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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New Rules for Acquiring French Citizenship

Claude Guéant is a very busy man these days.  Having made great strides toward reducing legal immigration in France, he is now turning his attention to foreigners who wish to acquire French citizenship.

Le Figaro reported yesterday that the Haut conseil à l'intégration (High Council on Integration) has presented a text to the Minister of the Interior which makes explicit French rights and customs (something I've been waiting for all my life) and adds new obligations for those who wish to become naturalized French citizens.  

This text is called la Charte des droits et des devoirs du citoyen français (the Charter of Rights and Responsibilities of a French Citizen).  I would urge all French citizens (not just those seeking citizenship) to read it carefully because this document lays down nothing less (in black and white) than what it means to be French.  At least the government's idea of what it means to be French which is well worth knowing.

As an interested party I read the document very carefully indeed since I understand that I would be asked to sign it if I seek citizenship.  It runs about 20 pages and, while I do suggest you read it in its entirety, here is a short synopsis for your edification and general knowledge:

Let's start with the opening paragraph:

Vous souhaitez devenir Français. C'est une décision importante et réfléchie. Devenir Français 
n'est pas une simple démarche administrative. Acquérir la nationalité française est une décision 
qui vous engage et, au-delà de vous, engage vos descendants.  

You wish to become French.  This an important and thoughtful decision.  Becoming French is not just a simple administrative procedure.  Acquiring French nationality is a decision that commits not only you but your descendants as well.

Indeed it does.  I like the way it makes explicit French jus sanguinis citizenship law.  If you become French, your descendants will be French as well and that is a big decision to make.  What I find interesting is what it doesn't say about those who have already acquired French citizenship through jus sanguinis - something which cannot in any way be described as a "thoughtful decision".  For these citizens the choice was already made for them by their parents which, if I take this to its logical conclusion, makes French citizens by birth a kind of hereditary aristocracy since they did nothing to merit citizenship other than being born to the right parents.  Rather odd for a Republic when you really think about it.  Moving on....

En acquérant la nationalité française, vous bénéficierez de tous les droits et serez tenu à toutes
les obligations attachées à la qualité de citoyen français à dater du jour de cette acquisition. En
devenant Français, vous ne pourrez plus vous réclamer d'une autre nationalité sur le territoire

By acquiring French nationality, you will benefit from all the rights and will be held to the obligations of French citizenship from the day you acquire it.  By becoming French you may no longer claim another nationality while on French soil.

An elegant solution to the question of dual citizenship.  This is actually not a new idea.  The principle, which other states also use, is called "dominant nationality."  Effectively this means that a French citizen with another nationality (British, Chinese, Mexican and so on) cannot run to the consulate of his other government if he has a problem with the French one.  That seems entirely fair to me but it does raise an interesting question:  what if the the individual's other government attempts to impose their obligations of citizenship on a naturalized French citizen on French soil?  Does this mean that the French will tell the other government to go to hell if it tries to tax that dual citizen or ask him to go into the army?  Is this unconditional protection for that new citizen as long as he or she is on French soil?  Something worth thinking about because that is a serious obligation assumed by the state on behalf of new citizens and everyone needs to think carefully about the international repercussions.

The next section talks in a general way about the values, principles and symbols of the French Republic.  The Rights of Man and the principles of democracy.  A Republic, deeply attached to its language, that is "indivisible, secular, democratic and social" symbolized by the flag, the national anthem, the 14th of July, Marianne and, of course,  "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity."   

The last section is a very clear statement of the rights and responsibilities of citizens with a table that refers back to their origin in the Civil Code, the French Constitution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man.  All very explicit and presented in a form that makes it easy to understand.

My overall verdict?  A fine document - really well done.  I personally would have no hesitation in signing it.  A lot of it I already knew since the larger culture here has a better job than they know in inculcating these values in me. It was a pleasure nonetheless to actually have them in a form that pulls all those disparate bits of knowledge, acquired in half a lifetime spent in this country, into one text.  

Bravo to the High Council on Integration and to Mr. Guéant.  If you continue to do things like this, sir,  I just might have to temper my rather cheeky criticism of your policies. 


Rosy the Riveter said...

An interesting document indeed. But there's something that seems a bit vague to me. "Réclamer": does it mean to complain to, as you suggest, or does it mean to claim another citizenship, as it did in the past ? I for one became French in 1990 - with the blessing of the US State Department ! At the time, when you went to the Embassy either for tax info (stop laughing !) or for a passport renewal, the people behind the desk let on that if you were in an influential position - like teaching about US culture - they might not oppose your taking French citizenship if it meant 1) that you were not taking it to intentionally renounce US citizenship, and 2) if you informed the State Dept. of your reasons, such as, better job security (that part, I'm sorry to say here, didn't work and I'm still precarious, but anyhow...). To say that at one point it was practically encouraged because in the US interest! Wow! Teaching students how to do business in the US ! So the thanks we got was FATCA and grief even for our foreign-born children. I would interpret the new text as saying you can no longer, as was the case for a period between, I believe, the mid-1970's and now, have French citizenship without renouncing the US one. That would seem to go with the mentality in France and elsewhere right now. MMmm...

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Very interesting comment, Rosy. Yes, it means "to claim".

I don't think it's about renouncing a former citizenship when becoming French. I think it's more a request that the French nationality be dominant as long as the person is on French territory. Dominant nationality is an idea with a long pedigree. The brilliant Peter Dunn of Isaac Brock has this post about it. Very interesting

I am fascinated by what you said about the becoming French with the blessing of the US. When I went down there about the same time they gave me all sorts of reasons why it was a terrible idea for me to become French. I may have just encountered the wrong person or I just wasn't doing anything at that time that could be perceived as good for the US.