France: Whether an individual aged 18 years or older, born in a foreign country to a French mother, is of French nationality and whether they can pass on their nationality to their children, also born in a foreign country; procedures for having French nationality recognized [FRA105788.FE]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. French Nationality

France’s Civil Code (Code civil) (last amended 2 March 2017) provides the following:


Article 18

A French child is one who has at least one French parent.

Article 18-1

However, if only one parent is French, a child who is not born in France has the option of renouncing his or her French nationality in the six months prior to attaining the age of majority or within twelve months thereafter.

That option is lost if the parent who is stateless or a foreign national acquires French nationality while the child is a minor. (France 1804)

Other sources also report that French nationality is passed on to an individual if one of their parents is French (US 3 Mar. 2017, 19; France 17 July 2015)., the official website of the French government, specifies the following: a child born in France or in a foreign country is French by descent when one of the child’s parents is French; the parents do not need to be married, but the name of the French parent must appear on the child’s birth certificate (France 17 July 2015). It also specifies that [translation] "[t]he nationality of a parent is assessed the day of the child’s birth and while the child is a minor" (France 17 July 2015).

The same source reports that it is possible to hold multiple nationalities in France and that a French person does not have to renounce their French nationality if they acquire another (France 13 July 2015).

Article 20 of the Civil Code states the following:


Article 20

A child who is French under the provisions of this Chapter shall be considered to have been French from birth, even when the existence of the statutory requirements for granting French nationality is established only at a later date.

Article 20-1

The parentage of a child impacts his or her nationality only when it is established while the child is a minor. (France 1804)

Similarly, the website of the Consulate General of France in Toronto explains that in order for French nationality to be passed on to a child, the parent-child relationship with the French parent must be established before the child turns 18 years of age (France 18 Apr. 2011).

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a minister-counsellor at the Embassy of France in Canada summarized as follows:


A person over 18 years of age, born in a foreign country to a French mother [who, herself, was born in France or in a foreign country], may have French nationality if and only if at their birth, their mother retained her French nationality and [if] the parent-child relationship with that French parent was established while the child was a minor…

A French individual may pass on their nationality to their children (by descent) if, on the day of the children’s birth, the individual retained their French nationality and if the parent-child relationship with that French parent was established while the child was a minor. (France 12 Apr. 2017, emphasis in original)

Regarding the issue of an individual passing on French nationality to their children when their own French nationality has yet to be recognized on the day their children are born, the minister-counsellor explained: [translation] "Because every case is unique, there is unfortunately no standard answer when it comes to nationality law. The ultimate way to lay doubt to rest is [to] … apply for a certificate of French nationality [CNF]" (France 12 Apr. 2017).

The minister-counsellor provided the following example:


If [the French parent, on the day of the birth of their children,] submits no valid French document ([secure national identification card], passport, registry record, etc.) and has not, a fortiori, had their foreign birth certificate added to the French civil registry, and if their parents have not demonstrated any ties to France in 50 years, there may be disuse, and the person concerned would have to apply for a [CNF] (France 12 Apr. 2017).

According to the website of the Consulate General of France in Washington, the loss of French nationality by disuse is set out in article 30-3 of the Civil Code (France 9 Sept. 2016).

Section 30-3 of the Civil Code states the following:


Article 30-3

When a person habitually resides or has resided in a foreign country, in which the ancestors from whom they hold the nationality by descent have remained settled for more than 50 years, that person may not prove that they hold the nationality by descent if they or the parent who could have passed on the nationality to them have not been a French national.

In that event case, the court must conclude the loss of French nationality under the article 23-6. (France 1804)

2. Procedures for Having French Nationality Recognized

The website of the Consulate General of France in Montreal states that the [translation] "[CNF] … is the only probative document with respect to nationality" (France 13 Feb. 2017). The website of the Consulate General of France in Washington indicates the following with regard to the CNF:


The certificate of French nationality is an official document, which serves to prove French nationality.

It indicates the legal provision under which the applicant is of French nationality and the documents used to establish this.

It may be requested in the following cases: issuing of a first computerized identity card or a passport, application for a job in the civil service. (France 6 Sept. 2016)

In the case of an individual born and living in a foreign country, lists the following steps for obtaining a CNF: contact the Department of Nationality for French People Born and Established Outside of France (Service de la nationalité des Français nés et établis hors de France) (at 30 Rue du Château des Rentiers, 75647 Paris Cedex 13); submit the application in person (if one is unable to travel, the application may be submitted by correspondence in certain courts); and, for individuals born in a foreign country who have one French parent, the following must be provided:

  • photo identification;
  • proof of identity;
  • proof of residence (recent electricity bill, lease, notice of tax assessment, etc.);
  • a complete copy of the individual’s birth certificate indicating the parent-child relationship;
  • a complete copy of each parents’ birth certificate;
  • all documents concerning the parents that demonstrate French nationality (national identity card, passport, consular registration card, certificate of nationality, military booklet, voter card, etc.);
  • a complete copy of the parents’ marriage certificate or, if the parents are not married, a complete copy of the certificate recognizing and proving parentage (France 30 Sept. 2015).

The site also indicates that the birth certificate must be recent so as to make it possible to verify a possible change of nationality (France 30 Sept. 2015). It also indicates that CNFs are issued at no charge by the senior court registrar and that the period of validity of CNFs is not limited (France 30 Sept. 2015).

The same site provides information on possible recourse in the event that an application is rejected: an informal appeal, which involves contacting the Ministry of Justice in writing (by including a copy of the refusal), and a legal appeal, for which the case is submitted to the high court of competent jurisdiction and which requires representation by counsel (France 30 Sept. 2015).

The minister-counsellor explained that under article 30 of the Civil Code, [translation] "it is up to the person concerned to prove their French nationality" (France 12 Apr. 2017). Section 30 of the Civil Code provides the following:


Article 30

The burden of proof in matters of French nationality lies with the person whose nationality is at issue.

However, that burden lies with the person challenging the French nationality of anyone holding a certificate of French nationality issued in accordance with article 31 and following. (France 1804)

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


France. 12 April 2017. Embassy of France in Canada. Correspondence with the Research Directorate by a minister-counsellor.

France. 13 February 2017. Consulate General of France in Montreal. "Certificat de nationalité française." [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017]

France. 9 September 2016. Consulate General of France in Washington. "Répudiation/Perte de la nationalité française." [Accessed 13 Apr. 2017]

France. 6 September 2016. Consulate General of France in Washington. "Le Certificat de Nationalité Française." [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017]

France. 30 September 2015. "Certificat de nationalité française (CNF)." [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017]

France. 17 July 2015. "Dans quels cas un enfant est-il Français?" [Accessed 3 Apr. 2017]

France. 13 July 2015. "Peut-on avoir plusieurs nationalités?" [Accessed 7 Apr. 2017]

France. 18 April 2011. Consulate General of France in Toronto. "L'enregistrement de la naissance d'une personne majeure née de parents non mariés." [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017]

France. 1804 (amended in 2017). Code civil. [Accessed 3 Apr. 2017]

United States (US). 3 March 2017. Department of State. "France." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016. [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: France – Consulate General of France in Toronto.

Internet sites, including:; France – ministère des Affaires étrangères et du Développement international; United Nations – Refworld.

Associated documents