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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)

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!
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! :-)
August 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSue
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?
September 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrigitteMartine
Brigitte, Go to your nearest French Consulate in the US. They will have the information and forms.
September 19, 2014 | Registered CommenterHeather Stimmler-Hall
hello there
can you please help with some advice here
my daughter was born in japan 22 years ago to english mother and us father
she 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 looking
to 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
November 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkj
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! ;-)
November 16, 2014 | Registered CommenterHeather Stimmler-Hall
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!
November 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMatt
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?
March 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMike
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!
March 2, 2015 | Registered CommenterHeather Stimmler-Hall
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.
March 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMike

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