Becoming French: ‘We belong in France and we feel European’

Becoming French: 'We belong in France and we feel European'
Photo: AFP
After a long and sometimes arduous journey, Briton Lucinda Barron and her family who live in Toulouse have just received the letter confirming they are French citizens. Here she describes the process and what it means to be French just in time for Brexit.
My husband, Andrew, and I first moved to France at the end of 2000. It had always been a dream of mine to live in France, after studying French in the UK. We spent eight years in Paris and two years in Rennes, had a brief spell in Glasgow, then seven years ago we moved to Toulouse where we plan to stay. We have two children, Oscar (8) and Eloïse (6).
We thought about applying for nationality after we moved to Toulouse, but despite having lived in France for 10 years previously, we had to wait until we had been back in the country for five years. By this point Brexit had happened and we were all the more determined to apply, along with a lot more other Brits.
For us, the most important things were to have stability for ourselves and our children with the uncertainty of Brexit, and also to be able to vote. 
We didn't actually apply as a family as that's not possible, you have to make an individual application. Luckily my husband and I managed to get appointments at the Prefecture within 10 days of each other which meant that they put our files together. As our children were born here and are under 18 they were automatically included in our application.
Lucinda Barron with her husband Andrew and two children Oscar and Eloïse. Photo: Lucinda Barron
Once we had our interview dates we had about a year to compile the paperwork. This was the most arduous part as it takes a long time to apply to the various authorities in France and the UK and get the relevant documents and then have them translated. 
We also had to do a French test and swot up on French history, politics and culture for the interview. As we have lived in France for over 15 years this part wasn't so daunting but we still spent time revising former kings and queens and past presidents!
The interview itself was straightforward, we went through my dossier document by document, then I was tested on French general knowledge and asked lots of questions about our life here.
I mentioned to the interviewer that the kids are members of local sports and dance clubs, but they wanted to know about my husband and myself specifically. So I told them that I am a member of a local dance association and that my husband is a “parents' representative” at the kids' school. That seemed to go down well. 
The interviewer was very interested in whether we socialise with French or British people, whether we are integrated in our village and what we do in our free time. It was all very friendly and informal.
I said we didn't choose our friends based on their nationality and while we do know many British people here we also have French friends (and friends of other nationalities) who we tend to meet through school and work. 


QUIZ: Do you know France well enough to become French?

The next stage for me was an interview at the local gendarmerie a few days later. This involved further questions about our life as a family and why we were applying for nationality.

The interview at the gendarmerie was also informal, in fact the gendarme was very apologetic about some of the questions, i.e. where did my husband and I meet, how long were we going out before we got married, etc. Some of them didn't seem very relevant to our situation, but he just had a list of questions to ask and had to get through them. 
My advice to others embarking on the process would be to start as soon as possible with the paperwork to avoid extra stress later on. Double check everything on the list and talk to others who have been through the process.
Our interviews were at the end of May 2018 and we were thrilled to get our letters from the Ministère de l'Intérieur at the beginning of January this year.
Now we just need to wait for the paperwork and will be able to apply for our ID cards and passports. We feel so relieved that it happened relatively quickly, and more importantly before Brexit. 
We are all delighted to have French citizenship. My husband and I have spent practically all our working lives here and brought our family up here so we feel like we belong here.
Having nationality feels like validation of this.
The kids were born here and know no other life. While we don't necessarily feel French, we don't feel entirely British either. But we do feel European and so our new French nationality will mean that we retain our European status, something which will sadly no longer be the case for British citizens.
We feel relief because of the Brexit uncertainty and also relief that our dossier was complete and we don't have to do anything else on the administrative front.

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