This will give some of you here something to think about:
We decided to apply for french citizenship for my wife who is English, “just in case”. Our step by step process:
Phase 1: Being french myself would be something easy to do, except that we were married in South Africa and had to produce the original of our mariage certificate, have it apostilled and then have our mariage transcribed on to the registers at the French embassy in Johannesburg. Most of this could have been done more or less easily if we still lived in South Africa but left many years ago, so we had to depend on friends of friends who are still alive in the little village we were married, then with the help of the secretary at the french embassy who kindly sent her driver with our certificate to Pretoria to be apostilled (as you can only do that in person and wait in the enormous queue). That was solved. I took us about 6 months.
Phase 2: We filled in the application and gathered the enormous quantity of documents required to apply for Kate’s citizenship and sent the file away. Couple of months later we received the file back with a note saying that I had to prove that I am french ( helloooo!!) by supplying a “Certificat de Nationalité Française”, which I never had because I have always lived overseas till 9 years ago. So I had to apply for one, and for that:
Phase 3: I needed to go the “Tribunal de Grande Instance” in Alès to apply and had to produce (among many,many other documents) the birth and mariage certificates from both my parents and grand parents and at least one of those certificates must have the mention that they are french. So after months of research and being sent from one organisation to another I succeeded to gather all these document, but guess what… none of them had the mention of them being french. Here is where it gets complicated:
- I was born in Vietnam
- My mother was born in Vietnam
- My grand-father (father side) was born in Algeria, where the french embassy’s documents were burned at the independence.
Oh là là…
So, I went to the tribunal with all my papers and explained that I have done my military service in Bordeaux, I suppose that they knew that I was french when they sent me my “convocation” where I lived in West Africa. I always had a french passport which was renewed in the various french embassies where I lived. My grand father (father side), served in the french army all his life and was “Général de Corps d’Armée”, fought at the Spanish border, then Dunkirk before being captured by the Germans and jailed for the rest of the war. Shouldn’t this be enough to make them and me french??? NON! the greffier at the tribunal said, but we would like to look into it because, as she said, it is a very unusual and interesting case, and she loves “digging” in special cases. Ouf!
I went back a couple of times to the tribunal to find out if there was any news about my application, the usual reply was, “it usually takes 2 months”, then, “it usually takes 3 month, and you know, with the summer holidays, it could take longer”.
Well, yesterday, I received a “convocation” from the tribunal to collect the results of my application, and… I AM FRENCH!!! Which means that for the past 72 years (yes that’s how old I am) I have been living and working all over the world, including France, without any nationality, a bit like a refugee in all those countries. Scary isn’t it?
So, Kate’s application is sent back to Montpellier with a photocopy of the only missing document, my certificate, and we will be waiting, perhaps another month or two to find out if all is complete, then maybe 2 to 5 years for Kate to have her french citizenship.
John (Jean, 'cause I’m french)