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, and safeguards to prevent deprivation of nationality leading to statelessness.

However, there are also key gaps. France is not party to three of the four core statelessness conventions and although some disaggregated data on the SDP and stateless refugees is published, it does not capture statelessness in its census. Applicants for stateless status under the SDP have no legal right to stay and there is no simplified route to naturalisation. People released from detention are not protected from re-detention. Although there is a safeguard in law for children born stateless in France, its implementation is problematic with some children being required to go through the SDP to prove their statelessness. Late birth registration is only possible through the courts and there is emerging evidence of barriers to birth registration and prompt issuance of birth certificates for some children born on French territory.

Last updated: 
Mar 2021
Next scheduled update: 
Mar 2022
Country expert(s): 

Cécile Queval, Forum Refugies - Cosi

Additional resources






International and Regional Instruments

Assesses whether countries are State party to the relevant international and regional instruments, including whether reservations have an impact on statelessness, and whether instruments are incorporated into domestic law. The four core statelessness treaties (1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons; 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness; European Convention on Nationality; Council of Europe Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession) carry more weight than other relevant human rights instruments in the assessment.

France is state party to the 1954 Convention but is not party to the other three core statelessness instruments: the 1961 Convention, the European Convention on Nationality, and the European Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession. It is state party to most other relevant human rights instruments but retains reservations, including some which impact on statelessness and stateless people in the territory.

  • France is state party to the 1954 Convention and it has direct effect. Its reservation to Art. 10(2) is time limited and no longer has a significant impact.
  • France has signed but not acceded to the 1961 Convention. Reservations were indicated at the time of signature.
  • France has signed but not acceded to the European Convention on Nationality (no reservations were declared at time of signature), and it is not state party to the Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession.
  • France is state party to most other relevant human rights instruments, but retains some reservations, for example to the European Convention on Human Rights on the right to liberty and free trial for military personnel, and derogations in times of emergency; to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in relation to the recognition of national minorities; to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women reserving the right to deprive someone of their French nationality; and a declaration to the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination relating to anti-discrimination legislation.

Statelessness Population Data

Examines the availability and sources of disaggregated population data on statelessness. Provides recent figures and assesses reliability of measures countries have in place to count stateless persons, including in the census, population registries, and migration databases. Notes whether statelessness has been mapped in the country and whether there are sufficient measures in place to count stateless persons in detention.

France collects and publishes disaggregated data on the statelessness determination procedure and stateless refugees, and some limited data on the acquisition of nationality and residence permits by stateless people. However, it does not capture statelessness in the census, and in some cases, officials attribute a nationality to people who leave this question unanswered. There is no official data on stateless people in detention.

  • There is no possibility in the population census to select anything other than a nationality – all other responses are considered 'non-answers'. If the nationality question is not answered, the respondent is assigned a nationality by the authorities (either of their country of birth or the nationality of another respondent sharing similar characteristics).
  • Official statistics on statelessness relate to the statelessness determination procedure. In 2019, 328 new claims were lodged (22% decrease compared to 2018 and the first registered decrease since 2012); and 364 decisions were issued - 56 positive (15% recognition rate, down from 22% in 2018). Data is disaggregated by country of birth and gender but does not include accompanying minors. The largest group of applicants were Saharawi (29%), followed by people from the former Yugoslavia (14%) and former Soviet Union (9%). 8% of requests were made by Romani people born in Italy with family heritage from the former Yugoslavia.
  • As of 31 December 2019, 1521 stateless people were protected by OFPRA (34% women). In 2019, OFPRA recognised 59 ‘stateless-refugees’ (down from 122 in 2018, 114 in 2017, and 91 in 2016).
  • No comprehensive mapping study of statelessness in France has been published.
  • UNHCR uses OFPRA figures and indicated 1,521 people under its statelessness mandate in France in its 2019 Global Trends report.
  • Another source of data is Eurostat on the acquisition of French nationality, which is disaggregated by country of origin and includes “unknown" and "stateless” categories. In 2018, 2,114 people listed as having ‘unknown’ nationality acquired French nationality, and 20 ‘stateless’ people acquired French nationality (down from 117 in 2017).
  • There is no official data available on stateless people in detention in France.
  • Some data is published by NGOs, including on nationalities of people detained and reasons for release. 79 people with ‘unknown nationality’ were recorded in 2019. 5.5% (1,310) of the total number of people detained in 2018 were released due to the expiry of the maximum time limit.

