People born abroad and living in France can acquire French citizenship if they satisfy certain conditions. They must be able to prove a minimum stay of five years (spouses of French citizens four years) and have an adequate knowledge of the language. Moreover, they must not be dependent on social security benefits.
Towards the end of the 1990s, the number of naturalizations increased significantly, with a new record of 150,025 naturalizations being reached in the year 2000. This record was again surpassed in 2005 (154,827 naturalizations). Since 2006 the number of naturalizations has decreased (143,275 naturalizations in 2010 ). This may be due to the more restrictive criteria for receiving French citizenship, especially regarding provable language abilities. With the Law on Immigration, Integration and Nationality (loi relative à l’immigration, à l’intégration et à la nationalité), published on June 16, 2011, citizenship criteria was set at the B1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for languages. Additionally, foreigners will – in the future – be required to sign a Charta on the Rights and Duties of Citizens (Charte des droits et des devoirs du citoyen), where they pledge to recognize French laws and values before they become naturalized. These restrictions may lead to a decrease in the number of naturalizations. In the last ten years, especially people from the Maghreb states Morocco (17,601 in 2010), Algeria (16,417) and Tunisia (5,613) became naturalized citizens. The large majority (61.2%) of those who became a French citizen in 2010 were from an African country. People from Asia (13.2%) and Europe (9.4%) took second and third places in the naturalization statistics in the same year.