Saturday, October 24, 2015

How to become French - Part 1


Last Sunday I spent 5 hours completing my application to become a French citizen and it was in the post on Monday. This whole process is extremely time-consuming, expensive and stressful but if I want to have dual nationality I have to see it through to the end. It's time-consuming because everything has to be copied, much has to be done by hand, often you must visit somewhere and stand in line for an interview in order to obtain official documents. Often you don't know who to approach even at your own place of work.

It's expensive because many of the documents from New Zealand must be paid for and so must the official seals (apostilles) to say these are indeed official and original documents. Once you have all NZ documents you then have to get them all translated by an officially approved translator. Even the postage back and forth between ends of the planet can get expensive.

And lastly it's stressful because there is a time limit to it all. The documents must be less than 3 months old even if nothing has changed in decades. The postal service between France and NZ is slow. You have to allow 10 days each way. Documents I sent to NZ spent almost a week in France before jetting off to Wellington or Christchurch. Some documents coming from NZ took at least 2 weeks to arrive in France because they were sent via Australia, then Bangkok, then Hong Kong, then Germany etc.

Full marks to NZ Births Deaths and Marriages for their efficiency in getting things produced and sent directly to the Apostille service. I had to deal with both Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Justice.
BDM were on the ball and got things done and back to me in just a couple of weeks. Not so for my conviction history. They say it takes 20 working days after they receive the official request. Actually they have a backlog so it takes longer. When I heard nothing and my nails were bitten down to the quick I phoned and the nice man discovered that what they were sending me was incorrect so legally useless. They'd spelt my name wrong. Back to the drawing board. The correction seemed to take a lifetime to arrive.

The only hiccup with BDM was that they charged me twice. It took a bit of phoning and sorting and waiting to get reimbursed but... we got there. BDM charges and so you get efficient service. The Ministry of Justice doesn't charge and it takes forever. I had to contact the district courts where my divorces had been concluded and ask them to send me copies. They are photocopies with holes punched in them but have an official stamp saying they are legal copies. I still had to get apostilles and translations done though. Terribly important documents were trudging back and forth across the planet while time was ticking away. Remember, all documents must be less than 3 months old when they arrive at the prefecture.

In my case I had to send my dossier to the Prefecture d'Indre-et-Loire in Tours. It was sent registered, of course, and things now become nail-biting as I wait to see if the civil servants consider I have an acceptable and complete application. If I pass that stage I will wait for an interview. This whole process can take up to two years of waiting and worrying. If my dossier is found incomplete or unacceptable I will have to start the whole thing over again.

Here's a list of what I had to supply in folder number 1.
1. Cover letter handwritten explaining why I want to become a French citizen
2.  TWO copies of the official form CERFA asking for naturalisation
Civil state
3. My birth certificate (an original + apostille +translation)
4. My two marriage certificates (originals + apostilles + translations)
5. My two divorce papers (official copies + apostilles + translations)
6. My parents birth certificates (official copies + apostilles + translations) and I also included my parents marriage certificate just in case
Professional situation and financial resources
7. Copy of my current job contract showing date of hiring, salary, activity
8. Copies of the last 3 pay slips
9. The payslips for last 3 Decembers (I added these in as some prefectures ask for this)
10. Attestation/proof form human resources I've been working at my employment for the past 5 years
My tax situation
11. Complete copies of my last 3 years' tax returns
12. Official form P237 showing I have paid all taxes, including income and local government rates

13. Criminal conviction record from NZ (original + apostille + translation)
Proof of address
14. A letter from Jean-Claude stating I live with him
15. A copy of JC's national identity card
16. A water bill from JC proving his address
Language competency
17. Proof of my competence in French from official tests - level B2 (I only needed a B1)
Additional documents
18. 3 identity photos
19. A copy of both sides of my titre de sejour (residents card)
20. Two standard envelopes, stamped (I also supplied my address stickers )
21. A letter of support from the president of the heritage association in my area (I'm a member and translate brochures for them) optional
22. Copy of my passport

Folder 2 consisted of copies I had to send. I also supplied a list of all documents included in each folder in the order given, to make it easier for the civil servants to find everything.
Later I must pay 55€ in tax stamps. The CERFA forms want all your employment history and all the places you have ever lived. Well, I don't remember the addresses and exact dates of the first 20 years and have no documents to help me. Much of that old stuff I threw out before I left NZ as I only had a suitcase with a 20kg limit at the time. I never imagined I'd need that. I've done my best and so must hope for the best.

I'm applying for naturalisation on my own merit.  I'm not marrying anyone to make it easier as no one is seriously offering that. I could have shaved 3 years off the 5 years needed before applying if I could have done a post-grad degree here but without someone to financially support me that was impossible though I would have liked to do it, despite my age. My European ancestors go too far back to be of any use - it has to be your parents and even then you have to live in France 5 years before applying. So, France either sees value in me or it doesn't. To date it has been totally indifferent or rather discouraging but I'll see this through to the end... whatever that is, I know I've tried.

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