French Citizenship: How to Obtain Passport and Residence Permit by Investment in France

French citizens can travel without visas to 188 countries and freely visit the countries in the Schengen area, the USA, Canada, Australia and Japan.

France is a member of the European Union. With a French passport, you can work, do business, enroll in a school or university of any country in the European Union, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland.

How to get French citizenship
 
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The country is comfortable to live in. The picturesque landscapes of the Alps, the Loire Valley, the coast of the French Riviera, the lavender fields of Provence combine the beauty of nature and the convenience of civilization. France is in the top 5 countries with the best environment.

This article will explain under what conditions you can get a French passport, how to shorten the time for obtaining citizenship, whether you get citizenship by investment and in which countries it is easier and cheaper to get a second citizenship.

Ways to obtain French citizenship 

Marriage. French citizenship is not automatically issued to those who officially register relations with the citizens of the country. But this simplifies the procedure for obtaining citizenship: you can apply after four years of residence in France or after five years if the spouses live in another country.

Naturalization. An applicant with a residence permit status has the right to obtain a permanent residence permit or French citizenship after five years of permanent residence in the country. The main thing is to know French, have a steady income, pay taxes and not have problems with the law. 

Descent. The applicant is eligible to obtain French citizenship if he has close relatives with French citizenship or ancestry. The applicant submits documents confirming the relationship to the French consulate or visa center at the place of residence. 

Birth or adoption. A child of French citizens is automatically granted citizenship. If the parents do not have French citizenship, the child can acquire citizenship at the age of 18, provided that he was born in France and lived there for at least five years. 

Children adopted by a French citizen acquire citizenship if they permanently reside in the country and do not keep in touch with their former parents.

Adult foreigners most often obtain citizenship through marriage or naturalization. We will explain these two primary ways below. 

Citizenship in France by marriage 

A foreigner is entitled to apply for French citizenship after marrying a citizen of the country. 

To do this, you will need to be married for four years, if the spouses live in France, and if in another country, five years. When a marriage is contracted abroad, it is registered in the French civil registry.

4 years
term for obtaining French citizenship by marriage

The applicant takes two tests: 

  1. Knowledge of the French language at level B1. 
  2. Knowledge of the history, culture, traditions and government of France. 

Spouses need to have their own or rented housing and sufficient income for the entire family. 

French citizenship by marriage: the groom embraces the bride on the bridge over the Seine against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower
A French passport can be obtained after four years of living together with a citizen of the country, and not immediately after the wedding

French citizenship by naturalization 

A French passport can be obtained by a law‑abiding citizen of another country over 18 years old who lives, works and pays taxes in France for five years.

5 years
period for obtaining French citizenship by naturalization

The first step towards citizenship is to obtain a residence permit. The status allows you to stay in the country and entitles you to certain types of activities like work or study.

A residence permit is mandatory for everyone who comes to France for the purpose of staying more than three months. The residence permit is valid for one to ten years. After completion, the status can be renewed.

The cost of an application for a residence permit depends on its category: it ranges from € 269 for family reunification to € 19 for asylum seekers and veterans.

The applicant must receive income in France and pay taxes. As a rule, the amount of income for each person must not be lower than the minimum established wage (Smic).

The minimum amount of annual income in France for one person in 2021 is € 18,655.

€ 18,655 per annum
minimum income before tax for an applicant for French citizenship

Documents confirming income: 

  • an employment contract;
  • bank statements;
  • tax statements.

The applicant for a French resident status must have their own or rented housing sufficient for all family members. The minimum area for two persons is 16 m2 plus 9 m2 for each additional family member.

Supporting documents for real estate:

  • a lease agreement or certificate of house ownership;
  • rent receipts for real estate of the last three months;
  • the last invoice for telephone, internet, electricity or gas services. 

In order to confirm integration into French society, the applicant takes a knowledge test of French history, culture and society and confirms that he speaks French at the B1 level, sufficient for everyday communication. 

The French language test (Test de Français International, or TFI) is taken at a government‑approved language center, ETS Global. 

You do not need to take the test if you have a certificate for the B1 level of local language courses TCF, TEF, DELF/DALF, DCL or BULATS. Or if the applicant graduated from a school, college or university in the country. 

Applicants over 60 are exempted from taking the test. However, they will need to demonstrate knowledge of the language at B1 level at an interview in the prefecture, which lasts up to one and a half hours and takes place without an interpreter.

Compliance with the law is confirmed by certificates of no criminal record in the countries of citizenship, residence and in France over the past 10 years. Certificates are valid for 180 days from the date of receipt. The documents are translated into French and certified with apostille.

