I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I had gone to my local prefecture and asked for information about how to become a French citizen. I have the paper upstairs in my office and I am now in the process of trying to gather all the necessary documents.
This is a huge step for me. I have lived in France for many years enjoying almost all the rights of a citizen without really ever seriously considering exchanging my residency card for a passport. My thinking has changed and while I will save a discussions of my motivations and wishes for a longer post, I will say that three people were instrumental in changing my feelings about my relationship with my host country: Patrick Weil, Amin Maalouf, and the gentleman who stole my recently renewed 10-year residency permit one day last summer somewhere between the Versailles Chantiers and La Defense train stations.
When I asked the lovely woman at the desk at the prefecture for information about spousal naturalization, she asked me how long I had been married to a French citizen. When I replied, "23 years," she was momentarily shocked and then she smiled (a huge grin) as she handed me the list of papers I need to open my "dossier."
As for me, I was not smiling after I read it. Even the title of this document is a bit daunting:
NOMENCLATURE DES PIECES A PRODUIRE POUR OBTENIR LE RECIPISSE D'UNE DECLARATION SOUSCRITE AU TITRE DE L'ARTICLE 21-2 DU CODE CIVIL - MARIAGE AVEC UN FRANCAIS
The list is divided up into four parts: Etat civil (my civil state), Documents de communauté de vie (proof of marriage and our life together), Casier judiciaire (police report) and a Certificat de nationalité française du conjoint (proof that my spouse is French). I must produce the originals (or certified copies) of all these document and copies of the copies. In addition everything that is in a foreign language must be translated by a certified translator and I must give them 3 recent photographs, 2 self-addressed, stamped enveloppes and a 55 Euro tax stamp.
Here are the documents I need:
Titre de séjour et passeport: copy of my residency permit and my U.S. passport
Carte nationale d'identité du conjoint: My spouse's French identity card or passport
La copie intégrale de votre acte de naissance délivré par l'officier d'état-civil du lieu de naissance: A certified copy of my birth certificate delivered by an official in my home country/county in the U.S. They will not accept documents from the consulate. This was easy to get (I ordered a copy on-line) but now I have to find a certified translator.
Un maximum de documents attestant votre communauté de vie: Tax statements, our lease and bank statements. All things that after 23 years together we do have in our files.
Tout document justifiant d'une résidence régulière et ininterrompue en France d'au moins trois ans: Again this is easy since I have years worth of pay stubs from various employers.
Un extrait de casier judiciaire: I need the police reports from all the countries I've lived in in the last 10 years and this one is a bit troublesome. The one for France was easy and I have a copy in my possession. However, we did live in Japan for awhile and I had no idea how to approach the Japanese authorities for this. Luckily, the Japanese consulate in Paris does give instructions on their website for how to go about it. I must get an appointment, go there in person, justify my request and if they accept, they will start the process which takes about two months. Then I imagine that I will have to find another certified translator to get the document translated into French.
Un certificat de nationalité française: This is proof that my husband was French when we got married and that he has not renounced since. My husband was actually born in Algeria when his father was serving in the military there so I think we have to go through a special service in Nantes to get these documents.
Once I have all of the above, I will be able to go down to the prefecture, present my pile of documents, and start the process.
And then the real fun begins. Apparently there are interviews and tests I will have to pass: written and spoken French (I must demonstrate that I have at least the level of a junior high school student) and a history test. For the spoken French I am not too worried, for the written, well, let's just say that I'm comfortable writing letters and emails but I sure hope they don't ask me to write a long essay on nihilism without a dictionary at my side. I'm also going to have to study a bit for the history test - if anyone has any books to propose that might help, I would be most grateful for your recommendations.
This will be quite an adventure and it looks like it will take awhile. I'll let you know how it goes.
Wish me luck.