Je ne pas parle francais, but I could learn...
March 14, 2008 10:25 AM   Subscribe

I am Canadian. My dad was born in France, but is a naturalized Canadian - i'm pretty sure he's given up his French citizenship. Both my paternal grandparents were French, and moved to Canada in the early 1950s (when my dad was 4). What (if anything) am I eligible for in terms of French (or EU) citizenship?

I'm not really looking to move to France or anything like that (and least not right now), but I've always wondered if I could. I've done some brief googling to try and make sense of the requirements, but I'm having problems coming up with anything concrete (or, in English that makes sense once translated online). Obviously, I don't speak much French (just what I remember from the useless stuff they make you learn in Canadian high schools), but for the sake of argument, lets say I could learn if I needed to.

In case it matters - I'm an educated geek with a B.Sc. in Computer Science, which might help in convincing governments I'm an employable contributor to society, whose skills may (or may not) be in high demand.

Would I be eligible for French citizenship? What about getting my French citizenship, and then using that to open up doors to the (english speaking portions of the) entire EU?
posted by cgg to Travel & Transportation around Canada (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wikipedia has a page.

To quote that:

"Filiation must be established during the minority of the child to take effect. Consequently, the recognition of a child after it reached his majority is without effect on his nationality (article 20-1 of the Civil code)."

So if you are no longer a minor you cannot apply for citizenship. But that's just Wikipedia talking.
posted by GuyZero at 10:39 AM on March 14, 2008

GuyZero: I think you're misreading things; the sentence you quoted, I read to mean "If you had unknown parentage, and your father shows up on your 30th birthday and says 'I am French!', his citizenship doesn't get applied to you, whereas it would if he'd appeared and acknowledged you as his child when you were ten."

Then again, I may be wrong; I Am Not a French Lawyer, and words like 'recognition' may be used here in a precise legal sense I'm not familiar with.

When did your dad give up his citizenship? To quote wikipedia (same link as GuyZero):

"The child who was born abroad and only one of the parents is French with the possibility of repudiating French nationality during the six months preceding its majority or in the year which follows it (article 19-4 of the Civil code)."

So it sounds like you're French, to my reading, if your dad didn't give it up until after your birth.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:01 AM on March 14, 2008

It may also depend on what it means that your dad "gave up" his French citizenship. While he may no longer consider himself a citizen of France, France might still think he is. U.S. citizenship, for example, is really hard to give up; technically, dual citizenship is not allowed, but in practice, it's very common. Can you ask your dad what the deal is?

Also, consider calling your local(ish) French embassy/consulate - someone there may be able to help.
posted by rtha at 11:19 AM on March 14, 2008

Call your local consulate and ask. As far as I can tell, if your father was not a French citizen when you were born, you are out of luck. More information here.
posted by ssg at 11:28 AM on March 14, 2008

Consulate General of France
1100-1130 Pender Street West
Vancouver, BC V6E 4A4
(604) 681-4345

Can't hurt to call and ask.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:52 AM on March 14, 2008

Fourthing the Consulate - My guess is that while the official rules and standards have generally tightened over recent years, some off-the-books flexibility may be present, in the broad sense that you, with French grandparents, a father born in France, and a potentially in-demand skill set, would have a better chance of becoming a French citizen than, say someone like myself, whose only claim to Gallic heritage is having once owned a Renault.

I'll go further out on a limb and assume some level of fluency in French would increase those odds.
posted by jalexei at 12:20 PM on March 14, 2008

I am not a lawyer or a french law expert, but generally citizenship criteria do not include your education, occupation or linguistic ability. Illiterate, unemployed people have the same rights to citizenship as anyone else. It's not like a work visa where you have to be qualified.
posted by GuyZero at 1:08 PM on March 14, 2008

What GuyZero said: if you have citizenship through descent, then your abilities don't matter. If you want to live somewhere and don't have a citizenship claim, then your skills/abilities kick in -- e.g. the Canadian points system -- for granting a visa. Two different things.

It's the consulate's job to deal with questions like this. You'll ideally want your father's birth certificate and Canadian citizenship documents for reference, as well as your own birth certificate, because those dates have to be mapped to any relevant changes in French citizenship law.
posted by holgate at 1:53 PM on March 14, 2008

What about getting my French citizenship, and then using that to open up doors to the (english speaking portions of the) entire EU?

If you qualify as a French citizen, there are absolutely no restrictions on travelling or working in any other part of the EU. So, with a French passport, you could enter and work in, the UK or Ireland without any need of a visa. I'm not sure about voting in elections, but apart from that you'd have exactly the same rights within that country as a national of that country.
posted by veedubya at 1:54 PM on March 14, 2008

Though, scanning the blubs, it does look as if claims to French citizenship time out at majority.

(There may be other avenues to an EU passport on your maternal side, or at very least, to live and work in the UK. Your Canadian passport also opens the door to the working holiday visa if you're under 30.)
posted by holgate at 2:08 PM on March 14, 2008

You might also want to ask what your obligations might be as a French citizen re: taxes, military service etc.
posted by metahawk at 4:42 PM on March 14, 2008

As an aside, most countries in the EU are tightening up such avenues for citizenship. Many countries were forced to ditch them as a condition of entry into the EU.

About 15 years ago i was eligible to carry a passport for both Ireland, and the UK. My partner was able to carry a German passport. These days, neither of us can access anything of the sort.

So. my advice would be to be prepared to be let down. You might be able to carry a passport, but citizenship is a whole different kettle of fish.

Good luck.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 4:50 PM on March 14, 2008

I am not a lawyer or a french law expert, but generally citizenship criteria do not include your education, occupation or linguistic ability.

Apologies if I was unclear / sloppy - It looked as if ancestry had already been ruled out, and I was proposing a work visa route.
posted by jalexei at 7:21 PM on March 14, 2008

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