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FRENCH CITIZENSHIP

France gives citizenship to 12,000 foreigners who helped on front line during pandemic

More than 12,000 foreign workers whose jobs put them on the front line during the Covid pandemic have been given citizenship under a special scheme that fast-tracked their applications, the French government has announced.

France gives citizenship to 12,000 foreigners who helped on front line during pandemic
Photo: AFP

Back in September 2020, the Interior Ministry invited people who “actively contributed” to the fight against Covid to apply for fast-track naturalisation.

Citizenship minister Marlene Schiappa has now revealed that 16,381 people applied and 12,012 of them have now become French.

As well as fast-tracking the application process – which normally takes between 18 months and two years – the system for frontline workers also cut the residency requirement from five years to two.

READ ALSO Am I eligible for French citizenship?

“Front-line workers responded to the call of the nation, so it is right that the nation takes a step towards them,” said Schiappa.

“I welcome our new compatriots to French nationality and thank them in the name of the Republic, while the country also extends its thanks to them.”

READ ALSO French citizenship test: Do you know France well enough to become French?

Among those naturalised were healthcare workers, security staff, retail cashiers, home-helps and cleaners.

Among those who applied was John Spacey, a British man living in Creuse who works for an organisation providing care for the elderly.

He said: “It genuinely feels like a great honour to be offered citizenship.

“France has been very good to me since my arrival and has given me opportunities I could never have dreamed of before stepping off the Eurostar in 2016 – a home of my own, a wonderful relationship, a twenty-year-old Peugot 106, a forty-year-old Mobilette, the most satisfying job in the world and a very bright future.”

Read his full story here – ‘Thank you, France, for offering me citizenship to recognise my work during the pandemic’

Last year, some 112,000 foreigners acquired French nationality, including more than 48,000 by naturalisation – 10 percent fewer than in 2018.

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FRENCH CITIZENSHIP

How you could qualify for French citizenship in under five years

For most people looking to apply for citizenship in France, they have to live in the country for five consecutive years - but, under certain circumstances, you could apply sooner.

How you could qualify for French citizenship in under five years

Here, we explain how you could shave some time off your residency qualifying period before you can apply for citizenship. The application process can last up to two years on top of the qualifying period. And as ever there are many criteria applicants are required to meet so it’s not just a question about time qualifying periods. 

READ ALSO Am I eligible for French citizenship?

Marriage

Marry a French citizen, and you can qualify for French citizenship after four years rather than five.

However, you still have to pass language and cultural knowledge tests.

This also applies to a foreign national living with their French spouse outside France – as long as they too have been married for five years.

READ ALSO How to become a French citizen via marriage

Postgraduates

Postgraduates who have studied at a French university for at least two years can qualify for citizenship after two years of residency. However it’s not as easy at that in reality given applicants must meet other criteria such as prove they have a stable job and income which obviously may take longer.

Postgraduate applicants still have to pass language and cultural knowledge tests, prove you have integrated into the French way of life, and demonstrate you have the means to live in France, which usually comes via work.

READ ALSO TEST: Is your French good enough for citizenship and residency?

The ancestor rule

If you have a parent who was a French citizen at the time of your birth, you can obtain citizenship via ancestry at any time. You will need full documentation for yourself and your French parent, and also need to prove that they have maintained some ‘connection’ with France in the past 50 years – this could be evidence of residency in France, registration with a French consulate or a voter registration to show they have voted in French elections.

READ ALSO How to obtain French citizenship through ancestry

Military ties

You do not need to complete any qualifying period if you have served in the French military, or enlisted for the French or an allied military in a time of war – but, you need to serve your time in the army, navy or air force, first… 

Anyone who joins the French Foreign Legion can apply for French nationality after three years of service. Depending on each applicant’s service record and willingness to integrate, this application will generally be granted.

Exceptional service

If you can render (or have rendered) important services to France given your abilities and talents, or have completed an exceptional integration process (such as activities or actions in civic, scientific, economic, cultural or sporting fields), you can apply for citizenship after two years. 

‘Exceptional service’ can include an act of heroism. In 2018, then 22-year-old undocumented immigrant Mamoudou Gassama rescued a four-year-old who was dangling from a balcony in Paris. His bravery was recognised with French citizenship.

READ ALSO Who is ‘le spiderman’ – the Malian migrant who saved a toddler’s life?

And numerous foreigners who worked on the frontline during the Covid pandemic have been offered fast-track citizenship.

It is important to note that no minimum residency is required for the following applicants:

  • Anyone with refugee status;
  • Anyone who comes from a French-speaking country and speaks French as the mother tongue;
  • Anyone who comes from a French-speaking country and has been educated for 5 years or more in a French-language teaching establishment.
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