Statelessness Determination and Status

Identifies whether countries have a definition of a stateless person in national law that aligns with the 1954 Convention, and whether they have a dedicated statelessness determination procedure (SDP) leading to a dedicated stateless status. If an SDP is not place, it assesses whether there are other procedures in which statelessness can be identified or other routes through which stateless people could regularise their stay or access their rights. Countries are subdivided in three groups to enable comparison between those with an SDP leading to protection, those with other procedures, and those with a stateless status but no clear mechanism to access protection. The existing procedures and rights granted to stateless persons are examined and assessed against international norms and good practice.

France has a clear and detailed SDP established in law and the definition of a stateless person in French law aligns with the 1954 Convention. The procedure contains some provisions to facilitate access, including no fee nor residence requirement, a duty to examine all claims, and UNHCR provides training for decision makers. However, an interview is not mandatory, the application must be made in writing in French, and it cannot be made ex officio. The burden of proof is shared but the standard of proof is higher than in asylum procedures. Legal aid is limited, and applicants are not granted residence rights, so may be subject to removal procedures. There is no quality audit of decision-making nor timeframe within which decisions must be made. There is a right of appeal but appeals do not have suspensive effect. Positively, recognised stateless people are granted a multi-annual residence permit and can access a range of rights including a travel document, family reunion, and a route to naturalisation, though this is not accelerated (unlike for refugees).

