Overview of Citizenship by Birth
French citizenship is largely determined by a child’s parentage. Article 18 of France’s Civil Code says that for a child to qualify for citizenship he or she must have at least one French parent.
As such, a child born in France (including its overseas territories) to at least one French parent is automatically considered a French citizen at the time of birth and should be registered as such at a local town hall (mairie) within three days of the birth date.
Equally, a child whose parents are French at the time of his or her birth is considered French, even if the child was born in a part of the world over which the French government doesn’t have jurisdiction.
There is also group of children born to non-French citizens who are eligible to become French citizens, although they typically have to reside in the country for a qualifying period during their infancy to be eligible for French citizenship.
French citizenship by birth affords the holder a range of benefits, including the right to access social services and healthcare, the right to vote in the country’s local, national and European elections, and the freedom to live, work and travel across the European Union (EU).
As mentioned above, French citizenship is largely determined by blood (jus sanguinis).
That is, to be eligible for French citizenship, the child must usually have at least one parent who is a French citizen.
French citizenship is also available to some people born in France to non-French nationals by virtue of their being born on French soil (jus soli).
The main ways a child can qualify for French citizenship by birth include:
- He or she is born in France, with one or both parents a French national.
- He or she is born outside France to a French citizen parent.
- A child born in France after 1 January 1963 to a parent born in Algeria before 3 July 1962 is eligible for French citizenship by birth.
- A child born in France before 1 January 1994 to a parent born in a former French overseas territory prior to independence qualifies for French citizenship by birth.
- If the child is adopted by a French-national parent according to the procedure known as full adoption (adoption plénière), the child automatically becomes a French citizen once the adoption has been confirmed.
Other Qualifying Criteria
Children without a French-national parent may also be eligible to become a French citizen in these circumstances:
- He or she is born to a parent who was also born in France, though not a French citizen (this is known as double jus soli)
- If a child is born to a foreign-born parent resident in France who for some reason hasn’t passed on their nationality, the child is eligible to become a French citizen by birth.
- A child born in France to parents, neither of whom was born in France, can be considered a French citizen if it can be shown that the citizenship status of the parents is unknown or if the parent or guardian is stateless at the time of the child’s birth.
Registering a Birth: Required Documents
In France, it is the legal duty of a parent or guardian to register a child’s birth within three days of the birth (not including weekends).
The registration needs to be done using a birth registration form (déclaration de naissance), which should be filed at the local town hall (mairie).
Birth registration is free.
The registration will also require you to provide a signed birth certificate (extrait d’act de naissance) and proof of residence (a utility bill can be used).
In summary, to register the birth, the following documents should be presented at the town hall:
- A medical certificate signed by a doctor or midwife.
- A piece of photo ID, typically a national identity card.
- Proof of domicile or residency.
- Family booklet to register the child, if the parents already have a booklet.
Children of Foreign Parents
The children of non-French nationals born in France are eligible to become citizens. The criteria and the process of acquiring citizenship depend on the age of the child when he or she wishes to apply.
These rules apply in metropolitan France and most overseas territories. However, specific rules apply to the island of Mayotte.
For a child between the ages of 13 to 15 to become a French citizen, he or she must:
- Be born in France
- Have resided for a significant period in France since the age of eight.
- Live in France on the day the citizenship request is made.
For a child between the ages of 16 and 17 years to become a French citizen, he or she must:
- Be born in France,
- Have resided habitually in France for a five-year continuous or discontinuous period of at least five years since the age of 11.
- Reside in France on the day of the citizenship request.
For someone aged 18 to become a French citizen, he or she must:
- Be born in France.
- Reside habitually in France during a continuous or discontinuous period of five years or more since the age of 11.
- The foreign-born parents must not be diplomatic agents or career consuls.
If the child meets the criteria above, the parent of the child must present the following documents to the French authorities to start the citizenship process:
- Declaration of French nationality in two copies, dated and signed by the legal representative of the minor.
- Birth certificate.
- Identity document (passport or residence permit)
- Recent photo ID.
- Residence permit of the foreign-born parent or official foreigner ID.
- Documents proving that the minor resides in France on the date of the declaration
- Proof of habitual residence in France.
- If necessary, a medical certificate issued by an approved medical specialist certifying that the minor’s mental or bodily faculties prevent him from expressing his will.
As part of the application process, the immigration authorities might schedule an interview with the child and the parent(s).
From start to finish, the citizenship application process can take anywhere between 12 and 18 months.
Citizenship Through Adoption
France recognises two types of adoption: simple and full.
With a simple adoption, the child remains a citizen of the country of birth until the adoptive parent has completed the citizenship application process outlined below.
Conversely, a child adopted via a full adoption is considered a French citizen once the adoption has been finalised.
For a child adopted using the simple procedure to become a French citizen, the adoptive parents must make a declaration of French nationality and the child must be under the age of 18 and reside in France at the time the adoption procedure is started.
The documents required to complete the adoption include:
- Declaration of French nationality (x2 copies).
- The declaration should be dated and signed by the legal representative of the adoptee if the adopted person is under 16 or is under guardianship if a disability prevents him from expressing himself.
- In all other cases, the declaration must be signed by the adoptee.
- Full copy of the adoptee’s birth certificate.
- Proof of identity of the adoptee (Photo ID card, passport and school card are acceptable).
- Proof of residence of the adoptee.
- A certified copy of the adoption judgement.
- Certificate of French nationality of the adopter.
- Proof of identity of the adopter (for example, national ID card, French passport, and driving licence).
Once the documents have been sent and if you received no further correspondence from the French authorities this is confirmation that the adopted child has been registered on the list of French citizens.
Citizenship Through a Naturalised Foreign Parent
If a non-French child’s parent obtains French nationality by applying for citizenship, the child can also become a French citizen in the following circumstances:
- The child lives in France with this parent (at least part-time in the case of divorce).
- The name of the child is mentioned on the naturalisation decree of the parent.
- It is possible to apply for the naturalisation of a child living overseas if one of their parents has become French. However, the child must have lived in France with the parent for at least five years before the request is made.
Where Should I Send the Documents?
Once you have the required documents to make a citizenship request, you must send them to a local court that is competent to deal with citizenship.
This will typically mean you should send the documents to your local Judicial Tribunal (Tribunal Judiciaire).
The documents can be sent in paper form or emailed.
If your request for citizenship is denied, you can appeal the decision.
The decision to refuse a request will explain how the decision can be appealed and also provide information about the appeals process.
You must use a lawyer to conduct your appeal case.
The appeal must be lodged within six months of the notification of the rejection.
Obtaining French citizenship by birth can be difficult and the application process in some cases is not straightforward.
The Total Law team is here to help.
We are a team of experienced immigration lawyers with a history of guiding individuals through their application for French citizenship.
We are familiar with the application process and know how to navigate each stage to ensure you have the best chance of your application being approved.
Whether you’re looking to register a child as a French national at birth or wish to pursue one of the other paths to French citizenship we have outlined on this page, we have the skills and know-how to make the process as painless as possible.
You don’t have to obtain French citizenship by birth. Several other routes allow you to become a French national. If you would like to learn more about these, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
If you are ready to start your French citizenship application or simply want to learn more about the process, give the Total Law team a call today on +44 (0)333 305 9375 or contact us via the website.
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As long as one of the parents is a French national, the child will be recognised as French, regardless of any other nationality he or she may hold or subsequently apply for.
Yes. You must attach a translation of each document written in a foreign language.
A translation is not required for a multilingual birth certificate if one of the languages is French.
Other documents must be translated by a translator from a list of experts approved by the French authorities.
If a parent loses his or her French nationality when the child has reached the age of majority, the parent’s loss of citizenship will not affect the child’s nationality.