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My mother was born outside of France but moved to France as a child and became a citizen. Her ancestry is not French. When she was 18, she moved to the US, which is where I was later born. She has not lived in France since coming to the US.

I'm now in my 20s and wondering if it's possible to acquire French citizenship through my mother and steps I would need to take. I've been trying to understand the laws but it's not completely clear.

  • Possible duplicate of expatriates.stackexchange.com/questions/6618/… – mkennedy May 12 '17 at 17:10
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    @mkennedy this question is far simpler than that one given that the 50-year delay cannot be implicated except in the exceedingly improbable event that the OP was born when her mother was 68 or older. – phoog May 12 '17 at 19:51
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    @phoog Actually, my understanding is that the 50-year delay is counted to the date of the application to have the citizenship recognised. With the OP being in his or her 20s, that could be possible if the mothers was in her 40s when they were born. On the other hand, someone who isn't born French but naturalised definitely had possession d'état so I don't think article 30-3 can possibly apply to the OP (it would apply to the next generation unless the OP makes sure it doesn't by applying for a passport for his or her children or something like that). – Gala May 13 '17 at 6:09
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Most likely you already acquired French citizenship when you were born. This assumes that your mother never lost her French citizenship, and that the current law has not changed since you were born. From Les conditions et modalités de l’acquisition de la nationalité française:

  1. L’acquisition de plein droit de la nationalité française

a) A la naissance

  • pour l’enfant né en France ou à l’étranger dont l’un au moins des parents est Français (droit du sang) ;
  • pour l’enfant né en France lorsque l’un de ses parents au moins y est lui-même né (double droit du sol) ;
  • pour l’enfant né en France de deux parents apatrides (simple droit du sol).

The first bullet point applies to you:

for the child born in France or abroad of whose parents at least one is French

You should approach the French consulate responsible for your place of residence and ask them what you need to do to apply for a passport.

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@phoog already provided an excellent answer but I have a few more details to add that are a bit long for a comment and possibly useful for others so I decided to post them here. Given that you are in your 20s, you are already French if your mother was herself still a French citizen when you were born.

The relevant disposition is now in article 18 of the Code civil:

Est français l'enfant dont l'un des parents au moins est français.

The child, at least one of whose parents is French, is French.

Between 1973 and 1993, the rule was essentially the same by article 17 of the Code de la nationalité française, with a slightly different wording, for historical reasons:

Est Français l'enfant, légitime ou naturel, dont l'un des parents au moins est français.

The child, legitmated or natural, at least one of whose parents is French, is French.

Between 1945 and 1973, the rules were very similar but with some distinctions between men and women and married or unmarried parents (which is why the 1973 version stressed that the rule applies to both legitimate and illegitimate children, a precision that was dropped later) and I believe the rule to be even older. Since you are only in your 20s, none of that is relevant in this case however.

That's very clear and simple, so the only question is whether your mother was French when you were born. If she was, you don't have to worry about all the dispositions about becoming French and the like, they do not apply to you as you are already French.

There aren't many ways to lose French citizenship. For example, gaining another citizenship or residing abroad would not deprive your mother of her citizenship. So unless she actively renounced it, she would almost certainly still have been French when you were born.

Finally, you will read many things on this site and elsewhere on désuétude. The details are complex but there are rules defined in article 23-6 and 30-3 of the Code civil that make it possible for French citizenship to lapse if you reside abroad for 50 years and never use your citizenship (using your citizenship is called possession d'état). This could for example happen to your children if you never apply for a French passport. I believe this could not possibly apply to your mother as she wasn't born French. When she naturalised, she definitely had possession d'état.

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