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How You Can Become A French Citizen Through Your Parents?

France offers everything anyone could want: a fantastic climate, spectacular landscapes with remarkable contrasts, affordable real estate, accessible healthcare, and arguably some of the world's best wine and cuisine. It is a popular expat destination for professionals, families, and retirees, thanks to its excellent work-life balance and high living standard.

While many expats undergo rigorous and time-consuming naturalization procedures to obtain French citizenship, individuals with French heritage may already be considered French citizens without realizing it. Recent research indicates that over 20 million people worldwide claim French heritage, and many may be eligible to petition for French citizenship by carefully examining their family history and establishing a continuous lineage with a qualified French ancestor.


France uses the principle of jus sanguinis or the right of blood

France uses the principle of jus sanguinis or the right of blood


Historically, the notion of jus soli, which means "right of soil," has governed French citizenship. The same rule regulates citizenship in many nations, where every child born on the territory of the country, regardless of their parents' nationality, instantly receives citizenship of the country.

France has increasingly shifted from the principle of jus soli to the principle of jus sanguinis, or the 'right of blood', regarding citizenship. It's all part of the increasingly political drive to prevent the children of immigrants from gaining French citizenship simply because they were born in France. They may become French citizens in various ways, but it is not automatic.

Since France took steps to make gaining citizenship more complicated, its citizenship by descent program has grown in popularity. According to its regulations, a person may become a citizen of the nation via his or her parents.

Unfortunately, France only permits you to 'travel back' one generation, while countries such as Italy enable anybody who is even a bit Italian to petition for citizenship by descent.

However, if you are fortunate enough to have a French parent and want French citizenship, you still need to prove your eligibility. It should be relatively simple since you only need proof of your parents' French identity.

However, it might be significantly more difficult if your French parent is estranged or you need a method of locating him or her. You'd have to go through archives to find some documents or evidence that you had links to France.


Related content: The Basics Of How To Get A Second Passport Or A Second Residency


France is one of the most challenging nations citizenship by ancestry

France is one of the most challenging nations citizenship by ancestry


You may know you have French ancestors but may have just learned that this can qualify you for French citizenship today. So, what specific circumstances allow you to obtain French citizenship by ancestry?

Here are the conditions:

  • If an individual's parent was a French citizen at their birth, they can obtain French citizenship by descent. This individual will be required to verify his or her identification and the citizenship of the French parent.
  • If a person over 18 is born in a foreign country to a French mother (born in France or abroad), they may get French nationality if and only if the mother preserved her French nationality at their birth. Furthermore, the parent-child bond with that French parent had to be formed while the child was still a minor.
  • A French citizen may pass on their nationality to their children via descent if the person maintained their French nationality at birth and the parent-child connection was established when the child was a minor.

If you fall into one of the categories mentioned above, you can petition for French citizenship by descent.

However, keep in mind that in France, all generations must be registered as citizens before you can apply for your own. For example, if your parent had French ancestors via their parents, they would have to seek citizenship before you could get yours. Similarly, if you have children, you must first register and get your French citizenship before applying for their French passports.

Finally, consider the possession “d'état de Français,” which roughly translates to "contract with France."

You will not be eligible for citizenship if you or your parents have had no contact or connections with French authorities for 50 years (such as passport renewal, voter registration, or consular registration) and have lived outside of France.

In other words, if your parent(s) have severed all ties with France, and you have as well, France will not entertain your citizenship application. This makes France one of the most challenging nations for citizenship by ancestry.

However, proving recent cultural, professional, economic, familial, or military ties to the nation will make the process easier for you.


in France, all generations must be registered as citizens before you can apply for your own

In France, all generations must be registered as citizens before you can apply for your own


Gathering the paperwork verifying your eligibility, like with any citizenship-by-descent program, is the most challenging part of the procedure. And since the weight of evidence is all on you, you must put together a strong case for French immigration to make a favourable judgment.

The certificate of French nationality is what you will be requesting. It is a government-issued document that can be used to confirm your French citizenship. Contact the Department of Nationality for French People Born and Established Outside of France to get it. Yes, they have such a department, and the reach of French institutions worldwide is very extensive.


Related content: How Can I Become A Spanish Citizen If My Family Came From Spain?


A copy of your parents birth certificate is an essential document to apply for French citizenship by ancestry

A copy of your parents birth certificate is an essential document to apply for French citizenship by ancestry


In any event, you must give the following papers to them when submitting your application for a certificate of French nationality:

  • Your passport
  • Proof of residency (a recent household bill, for example)
  • A copy of your birth certificate that shows the parent-child connection with the French parent in question.
  • A copy of your parent's (or grandparents') birth certificate
  • Any documentation that proves your parent(s) are French citizens (e.g., national identity card, passport, consular registration card, certificate of nationality, military booklet, voter card, et cetera)
  • Your parents' marriage certificate or, if they aren't married, a copy of the document recognizing and establishing parentage
  • Unless the applicant is unable to travel due to specific circumstances, the application must be submitted in person. Certain courts will accept paperwork via mail in this case.


You will be eligible to apply for a French passport as soon as your citizenship application is granted

You will be eligible to apply for a French passport as soon as your citizenship application is granted

Two more conditions make France one of the most challenging nations to get citizenship:

  • Proof of integration into French society, tested by an interview. On the official website you may see what types of questions they could ask you on the official website.
  • A language test. You will be asked to demonstrate your ability to speak and write in French. A recognized certificate from a programme of study at a Francophone institution may be used in place of the exam.

This nationality is by far one of the most complex to obtain, but it can be lovely being a French citizen and enjoying the many places France has to offer you and your spouse. Many other nations will not need you to know the language or even pass a cultural exam, but France is not one of them.

Learning French is a crucial part of the process as well as studying France’s history and culture since you will need to pass an exam on these topics. You will be eligible to apply for a French travel document - a passport - as soon as your citizenship application is granted. Here's all you need to know about applying for one. If your application is denied, you may file an appeal by contacting the Ministry of Justice directly.


Related content: Ireland Citizenship By Ancestry


You need to speak French fluently if you intend to apply for a French citizenship

You need to speak French fluently if you intend to apply for a French citizenship


If you finally become a French citizen, you can live, work, and vote in France indefinitely and receive all government-provided public benefits. Furthermore, having French citizenship allows you to live and work in other European Union (EU) nations. Also, if you become a French citizen, you do not have to give up your nationality: you may acquire dual French citizenship.



France is a very nationalistic country with no accommodations for non-French speakers. If you have French ancestry and believe you may be qualified to apply for French citizenship, you must pass a language and culture test and assemble an application dossier, which might take some time. However, given the importance of the French passport in the broader scheme of things, it is worth looking into it. You may also contact us if you don't want to perform the digging yourself. We'll handle all the paperwork for you, from determining your eligibility to lodging your application and assisting you in obtaining your French passport. Let's discuss it now if you want to become a French citizen.


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Mikkel Thorup

Written by Mikkel Thorup

Mikkel Thorup is the world’s most sought-after expat consultant. He focuses on helping high-net-worth private clients to legally mitigate tax liabilities, obtain a second residency and citizenship, and assemble a portfolio of foreign investments including international real estate, timber plantations, agricultural land and other hard-money tangible assets. Mikkel is the Founder and CEO at Expat Money™, a private consulting firm started in 2017. He hosts the popular weekly podcast, the Expat Money Show, and wrote the definitive #1-Best Selling book Expat Secrets - How To Pay Zero Taxes, Live Overseas And Make Giant Piles Of Money, and his second book: Expats Guide On Moving To Mexico.

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