Can foreign grandchildren obtain French nationality through their grandparents? 

This question of nationality and family lineage was recently clarified by the French Court of Cassation in a landmark decision on May 17, 2023. 

In a case that began with a denial of French nationality to Ms. D (name has been with-held), born in Algeria, the court examined the concept of “ascendants” within the framework of French nationality law.

Ms. D, born on June 17, 1992, had her application for French nationality denied. 

She argued that she was the descendant, by filiation, of a French grandfather. 

The Paris judicial tribunal initially ruled against Ms. D, citing the application of the legal concept of “désuétude” (non-use) as defined in Article 30-3 of the Civil Code. 

According to this concept, it was determined that she had lost her French nationality.

Ms. D appealed this decision, and the Paris Court of Appeals took a different stance. 

They found that the conditions for “désuétude” were not met and that Ms. D could indeed prove her French nationality. 

Upon analyzing the evidence provided by Ms. D, the Court ruled in her favor, acknowledging her as a French citizen.

The case then moved to the Court of Cassation as the public prosecutor raised concerns about the Court of Appeals taking into account the paternal grandmother’s situation. 

The prosecutor argued that the 50-year foreign residence condition was fulfilled by Ms. D’s father, not the grandmother.

In a significant decision, the Court of Cassation rejected the prosecutor’s appeal. 

It clarified that the term “ascendants” referred to in Article 30-3 of the Civil Code extends beyond just parents and includes grandparents. 

Furthermore, it upheld the Court of Appeals’ decision to consider the residence of Ms. D’s grandmother in France, not solely the fact that her father had lived abroad for 50 years.

With this ruling, the Court of Cassation has, for the first time, explicitly stated that the notion of “ascendants” in Article 30-3 includes grandparents. 

However, applicants must still provide evidence that the grandparent established their habitual residence in France for the required 50-year period. 

Additionally, the other conditions outlined in Article 30-3 of the Civil Code remain unchanged.

This legal precedent set by the French Court of Cassation has expanded the interpretation of “ascendants” within the context of Article 30-3 of the Civil Code to include grandparents. 

While this is a significant development, applicants must still meet the stringent criteria, including providing evidence of a grandparent’s extended residence in France, to claim French nationality through this lineage. 

This decision reflects the evolving nature of nationality law and underscores the importance of legal clarity in matters of citizenship and heritage.

The complete judgment can be read here: https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/juri/id/JURITEXT000047570990

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