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Most Popular • Second Passport

How to Obtain French Citizenship By Descent

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Can you envision anything more romantic than sipping champagne at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the world capital of Haute fashion, fine art, and delectable baked goods?

Have you always adored the nonchalant French way of life? Would you like to be more than just another tourist wandering along the Champs Elysees? 

It’s a real possibility – if you have French ancestry. 

Without even realising it, you could already be considered a French citizen based purely on your bloodline.

If that’s the case for you, we’ve got good news. 

We’ve recently launched our all-inclusive Citizenship-by-Descent (CBD) service, where we help clients reconnect with their roots and secure a second passport while they’re at it.

We deal with eligibility and application matters on behalf of all our clients, so all you have to do is pick a cover for your shiny new passport.

Take a few minutes to fill out our application form and get ready to discover your heritage. We have helped over 1,500 clients and have a proven track record of getting the best results, helping them achieve second citizenship and gain access to greater opportunities. 

What Is Citizenship by Descent?

Citizenship by descent (CBD) is the cheapest way to get second citizenship.

If you are an American, Canadian, or Australian citizen, there is a good chance that your ancestors originated in Europe.

Many European countries run citizenship-by-descent programs extending citizenship to the descendants of citizens who had to flee, were exiled, or left the country during a time of mass migration.

The level of difficulty of obtaining a passport through descent varies depending on the country and its citizenship laws.

But if you’re ready to jump through all the hoops placed in front of you and don’t mind getting your hands dirty doing a spot of research, you should at least explore this avenue of getting a second (or a subsequent) citizenship. 

Each citizenship has some cons, but the benefits usually outweigh them. Having a second passport also gives you more options in life, and greater freedom is always a good thing.

French Citizenship by Ancestry

French Citizenship by Ancestry
If you can provide proof of your French parentage, you could qualify for French citizenship by descent.

Historically, France’s citizenship has been governed by the ‘jus soli’ principle, which means the ‘right of soil.’ 

The same law governs citizenship in the United States, where any child born in the country’s territory, no matter the nationality of their parents, automatically acquires the country’s nationality. 

However, France has slowly moved away from ‘jus soli’ and moved towards ‘jus sanguinis’, the ‘right of blood’, when it comes to its citizenship. 

Ever since France made moves to make obtaining citizenship harder, its citizenship-by-descent program has become more desirable. 

According to French law, a person can become a citizen of the country through one of their parents. 

Unfortunately, France only allows you to go back one generation, whereas countries like Ireland let those who can trace back up to three generations apply for citizenship by descent.

Even if you’re lucky enough to have a French parent, you’ll still have to prove your eligibility to become a citizen of the country. 

That’s not an insurmountable task since all you need is documentation proving your parent’s French nationality. 

However, things can get slightly more complicated if the French parent in question is estranged or you have no way of tracking them down. You might have to dig around in archives to produce some paperwork, or some other type of proof, that you have ties to France. 

With that in mind, let’s talk about eligibility in more detail.

Eligibility Requirements for French CBD

Could you already be French and not know it? 

It’s certainly possible. In fact, when it comes to eligibility for citizenship by descent, that’s often how it works.

You might have an inkling of your French roots but not be aware of the details, nor that they could make you eligible to apply for French citizenship. 

So, what are the exact scenarios in which you might be eligible for French citizenship through ancestry? There are a few: 

  • A person can become a French citizen by descent if at least one of their parents was a French citizen at the time of their birth. This person will need to prove not just their own identity but the citizenship of the French parent in question, too. 
  • If a person over the age of 18 was born in a foreign country to a French mother (who herself was born in France or elsewhere), they may obtain French nationality if – and only if – at the time of their birth, their mother retained her French nationality. Also, the parent-child relationship with that French parent must have been established while the child was a minor. 
  • A French citizen may pass on their nationality to their children by descent if, on the day of their birth, the person retained their French nationality and the parent-child relationship was established while the child was a minor. 

If any of the above scenarios apply, you could be eligible to apply for French citizenship by descent.

However, note that France requires all previous generations in your line to be registered as citizens before you apply for your own.

For example, if your parent has French roots via their own parent, they must apply for their citizenship first before you can obtain your own. 

Similarly, if you have children, your French citizenship must be registered and obtained before you apply for their French passports. 

Finally, another limitation to consider is the ‘possession d’état de Français’, which loosely translates as ‘contract with France’. If neither you nor your parents have had anything to do with France for 50 years (such as contact or links with French authorities via passport renewal, voter registration, or consular registration) and have resided outside of France, you won’t be eligible to receive citizenship. 

In other words, if your parent(s) have lost all links with France and you haven’t had any either, France isn’t going to play ball when it receives your citizenship application.

This makes France one of the most complex countries to secure citizenship by descent. 

But, if you can prove cultural, professional, economic, family, or military connections to the country that are relatively recent, you have a reasonable chance of success.

