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Becoming French, Part 1: The Question of Dual Citizenship

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).

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, ether you have dual nationality or not (although some of us don’t make enough money to “qualify” for double taxation).

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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Reader Comments (48)

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!
March 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEve
You still have to pay tax in America even though you don't reside there? Madness.
March 17, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermike
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 ....
March 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEve
Bravo, Heather! No more being a "law-breaker" for you. Bonne chance!
March 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPhil
You can exclude up to $82k (ish) of foreign income from US taxation, but it's somewhat weird if you earn more: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Taxpayers-abroad-can-limit-US-brn-14841351.html
July 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFreresTang
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.
February 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge
hello george. I really don't think you can obtain French citizenship because you have a great grandfather that was French. Sorry.
July 5, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermama
I'm assuming Canadians can get a dual citizenship as well right?
January 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnastasia
Anastasia: Each country has different laws regarding dual nationality. You'll have to check with Canada on that, I have no idea.
January 27, 2011 | Registered CommenterHeather Stimmler
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?
October 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRG

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