There is no special procedure to facilitate access to French nationality for British citizens.
Depending on their circumstances, they may use the citizenship by decree procedure (Articles 21-15 et seq. of the French Civil Code) or nationality declarations in their capacity as spouse, ascendant, brother or sister of a French citizen (Articles 21-2, 21-13-1 and 21-13-2 of the French Civil Code).
Applying for French nationality for minors
The procedure varies depending on whether or not the minor was born in France.
If he/she is was born in France of British parents, and subject to complying with the additional conditions required by legislation (having lived in France for five years as from the age of eleven), he/she may acquire French nationality by declaration pursuant to Articles 21-7 (automatic acquisition when coming of age) or 21-11 (early acquisition by declaration, at thirteen years of age by declaration from the parents if the minor has been a resident since the age of eight, or sixteen if he/she has been a resident since the age of eleven) of the French Civil Code.
If the minor was not born in France, he/she may become French as of right if one of his/her parents acquires French nationality (Article 22-1 of the French Civil Code).
Lastly, Article 21-22 of the French Civil Code provides that “Nobody may be granted citizenship prior to the age of eighteen. However, citizenship may be granted to a minor who has remained a foreigner even though one of his/her parents has acquired French nationality if he/she is able to prove that he/she has lived with this parent in France during the five years prior to filing the application.».
Civil status documents to be presented
The originals of civil status documents and their translation by a sworn translator are required for procedures to acquire French nationality but they do not have to date back less than six months. British civil status documents do not have to be legalised or stamped with an apostille.
British nationals who were born and/or married in the UK’s former overseas possessions are allowed to present reconstituted documents. Those born in Hong Kong (under British control until 1997) are also exempt from Chinese legalisation procedures.
For declarations of nationality, the French nationality access platform has six months from the filing date to examine the application. The minister responsible for citizenship then has a year to potentially refuse registration of the declaration. The current timeframe is approximately six months.
For applications for obtaining French nationality by decree, the applicant has a regulatory timeframe of six months to compile his/her file. The minister responsible for citizenship then has eighteen months once the full file has been constituted – in consideration of a receipt – to take a decision. The timeline may be reduced to twelve months when the applicant is able to prove that he/she has had his/her habitual residence in France for at least ten years on the date when the receipt is issued.
In practice, the timeframe is between twelve and fifteen months from the filing of the application to the proposal for citizenship.
Minimum period of residence in France for applications for France nationality
Pursuant to Article 21-17 of the French Civil Code, applicants for French nationality must provide proof that they have had their habitual residence in France during the five years prior to filing the application. Should they fail to comply with this requirement, the application will be inadmissible under said Article 21-17.
The five-year timeline is reduced to two years for foreigners who have successfully completed two years of higher education with an eye to being awarded a diploma conferred by a French university or higher education establishment (Article 21-18, 1° of the French Civil Code).
The reduction of the probationary period to two years also applies to foreigners who have given or can give significant services to France owing to their skills and talent (Article 21-18, 2° of the French Civil Code). Implementation of these provisions is still rare. This category may include artists, writers or intellectuals of international renown, scientists whose work is accepted as authoritative or the most accomplished sportspersons.
Lastly, the two-year period applies to foreigners who manifest an unusual record of integration, judged by their actions or accomplishments in the civic, scientific, economic or sporting realms (Article 21-18, 3° of the French Civil Code).
Articles 21-19 and 21-20 of the French Civil Code which provide for dispensation of the probationary period should not concern British citizens.
Those who apply for French nationality under Article 21-13-1 of the French Civil Code (declaration of nationality as an ascendant of a French citizen) must provide proof that they have lived in France for 25 years. If the application is submitted pursuant to Article 21-13-2 of the French Civil Code (declaration of nationality as the brother or sister of a French citizen), the applicant must have lived there since the age of six.
British citizens wishing to apply for French nationality after the date of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union
As from the withdrawal date, the condition of the lawfulness of residence for British citizens wishing to apply for French nationality will be assessed in the same way as for other foreign nationals.
Article 21-27(2) and (3) of the French Civil Code provides that “No one may acquire French nationality or be reinstated in that nationality if he/she has (…) been subject either to an exclusion order which has not been expressly revoked or repealed, or to a banishment from French territory which has not been fully enforced. The same applies for persons whose residence in France is unlawful with respect to the legislation and agreements concerning the residence of foreigners in France”.
Nevertheless, in order to ensure legal certainty, transitional arrangements are being considered to allow British citizens who have lived in France for several years until the withdrawal date and who could have, in this capacity, claimed French nationality on the basis of legislation in force prior to that date, to submit an application for French nationality without the unlawfulness of their residence being invoked against them.
France allows the existence of double nationality or multiple nationalities. The same applies in the UK and this means that a British citizen who acquires French nationality will not be required to give up his/her former nationality.
The Republican Integration Contract
British citizens who come to France prior to the date the UK leaves the EU and who have lived there lawfully are exempted from executing a Republican Integration Contract.
However, those who arrive in France subsequent to the withdrawal date, or after 31 December 2020 if there is a withdrawal agreement, will be required to sign a Republican Integration Contract in the same way as citizens of non-EU countries.