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French nationality law is historically based on the principles of jus soli, according to Ernest Renan's definition, and/or the German's definition of nationality formalized by Fichte. The 1993 reform (Méhaignerie Act), which required children born in France of foreign parents to request French nationality at adulthood, instead of being automatically accorded it (no conditions were required to acquire it). This "manifestation of will" requirement has been abrogated by the Guigou Law of 1998 [1], but children born in France of foreign parents remain foreign until obtaining legal majority.

As in most other countries, but differing from the US, children born in France to tourists or short term visitors do not acquire French citizenship by virtue of birth in France: residency must be proven. As immigration became more and more of a political theme in the 1980s, albeit accompanied by a lower immigration rate (see Demographics in France), both left- and right-wing governments have issued several laws restricting more and more the possibilities of being naturalized.

Contents

Attribution of French Nationality

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Filiation

Plenary adoption is the only act of filiation which carries direct effects on nationality. Unlike the process of simple adoption, a child adopted according to the procedure of plenary adoption breaks any bond with his family of origin [2].

Filiation must be established while the child is a minor to take effect. Consequently, the recognition of a child older than the age of majority has no effect on his nationality [3].

Birth in France

Children born in France (including overseas territories) to at least one parent who is also born in France automatically acquire French citizenship at birth (double jus soli).

A child born in France to foreign parents may acquire French citizenship:

  • at birth, if stateless.
  • at age 18, if resident in France with at least 5 years' residence since age 11.
  • at age 16 upon request by the child and if resident in France.
  • at age 13 upon request by the child's parents and if resident in France.
  • if born in France of parents born before independence in a colony/territory in the past under French sovereignty.
    • at birth, if born in France before January 1, 1994.
    • at age 18, if born in France on or after January 1, 1994.

A child who was born abroad and who has only one French parent can repudiate his French nationality during the six months prior to his reaching the age of majority, or in the year which follows it (article 19-4 of the Civil Code).

List of Past Colonies/Territories

List of Past colonies/territories and their dates of independence/transfer
Past colonies/territories Date of independence or transfer
Algeria 3 July 1962 (effect of independence on nationality is 1 January 1963)
Bénin (ex Dahomey) 1 August 1960
Burkina Faso (ex Upper Volta) 5 August 1960
Central African Republic (ex Oubangui-Chari) 13 August 1960
Chandernagor 2 February 1951 (independence effect 9 June 1952)
Comoros (except Mayotte) December 1975 (independence effect 11 April 1976)
Congo-Brazzaville 15 August 1960
Côte d'Ivoire 7 August 1960
Djibouti (ex Territoire français des Afars et des Issas) 27 July 1977
Gabon 17 August 1960
Guinea 1 October 1958
Karikal (ex Établissement français de l'Inde) 28 May 1956 (independence effect 16 August 1962)
Madagascar 26 June 1960
Mahé (ex Établissement français de l'Inde) 28 May 1956 (independence effect 16 August 1962)
Mali (ex French Sudan) 20 June 1960
Mauritania 28 November 1960
Niger 3 August 1960
Pondichéry (ex Établissement français de l'Inde) 28 May 1956 (independence effect 16 August 1962)
Senegal 20 June 1960
Chad 11 August 1960
Vanuatu 31 July 1980
Vietnam 16 August 1955 (independence effect the 1 June 1949)
Yanaon (ex Établissement français de l'Inde) 28 May 1956 (independence effect 16 August 1962)

Acquisition of French Nationality

Naturalisation

A person aged 18 or above may apply for French citizenship by naturalisation after five years' habitual and continuous residence in France (if married and with children, then the applicant must be living in France with his/her family). [4] In addition, it is required that the applicant has his/her primary source of income in France during the five year period. Those applying who are not European Union, European Economic Area or Swiss nationals are required to be in possession of a "titre de séjour" (a residence permit).

Exceptions to the residence period include:

  • The residence period may be completely waived:
    • for citizens of countries where French is one of the official languages (if French is their mother tongue or if they have spent at least five years in a school/in education under the medium of French)
    • those who used to be French, are no longer French and desire to have their French nationality restored
    • those who are refugees
    • for those who have served in the French military.

Naturalisation will only be successful for those who are judged to have integrated into French society (i.e. by virtue of language skills and understanding of rights and responsibilites of a French citizen, to be demonstrated during an interview at the local prefecture), and who show loyalty to French institutions.

Naturalisation through residency is accorded by publication of a decree in the Journal Officiel by decision of the Ministry of Labour, Social Cohesion and Housing. There is an obligatory delay of 18 months from the date of submission before the applicant is notified of the result of his/her naturalisation application.

By marriage

Since 26 November 2003, a foreigner living in France, married to a French citizen for two years could acquire French citizenship by declaration, as long as they have resided in France for one year uninterrupted. The law was changed in August 2006, according to the current article 21-2 and the necessary period before declaration is possible was extended to four years, or five years if living abroad.

If the couple is living outside of France, a three year waiting period is required. In addition to the many documents required to prove both the applicant's nationality and the spouse's French nationality, there is a requirement for competency in the French language.[6]

The declaration of citizenship is made by the couple to the local court, or the French consulate if overseas. The declaration is accepted or rejected by decision of the Ministry of Justice. The government can oppose itself to the request on the ground of "indignity" or lack of "assimilation" to the French community, other than linguistic [1].

French Citizenship and identity

According to the French Republic, the French people are those who are in possession of French nationality. According to the French Constitution, "France shall be an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic. It shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race or religion. It shall respect all beliefs. It shall be organised on a decentralised basis." Article 1

Since the middle of the 19th century, France has exhibited a very high rate of immigration, mainly from Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, the Maghreb, Africa and Asia. According to a 2004 report by INED researcher Michèle Tribalat France has approximately 14 million persons (out of nearly 63 million) (see demographics of France) of foreign ascendancy (immigrants or with at least one parent or great-parent immigrant).

