Nationality Application, Part 1

On September 15th I’ll have lived in France continuously for five years. In anticipation, I started collecting the papers for my nationality application over a year ago when I went in to the Prefecture for my titre de séjour appointment. Things are coming together pretty well now and I hope to drop off the application in October.

I have to say, my parents were a big help. For some of the documents, I couldn’t ask for them. The person concerned by the document had to (for example, my dad’s birth certificate). As soon as I mentioned this to them, they got all of the documents they could (both birth certificates and the marriage certificate) AND took care of the apostilles.

Surprisingly, though, the people at the naturalisations department of the prefecture are shockingly humane and logical as far as French bureaucracy goes. It’s like they spend years getting foreigners used to their strict, unreasonable rules, and then for the nationality request everything makes incredible sense. Here are the two examples I have.

1) The language test. For the past few years, every nationality applicant has had to prove proficiency (level B1 or B2, I don’t remember) in French. Manuel Valls (previously Minister of the Interior, now Prime Minister), waived this requirement for everyone who has a French university level diploma. He also said anyone who fails the test can make it up during the naturalisation interview. I was going to go ahead and take the test, but it turned out it cost 68 euros, and let’s face it, those are 68 euros I’d rather spend on something else. So I wrote to the minister of the interior to ask if the CAPES could validate my level of French. I got an answer a couple of months later (in the meantime the government had changed—bad timing) from the prefecture saying that yes, the CAPES would work fine.

2) The criminal background check. A lot of Americans in France have encountered the problem of the FBI background check in France. The FBI wants your fingerprints, and no one in France wants to take them for you (something to do with rights). A few years ago for the CAPES, I jumped through the hoops of getting my fingerprints taken by the American Aide Society in Paris, which no longer exists. I requested and got my FBI background check but never actually had to show it to anyone for the CAPES. So I held on to it. I was getting ready to get my fingerprints taken in the US this Friday when we’ll be there briefly before we go to Canada, when it occurred to me that I should at least ASK if the document from 2011 was still valid. I e-mailed the prefecture last Thursday night and got an answer Friday morning—yes of course it was.

So now I just have nine pages to get translated, a bordereau de situation fiscale to receive from the centre des impôts, and my bulletins de salaire for the summer to pick up at the rentrée. Then I can call the prefecture and make an appointment to drop it all off. This is happening a tad sooner than I thought, since I expected to have to wait for the FBI background check to come back. To be honest, it’s possible I’ll get a ten-year card from the prefecture this fall and the nationality request won’t be so pressing. But I didn’t bother to provide the documents necessary under the pref’s separate “carte de résidence” list this summer, so I’m not counting on it.

In other news, tonight J and I will take the train to Paris, to catch a flight to Vancouver tomorrow. We’ll sleep in Vancouver tomorrow night and head down to the San Juan Islands Thursday to meet up with my family, chill out, and go to my brother’s wedding Saturday. Then Sunday we’ll work our way back up to Canada to go to the final day of the Squamish Music Festival, with, among others, Atmosphere’s show at 7 o’clock. I am SO pumped. (Of course, the wedding will be fun too.)

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5 thoughts on “Nationality Application, Part 1

  1. Sounds like things are going along swimmingly. It’ll be a few years before I start my application, but I’m definitely most worried about the fingerprints thing. We’re already thinking that a trip to the US just before will probably be the best move.

    Have a fun and safe trip!

    • Yeah, the FBI website now recommends getting them done on a trip to the States. If you have a trip planned, that seems the cheapest and simplest option.

  2. Wow, I didn’t realize you were applying for citizenship! That’s super exciting. I guess the workers realize that you’ve dealt with so much bureaucratic bullshit thus far and prevailed, so you win!

  3. I’ve been going over this so many times during the last months. Should I or shouldn’t I apply? I think I really would like to be French, but the paperwork would be such a hassle for me (I would need police checks from 4 countries, deal with my mother’s name being different on my documents, etc.). I tell myself that if I really wanted to become French that badly, that I would go through the hell of getting the dossier together. Each time I motivate myself to do it I go back and look at the list of documents required and I back off. It’s a vicious cycle for me.

    That’s cool that you are going to Vancouver. Looks like you’ll be there at the same time as my husband, who is visiting family there and loves the city.

    Good luck with your application and keep us posted. Maybe your posts will inspire me to go through with the process.

    • I really look forward to it simplifying my life, though I guess since we’re getting married, that would have simplified things anyway. But I only had one background check to do! The paperwork seemed discouraging to me too though, but once I started getting it done step by step, it actually went faster than I expected.

      We really liked Vancouver—I can see why he likes it!

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