both parents must be French nationals of the applicant to be able to complete a citizenship application on these grounds. It is also possible for non-French parents or foreign parents in France to apply for citizenship before the child turns 18 years of age.

        How Can Total Law Help?

        Those who have French ancestry, parents born in France, or parents who acquired French nationality may be eligible to obtain citizenship in France. French law is quite complex on the matter, and sadly, citizenship by descent is only available for immediate relatives; therefore, only the children of French citizens can apply.

        However, the French government does offer alternative ways to obtain French citizenship. Yet, those who have parents born in France or who have held French citizenship at the time of their birth can apply through the citizenship by descent route.

        While the process is one of the simpler ways to acquire French citizenship, it is still advisable to speak to a legal advisor. Here at Total Law, we are well-versed in helping individuals apply for French citizenship by descent and can help you organize your documents for your application and aid the application process.

        Having legal assistance can make the difference between a successful application and a rejection. So, give us a call today at +1 844 290 6312 to get started on your application.

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