What is the Relection of Citizenship

Country Profiles Migration: Data - History - Politics

Dr. Marcus Engler

Marcus Engler is a social scientist and migration researcher. He has been following developments in French migration and integration policy for a long time. He did a voluntary service in a counseling center for migrants in Marseille. He then studied social and economic sciences at the Humboldt University in Berlin and at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Paris. He is currently working as a freelance author, speaker and consultant and is a member of the Refugee Research Network and the Migration in Europe Network.
Email: [email protected]

French nationality law includes both the territorial principle and the principle of descent. This means that citizenship can not only be inherited from the parents, but also acquired through a naturalization procedure. Most of the immigrants who are naturalized come from Africa.

Former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls listens to the discussion about a constitutional amendment on February 5th, 2016. In November of the same year, President Francois Hollande declared null and void in response to the terrorist attacks in Paris. (& copy picture-alliance, epa / Etienne Laurent)

The nationality law of 1889, which is still valid today, introduced the territorial principle (ius soli) in France in addition to the principle of descent (ius sanguinis). According to this, children born in France with at least one parent born in France receive French nationality at birth (double droit du sol). In addition, children born in France to foreign parents who have reached the age of 18 automatically acquire French citizenship, provided they have lived in France for at least five years and have their permanent residence on French territory at the time of naturalization. Regardless of the place of birth, every child becomes French at birth if at least one parent is French. France generally allows its own citizens to hold or acquire additional citizenships.

People born abroad and living in France can apply for naturalization under certain conditions. You must have a minimum stay of five years (for spouses of French people or people who have attended a French educational institution, the minimum stay may be shorter) and have sufficient language skills. Other prerequisites are usually active participation in the labor market and extensive impunity.

In the course of the 1990s, the number of naturalizations increased significantly and in 2004 reached a record level of 168,826 naturalized people, which is still in existence today. The number of naturalizations has been falling since 2005, with a low point being reached in 2012 (96,051 naturalizations) [1], which can also be explained by the more difficult conditions for acquiring French citizenship, especially with regard to language skills. With the law on immigration, integration and citizenship (loi relative à l’immigration, à l’intégration et à la nationalité) published on June 16, 2011, these were raised to level B1 of the common European reference framework. In addition, the law provides for foreigners seeking naturalization to sign a charter on the rights and obligations of nationals (Charte des droits et des devoirs du citoyen), by which they undertake to respect French laws and values. The number of naturalizations has increased slightly since 2013 (2015: 113,608). According to preliminary data, this trend continued in 2016. In the last ten years, measured in absolute numbers, mainly people from the Maghreb states of Morocco (2015: 18,051), Algeria (15,142), Tunisia (6,274) as well as Turkey (5,835) and Portugal (3,345) have been naturalized. The vast majority (65.4 percent) of those who acquired French citizenship in 2015 came from an African country. People from Asia (13.8 percent) and Europe (12.4 percent) followed in second and third place in the naturalization statistics in the same year.

This text is part of the France migration profile.