The absence of official statistics on French citizens of foreign origin is not coincidental. The idea of French ethnicity is not one which informs mainstream discourse in France. Under French law passed after the Vichy regime, it is forbidden to categorize people according to their ethnic origins. In France, as in many European countries, censuses do not collect information on supposed ancestry. Moreover, all French statistics are forbidden to have any references concerning ethnic membership. Thus, the French government's assimilationist stance towards immigration as well as towards regional identities and cultures, together with the political heritage of the French revolution has led to the development of a French identity which is based more on the notion of citizenship than on cultural, historical or ethnic ties.

For this reason, French identity must not necessarily be associated with the "ethnic French people", but can be associated with either a nationality and citizenship, or a culture and language-based group. The latter forms the basis for La Francophonie, a group of French-speaking countries, or countries with historical and cultural association to France. The concept of "French ethnicity" exists outside France's borders, in particular in Quebec where some people claim membership to a "French ethnic group", but here again many view it as not so much ethnicity-based as language-based, and would also include immigrants from, for example, Haiti. France's particular self-perception means that French identity may include a naturalized, French-speaking ethnic Portuguese or Algerian. Nonetheless, like in other European countries, some level of discrimination does occur, and there is higher unemployment rates among job-seekers with foreign-sounding names.

Rights and obligations of French citizens

In modern France in general the rights are fundamentally the same as those in other EU countries.

Despite this official discourse of universality, French nationality has not meant automatic citizenship. Some categories of French people have been excluded, throughout the years, from full citizenship:

  • Women: until the Liberation, they were deprived of the right to vote. The provisional government of General de Gaulle accorded them this right by the April 21, 1944 prescription. A law passed on June 6, 2000 attempted to address the economic disparity between men and women[7].
  • Military: for a long time, it was named the Grande muette ("The Big Mute") in reference to its prohibition from interfering in political life. During a large part of the Third Republic (1871-1940), the Army was in its majority anti-republican (and thus counterrevolutionary). The Dreyfus Affair and the May 16, 1877 crisis led to a monarchist coup d'état by MacMahon, are examples of this anti-republican spirit. Therefore, they would gain the right to vote only with the August 17, 1945 prescription: the contribution of De Gaulle to the interior French Resistance reconciled the Army with the Republic. Nevertheless, militaries do not benefit from the whole of public liberties, as the July 13, 1972 law on the general statute of militaries specify.
  • Young people: the July 1974 law instituted at the instigation of president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing reduced to 18 years the coming of age, which thus made of these teenagers full citizens.
  • Naturalized foreigners. Since January 9, 1973, foreigners who have acquired French nationality don't have to wait five years after their naturalization to be able to vote.
  • Inhabitants of the colonies. The May 7, 1946 law meant that soldiers from the "Empire" (such as the tirailleurs) killed during World War I and World War II were not citizens[8].

Furthermore, some authors who have insisted on the "crisis of the nation-state" allege that nationality and citizenship are becoming separate concepts. They show as example "international", "supranational citizenship" or "world citizenship" (membership to transnational organizations, such as Amnesty International or Greenpeace NGOs). This would indicate a path toward a "postnational citizenship"[8].

Beside this, modern citizenship is linked to civic participation (also called positive freedom), which design voting, demonstrations, petitions, activism, etc. Therefore, social exclusion may lead to deprive one of his/her citizenship. This has led various authors (Philippe Van Parijs, Jean-Marc Ferry, Alain Caillé, André Gorz) to theorize a guaranteed minimum income which would impede exclusion from citizenship[9].

Dual Citizenship

Dual citizenship has been permitted since 1973. The main exception has been concerning those countries which are signatories to the European Convention on Nationality. There is an exception to Indian Citizens.

Denaturalisation

According to philosopher Giorgio Agamben, France was one of the first European countries to pass denaturalisation laws, in 1915, with regard to naturalized citizens of "enemy" origins. Its example was followed by most European countries.

As soon as July 1940, Vichy France set up a special Commission charged of reviewing the naturalizations granted since the 1927 reform of the nationality law. Between June 1940 and August 1944, 15,000 persons, mostly Jews, were denaturalized [10]. This bureaucratic decision was instrumental in their subsequent internment.

See also

References

  1. ^ French Embassy (French)
  2. ^ Civil Code of France, Article 343
  3. ^ Le code civil des Français, Article 20-1
  4. ^ Le code civil des Français, Article 21-17
  5. ^ Le code civil des Français, Article 21-18
  6. ^ Le code civil des Français, Article 21-2
  7. ^ (French) "Loi n° 2000-493 du 6 juin 2000 tendant à favoriser l’égal accès des femmes et des hommes aux mandats électoraux et fonctions électives". French Senate. 2000-06-06. http://www.senat.fr/uip/loi_parite_elections.htm. Retrieved 2006-05-02.  
  8. ^ a b (French) B. Villalba. "Chapitre 2 - Les incertitudes de la citoyenneté". Catholic University of Lille, Law Department. http://droit.univ-lille2.fr/enseignants/villalba/cours_PSC/Psc_chap_citoyen.html. Retrieved 2006-05-03.  
  9. ^ (French) P. Hassenteufel, "Exclusion sociale et citoyenneté", "Citoyenneté et société", Cahiers Francais, n° 281, mai-juin 1997), quoted by B. Villalba of the Catholic University of Lille, op.cit.
  10. ^ François Masure, "Etat et identité nationale. Un rapport ambigu à propos des naturalisés, in Journal des anthropologues, hors-série 2007, pp.39-49 (see p.48) (French)

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