As COVID-19 disrupts tourism and business travels globally, the immigration industry has seen a newfound demand for immigration pathway to the European Union ("EU"). France, which is traditionally an attractive immigration destination to affluent individuals, has in particular gained popularity as a destination for securing an additional citizenship.

Mr. Jean-Francois Harvey, Global Managing Partner of Harvey Law Group, an international law firm that specializes in business and investment immigration matters, attributed the popularity of the French citizenship option to the simple and affordable nature of its French citizenship-by-ancestry legal regime and the unparalleled benefits that come from being a French citizen.

Benefits of securing French citizenship-by-ancestry

"The recent surge in queries for French citizenship-by-ancestry is hardly surprising when one considers the advantages and benefits that French citizenship brings," said Mr. Harvey. Being French not only allows one to live, work, and study in France and across all the 27 EU member states without getting a visa, it also grants access to the French passport, which is the world's third most powerful passport in terms of travel freedom in 2022. In times of emergency, such as those caused by COVID-19, French citizens are also entitled to call for help from the French government or the embassy of any other EU member states.

Qualifying for French citizenship-by-ancestry

The process to securing French citizenship-by-ancestry is fairly straight-forward. "Whilst foreign nationals typically undergo complex and lengthy naturalization processes in securing French citizenships, those lucky enough to have ancestors who are French may be considered a French citizen without even realizing it," Harvey states.

Put simply, a person is born French if one of his parents is a citizen of France. This applies irrespective of the applicant's place of birth, absence of ties to France (whether economic, residential or other) or French language abilities. Children adopted by at least one French parent may also be eligible to claim French citizenship if plenary adoption has extinguished their ties to their biological parents before they turned 18.

Notably, individuals with French grandparents may also claim French citizenship, provided that at least one of their parents successfully registers as a French citizen before, in turn, they also do. "With over 20 million people reported of French ancestry around the world, it is possible that an astonishing number of people could qualify to apply for French citizenship if they delve deep into their family histories and demonstrate an uninterrupted lineage with a qualifying French ancestor," said Harvey.

Process to securing a French passport through your ancestral link

To obtain a first French passport, it will be necessary to apply for a certificate of French nationality through the submission of a French citizenship-by ancestry application. Applicants would be asked to present documentation to prove their relationships with their French parent and the citizenship status of their French parent. If approved, a certificate of French nationality would be issued, clearing the path to apply for the French passport.

"It is important to note that a degree of uncertainty is involved in applying for French citizenship-by-ancestry because the immigration authorities may refuse your application if they find that your parent had lost his citizenship before you are born. Loss of French citizenship, for example, could occur if neither the parent nor the ancestor from whom the parent obtained the French citizenship has established a sufficient link with France for an extended period of time. To better determine your eligibility for French citizenship-by-ancestry, I advise that you complete a free eligibility assessment with one of our lawyers," Harvey states.

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