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I am a refugee in Scandinavia and have to attend an online university post-graduate program from France (three years). I want to go to France and ask for a residence permit to learn French in order to apply for citizenship. I have read that if you finish two years college, whether online or offline, in France then you can ask citizenship after two years.

What process do I need? Is this information correct?

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The information you received is kind of correct but it's probably a lot more difficult than you realize.

In general, you have to have resided in France for five years before applying for naturalisation. That requirement is reduced to two years if you have successfully studied for two years at a French higher education institution (that's the rule you heard about).

But you have to realize that:

  • It's only a basic requirement to apply for naturalisation. Most applications satisfying this requirement are ultimately rejected or at least adjourned (for a long time it was about 50% then peaked at 75% rejection, not sure about the current stats). Among other things, you need to show you speak French, have a stable situation and permanent job (contrat à durée indéterminée), no past illegal stay in France, etc.
  • It's intended for people who have studied (e.g. at a university) in France for two years (and therefore effectively resided for four years already, as time under a student visa/permit typically does not count). I am not so sure your study would count (What is it exactly? You talk about an online program but also make it sound like a language course) and even if it is not categorically ruled out, it would not look good on your application for citizenship (remember that two years is an absolute minimum before you can ask and it's not common for people to get naturalized that quickly, the authorities legally have quite a bit of discretion in this procedure).
  • You need a French permit or visa to stay in France long-term (i.e. more than three months, even for study. Assuming you somehow manage to follow this online learning program from Sweden, you would at the very least need a regular residence permit to accrue residence counting towards the 2+ years requirement and wait out the results of the application. Depending on your citizenship and your situation, it might not be trivial to get that permit.
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    This link might also be useful to reference the status of a non eu national having a long term eu resident card from out of France when he/she comes to France (as you have mentioned in your third paragraph) service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F1375 – audionuma Jul 21 '16 at 6:56
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    This is a great answer. I will add one more thing: in terms of having a job to satisfy the requirements of 'contributing to the French economy' this mostly means a permanent job, not a temporary one. You also have to provide evidence of having completed three French tax returns (and you have to have paid tax into these). So OP would have to get a higher degree (Masters or PhD) in France, then stay 3 more years, pay taxes, work, etc. Then OP would have to wait until they had the slips proving tax (+~1y) and then he could apply. And only then he might be accepted. – la femme cosmique Jul 21 '16 at 8:51
  • Excellent points, I have added some details regarding this to the answer, thanks! – Gala Jul 21 '16 at 16:09
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I know next to nothing about French immigration law, but I have worked briefly at the Swedish Immigration Board. If you have a residence permit as a refugee in any of the Scandinavian countries, you effectively have a residence permit for any and all of the EU-countries, including France. Even if your residence permit is from a non-EU Scandinavian country (i.e. Norway or Iceland), the "Schengen" treaty will give you the right to reside in any EU country.

If you have not yet been issued a residence permit in the country where you are, you should wait until you have it before moving to France. You should also direct your question the (1.) the immigration authority with which you have filed for a refugee status residence permit and (2.) the French immigration authorities to get the latest and most accurate information.

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    (-1) That's not at all how this works or what the Schengen agreement (now regulations) is about. – Gala Jul 20 '16 at 18:45
  • Yes it is. Residence permits in one EU country is in effect a permit to reside in any EU country. And residents of Iceland and Norway have the right to live and work in the EU. Or what was it that you disagree with? What is lacking in my attempt to an answer is the part about specifically French residence and naturalization laws. Perhaps you can help there? – LSU Moose Jul 20 '16 at 18:48
  • The main point, though, is that the person posing the question should be patient and wait for her/his permit, and prudent enough not to ask this important question only here. – LSU Moose Jul 20 '16 at 18:50
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    You're completely confused about all this. A residence permit in a Schengen country allows you to visit other Schengen (not EU) countries for up to 90 days in any 180 period. Citizens of Norway and Iceland (and Switzerland and Lichtenstein) have the right to work in any EU country (i.e. including the UK – for the time being – Romania, etc.) Residents in Norway or any Schengen country have almost no special rights, not even any visa exemption for short visits in non-Schengen EU countries like the UK. All these distinctions matter a lot. – Gala Jul 20 '16 at 18:53
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    I am currently writing an answer, meanwhile I wanted to point out that yours is completely wrong and dangerously misleading. I realize it's a very harsh comment but I really think you should delete it and read up on all this because you are really confused about many important basic points of the current European border and immigration law. – Gala Jul 20 '16 at 18:59

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