Friday, February 23, 2018

How to Get French Nationality

This blog entry recounts my travails on acquiring the French Nationality as a Spouse of a French Citizen. The steps mentioned in this article are applicable to those living outside of France.

This is the "Dossier" that you will get, containing information of your acceptance to becoming a French Citizen... that's "Marian" on the folder, the symbol of the French Republic, from the famous painting by Delacroix, which you will find in the Louvre... I really liked that painting first time I saw it, that's why I remember this! :)

After only five months, my application for French Nationality was accepted! It was a surprisingly short period of processing time, considering that for most people, it usually takes one year, or six months at the very least.

Since I am ever so happy and pleased about this experience, I thought I'd share with you the journey, and the not-so-straightforward, step-by-step procedures, the timeline, and some of the cost of the requirements on how to acquire French Nationality.


The Not-So-Straightforward Requirements

First of all, you need to check your eligibility, and furnish the requirements listed in this document on the French version of the embassy's web site. The requirements list is not available in the English version of the web site for some reason. This is the same in all the french embassy's web sites all over the world.

I have actually started gathering all the documents and requirements in July of 2016, exactly five years after our marriage (as required by the application). I booked for an appointment at the embassy in Singapore (where I used to live at the time of the application) in August 2016 to pass the application and the requirements, all of which was still very much incomplete. We've only managed to get the full list of requirements after several more appointments. I have conveniently listed below all the documents I have submitted:
  • My birth certificate, PSA copy, DFA-red ribbon authenticated, and must be translated in French
  • My passport (original and photocopy)
  • My Singapore Permanent Resident Card (original and photocopy)
  • My family's passport (original and photocopy)
  • My family's Singapore IC (original and photocopy)
  • French spouse's French ID (original and photocopy)
  • Livret de famille (original and photocopy)
  • Extract of the Marriage Certificate in Singapore from French Embassy
  • Singapore Certificate of Marriage, certified by Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), translated in French
  • Police Clearance from all the countries I have lived in for the past ten years  - for me, it was Singapore, France and the Philippines
- For Singapore: Certificate of Clearance (COC) from Singapore National Police (certified by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and translated in French) 
Getting the COC required a letter from the French Embassy since I am not Singaporean. You may apply on this web site: http://www.police.gov.sg/e-services/apply/certificate-of-clearance. First, you have to choose "Appeal by non-Singaporean Citizen to apply for COC". Make sure you have the requirements. Then you wait for approval of the appeal. 
My COC Appeal was approved after a few days. I applied for COC online and it was immediately approved, after which I managed to book for appointment at Police Cantonment for finger print impressions. It was 5th Sept 2016 when I finally got the COC.
- For the Philippines: NBI Clearance from the Philippines (Red ribbon certified by DFA, certified by French Embassy in Manila, and translated in French) 
Before getting NBI Clearance, I needed to get PSA-authenticated birth certificate first. Then this NBI Clearance has to have the DFA red ribbon certificate. In Singapore, it costs 48 SGD per document to have the red ribbon authentication from the Phil Embassy, but in the Phils, it just costs 100 pesos per document. I already had my NBI clearance with me in SG before I realized I needed the red ribbon certificate also. And then, I later found out, the NBI certificate has to be authenticated by the French Embassy in Manila to make sure that the French Embassy recognizes the signature in the NBI Certificate. But before that, everything has to be translated in French.
Since I asked my relatives in PI to do the documents processing for me, I had to get a Special Power of Attorney (SPA) from the Philippine Embassy in Singapore to allow my relatives to process the gov't documents on my behalf. 
SPA requirements: SPA, photocopy of passport, SGD 42.50, can be claimed by you or authorized person (with authorization letter) after two working days.
- For France: Police Report from Toulouse, France, where I have lived for two years
  • "Attestation" of passing French Language Fluency, at least B1-Level (Intermediate Level) Exam (original and photocopy)
  • Copy of University Diploma, translated in French
  • Very recent "Acte de Naissance" for husband (and kids, if any)
  • Proof of shared properties/bank accounts
  • Proof that you have lived together since becoming a couple for the past five years (electricity or phone bills with yours and spouse's name on same address) -- all of this, I have arranged month by month of every year we have lived together. One with his name on billing address, and one with my name on same billing address. Good thing I kept all the bills we had all those times we were living together.
  • Proof that you have lived in France together, and all the OFII documents
Important Note: All government documents must be translated in French, and the translator should be accredited by the French Embassy where you live. After the document is translated, the French Embassy will verify the translation.

It took a very long time to gather all the requirements because of all the organization and logistics, and sometimes having to send the document back and forth between the Philippines and Singapore for additional certification, and such other stuff. Also, some documents need to be very recent, like the "Acte de Naissance". There were also some instances when the personnel in the embassy was on leave and the assistant was not all savvy about the requirements. And then we had to wait for the knowledgeable personnel to come back from a long holiday. There was also the matter of the availability of appointment slots, which had to be booked a month in advance.

We've finally completed all the documents on 24th May 2017, after more than a couple of trips to the Philippines, and a lot of help from my husband, my relatives in the Philippines, and a friend in Manila:


All the documents I submitted for the French Nationality application (minus the duplicates), in all its inch-thick glory
The staff at the embassy who accepted our papers was ever so happy upon seeing how organized they were. She said she has never seen any application like it. I guess she liked it very much because I have greatly minimized her tasks (and the others who will have to look into my application) of having to arrange everything. Please note that you also have to give them a photocopy of everything.

Informal Interview

And finally, on 30th May 2017, I was able to officially submit my complete application. It was also on the same date that my husband and I had an informal interview. The staff at the embassy just asked us a few questions about our life together, how I was able to integrate into the French society and culture, etc. It was all quick and not so fussy. Of course, it goes without mentioning that the interview was all in French.

After the interview, comes the signing of documents, and paying a fee of 55 euros. At one point, I was asked if I wanted to change my name to a more French-sounding one, to which I politely declined.


Waiting Time

We were told that the normal processing would take one year. This of course, still depends on how complete your application papers are. After submitting the documents to France, they might still ask for other documents necessary for them to process your application. I was at first worried that they will ask for my parents' birth certificates that I did not provide, but they didn't ask for anything else.

The Dossier Arrives

I received a call from the embassy on 1st December, five months and a day after submitting my application. I was told that my "dossier" has arrived! And that I was to get it the soonest possible time I could come to the embassy. And this was it! I saw the date on the dossier was 30th November 2017. And so, from this time on, I am French. It also says on one of the pages in the "dossier" signed by the French President, that they are proud to welcome me as a citizen of France! "Proud" is the operative word here, the very essence of being French, if you ask me.

After receiving the dossier, you will have to wait a few weeks to get a paper that asks you to confirm all your details so that they can proceed to create your French Birth Certificate... as for me, I did not get this confirmation letter. I just received the French Birth Certificate directly, after a couple of months.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this article was helpful.


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