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Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Path to French Citizenship: Certificate of French Nationality

I went down to the Japanese Embassy near Etoile last week to pick up my Japanese police report.  As always the Japanese consular officials were very efficient - I was in and out in under 15 minutes. I was dying to know what it looked like (and what is in it) but I will never know because it comes sealed in a brown envelope and I was informed (quite sternly) by the Japanese Consulate that only the French Prefecture has the right to break the seal and see the contents.

Another document we need is an official Certificate of French Nationality (Certificat de nationalité française) for my French husband and we soon discovered that Anne Sinclair was right - it is not as easy as it looks to actually prove that one is French.  What exactly is the purpose of this document?
Le certificat de nationalité française (CNF) est un document officiel, qui sert à prouver la nationalité française.
Il indique comment et pourquoi le demandeur a la qualité de français, ainsi que les documents qui ont permis de l'établir.
Il peut notamment être demandé lors d'une première demande de titre d'identité sécurisé (carte d'identité ou passeport), ou pour une candidature à un emploi dans la fonction publique.
(The Certificate of French nationality is an official document that serves to prove French nationality.It indicates how and why a person is French, as well as the supporting documents to support the claim.It can be required when a person first requests a secure identity document (identity card or passport), or when a person applies for a job in public service.)
Sounds like every French person has an interest in having one (just in case, mind you).  So how does one go about getting this precious document? Well, it depends on where the French person making the request is located (France, Paris or abroad) and whether or not he/she was born on French territory or abroad.  My husband's case is a bit tricky because he was born in Medea, Algeria in 1962 when Algeria was a French dominion.  In that case, we were told, my husband, once he has all the documentation, needs to apply at the Versailles Tribunal d'instance (which is happily not too far from our apartment).

Now that we know where to apply, we turned to the issue of what documentation will be required.  Turns out that this is quite tricky and depends on the category of the person making the request.  There are no fewer than five cases and they are worth examining because they are a snapshot of French nationality law as it is applied today:

Personne née en France, d'un parent né également en France (a person born in France of a parent also born in France):  This is the infamous double jus soli rule that says that anyone born in France with at least one parent born in France is French even if the parents and grand-parents were foreigners.

Personne française par filiation (French by filiation)  This is transmission of nationality by blood, also known as jus sanguinis.  Anyone with a parent who is French is French by right of blood (droit de sang).  This must be proved by producing documentation about one's parents and also one's grand-parents.

Personne devenue française par acquisition volontaire (décret ou déclaration de nationalité) (Person who voluntarily acquired French nationality by decree or declaration) These are the naturalized citizens who became French by either applying for it or by decree (it can be simply conferred on a person in some cases).

Personne devenue française pendant sa minorité, en raison de l'acquisition de la nationalité française par l'un de ses parents (Person who became French as a minor child because one of his/her parents acquired French nationality)  So this means any child with foreign parents who became French by naturalization during that child's minority received French citizenship as a result.

Personne devenue française par acquisition de plein droit à sa majorité, par naissance et résidence en France pendant 5 ans (Person who acquired French citizenship at his/her majority, by birth and residence in France for at least five years).  This is a combination of jus soli and what you could call residency-based citizenship.  The two requirements are that the child be born in France and have resided in France for at least 5 years during his/her minority.  From this it seems that having lived 13 years outside of France during one's minority still gives a child born in France the right to French citizenship.

My husband falls under the category of "Personne française par filiation" which means that he is now calling the authorities in both the Limousin and Normandy (his parent's regions of origin) in order to get official copies of their birth certificates and those of their parents (his grand-parents).  Frankly, he finds this all a bit annoying - his reaction seems to have mirrored that of Anne Sinclair.  He was also not amused when I suggested that he might find some surprises in his family tree - a Spaniard or an Italian, perhaps?

The delicious irony of all this, of course, is that the people who have the least amount of paperwork to provide for a CNF are the naturalized citizens (i.e. the foreigners) whereas the French who have been French for generations by blood and soil have to provide a pile of official papers proving Frenchness going back at least two generations.   Was this really what the Right had in mind?  Probably not.  So I guess we can just consider this another unintended consequence of laws designed to harass the "foreign" which result in enormous inconvenience for the "native-born."