  • The definition of a stateless person in French law is in line with the 1954 Convention.
  • UNHCR provides an annual refugee law training course that includes a module on statelessness, which is attended by OFPRA. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 course did not take place.
  • There is no compulsory legal training for lawyers or judges on statelessness and there are very few free trainings offered on this subject. Occasionally statelessness is addressed during legal training on immigration law but usually only in a theoretical way.
  • France has a dedicated SDP established in law, which leads to a dedicated stateless status.
  • The centralised Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) is responsible.
  • The application must be made on a specific OFPRA form that must be requested by the applicant. It must be in writing, in French and signed, and include two recent photographs and any relevant documentation. A certificate of registration (not a residency permit) is issued on receipt of the application.
  • An interview is not mandatory, though additional information may be provided orally if an interview takes place.
  • Applications must be made to OFPRA by the applicant and cannot be initiated ex officio.
  • The authorities have an obligation in law to consider any application.
  • There is no application fee, time limit or lawful stay requirement.
  • The examination is conducted by a centralised competent authority with expertise on statelessness.
  • UNHCR provides an annual refugee law training course that includes a module on statelessness, which is attended by OFPRA.
  • There is cooperation between OFPRA and Prefectures, Ministry of Interior and UNHCR, all of whom may refer people to the SDP.
  • Information on statelessness can be found on the OFPRA website in French.
  • The burden of proof is shared between the applicant and the authority. There is an obligation on the applicant to evidence their inability to access another nationality, but officials must investigate if the applicant has made genuine efforts to get information and been unable to do so.
  • OFPRA guidance states that the evidence shall be 'sufficiently precise and serious', which in practice is a slightly higher standard of proof than in asylum cases.
  • No information was available about any measures to ensure equal access to the procedure for women, nor any measures in place to address gender discriminatory laws or practices. The provision for a third party to accompany an applicant in asylum procedures is not applicable to the statelessness procedure. Minors can be accompanied by their legal representative and an unaccompanied minor can bring their guardian to the interview.
  • The Guide of Procedures explains the procedures applied by OFPRA, but it does not provide decision makers with guidance on how to determine statelessness.
  • Applicants for stateless status are not entitled to free legal aid as this right applies only to lawfully and habitually resident third country nationals. No exception is made for applicants for stateless status (unlike for asylum-seekers). Free legal aid can exceptionally be granted to those who don’t meet the criteria when their situation ‘appears worthy of special attention’.
  • An interview is not compulsory though OFPRA may invite the applicant to an interview.
  • Free interpreters are available if required.
  • Quality assurance audits of OFPRA’s work are carried out by UNHCR, but the SDP is not covered by these audits. UNHCR intervenes if necessary in SDP proceedings and shares good practice with OFPRA.
  • The law stipulates that decisions are given with reasons and in writing and notification must be made by recorded postal delivery. In practice, applications are often refused due to 'journey not established' and/or 'vague statements from the applicant'.
  • There is no timeframe defined in law or policy for the SDP. In practice, verification with the consular authorities results in long delays and there are reported cases of procedures lasting 2-3 years.
  • The asylum procedure takes priority over the SDP. If OFPRA grants Refugee status to someone who is stateless, they will grant them ‘stateless-refugee’ status without the need to formally initiate the SDP. However, if an asylum claim is refused, the SDP is not automatically activated even if there are indications that the person could be stateless. OFPRA will inform the individual about the SDP.
  • Applicants have no right to legally stay nor work and expulsion and detention for removal are possible during the process. Prefectures may admit applicants for temporary stay, but this is a discretionary power. There have been cases of people being issued with an obligation to leave France while still being in the SDP, but no information on actual expulsions.
  • As Prefectures are not obliged to admit applicants for temporary stay, access to assistance varies. In cases where a temporary stay permit is granted, or when the applicant for stateless status also applies for asylum, they can access Universal Healthcare Protection (Protection universelle maladie – PUMA) if they can prove they have lived in France for three months (though certain treatments considered 'comfort' are subject to prior authorisation) and be accommodated in an emergency shelter for up to 21 days or in accommodation and rehabilitation centres (centres d’hébergement et de réinsertion sociale – CHRS) for several months. If not granted temporary stay, applicants are considered to be staying irregularly. They can access State Medical Aid (AME) if they can prove they have lived in France for three months (otherwise only urgent healthcare needs will be met through the Urgent and Vital Care Scheme) and may be accommodated through the emergency schemes.
  • There is no timeframe for the SDP defined in law or policy. In practice, verification with consular authorities generates long delays with reports of cases taking two to three years to be decided.
  • If refused stateless status, the applicant can appeal the decision before the local administrative court (tribunal administratif) of their place of residence within two months. Further appeal is possible before the relevant court of appeal (cour administrative d’appel) and then before the Council of State.
  • Appeals do not have suspensive effect.
  • The rules for appeals in an administrative procedure stipulate that legal aid is not available ipso jure (de plein droit) though it is possible to lodge a claim for legal aid. A legally and regularly staying foreign national is eligible to legal aid and in practice, legal aid is usually granted for appeals.
  • There is no fee for the appeal.
  • There is no evidence of significant errors in decision making.
  • In 2019, 80 cases were before the Administrative Courts (down from 81 in 2018, and up from 77 in 2017). 70 decisions were taken by Administrative Tribunals, 9 by Administrative Courts of Appeal, and one by the Council of State. No court decisions overturned a negative OFPRA decision (down from only two in 2018).
  • The recognition of statelessness leads to permission to stay with a four-year stay permit as a ‘beneficiary of statelessness statute’. The stateless person can access a 10-year residence permit after four years of legal stay in France. The four-year permit costs 25 EUR. Permission to stay is granted as a right unless there is a threat to public order.
  • There are no additional requirements, but prefectures have discretion to refuse a permit on grounds of threat to public order.
  • Family reunion rights are the same as refugees for all recognised stateless people. Family members of a stateless person can access a four-year residence permit as a ‘family member of beneficiary of statelessness statute’.
  • Recognised stateless people may request a travel document (document de voyage pour apatride), valid for four years (40 EUR) for those with a temporary multi-annual permit, and five years (45 EUR) for those with a ten-year permit.
  • Status revocation clauses are in line with UNHCR guidance.
  • Recognised stateless people have the right to primary, secondary and higher education, and to work under the same conditions as legally staying third country nationals. They have access to universal healthcare coverage (protection maladie universelle - PUMA), covering basic medical expenses, if residing continuously and legally in France for at least three months. They also have access to social assistance depending on their level of income and can benefit from the Active Solidarity Income (Revenu de Solidarité Active). However, unlike refugees, they cannot access integration programmes.
  • Only French nationals may vote in France, so stateless people do not have the right to vote in any elections (local or national).


