How do I measure the value of EU citizenship for my kids?
May 17, 2011 1:38 PM   Subscribe

Help me measure the value of dual US-EU citizenship for my children.

The Background
Mrs. Pandabear and I are both U.S. citizens legally residing in France. Our daughters were born in France and currently hold US passports. If they continue to live in France until their 18 birthday then they will automatically become French citizens. Around the age of 13 we can begin to ask the French government to grant them citizenship. They are currently 2 and 4 years, so we are looking at a minimum of 11 - 12 years of living in France before the kids could get citizenship.

The Advantage
Once they become French citizens they will have the legal right to live and work in 22 European countries (as well as the US, since they will still have American citizenship). I am not one of those "the US is on its knees" types, but I'd love for my kids to be able to move freely among the 300+ million people of the US and the 400+ million people of the EU economic block.

The Disadvantage
The choice is obvious, except for the following drawback: France is really expensive. This point was driven home by a recent trip to the US. I feel like we are throwing away a lot of money we could be saving by living where we do. (assume for this discussion that my job and pay stay the same regardless of where we live)

The Other Disadvantage
We might like to try living somewhere else. Sometimes I think I'd like to give my kids a few years living in non-Western country; Vietnam or Mauritius. That would be a great experience for a kid. But if we did that we'd move further from the goal of French citizenship.

The Question
How do I weigh all of this? The longer we stay in France the closer we get to the goal of dual citizenship so the harder it will be to move.
posted by pandabearjohnson to Society & Culture (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Vietnam or Mauritius

Reunion is French soil and quite near Mauritius, IIRC.

How would French college tuition compare versus the U.S.? That alone might swing the difference.
posted by gimonca at 1:47 PM on May 17, 2011


While capital can move freely around the globe, searching out the lowest costs, workers are often locked to their country of origin. The gift of economic freedom is a precious one to give to a child.

In exchange for a higher cost of living, you also grant your children intangible benefits like a genuinely decent public education and access to free health care. Having dual citizenship will also grant them greater freedom to travel, which can help them develop a broader view of cultures around the world.

If I was raising children and I had the means to raise them in Europe, I would do so in a heartbeat.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:50 PM on May 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm not resident in France so I don't want to doubt the veracity of your information but I don't believe you are correctly understanding the rules for citizenship. If your child is born in France, as far as I know they can get their French passport if they are resident for 5 years before the age of 16. Did that change? Have you double-checked your understanding with the embassy, for example?

Additionally, when weighing costs you need to compare unknown costs. In addition to university, there is the cost of health insurance. Plus god forbid one of your children should be diagnosed with a catastrophic illness; even with insurance, something like that can bakrupt a family, and does.

Additionally, I don't know what France's retirement situation is, but there is virtually nothing that would drag me away from my Irish state pension. It's the foundation of my retirement plan. There is very little, including Wal*Mart, that would make me give up my high taxes and broad social security net.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:58 PM on May 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


The US is slowly turning into some sort of hellish wild-west free for all. Things might be cheaper for a bit, but it really wouldn't surprise me if everything over here goes to shit over the next 10 years or so.

tl;dr: I'd definitely go out of my way to get them dual-citizenship. Especially if it only takes 5 years, as mentioned above.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 2:09 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I feel like we are throwing away a lot of money we could be saving by living where we do.

I read somewhere a description of the US as a land where the luxuries are cheap but the essentials are expensive. Only the first part of that gets highlighted when you're visiting. Plus, as others have said, you can't put a price on economic mobility at this moment in history.
posted by holgate at 2:10 PM on May 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


Calling the US a a "hellish wild-west free for all" is, of course, absurd, but it seems worth sticking around for five years.
posted by The Lamplighter at 2:17 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Where do you want them have the opportunity to vote? I can say this: do not look at the france or the EU or the US of today, but think about the one in 14 years. What rights will be guaranteed to them? Will there be work? You are concerned.for their future, so pick based on either their resillience from change and/or their ability for positive change.
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:20 PM on May 17, 2011


You may be eligible for naturalization yourself, which would automatically give your children citizenship – there's a five year residency requirement, plus a mandatory 18 month waiting period.
posted by topynate at 2:23 PM on May 17, 2011


Around the age of 13 we can begin to ask the French government to grant them citizenship.

