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."