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If a US citizen, living in France on a work visa (which is renewed annually), obtains the nationality of another European country on the basis of their ancestry, what effect (if any) will this have on their visa?

Ostensibly, their visa would be unchanged due to it being tied to their US passport (presumably the case for any non-European holding a visa). Is this correct?

Would they still be required to renew their visa, or would it be permissible to allow the visa to expire without renewal, since they would have the right of free movement?

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I would say that you're never required to renew a visa, you're required to either have some title to stay or leave. Usually, you want to renew the visa but in that case it would seem unnecessary as staying as an EU citizen is generally simpler and more beneficial.

One common situation in which you let a visa expire and nothing happens is if you gained French citizenship in the meantime. That's common, they know how to handle it. In theory, I think you are supposed to surrender your carte de séjour but I know some people who could hold onto it. Of course being French also comes with more fundamental changes to your relationship with the French state so it's not exactly comparable. And, in practical terms, one major differences is that the préfecture will not learn about your new citizenship automatically.

Still, I think the absolute worse that could happen is that you receive an obligation de quitter le territoire français a few months after the expiry of your current visa/residence permit at which point you can still send a letter pointing out their mistake. Your rights as EU citizen are very strong and cannot possibly be denied because of some procedural details. To forego the whole unpleasantness, I would probably send them a letter informing them about the change and apply for a carte de séjour EU (which is not mandatory but is completely free) as soon as possible. That way hopefully someone at the préfecture will notice before they make their periodical sweep through the files to find potential overstayers and it would at least provide you with a paper trail if any question arises.

At the same time, I can't see why your visa would cease to be valid or you would be legally forced to switch to another status so you could in theory go for a renewal, I guess. But of course doing so would probably create some surprise and confusion if the préfecture learns about your new citizenship.

  • Thank you. I was concerned whether this might make the person look like they were 'nationality shopping' in order to circumvent immigration restrictions and whether this might / could be questioned in any way. But legally speaking, everything you say makes sense and confirms my suspicions. – la femme cosmique Sep 15 '16 at 20:09
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    I don't think it would, not in France, but interestingly there is a kind of precedent with Chen v Home Secretary. Ms. Chen was a Chinese woman on a temporary visa in the UK who went to Belfast to give birth. She was not entitled to stay in the UK long-term, her child was not entitled to British citizenship and she wouldn't have been allowed to enter the Republic of Ireland either but the twist is that due to the long-standing Irish claim to the whole of the island, being born in Belfast was enough to claim Irish citizenship for the child. – Gala Sep 16 '16 at 5:54
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    And Ms. Chen went on to live in the UK as the relative of an EU citizen (which deserves some reward for sheer cleverness, IMO!) The British who are a lot more vindictive than the French with these things were not please and tried to fight it all the way to the EU court of justice but there was nothing to be done. The law is clear and letting one state meddle in another state's sovereign decision to grant citizenship is unthinkable. Ireland had to amend its constitution to close the “loophole” – Gala Sep 16 '16 at 5:57
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    Similarly, when Malta announced something that looked very much like a citizenship-for-money deal, with virtually no residency requirement (and no other “traditional” link with the country like ancestry), the only thing other EU countries could do is complain loudly (I believe this programme has been amended slightly so that you need to spend a couple of years on the island to maintain appearances). So I think legally you are on a very safe footing. – Gala Sep 16 '16 at 6:01
  • Thank you again, this instills my confidence in the situation. I am obtaining my ancestry citizenship to rekindle ties to that part of my family, so I have that option in the future and so my future kids do as well. I am guessing this would have some effect on a future French naturalisation, if I stayed here long enough to qualify for that. But for now, I think that the nationality of my ancestry seems like the best choice in terms of my (hitherto unknown!) future. Thank you again for all of the information, it is very helpful and reassuring about whether I'm taking the right path. – la femme cosmique Sep 16 '16 at 10:13

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