Just to check: do you happen to know how often such requests are actually granted? Don't take this possibility into account until you are aware of actual statistics.

France is really expensive. This point was driven home by a recent trip to the US.

This, I think, depends greatly on where you live in France, and where you'd live in the US. Are you able to find employment in a cheaper region of France -- perhaps one that is comparable to your US projections -- especially once the benefits and costs of social services and college tuition are factored in?
posted by matlock expressway at 2:26 PM on May 17, 2011


Sorry, I am sort of stuck on this:

I feel like we are throwing away a lot of money

This is a little ethereal but you are not throwing away large percentages so much as spending it on things you can't always see. Again, I'm not in France but I see the cost difference every time I go back to the US. And yeah I pay a lot for food here, but all our beef is grassfed and none of our chicken or pork is raised in anything that even approaches the factory conditions of US supermarket fare. Sure I pay a ton in taxes, but when I went to the hospital for emergency care the bill for my ambulance, surgery and four day stay was €360. None of the kids here live in anything like the poverty the poorest kids I dealt with in the US lived in. And despite the introduction of fees, all of them will be able to go to university if they have the grades to get in.

If you are the sort of people who place a value on that sort of thing, you want to balance your cost of living against the quality of life not only for you, but for the people around you when you do the moral math.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:50 PM on May 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


I have family that just did this, deciding to stay just outside of Geneva on french soil with the goal of sending the kid to french schools. They have been there for 15 years, and have done everything right. They were planning on retiring shortly, and living out their lives in france.

They just got denied for french citizenship, and now are scrambling to figure out if they are moving back to the US to establish residency for the kid, so he can get instate tuition someplace, or trying to figure out a way to pay for university in Europe. They don't necessarily want to bring a 15 year old raised in the french school system back to the US system- academically he'd be more than fine, but it would be a very, very severe culture shock.

Food, scenery and culture can be pretty damn amazing in France, so I'd personally stick around for a few more years- the benefit of growing up bilingual is alone worth it.
posted by larthegreat at 2:56 PM on May 17, 2011


Do review the children's rights with a French immigration lawyer before taking this much further. As others have noted, the premise of your question may be flawed. /* totally not an authority, but... */ Sounds to me like the children would retain three separate paths to claiming citizenship Jus Soli if you move them back by the time they are 13. Plus others means of earning citizenship in adulthood even if they don't re-claim residency by 13. Confirm with a French immigration lawyer, but you potentially don't need to be building life plans around this for quite a while yet.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 3:13 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you are very well off there's not much to be gained from french citizenship besides the bragging rights -- but if you're not, it's kind of like giving your kids free medical care and generous unemployment benefits should they ever need any (provided things stay the same)
posted by 3mendo at 3:30 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here is a translation of the relevant French code. I don't know anyone with firsthand mechanics of this process but will certainly seek that out before things get too far.

Art. 21-7
(Act no 98-170 of 16 March 1998)
Every child born in France of foreign parents acquires French nationality on his coming of age where, at that time, he has his residence in France and has had his usual residence in France for a continuous or discontinuous period of at least five years, from the age of eleven.
The tribunaux d'instance, local authorities, public bodies and services and especially educational establishments are obliged to inform the public, and in particular those persons to whom paragraph 1 applies, of the provisions in force in matters of nationality. The requirements as to that information shall be prescribed by a decree in Conseil d'Etat.

Art. 21-11
(Act no 98-170 of 16 March 1998)
A minor child born in France of foreign parents may from the age of sixteen claim French nationality by declaration, in the way laid down in Articles 26 and following where, at the time of his declaration, he has in France his residence and has had his usual residence in France for a continuous or discontinuous period of at least five years, from the age of eleven.
Under the same terms, French nationality may be claimed, on behalf of the minor child born in France of foreign parents, from the age of thirteen and with his personal consent, in which event the requirement of usual residence in France should be fulfilled from the age of eight.
posted by pandabearjohnson at 3:59 PM on May 17, 2011


As someone dealing with wanting to work in the UK on a US passport (and getting really good at reading about visas...), PLEASE stay and get your kids EU passports! They'll thank you, I promise. It makes finding work, travelling, moving to another country, all of that SO much easier.

