My mother was born in France and both of her parents are French. She moved to the UK and married my (British) father. When she did this, she changed her surname to his. My parents were married when I was born but they divorced shortly after and my mother moved back to France. She stopped using her married surname when she moved back to France and I don't think the French government were ever made aware of the marriage or of my birth.

I'm now 25. I was born in the UK and have always lived in the UK. I speak pretty good French but I'm not completely fluent. When I was 21, I changed my surname by deed poll. I have my English birth certificate in my old name, the deed poll and my British passport in my new name.

I can also get my mother's French birth certificate, French passport, English marriage certificate and English divorce certificate.

I am self employed in the UK and my Self Assessment will show an income well above the SMIC in the 16/17 tax year.

I want to register my French nationality to get a French passport. The key motivation is to make travel within Europe as easy as possible after Brexit. I am also motivated, to a lesser extent, to have a French passport just to feel more a part of France.

Despite "being" French, proving it and obtaining a French passport seems like a very complicated process. I'm trying to figure out:

  1. If it's even worth the effort (assuming Brexit doesn't automatically afford British subjects the right to travel in the Schengen zone and I continue to travel within the EU regularly),

  2. I believe name changes are going to complicate this. Is the French government likely to recognise my deed poll, given changing one's name requires (I believe) a court order in France?

  3. Can anyone confirm the only real hurdle to getting the passport is obtaining a CNF as described in this link, which is simply a case of assembling documents and delivering them in person? Will I need to attend any language/culture tests?

  4. Would it be sensible to employ a solicitor to help?

  • 2
    There will definitely be no language/culture test. You are just trying to establish a fact, this is not something the government can grant or refuse. Whether it's worth it and whether the process will be so smooth in practice as it should be in theory, I don't know. Note that the CNF is the strongest form of evidence and might very well be necessary in your situation but you could in principle try to apply directly for a passport. This page details under which conditions a birth certificate is enough to establish your citizenship.
    – Gala
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 17:17
  • @Gala what will French authorities make of the deed poll?
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 17:45

3 Answers 3


1. Absolutely no idea. Few people can tell the future these days. However, you should be aware that the official policy in the EU is to avoid double nationalities. It's not strictly enforced, however. In other words, they can ask you to "surrender" your British passport (you can usually get another one rather quickly).

2. French law and administration have very limited recognition of "private" non-contractual legal documents such as a deed poll. As for any civil status act you need the act of a civil authority to change your name.

Consequence: Only documents emitted or signed by an authority will be taken into account without question. Any other documents will only "support your claim" but they can delay the procedure. Your French legal name will be your birth name.

You can normally apply for a "name change" when you claim the nationality. For this you need a valid reason. Changing your legal name to keep continuous use of a "pseudonym" or public name is usually a valid reason, especially if your profession in France mandates the use of your legal name (like some legal or medical professions).

Consequence 2: You will need other documents to establish your identity and filiation, like an old passport, to get your CNF. While it's usually very easy if you have things like a "Livret de famille", if you don't have them and your situation is complicated by name changes, you will need more. You will definitely need your mother's French birth certificate, French passport, English marriage certificate and English divorce certificate.

Note that outdated documents like passports, carte d'identité etc can sometimes be used to prove identity.

3. No language or culture tests for you, as you already are French in the sense of the French law (code civil, article 18).

4. You can use a sollicitor's expertise, but as I said French law and administration have very limited recognition of "private" non-contractual legal documents that a sollicitor usually redacts (there should be some limited recognition but I'm no specialist). In France we have civil law notaries which are very expensive.

  • Thank you! As I suspected, my own name change will be a significant hurdle because they won't recognise the deed poll. I don't have an old passport or anything other than the deed poll to evidence my change of name. However, when I changed my name, I notified HMRC, IPS and DVLA in the UK and they all issued me new documents on the back of my deed poll. Is anyone able to comment on whether they might be able to send me a letter stating that they have received and recognise my change of name? Or, should I register my deed poll at the High Court?
    – James
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 21:30
  • @Yves most countries will demand a Certificate of loss on Nationality, which would entail fraud in both countries on a passport application of the former citizenship. In Germany it would lead to loss of the new citizenship if found out within 5 years (Granted Nationalization based on fraudulent conditions). Commented Sep 9, 2019 at 18:07

The German version of Deed poll – Wikipedia goes into more specifics than the English version

Die meisten Staaten mit Zivilrecht erkennen Deeds Poll zur Änderung des Namens eines ihrer Staatsbürger nicht an; dies gilt unter anderem für Deutschland (insbesondere für Adelsbezeichnungen), Österreich, die Schweiz, Frankreich, Italien, Spanien, Schweden und andere; die jeweiligen Botschaften werden ihre Bürger diesbezüglich beraten können.

where it suggests that it's citizen clarify this with their Embassy.

  • Birth Certificate, Deed poll and Passport

may result in a French official document that would be accepted in France, since the French Consulates in the United Kingdom will be aware of the British legal system and the differences.

The French version does not contain the last, bolded, portion about getting advice from the Embassies.


Answering your questions in order:

  1. Difficult to answer, it would at least provide you with an unconditional right to live in France and full EU citizenship, no matter what happens with Brexit. You would also have the right to vote in French elections. But if you are not particularly keen on leaving the UK and just care about short term visits, French citizenship might not make that much of a difference at the end of the day.

  2. It's possible to get your deed poll recognised by the French authorities… through a court order (of sorts). The French embassy in the UK describes the procedure.

  3. Yes, the procedure described on service-public.fr applies. The CNF is the strongest proof of citizenship and is a good document to have when establishing French citizenship is not straightforward. But you can also apply for a passport directly.

    Income is not relevant and there will be no language proficiency test. Legally, you are not applying to become French, you are already French. The state has no discretion in the matter and cannot demand anything else than documents establishing that your mother is your mother and that she was French when you were born. Even if it can sometimes feel like you have to fight to get your citizenship recognised, that's what all these procedures are about. And nothing else.

  4. It will be unavoidable if your first application is unsuccessful, not sure you necessarily need one right now (it could help with the deed poll issue perhaps?). You will need to pay for certified translations of some documents.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.