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Becoming French, Part 1: The Question of Dual Citizenship

Liberty Leading the People

After 13 years of living in France, paying French taxes, and opening a French company, I’m ready for my French passport, s’il vous plaît…

I get emails every week from Americans asking the same question: how can I live in France? That’s a long answer, and it’s actually different for each person depending on a lot of factors including who you’re married to and how you can support yourself. My own path has been quite circuitous since 1995: a year as a student, a few months of illegal alien status when the visa ran out, then marriage to an European Union citizen which gave me my 10-year carte de séjour allowing me to live and work in France.

But after living in France for 13 years, starting my own company, and paying a LOT of taxes, I’ve decided that I want more. I want to be able to take the “EU Passports Only” line at the airport. I want to be able to vote in local and national elections. I want to avoid having to reapply for my “carte de séjour” ever again. I want to be able to live and work anywhere in Europe (not that I’m leaving France, but it’s nice to have the option).

French Passport

So this year I went to the Préfecture de Police on the Ile de la Cité and picked up the paperwork for the Demande d’Acquisition de la Nationalité Française

As expected, this quest for French nationality brings up all sorts of new issues for an American like myself:

Can I keep my American nationality? Yes, thanks to AARO, AAWE and FAWCO, Americans can now have dual nationality (this wasn’t always the case).

Does this mean I don’t have to pay American taxes? No, you always have to pay American taxes as long as you’re an American citizen, whether you have dual nationality or not (although some of us don’t make enough money to “qualify” for double taxation after the foreign earned income credit).

Where does my loyalty lie? Well, to me that’s like asking to choose which child or which parent you love more. I’ve lived in France my entire adult life and it feels like home to me. But at the same time I’m very American and I still vote, file taxes, and visit on a regular basis. As I have said before, I feel like an ambassador of goodwill between the two countries, which I’ve made a career of with my writing and tours.

In fact, considering how much I do to bring American visitors into France, you’d think they’d just send me an extra passport in thanks. Mais non, Madame. There is paperwork to be filled out. Beaucoup de paperwork.

Read Part 2: Naturalization Paperwork


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  • First I'd like to say your website is VERY informative. My dad was born in Paris in 1934 and thank God still alive and well. He's become a US citizen however I still have family in France, visit often and who knows maybe one day will live there. Since my dad was born in France, do I qualify for dual citizenship? Are you aware of any services that help with the paperwork?

  • We are French our great, great grandfather was guillotined in late 1770. His sons had to leave the country I assume they could of been next. If I can prove the family connection can I apply to live and work in france. And eventually get citizenship? I am currently a computer programmer with a wife and 2 kids. My french is very weak.

  • Why does the U.S. require you filing.? You don't live in the us. Isn't the U.S. the only country to do this? Has something to do with draft dodgers, etc… Crazy usa. No thanks.

  • I am french. I married an American in France then we moved to the US and had children.I become American in 1995.I did not renew my passport at the French embassy.Can I renew my french passport now?

  • I am a French and American national (dual) living full-time in the U.S. Do I have to pay French taxes on my U.S. income? I have no French income.

  • Yes, Mike. Most of my friends are naturalized, and they all had lived in France between five and twenty years before obtaining French citizenship. Keep in mind we all applied at different times; the process in the 80s, the 90s was nothing like what I did in 2010, and I've heard it has changed again since 2012. Seriously, though, you should be getting your information from official French government sources (like here: http://www.vos-droits.justice.gouv.fr/nationalite-francaise-11963/), not expat blogs (no matter how awesome they might be, lol!)

  • Thanks Heather, just one more question: Do you know of any others who have become naturalized and if so, how long have they lived in France for? Thanks.

  • Mike: I don't recall what kind of ten-year carte de séjour I had (it was issued in 2000, not sure if the same exact carte exists today)…it allowed me to live and work here without restrictions. As for your other questions, you'll have to check with the naturalization office or the préfecture de police, I only know my own case, and the processes for both have changed since then. Bonne chance!

  • To the author: Hi, was the 10-year carte de sejour you obtained a "carte de resident" or a "carte de resident de longue duree – UE"? I have completed a two-year master (in French) at Pantheon-Sorbonne and currently have a two year work contract. I have had my VLS-TS student visa changed to an autorisation provisoire de séjour and will have my status changed to VLS-TS salarie after 12 months. Would it be easier for me to apply for a carte de resident/resident de long duree-UE than to apply for citizenship, as the regulations say that both are technically possible?

  • For gads sake folks, she is a journalist not an immigration official. If you have complicated serious questions about citizenship, do yourself a favor and go to the consulate or do a google search!

  • Hi KJ, If your daughter has a UK passport she is considered European and can thus stay in Paris, but have her check with the Prefecture de Paris to check on that, since I'm not the one in charge! 😉

  • hello therecan you please help with some advice heremy daughter was born in japan 22 years ago to english mother and us fathershe now lives (and loves) paris.she has a consulate report, handed out at birth.she has a certificate of birth in japanese.she wants to be able to receive free health care in paris, plus she will soon be lookingto pay some french taxes. she has just graduated with her MA in Canterbury uni in Paris. any ideas!poor girl is really worried that she will have to leave her beloved paris… she has both american passport (expired) and british passport. kerry jayne

  • Hi, my father is a French citizen currently living in the Brittany region of France. I, on the other hand, am an American citizen and very interested in obtaining dual citizenship (French). Could someone give me some ideas on how would I go about doing this?

  • Heather, do you know any eligible French men in Paris between 35-50 years young who'd be interested in a child-free, Francophile woman from San Francisco? If so, please introduce me next time I'm in Paris. Seriously. I'd marry the right one! 🙂

  • Adrian: Yes, you have the same rights as any other French citizen if yo have citizenship. And no, finding a job and housing isn't easy for anyone. Best of luck!

  • I have just found out I have dual citizenship US\France. I am planning on moving to France and I speak the language quiet well. I would like to know if people who hold dual citizenship have the same opportunities as French citizen? I would also if it is quiet simple to find work and living arrangements for French English speakers?

  • The current US passport renewal application form requires an explanation in writing if the applicant has obtained a foreign nationality by naturalization subsequent to obtaining US citizenship. Is this an absolute necessity? Have any court cases confirmed this?

  • Hi Shan, The Consulate in San Francisco will be English-speaking, don't worry. They are there to answer questions from both French citizens and those traveling (or emigrating) to France. Good luck! 🙂

  • That was great info. My husband was born in Tahiti (French Citizen) and later acquired his US Passport from his mother since she is from Hawaii. He currently has a US passport, but would like to renew his French Passport. I also have questions on if our 4 daughters and possibly myself would be able to acquire a french passport, as we are considering a re-location in a few years. Im not sure where to start. Ive been told, the French Consulate, the nearest to us is San Francisco. I can only speak conversationally, not fluently, hence my hesitance to call the consulate directly. Any guidance would be wonderful.

  • Hi Heather! With only a small SSI check for a "pension," is it remotely possible to become a duel citizen? I'd really like to go to French Polynesia to work and live, but the restrictions may be beyond what I can do. Thanks for your advice, Peter

  • Françoise, You need to contact the French embassy or consulate in the US closest to you. The US Embassy does not grant French citizenship.

  • I am a french citizen but naturalized US citizen, married to a US citizen. Our daughter was born in the USA. She is now 40 y.o, and would like to obtain a dual citizenship so she can live in France if she wants to. We all live in the USA now. What do we need to do to apply for dual citizenship for her and what papers and infos do we need. Phone calls to the US Embassy are confusing and the website is even more confusing.Thank you.

  • Hi Geo, I'm a journalist, not a tax specialist. Those are complicated questions (and if you fail to file proerly you'll be in big doo doo), so please consult a tax professional with your questions.

  • How about this: retired, US-French dual citizenship, French wife; taxes paid in France; small USSS pension included in French tax declaration. Do I have to file in US; if so which form, 1040 or 1040A (no other US income); and last definitely not least, what about FBARs? Any advice welcome!

  • Elizabeth, You should go to your local French Embassy and ask them. I'm just a journalist writing about my own experience, not an immigration official. 😉

  • I was born in France. My father is a USA citizen. My mother French. My father was stationed in France when I was born. I have dual citizenship. Do I have to have two passports? And can I have two passports? I haven't lived in France for many years . Do I have any rights in France?

  • H: If you own property in France, you have to file taxes declaring it in France (in any case you owe property taxes, and if you skip paying them now, you'll get stuck with a nasty surprise bill if you ever get caught or try and sell the property). The USA also requires you to declare the income, but unless you make over a certain amount of money you shouldn't owe taxes in both countries (but to be clear, you still MUST declare the income to both countries' tax authorities, even if you don't owe any taxes…it's one of the hidden joys of American citizenship).

  • I do want to know where to pay taxes on a rental income we make in France ,i live in USA ,I am a US citizen and my wife is French/US.Do we have to declare this income here and in France, do we have to pay taxes here and in France

  • Colette: You've been in the US since the 50s and you're asking *me* if you're a dual citizen? Do you have a valid French passport? You should probably contact the nearest French consulate or embassy for the answer to that question.

  • I came to the US from France at the age of 14 in 1957. Since then I have become an American citizen. Does it mean that I have not retained my french citizenship? Or do I have a dual citizenship?Thank you.

  • Hi Viki,Yes, you have to pay French taxes on rental income in France. Contact a tax specialist to help you do this.

  • I have dual French/American citizenship. I currently live in the US and owe a rental property in Paris,Do i pay taxes to French gov.from my rental income?Is this considered exempt for IRS ( less than $82k) ? I need some adviceViki

  • I'm an American citizen born in France with a French birth ciertificate…what procedure must I take to apply for legal recognition? thank you for your help Susan

  • Hi RG, The laws change all of the time, you're best contacting the French government directly with citizenship questions, but I'm pretty sure you can only get citizenship through parents (and even then there are some confusing requirements about residency for both the parents and the child).

  • I am one generation closer than George. My grandparents immigrated to San Francisco in the 1890s from Pau. Does that change the situation re obtaining dual citizenship?

  • Anastasia: Each country has different laws regarding dual nationality. You'll have to check with Canada on that, I have no idea.

  • hello george. I really don’t think you can obtain French citizenship because you have a great grandfather that was French. Sorry.

  • My great-grandfather moved to Puerto Rico from Corsica in or about 1898, as did many Corsicans. Does anyone know if this family connection would serve my applying for dual citizenship with France, since Corsica was then, as is today, a French territory.

  • She said *file taxes* which doesn’t necessarily mean pay them (though she may). If you live outside the US and make up to a certain sum, you do not normally have to pay taxes ….

  • I am a dual national by marriage (US by birth, French by marriage). Funny thing about those French, they care more about to whom you are married, and that you SPEAK FLUENT FRENCH, as opposed to the Americans that require you to LIVE in the US. The process was relatively painless, however, despite the often scary French bureacracy. I did it while living in the US (still do) – certificate of citizenship signed by good ol’ Jacques Chirac when he was still president. Good luck!