Citizenship is available after five years of permanent residence in France with a residence permit status. In order to fulfill the condition for permanent residence, one cannot leave the country for more than six out of ten months.

Opportunities given with a French residence permit and citizenship

OpportunitiesA residence permit in FranceCitizenship in France
Visa‑free SchengenYesYes
Living in the country YesYes
Access to health care and education YesYes
Registration of family status YesYes
Accounts in European banks YesYes
Social benefits for the the EuropeansNoYes
Transfer of status by inheritance NoYes
Residence in any EU countryNoYes

Types of residence permits that accelerate the path to a French passport

For outstanding achievements in sports, economics, science or art that contribute to the prosperity of France, a French talent passport is given. In this case, the term will be reduced to two years.

Family reunification, if the applicant has family members with permanent residence or citizenship status in France. The process of obtaining a passport is similar to naturalization, only faster: you can apply for citizenship after three years of residence in the country. 

Military service. Citizenship can be obtained by men from 18 to 40 years old after three years of service in the French Foreign Legion.

Studying at a university. Residence permit for study is issued for a period of up to a year with the right of extension. Graduates of French universities can apply for permanent residence or citizenship after five years of residence in the country. The term will be reduced to two years if the student successfully studies and participates in government programs. 

Residence permit in France for study. View of the old building of the Sorbonne University and the square in front of it
Sorbonne University in Paris

Minimum income one needs to confirm for a French residence permit and citizenship

The condition for obtaining a French residence permit and French citizenship is to receive income above the minimum wage (Smic). In some categories of residence permits, the minimum income requirement is stricter. For example, employees of an innovative start‑up will need to earn at least twice the minimum wage. 

The amount of income includes the amount of salary and monthly bonuses for the results of work. This does not take into account overtime pay, seniority bonuses, reimbursement of expenses incurred, bonuses at the end of the year. 

Minimum wage in France in 2021

Salary periodTotal incomeIncome net of taxes
Minimum salary per month€ 1,555 € 1,231
Minimum salary per year€ 14,667€ 18,655 

What documents will be required

 For any method of obtaining French citizenship, you will need: 

  1. Two copies of the application form with the date and signature of the applicant.
  2. Two photographs 35×45 mm.
  3. Originals of passports as well as notarized and translated copies of all family members passports.
  4. Birth certificate.
  5. Copy of the residence permit in France.
  6. Documents on previous marriage and divorce.
  7. Police clearance certificates for all family members in France.
  8. Police clearance certificates for the last ten years in each country of residence and country of citizenship.
  9. A copy of the lease or ownership of the home.
  10. Copies of the last three real estate lease receipts.
  11. Copies of the last invoice for services: telephone, internet, electricity or gas.
  12. French language proficiency certificate at B1 level.
  13. State stamp duty of € 55.
  14. A stamped envelope if the application is sent by mail.

In addition to the basic documents, the applicant for citizenship by marriage provides a marriage certificate and a signed consent of the spouse to the citizenship of the applicant. If the marriage is registered abroad, it must be included in the French civil registry.

The naturalization applicant additionally confirms his professional activity and financial position for the last three years. You must provide employment certificates, a P 237 tax status form, income statements and tax notices for the past three years.

To obtain citizenship through ancestry, applicants submit the same documents as for citizenship by naturalization. They also need a certificate confirming the French citizenship of the parent or ancestor in a straight line.

Students additionally submit a registration card of a French university. They will need to indicate a minimum income of € 615 per month, which can be verified by bank statement, letter of guarantee, loan, scholarship or grant funding notification.

The documents are translated into French and certified with apostille.

Where to apply for French citizenship and how long to wait for a decision

The application for citizenship along with the necessary documents is transferred to the regional online platform of the prefecture. You can find out which online platform the prefecture is connected to on the website of the Ministry of the Interior

Some prefectures require an online appointment to submit a dossier and be interviewed, while others apply through an agency. An employee of the prefecture conducts an interview, checks the documents and reports to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The Ministry reviews the application from 18 months to two years. If the decision is positive, the applicant receives a certificate of naturalization and then applies for a passport. The passport processing fee is € 155.

The new citizen signs the Charter of Rights and Duties of French Citizens, takes the oath in a solemn atmosphere and receives a French passport.

French citizenship by investment 

A French passport can not be obtained by investment, but the country has a residence permit program.

Investors over 18 with an official source of income and no criminal record can participate in the residence permit program. Together with family members, they are able to receive the status. This includes spouses, partners without marriage registration and children under 18. 

An advantage for family members is the right to live, work and study in France,  travel within the European Union and receive medical services.

