Data shows remaining gaps in addressing statelessness in France despite detailed Statelessness Determination Procedure

The European Network on Statelessness and Forum réfugiés-Cosi have collaborated to research comparative information on statelessness in France and compiled this into a country profile on the Statelessness Index, an online tool which assesses how countries in Europe both protect stateless people and prevent and reduce statelessness.

28 Jan 2019 / Detention / France / International and Regional Instruments / Prevention and reduction / Statelessness determination and status / Statelessness population data


There are positive aspects to law and policy in France. Its statelessness determination procedure (SDP) is accessible, there is a right to appeal, and a multi-annual residence permit with the right to a travel document is granted to those recognised as stateless. The law requires that detention is a last resort and that a country of removal is identified prior to detaining. There are provisions in law to prevent statelessness including among children born on the territory or to nationals abroad.

  • Otherwise stateless children born on the territory of France are French by law, but in practice a request must be made for the certificate to be delivered. In some cases, children may be required to go through the SDP to be recognised as stateless and then apply for naturalisation according to the rules for children born in France to foreign parents.
  • The safeguard for otherwise stateless children born in France does not require that the parents are also stateless, that the child cannot access another nationality, nor is there a residency requirement. However, in practice, parents must prove they are stateless or cannot pass on their nationality, as well as the child's birth in France. If the child applies through the SDP they must meet the same requirements as other applicants for stateless status.
  • If the child's French nationality under Article 19 of the Civil Code is not recognised, Article 21 still applies, by which a young person born in and residing in France for more than five years at the age of majority acquires French nationality.
  • All minors may claim French nationality by declaration from 16 years-old, if they are habitually resident in France at the time of declaration and have at least five years’ residence since the age of 11. French nationality may also be claimed by the legal representative on behalf of a minor child born in France to foreign parents from 13 years-old (if residing since eight years-old) with the consent of the minor (except in some cases of mental or physical impairment).
  • A further route to acquisition of French nationality by declaration came into force in 2016, whereby the sibling of someone who has acquired nationality under Article 21 may acquire nationality by declaration on reaching the age of majority, if they have resided in France since the age of six and followed their compulsory schooling in French state schools.
  • Foundlings are deemed to be born French citizens by law.
  • Article 58 of the Civil code expressly refers to a new-born, which implies an age limit, but Article 19 of the Civil Code does not refer to any age limit.
  • If the filiation is established while the child is still underage, French nationality can be withdrawn but only if this does not lead to statelessness.
  • There are two types of adoption under French law: full or simple, with a different effect on the nationality of the adopted person. Full adoption replaces the existing filiation between the adopted person and the family of origin with a new relationship. Simple adoption makes it possible to adopt a person without breaking the links with the family of origin.
  • A child subject to a full adoption as a minor acquires French nationality if adopted by a national. Simple adoption does not affect nationality: the adopted person retains the nationality of the family of origin, unless they claim French citizenship.
  • Children are French if at least one of their parents is French wherever their place of birth.
  • If only one parent is French, and the child is born outside the territory, they can renounce their French nationality during the last six months preceding their 18th birthday and the following 12 months.
  • Under a separate article of the Civil Code, an adult who resides abroad and voluntarily acquires a foreign nationality may renounce their French citizenship.
  • Documents required to register the birth of a child are: birth certificate established by doctor or nurse; declaration of the name to be given to the child; identity documents of the parents; recognition act if this has been done prior to the birth; and family record book if the parents have one. 
  • There is nothing in law that forbids undocumented and irregular residing persons to declare the birth of their child and in principle all children born in France must be registered. 
  • It is not clear whether there are barriers to birth registration in practice.
  • There are no mandatory requirements to report undocumented individuals to the authorities.
  • Children must be registered within five days of birth (excluding the day of birth, weekends and public holidays) or within eight days where the place of birth is particularly far from the place of registration. If the child is born abroad, the deadline is 15 days for the birth to be declared at the consulate or embassy.
  • If the birth is not declared within the deadline, it can only be recognised by the High Court.
  • If the birth is not declared by someone who attended the delivery they can be convicted and sentenced to six months imprisonment and 3750€ fine.
  • There are no national campaigns or activities to promote birth registration, but information leaflets are provided in hospitals and maternity services.
  • There is anecdotal evidence from frontline professionals that Roma children born in France and the children of irregular migrants may face barriers to birth registration and be at risk of births not being registered.
  • There are no other measures implemented by the Government specifically aimed at reducing the risk of statelessness.
  • A naturalised French national can be deprived of their nationality for reasons specified in the Civil Code if they took place within last 10 years (15 years in the case of serious crimes against the state or acts of terrorism).
  • There is a safeguard against statelessness
  • Decisions are subject to the advisory opinion of the Council of State, the higher administrative court, whose opinion is binding, but it has never overturned a decision.

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