Analyses law, policy and practice relating to immigration detention generally, but focusing on protections in place to prevent the arbitrary detention of stateless people during removal and deportation procedures. Subthemes examine areas such as the identification of statelessness and assessment of whether there is a reasonable prospect of removal, procedural safeguards such as time limits, judicial oversight, and effective remedies, as well as the rights granted to stateless people upon release from detention and protection against re-detention.

French law contains some safeguards against arbitrary detention that are pertinent to stateless people. For example, a country of removal must be set prior to detention and can be appealed separately from the decision to detain. However, people who may be stateless or at risk of statelessness are reportedly detained. Procedural safeguards are set in law including a maximum time limit, free legal aid, judicial oversight, effective remedies and written reasons and information on rights provided to all detainees. Identification and stay rights are not issued automatically to people released from detention, but if released due to cancellation of removal, temporary residence and some basic rights are granted. Cumulative time spent in detention does not count towards the maximum time limit.

  • The law states that a decision issued requiring someone to leave the French territory (obligation de quitter le territoire – OQTF) must set the country of removal in a separate decision that can be appealed. In practice, this is based on information provided by the person (such as declared nationality and/or country of origin or documents shared).
  • No information is available about a referral mechanism from detention to the SDP.
  • No official data is available on stateless people held in detention but NGOs report people with ‘unknown nationality’ detained in different detention centres.
  • French law requires all alternative measures to have been exhausted before detaining someone. If the person can present guarantees of representation, house arrest should be given priority but a necessity and proportionally test is not really implemented in practice.
  • No individual vulnerability assessment is carried out prior to detention, but detainees are informed of their rights on arrival, including the right to seek asylum. A vulnerability assessment is carried out by the French Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII) at the beginning of the asylum procedure, but statelessness is not considered as a factor contributing to vulnerability. Ill health is the only ground for early release after 48 hours.
  • Information and analysis coming soon
  • There is a maximum time limit set in law (90 days including extensions).
  • The decision to detain is given in writing and the law provides that a person is informed on arrival in a language they understand of their right to: request an interpreter, counsel, and a doctor; communicate with their consulate or any person of their choice; seek asylum and benefit from legal and linguistic assistance. Specific NGOs are authorised to access each of the detention centres.
  • The initial decision to detain for 48 hours is taken by the Prefect. If the person is not expelled during that time, their detention can be extended initially for 28 days by the Judge who can either: order the extension of detention; decide to place the person under house arrest; or refuse the extension of detention. The detainee can put forward new evidence to the judge that their detention should be ceased at any time. In practice requests must be solidly argued and are not often considered admissible. 
  • A person may apply to the administrative court to challenge the legality of the decisions taken by the Prefect within 48 hours. The administrative court must take a decision within 72 hours and can only decide on the lawfulness of the detention in cases where there is an asylum claim.  If an asylum claim is submitted during detention, it is possible to challenge the detention within 48 hours and the court must make a decision within 72 hours.
  • It is unclear whether there are rules governing the process of documentation and/or ascertaining nationality.
  • Detainees can access free legal assistance from a lawyer or NGOs providing support in detention centres, and can be assisted by a lawyer for administrative court appeals.
  • The state does not automatically issue identification or stay rights to people released from detention, but the person's online dossier is updated to reflect the reason for release.  
  • People released from detention because their removal has been cancelled by the judge are issued with a temporary stay permit that grants access to social services; healthcare (PUMA); emergency accommodation; and, if not otherwise specified, the right to work.
  • Cumulative time spent in detention does not count towards the maximum time limit.
  • Statelessness is juridically relevant in bilateral return and readmission agreements entered into by France in so far as a recognised stateless person may not be subject to return under such agreements.
  • However, it is not clear how these agreements are implemented in practice.

Prevention and Reduction

Assesses the adequacy of safeguards in nationality laws to prevent and reduce statelessness, including facilitated routes to naturalisation for stateless people, and protections for otherwise stateless children born on the territory or to nationals abroad, foundlings and adopted children. Examines law, policy, and practice on birth registration, including access to late birth registration, and reduction measures taken by States to prevent and reduce in situ statelessness. Analyses provisions on deprivation of nationality and whether there are safeguards related to renunciation and deprivation of nationality to prevent statelessness from occurring.

