Fewer foreigners gain French citizenship

Fewer foreigners gain French citizenship
Less than 100,000 people became French citizens in 2012. Photo: Shutterstock
While more and more foreigners are being naturalized across the EU, the same cannot be said in France where for the first time since 2002 the number of people granted French citizenship has fallen under the 100,000 mark.

The number of foreigners gaining citizenship in France is falling and stands below the EU average, new data has revealed.

In 2012 only 96,088 people obtained a French passport, figures from Eurostat showed, compared to some 114,600 the year before.  

It was the first time in ten years the number fell below the 100,000 mark.

That drop in France contrasts with a rise across the 28-nation EU block where the number of naturalized citizens increased by four percent in 2012 to 818,000.

However despite the significant decrease, France is still among the countries with the highest number of naturalized citizens, sitting in third place behind the UK with 193,000 people and Germany with 114,600. Spain (94,100) and Italy (65,400) also make up the top five.

Number of people granted French citizenship

However, when compared to France's total population of 66 million, the number of new citizens is actually below EU average.

In France, only 1.5 people per 1,000 inhabitants are acquired citizens, putting the country below the EU average of 1.6.

For comparison, Luxemburg with a population of 543,300 people tops the ranking with 8.7 people per 1,000, followed by Ireland with 5.5 and Sweden with 5.3.

When it comes to the origins of France's new citizens some 78 percent of them come from non-European countries. The top three is made up of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

From countries within the EU, the Portuguese are the ones that most frequently become French citizens, followed by Romanians and Italians.

SEE ALSO: Ten reasons why you should think about becoming French

The news that France has accepted fewer citizenship requests may be received well by some after a poll in 2013 revealed that the majority of the French believed there were too many foreigners in France.

However it won't please France's Spanish-born PM Manuel Valls who last year announced plans to make it easier for foreigners to become French, and also to increase the number of naturalized citizens.

At the time Valls said: "French nationality should not be sold off or reserved for the elite.”

Valls scrapped a multiple-choice history and culture test for applicants and also a rule that they had to have a permanent job (CDD) before they would be considered.

Although the rules state that applicants must have a certain level of French language ability, over-60s and graduates from Francophone universities were exempted from taking the obligatory French language test.

However, the final decision for citizenship still rests on the discretion of the French official, who is entitled to give a refusal even if all of the conditions are met.

The government's plan was not greeted warmly by the right-wing opposition.

“Valls wants to increase the number of naturalizations in order to facilitate the integration of immigrants, but to become French must be the result of an assimilation to the national community,” said UMP deputy Guillaume Larrivé.

“On June 17th I attended a naturalization ceremony in Auxerre of a woman who wore the Islamic veil. Was she really 'assimilated to the French community' according to the meaning in the civil code?” Larrivé said last year.

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