Let’s look at how you can apply next.

Application Process for French CBD

As with every citizenship-by-descent program, gathering the documents proving your eligibility is probably the most challenging part. 

The burden of proof falls solely on you, so you must create a solid case for them to make a favourable decision. 

What you will be applying for first is the certificate of French nationality. It’s an official document that can be used to prove your French citizenship.

To obtain it, you must contact the Department of Nationality for French People Born and Established Outside of France.  Yes, that’s the actual name of the department and a measure of just how massive the reach of French institutes around the world is.

You’ll need to submit your application for the certificate of French nationality to them by presenting the following documents:

  • Proof of identity – your passport
  • Proof of residence, such as a recent household bill
  • A copy of your birth certificate indicating the parent-child relationship with the French parent in question
  • A copy of your parent(s) birth certificate
  • All documents that would establish your parent(s) as a French national, such as national identity card, passport, consular registration card, certificate of nationality, military booklet, voter card and so on. 
  • Your parents’ marriage certificate or, if your parents aren’t married, a copy of the certificate recognising and proving parentage.

The application must be lodged in person unless, under exceptional circumstances, the person is unable to travel. In this case, certain courts will accept paperwork via mail. 

Two other requirements truly make France one of the most complex countries to obtain citizenship in:

  • Proof of integration into French society, tested by an interview. You can check out what kinds of questions they might ask you on the official website
  • A language test: You’ll be required to prove that you can speak and write in French. A recognised diploma from a course of studies at a Francophone institute can be used as a substitute for the test. 

While many other countries won’t require you to speak the language or even pass a culture test (in fact, Croatia has scrapped its culture test), France isn’t making things easy.

As you’re discovering, French nationality isn’t something you’ll be able to get without putting in a serious amount of your own effort or getting us to do some of the heavy work for you.

Unfortunately, we can’t sit the culture and the language tests for you, so you really have to determine if you need French nationality badly enough to spend time studying. 

If you do make it past this stage, then as soon as you get approved for your citizenship, you will be able to apply for a French passport. 

Rejection is a distinct possibility, but if your application is rejected, you can launch an appeal, which involves directly contacting the Ministry of Justice.

The Pros of French Citizenship 

Notre Dame Seine River France
French citizenship will not be the right choice for every individual.

As we constantly advise clients, every citizenship has its own peculiar perks and drawbacks, and French citizenship is no different. 

Firstly, not only is France rich in terms of its culture, but it is also one of the two excellent powerhouses of the European Union and strides across the world stage as one of its most important players. As one of the largest economies in the world, you’ll never be short of opportunities in France if you’re willing to put in the effort. 

Secondly, a French passport is one of the most powerful travel documents in the world. With it, you can visit nearly every country visa-free. 

That’s in addition to all French citizens being able, as European Union citizens, to travel, live and work anywhere in the EU. 

Thirdly, France has permitted dual citizenship since 1973. That means, unlike many countries which will insist you give up your original citizenship as soon as you get theirs, France has no such expectations.

The Cons of French Citizenship 

However, there are some negative aspects to French citizenship by descent.

As you’ve just read, the eligibility requirements are exacting, if not downright extreme. While the paper trail for your parents shouldn’t be hard to establish, the language and cultural interview requirements could be viewed as excessive.

Much of it comes down to the French sense of civic and national pride. While many locals are happy to chat in other languages, many will point-blank refuse to speak English and insist on a French-only conversation. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise. After all, only 57.25% of the French population speak English compared to 93% in the neighbouring Netherlands.

Another major issue to note: We strongly advise against becoming a tax resident in France, as you’ll be taxed on your worldwide income at France’s relatively high tax rates. That would be a considerable inconvenience if you just want the French lifestyle without the burdens of its tax system.

To sum up, if you can pass the examination barriers and work your way to French citizenship, we think it’s a great citizenship to hold that wouldn’t necessarily make you liable to pay tax if you’re not a resident in the country.

Plus, it affords you many great travel benefits and lifestyle options too.

Is French Citizenship by Descent Worth Your While? 

France is unapologetic when it comes to national pride and it really doesn’t make any concessions to non-French speakers.

If you have French heritage and think you might be eligible to apply for citizenship, you’ll have to pass a language and culture exam, as well as put an application file together, all of which can take quite a bit of your time.

While Nomad Capitalist can handle all the application process woes for you, you have to negotiate the language and culture tests alone.

However, considering the value of the French passport in the grand scheme of things, it’s certainly worth a look.

Start your journey to reclaiming your heritage right now. Check out our CBD Eligibility Checker, answer just a few questions and see if you qualify for citizenship by descent.

If you have French roots and you want to get a Tier A European passport, get in touch with us today. Our premium Citizenship-by-Descent service is just what you’re looking for. We take care of all the paperwork on your behalf, from checking if you’re eligible to apply to actually lodging the application for you and helping you obtain your French passport.


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