Anonymous said...

There have been numerous articles and accounts over the past two decades, mainly in the left-leaning press (Libé, Le Monde), of the ubuesque situations many "Français de souche" have found themselves in when having to produce a certificat de nationalité - to "prove" that they are really French - and of the process taking months. Or sometimes being unable to do so. It is a real problem for those born abroad - including in the colonies - or whose parents were. Algeria is a particular casse-tête, given how complex the nationality/citizenship issue was there, plus the fact that the état civil in a number of communes there was destroyed in 1962. E.g. some ten or so years ago the PS deputy Julien Dray could not obtain a new carte d'identité, as he was born in Oran, where the mairie - along with its état civil - was burned down by the OAS in the final month of the Algerian war. So in the eyes of l'administration française he was in effect a stateless person (and despite being a high-profile politician in this country), as he could not produce a birth certificate. This crazy situation only became so after the passage of the Loi Pasqua in 1993 and the directives sent to the fonctionnaires in the mairies, prefectures, and tribunaux d'instance to be "vigilant" when renewing passports and cartes d'identité. It's one of the many perverse effects of the right's anti-immigration policies.


Victoria FERAUGE said...

I had no idea that the problem was this widespread. I had read Anne Sinclair's post about it and then I saw that some French born in territories in Eastern France had a real problem because they could not find their parent's or grand-parent's "certificates of reintegration."

But, yes, Algeria is another matter entirely. I didn't know that the original records were destroyed.

A few minutes ago I shared your comment with my husband who pulled out a birth certificate from his files that was sent to him by official in Nantes in 1992 (twenty years ago). It says, "Acte reconstitué par le Service Central de l'Etat Civil Ministère des Affaires Etrangères (loi du 25 Juillet 1968) Nantes, le 29 Avril 1977."

My husband is now getting a new and I wonder what it will say.

Fascinating topic. Arun, if you have any reputable websites or other sources where I could learn more about this, I'd really appreciate your passing them along.


Anonymous said...

Your husband is fortunate, as the OAS was likely not active in Medea and didn't torch the mairie there. There's a lot of published stuff on this. I'll pull together some sources for you when I next look through what I have on it.


Oplexicon said...

Hi, I found your article informative, however, I have a question.

I'm an American citizen, as both of my parents are, and Ive got my birth certificate/consular report of birth abroad etc, but I was born in France, and would like get citizenship there as well. Dual is allowed and I wonder how I can apply, petition, and where?

Thank you.


Victoria FERAUGE said...

Hi Paul, Great question. I wrote a post today that I hope answers it. Let me know if it helped.


Ahamed said...

hi this is ahamed from india i would like to know about french nationality. My grandpa father working in french govt when they ruling pondichery. My grandpa having french nationality we have his passport and birth certificate which was registered under french period. now how can apply for French Nationality. please guide us mam thank u

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the information. I am not sure how rare my circumstances are but have had a hard time finding consistent information. My French birth mother gave birth to me in the US. I was then adopted by US citizens. I have become reacquainted with my birth mother and am looking to gain French citizenship, however I am now over the age of 18. My birth mother has written the french government they responded: J'ai l'honneur de vous informer que (myself) etant majeur, il lui appartient de presenter lui-meme sa demande, en precisant son adresse exacte a l'etranger, accompagnee des pieces suivantes:
(and five items are listed).
Letter continues:
Veuillez agreer, Madame, l'expession de ma consideration distinguee. P/Le Greffier en Chef

I am confused because we have received this letter but I often read that because I am over 18 I cannot gain French nationality.

Any thoughts???

Thank you, Bre


Hi,my grandpa is a french citizen .His daughter that is my mom applied for nationalaity but didn't get the nationality..My aunty (mom's sister) she got nationality recently and my uncle having french nationality.Then what is the procedure to get nationality for my mom and my grandma

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