French law contains provisions to prevent and reduce statelessness, but there are gaps in implementation. For example, children born stateless on the territory are French by law, but in practice, they must make a request to the authorities and may need to go through the SDP to prove their statelessness. Other provisions in French nationality law enable young people to apply for naturalisation on reaching the age of majority if they have lived (with a residence permit) on the territory for at least five years. There are full safeguards in the law to prevent statelessness in the case of foundlings, adopted children and children born to French nationals abroad. However, there are some barriers to birth registration in that documentation is required to affect the registration, which may be difficult to produce for marginalised groups, and late registration is only possible through the high court. There are emerging reports of barriers to birth registration and certification for some children born on French territory.

  • Stateless people can naturalise after five years of legal stay, shortened to two years if they have obtained a master’s degree in France. Naturalisation costs 55 EUR.
  • There is no accelerated naturalisation procedure for stateless people unlike for refugees for whom no qualifying period is required.
  • Recognised stateless people applying for French nationality do not have to produce any official record of criminal convictions, but criminal records in France and abroad are checked, and someone may be considered ineligible if they have been convicted of terrorism or other crimes ‘threatening the interests of the nation’. The prefecture also conducts an inquiry to check the applicant’s civic conduct (for example, their tax records).
  • A citizenship and language test (B1 spoken) in the form of an interview applies to all applicants for French nationality, including stateless people, and there are no exemptions.
  • 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 the age of 16, 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 the age of 13(if residing since they were eight years-old) with the consent of the minor (except in some cases of mental or physical impairment).
  • Since 2016, there is a further route to acquisition of French nationality by declaration, 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 nationals from birth 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 nationality.
  • 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 nationality.
  • 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 a 3,750 EUR fine.
  • Documents required to register the birth of a child are the notification of birth by a 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. A birth certificate is issued immediately following the declaration and registration of the birth. There is nothing in law that forbids people without residence status or who are undocumented from declaring the birth of their child and in principle all children born in France must be registered. There are no mandatory requirements to report undocumented individuals to the authorities.
  • Barriers to birth registration have been reported in French Guyana and Mayotte territories. Reports have also highlighted barriers for specific groups in Metropolitan France, including Romani communities, asylum seekers, and children born in Syria or Iraq to French 'foreign fighters'. In the case of asylum seekers, a birth certificate can only be issued at the end of the procedure if the asylum application is accepted by OFPRA. Cases have also been reported of registry officials refusing to record the father and/or mother during birth registration due to their irregular residence status. Neither the nationalities of the child nor the parents are indicated on the birth certificate.
  • A person can request a certificate of French nationality, but there is no established framework for determining the child's nationality after birth registration.
  • 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 Romani children born in France and the children of people without any legal residence status 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.
  • There are no provisions for deprivation of French nationality that could render a person stateless.
  • Voluntary loss of nationality is only possible if the person has another nationality.
  • A naturalised French national can be deprived of their nationality for reasons specified in the Civil Code, including national security and terrorism grounds, if they took place within the last 10 years (15 years in the case of serious crimes against the state or acts of terrorism).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.
  • Provisions on deprivation of nationality apply only to naturalised French citizens not nationals by birth.


Library of resources, legal instruments, publications and training materials on statelessness, specifically relevant to this country. More regional and international materials, as well as resources from other countries, are available on the Resources library. Domestic case law can be consulted in the Statelessness Case Law Database (with summaries available in English).

Please note that we are in the process of adding new resources, so check back soon.

Latest news on France

SDP briefing

New Index Thematic Briefing: Statelessness determination and Protection in Europe

This briefing summarises how countries perform on stateless determination procedures.
15 Sep 2021 / Albania / Austria / Belgium / Bulgaria / Croatia / Cyprus / Czech Republic / France / Germany / Greece / Hungary / Ireland / Italy / Latvia / Malta / Moldova / Netherlands / North Macedonia / Norway / Poland / Portugal / Serbia / Slovenia / Spain / Statelessness determination and status / Switzerland / Ukraine / United Kingdom

New report on detention and statelessness in France

New report on statelessness in the context of administrative detention for removal in France, highlighting significant gaps in the identification of...
8 Sep 2021 / Detention / France

New data on the Statelessness Determination Procedure in France

The French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) has published its 2020 annual report which includes updated data on...
8 Sep 2021 / France / Statelessness determination and status

Project funded by:Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung