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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)

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. ;-)
April 19, 2013 | Registered CommenterHeather Stimmler-Hall
How about this: retired, US-French dual citizenship, French wife; taxes paid in France; small US
SS 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!
May 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGeo
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.
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.
June 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFrancoise
Fran├žoise, You need to contact the French embassy or consulate in the US closest to you. The US Embassy does not grant French citizenship.
June 13, 2013 | Registered CommenterHeather Stimmler-Hall
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,

September 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Gaffney
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.
December 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShan
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! :-)
December 29, 2013 | Registered CommenterHeather Stimmler-Hall
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?
June 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRick P
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?
July 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAdrien L

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