Country Report: Naturalisation Last updated: 24/05/24


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There are several ways to obtain citizenship according to French law. It is possible to be naturalised by declaration or by decree. Naturalisation by declaration is only possible for refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection’s children born in France or having arrived in France before turning 13 years old. Otherwise, these children will either have to lodge an asylum claim of their own (which they would get either automatically as the children of their parent or in their own right based on individual risk) or submit a residence permit request as family of refugees. It is also possible to access citizenship by marriage to a French citizen.

Beneficiaries of international protection usually obtain citizenship by decree. The criteria and conditions for naturalisation are listed in the Civil Code and the 1993 Decree on citizenship,[1] as follows:

  • Five years of previous regular residence;[2]
  • Strong knowledge of French: the candidate can produce a diploma or any document certifying of their linguistic skills, proving they are able to have a conversation about any topic of their interest;[3]
  • Strong knowledge of the History of France and its institutions, culture, and place in the world, as well as strong knowledge of the rights and obligations associated with French citizenship;[4]
  • The candidate must not have been sentenced during their stay in France to a penalty of 6 months or more of imprisonment;[5]
  • The candidature must subscribe entirely to the values and symbols of French Republic.[6]

A leaflet is issued to any candidate to citizenship. This document describes the criteria to meet to be deemed eligible. The law establishes integration in the French society as a compulsory condition. This leaflet is thus not distributed in other languages. Along with the leaflet, the candidates are issued the list of documents they have to produce.[7] Beneficiaries of refugee status are not bound by the five years of residence requirement. They are legally authorised to candidate for naturalisation from the moment they are granted asylum.[8] The difficulty they encounter is linked to their knowledge of the language.

Beneficiaries of subsidiary protection fall under the general rules. They have to wait for 5 years before being authorised to lodge their citizenship claim. This period can be shortened to 2 years if they graduate after 2 years spent in a French university, if they render an exceptional service to France or if they can demonstrate they are particularly well-integrated.[9]

The citizenship application has to be lodged at the Prefecture. The prefecture has 6 month to process the claim,[10] during which an interview is conducted to assess the level of integration of the candidate, regarding especially their knowledge of the language and of the French “culture”.[11] If the Prefecture takes a positive decision, it is sent to the Ministry of Interior in charge of adopting a decree relating to the acquisition of citizenship by the candidate.[12] The Ministry has to make its decision within 18 months following the transfer of the notice by the prefecture.[13] These deadlines can be extended once for three months on the basis of a written and motivated decision.[14]

In practice, refugees encounter many difficulties beyond the mere ones linked to the language requirement. The interview also aims to determine the level of integration into French society of the candidates. This assessment is very wide since, according to lawyers supporting refugees in this process, economic and cultural aspects are taken into account, as well as ties with their original community. The Prefecture will particularly scrutinise the relationship claimants have with French people. In that sense, claimants are used to submitting more documents than those required by law. For example, they will produce testimonies from teachers if they have children, proof of their economic situation or testimonies of French friends.[15]





[1] Decree n. 93-1962 relating to citizenship declarations, naturalisation, reintegration, loss, forfeit and withdrawal of the French citizenship decisions, 13 December 1993, available in French at:

[2] Article 21-17 Civil Code.

[3] Article 37(1) Decree n. 93-1362.

[4] Article 37(2) Decree n. 93-1362.

[5] Article 21-23 Civil Code.

[6] Article 21-24 Civil Code.

[7] Article 37-1 Decree n. 93-1362.

[8] Article 21-19 Civil Code.

[9] Article 21-18 Civil Code.

[10] Article 41 Decree n. 93-1362.

[11] Article 46 Decree n. 93-1362.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Article 21-25-1 Civil Code.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Practice-informed observations by Forum Réfugiés and partners.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation