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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Je suis français

Madame Sylvaine Carta-Le Vert, French Consul in London, presents me with my documents 

On February 7th I was invited with my wife to a ceremony at the French Consulate in South Kensington to mark my first day as a Frenchman.

There were 15 people, along with their partners (and a baby), who were taking part in the ceremony which consisted of singing La Marseillaise (lyrics provided!), listening to a welcome speech from Madame La Consule, drinking champagne and of course signing and collecting a pack of documents with a photo taken of each of us as we were welcomed to French Nationality!

This was the final step in a process which for me started on Friday June 24th 2016, the day after the UK referendum on leaving the EU. As soon as I recovered from the shock result, I promised myself to find a way to remain an EU citizen. For me, applying for French Nationality was the most obvious option.

The 18 month process was frustrating, challenging, time-consuming, humiliating, expensive and tedious, but the result was deeply rewarding. Madame La Consule, Madame La Vice Consule and their colleagues who had supported our applications through the journey were all present for the ceremony and made it clear just how pleased, how honoured they were to welcome us. There has been an significant increase in applications since June 2018 and this has impacted on their workload. Despite this, they were delighted to receive us and came to speak to each of us. I was also presented with a letter from Président Macron, welcoming me to French and European citizenship, 'Our Republic and the European Union, need your active participation to make democracy live'.

Letter of welcome from Président Emmanuel Macron

The 18 month challenge included the following steps:
  • A substantial amount of form filling. Trying to work out which were the right forms was more difficult than the actual completion. French bureaucracy is not new to me so no surprises here.
  • Translation of key documents into French including my birth certificate 
  • The translations could only be undertaken by officially recognised translators
  • Once translated, the documents needed to be sent to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for a stamp (Apostille).
  • Provision of a Police Certificate listing my criminal record. In my case this was blank but the document still needed to be translated in accordance with the procedure above and sent to the FCO for stamp.
  • Original extracts of my wife and my children's birth certificates and our marriage certificate. All had to be dated less than 3 months old or they were invalid. I can understand that a marriage status can change but how can a birth certificate change? These all had to be requested from the French authorities.
  • A written and oral language test at the French Consulate in South Kensington. Along with about 25 other people, I had to sit a humiliating written test which consisted of listening to the tape and selecting the correct multi-choice answer in exam style conditions. (E.g. Is the man at the cinema, the airport or the supermarket?). I then had a one to one 20 minute oral exam in which I was asked to talk on the subjects of public transport in Lille and on how good France is at promoting equality for women. I had to talk on each for 5 minutes which would have been a pleasure if I had been able to research it first! My BA Hons. Degree in French from Manchester University is not recognised.
  • On first attempt my papers were rejected as I had supplied and translated the wrong Police Certificate. I promptly requested another one (also blank you will be pleased to hear) had it translated and stamped by the FCO.
  • Finally, once all the papers were in order, we were invited for an interview with Madame La Vice Consule. She advised that the process from that point would be picked up by the authorities in France and would take between 6 and 12 months.
  • On January 5th, I received a voicemail congratulating me on my successful application and inviting me to the ceremony on February 7th.
Results of my French language exams

My overall feeling is one of great pride of having not only been accepted, but very much welcomed as a French National. I look forward to picking up my new passport soon and registering to vote.

Quote from Blaise Pascal, French philosopher and mathematician 1623-62

'J’ai souvent dit, que tout le malheur des hommes vient de ne savoir pas se tenir en repos dans une chambre.'

'I have often said that all of man's misery is a result of being incapable of sitting peacefully in a room.'

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