Looking for French immigration lawyer recommendations
September 8, 2017 5:12 AM   Subscribe

I've been married to a Frenchman for six years but the road to citizenship still looks complicated from my initial research. I'm hoping an immigration lawyer could help me out here.

My situation is a little bit sticky because the Frenchman and I technically no longer live together BUT I've read that after five years of marriage actual residency in-country is no longer necessary. I'm hoping an immigration lawyer might help me organize and expedite things, since I don't have a ton of time on my hands to run back and forth between Switzerland (where I currently live as a grad student) and wherever in France I should be going to apply for citizenship.

Thanks for any recommendations!!
posted by Mooseli to Law & Government (6 answers total)
Have you checked with the French consulate in Switzerland? They'd probably be a good place to start.

You should know, while actual residency isn't necessary after five years, the fact you're no longer living together will come out. I know people who've had surprise visits in the middle of the night at their claimed addresses. All my immigrant friends also know several people who've experienced it. It happens.
posted by fraula at 5:34 AM on September 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

The requirement for citizenship by marriage is five years of co-residency, not five years of co-residency in France. (Plus proof that the spouse is a natural-born French citizen, proof of your language ability, and the background check-type stuff, but I assume you've got that covered.)

Are you actually separated, or are you just temporarily living in Switzerland for school but your name still remains on the lease/mortgage with your spouse? I think that makes a difference. Especially if you have cohabited for at least five years, and you can say that you're just temporarily shuttling back and forth for school purposes, I think that would fulfill the spirit and letter of the law. (NOT a lawyer, just someone who has been through the process.)

You should apply at your local prefecture of where your spouse resides, and you can look up exactly where to go here.
posted by Liesl at 6:32 AM on September 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

Go there to get an initial consultation for 90€
posted by Kwadeng at 9:34 AM on September 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

The application is made at the prefecture in your département of residence. If you live in Switzerland it would be your local consulate. The respective websites will have all the info you need about whether you are eligible and what is needed for a dossier. I don't think a lawyer is necessary. You just need to read the instructions very carefully and do exactly what is asked.

That said, you have to show "communauté de vie," if you are no longer living together that won't fly. If it's a temporary separation for school or whatever you should still be eligible, but they will look very hard at it. Be prepared with every bit of evidence that they ask for and more.

Be prepared for having to go back and forth a lot. All the appointments are in person, and require both partners to be there. I had to use maybe three full vacation days.
posted by ohio at 12:24 PM on September 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ditto everything ohio said, this will hinge on how things stand between you and Frenchman as regards "communauté de vie affective et matérielle".

Basically if you're in a situation where you're separated enough that you're making independent decisions about where you both live, rent or buy and how you furnish property, you're extremely unlikely to succeed in your application. If either of you are now in relationships with other people, even less so.


If this isn't the case, then things should actually be relatively straightforward, although it won't be quick, and you will have to spend your own time on much of it. There's no way to fast track the actual process; a lawyer who'd take money from you for an initial application like this would be ripping you off.

If your French is good enough to understand the detail of what's needed from official sources online, you should have no problems with the language test element, and the rest of it is assembling papers - a lot of papers, it's true, but nothing out of the ordinary.

(Several of my French friends have quipped that it's actually your personal willingness to work through this last, not any of the rest of it, that convinces the powers that be you're worthy to become French.)

In any case, if you can take it foward, then bon courage with your application.
posted by protorp at 1:53 PM on September 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Here's the text of the law. You need to have been living with the Frenchman in "communauté de vie affective et matérielle" for 4 or 5 years since your marriage, you'll be asked for actual proof, and both of you will be interviewed. The process is very straightforward if everything holds up to scrutiny, and the final decision will take a year (my spouse went through this). Note that ceasing to live with your spouse in "communauté de vie affective et matérielle" for the next 12 months after applying for citizenship is considered to be potentially fraudulent, so not living with the Frenchman before applying is basically a non-starter, unless both of you are extremely good at lying to we've-seen-it-all naturalization officers. There's at least one case of citizenship being eventually granted to a woman who was living in a different city from her husband (for work reasons), but the case went to the higher court and took 4 years to process. It's possible to appeal if citizenship is refused, but most of the cases are dismissed. IANA immigration lawyer, but if you and the Frenchman are actually separated your case does not look good.
posted by elgilito at 7:17 AM on September 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

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