There are three categories of a “golden visa” for people wanting to invest in France: 

  1. From € 300,000 ‑ investments in a new or operating company.
  2. From € 30,000 ‑ starting a new business.
  3. From € 20,000 ‑ creating an innovative startup.

You cannot obtain a residence permit in France by investments in securities, bonds or the purchase of housing. 

Investments in the company can be transferred personally or through the investor’s company, in which he owns at least 30% of the shares. The main thing is to own at least 10% of the company in which the investment is made and provide at least 50 jobs for French citizens. 

Residence permit card by investment is issued for four years. After that, the status can be extended if the investor’s company continues to work and jobs are saved in it.

Investors are not required to live in France permanently and prove their knowledge of the language if they do not want to obtain citizenship. They can apply for citizenship by naturalization under general conditions.

Establishing a business will require a competitive business plan to be approved. The applicant must have a master’s degree or professional experience of at least five years in the field of business. 

The applicant confirms that he has the money to invest in the business, plus the money needed to live in the country for a year. In 2021, the cost of living for one person is € 18,655 per year.

For an innovative startup, you must first obtain approval from one or more partner incubators and French Tech Visa accelerators. It is not necessary to have large funds for investments as partners often finance startups. Moreover, It is enough to have an amount on the deposit not less than the annual minimum subsistence level.

Residence permit in France for financially independent persons 

A residence permit for financially independent people gives the right to live in France, travel without visas within the European Union, receive qualified medical care, and study at French universities on the conditions provided for citizens.

If the applicant has legal income outside of France, it is possible to obtain a residence permit card for 12 months and then renew it annually for up to five years inclusive. 

To do this, you need to:

  • have an annual income for each family member above the established minimum;
  • rent or buy real estate, french citizenship by property investment;
  • get medical insurance for each family member;
  • make a commitment not to work in France; 
  • reside in France for 183 days a year.

The amount of the minimum annual income in 2021 is € 18,655 per year. Income is confirmed by documents: an employment contract indicating the position and monthly salary, confirmation of your own business or a deposit in a French or international bank. 

There is no requirement for knowledge of French for financially independent persons. The condition will arise if the applicant wants to obtain permanent residence or citizenship.

Alternatives to French citizenship

To obtain French citizenship, you need to live in the country for five years, work, earn income, pay taxes and know French. This path is not suitable for everyone.

Some EU countries give investors the opportunity to obtain a residence permit, permanent residence status and citizenship in a much easier way. With these statuses, you can live, study and work in the chosen state whilst enjoying the right of visa‑free entry to other countries. 

Their conditions are often milder than in France: for example, in Malta, investors receive citizenship after one or three years in resident status, they do not have an obligation to pass language proficiency exams.

Maltese citizenship for exceptional services by direct investment requires applicants to be naturalized after one or three years as a resident. The size of the investment depends on the term.

Applicants fulfill several investment conditions:

  1. From € 600,000 ‑ contribution to the National Development Fund.
  2. € 10,000 ‑ charitable contribution.
  3. From € 16,000 per year or from € 700,000 ‑ rent of housing for five years or purchase of real estate. 

You do not need to pass a language proficiency test to obtain citizenship and it is allowed to include spouses, children and parents in the application.

The average annual increase in the value of real estate in Malta before the pandemic was 5‑10%, in resort areas, up to 15‑20%. 

Citizenship of Malta by investment - penthouse in a residential complex with a sea view in Marsascala.

An example of an investment property in Malta: a penthouse in a residential complex 500 meters from the sea in Marsascala. Area of 115 m², costing € 225,000

Citizenship of Malta by investment - penthouse in a residential complex with a sea view in Marsascala.

An example of an investment property in Malta: a penthouse in a residential complex 500 meters from the sea in Marsascala. Area of 115 m², costing € 225,000

Citizenship of Malta by investment - penthouse in a residential complex with a sea view in Marsascala.

An example of an investment property in Malta: a penthouse in a residential complex 500 meters from the sea in Marsascala. Area of 115 m², costing € 225,000

Citizenship of Malta by investment - penthouse in a residential complex with a sea view in Marsascala.

An example of an investment property in Malta: a penthouse in a residential complex 500 meters from the sea in Marsascala. Area of 115 m², costing € 225,000

Citizenship of Malta by investment - penthouse in a residential complex with a sea view in Marsascala.

An example of an investment property in Malta: a penthouse in a residential complex 500 meters from the sea in Marsascala. Area of 115 m², costing € 225,000

A residence permit in Greece can be obtained for investment from € 250,000. Applicants invest in real estate, buy shares or deposit money. The money can be returned in five years.