(And that's on top of the advantages of growing up in, essentially, two cultures...)
posted by kalimac at 4:24 PM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I know little about French immigration law, but as an academic, I would kill for dual citizenship in any EU country. It is incredibly difficult for an American to get funding in the EU for research, university, or graduate studies without citizenship and I have had more than one European P.I. ask me if I happen to have had German or Irish grandparents, which would have created a path.

If I had one I'd probably be in Leuven now drinking untold gallons liters of the cheapest most delicious beer ever, going around the roundabouts built for bicycles next to the ones for cars a million times for the sheer joy of it, recycling my metabolized Stella Artois into the river that supplies the Stella Artois brewery with the other 40,000 students who do it, being pleasantly confused by Belgian politics while marveling at sensible social policy, studying in A FUCKING CASTLE, being paid a living wage, and publishing bazillions of papers on exactly what I want to research. *sigh
posted by Blasdelb at 4:30 PM on May 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Even if you don't believe the doomsayers, this is excellent insurance. None of us knows for sure what the future will be, but it will certainly be very different from the present. Do what it takes to get them their EU passports.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:06 PM on May 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Just to reenforce what everyone else said - if you can afford it, dual US/FR citizenship is priceless for your kids future. I have friends who have this for various reasons (us/eu citizenships) and the freedom they have to move and work is just awesome.
posted by TravellingDen at 5:14 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can you sit down with a French immigration attorney for an hour or so and see what your options are as they see it? I know laws can change, but this seems like a good case where paying for an hour of a good attorney's time would be worth it.
posted by Fiat124 at 6:08 PM on May 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's definitely worth checking with an attorney to be completely sure, but I will just chime in and say: As the father of a 3.5 year old, while your situation may not be ideal, if I could give my daughter EU citizenship, I would. The flexibility it would give in living and working in dozens of countries is very nearly priceless. I would _love_ to have this opportunity before me.

As well, it bears paying careful attention to holgate's comment above: In the EU, while you largely pay enormously more for certain goods than in the US, you also have a mostly-rational medical system and in many countries a really strong history of worker's rights. This isn't to say that the EU is all wine and roses...but the option is really incredible if you have it.
posted by griffey at 8:32 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


topynate writes:
You may be eligible for naturalization yourself, which would automatically give your children citizenship – there's a five year residency requirement, plus a mandatory 18 month waiting period.

The problem of naturalization for Pandabear père et la mère is twofold: 1) you have to earn your income in France, which I don't and 2) there is a French cultural (i.e. language) component to naturalization which we aren't up to yet.
posted by pandabearjohnson at 10:48 PM on May 17, 2011


You may want to look at the current situation in the EU to try and extrapolate the future when your daughters are 18. The way things are going there is a possibility there may not be an EU in their future. Which means they may not have a chance to work in 22 countries.
posted by JJ86 at 6:52 AM on May 18, 2011


Another disadvantage might be required military service once your kids reach age 18. Dunno about France in particular, and since you have daughters they're probably exempt, but the world can change a lot in a decade or two. However, the advantages of having two passports make this a no-brainer to me.
posted by Rash at 8:21 AM on May 18, 2011


Another disadvantage might be required military service once your kids reach age 18
Mandatory conscription was abolished in France in 1996. Of course it could come back, but that would require events of such magnitude that they would dwarf any other concerns.
posted by elgilito at 1:35 AM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


They just got denied for french citizenship, and now are scrambling to figure out if they are moving back to the US to establish residency for the kid, so he can get instate tuition someplace, or trying to figure out a way to pay for university in Europe.

I know this is an oldish question, but I just had to say "what?" to this. I'm sure your friends have a lot of valid reasons to worry, but French university tuition is beautifully, jaw-droppingly cheap, whether you're French or not. Like ~200 euros a year at undergrad (with another 200 for social security). They might actually end up paying more for the plane ticket back to America.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 10:59 PM on July 23, 2011


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