After five years, the investor can apply for permanent residence, and after another two years, obtain Greek citizenship.

With a residence permit in Greece, cosmopolitans travel without visas to the Schengen countries. A Greek passport gives investors additional opportunities: for example, to move to any EU country using a simplified registration procedure.

Residence permit in Greece for investment - penthouse in a residential complex by the sea, Glyfada

An example of investment property in Greece: penthouse in a residential complex in Glyfada, one kilometer from the Aegean Sea. Area of 128 m², costing € 980,000

Residence permit in Greece for investment - penthouse in a residential complex by the sea, Glyfada

An example of investment property in Greece: penthouse in a residential complex in Glyfada, one kilometer from the Aegean Sea. Area of 128 m², costing € 980,000

Residence permit in Greece for investment - penthouse in a residential complex by the sea, Glyfada

An example of investment property in Greece: penthouse in a residential complex in Glyfada, one kilometer from the Aegean Sea. Area of 128 m², costing € 980,000

Residence permit in Greece for investment - penthouse in a residential complex by the sea, Glyfada

An example of investment property in Greece: penthouse in a residential complex in Glyfada, one kilometer from the Aegean Sea. Area of 128 m², costing € 980,000

Residence permit in Greece for investment - penthouse in a residential complex by the sea, Glyfada

An example of investment property in Greece: penthouse in a residential complex in Glyfada, one kilometer from the Aegean Sea. Area of 128 m², costing € 980,000

A residence permit in Portugal can be obtained in a few months through participation in the investment program.

The minimum investment contribution is € 250,000. The applicant can buy real estate or securities, open a deposit, invest in business, science or culture.

An investor with the status of a resident can live in the country, conduct business and travel without visas to the countries of the Schengen zone. There is no requirement for permanent residence: it is enough to spend seven days a year in Portugal.

In the application for a residence permit in Portugal, you can include a spouse, children under 26 years old and parents over 65 years old. Children and parents must be financially dependent on the investor. 

Citizenship applications can be submitted after five years as a resident. To obtain a passport, the investor and his family members take a language proficiency test.

Portuguese citizenship by investment: apartments in Estoril, Cascais area

Apartments in Estoril, Cascais area. Area of 92 m², costing € 350,000

Portuguese citizenship by investment: apartments in Estoril, Cascais area

Apartments in Estoril, Cascais area. Area of 92 m², costing € 350,000

Portuguese citizenship by investment: apartments in Estoril, Cascais area

Apartments in Estoril, Cascais area. Area of 92 m², costing € 350,000

Portuguese citizenship by investment: apartments in Estoril, Cascais area

Apartments in Estoril, Cascais area. Area of 92 m², costing € 350,000

Portuguese citizenship by investment: apartments in Estoril, Cascais area

Apartments in Estoril, Cascais area. Area of 92 m², costing € 350,000

Frequently Asked Questions

How to get French citizenship?

How to become a french citizen ‑ the main ways:

  • citizenship by birth in France and if the child was born to French citizens; 
  • French citizenship by descent: if the child, parent, grandmother or grandfather is French;
  • French citizenship by marriage: after four years of marriage in France or five years in another country;
  • by naturalization after five years of living in France;
  • in case of adoption: if the child was adopted by French citizens;
  • after receiving a diploma from a French university;
  • after three years of service in the French army.

Adult foreigners can obtain French citizenship by naturalization, marriage, descent, after studying at a university or after serving in the French army.

Is French dual citizenship allowed?

The French can have a second citizenship, so you won’t have to give up the first one.

Do you need to pay double taxes after obtaining a French passport?

Not if a double taxation treaty has been signed between your homeland and France. 

To determine tax residency, it is important to reside in a particular country for 183 days a year. If you stay in France for more than this period every year, you are subject to French tax jurisdiction.

Why could they refuse French citizenship?

Most often, a refusal happens if the applicant has not provided a full package of documents, attached false documents or inaccurate information, the certificates have expired, the documents have not been translated into French and certified by the apostille. 

In addition, applicants who:

  • violated French law will be refused;
  • lived illegally in France;
  • are suspected of dangerous crimes or terrorism;
  • with an outstanding criminal record;
  • serve in the armed forces of other countries;
  • without the required income level.
Can you lose French citizenship?

Yes, France is one of the first countries to legislate revocation of citizenship.

Loss of French citizenship happens if a citizen commits a crime against France, holds a public office in another country or enters a foreign army. 

The government can revoke citizenship if it finds that the applicant has misled the immigration authorities or withheld information that could lead to the applicant being denied.

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