La Purchase



(NOTE: this article was researched and written in 2002. This information below may not be valid any longer)

by Dale Novick

On April 30, 1803, one of the greatest real estate deals in history took place. Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte decided to sell the Louisiana Territories to the United States, following a series of complications involving France, Great Britain and Spain. This was a great day for Americans, and a great relief for Napoleon, who was recalling his soldiers for impending war with the United Kingdom. Today, repercussions from this 200-year-old real estate transaction can benefit Francophiles born in the land mass known at the Louisiana Purchase.

Lovers of France may be happy to learn about a little-known French law that can speed the process of obtaining French citizenship. This law applies to all people born in former French colonies or territories the world over shortening the required time frame by five years.

Current French law states that all non-citizens have the right to apply for French nationality once legal papers have been secured, combined with a five-year residency in France. Legal papers include a "visa de long séjour," or long stay visa, only obtainable from the French consulate by applying in advance from their home country. This allows the individual to begin the process to obtain a "carte de séjour"(a residency permit valid for one year) within a week of their arrival. There are several types of cartes de séjour, including "visiteur," "étudiant," "scientifique"(researcher or university lecturer) and "profession artistique et culturelle" (artists and people in the arts).

For those readers actively pursuing living or working in France, this information can be obtained from the "Insider Guide to Working and Living in France: The Ins and Outs" by Rose Marie Burke, an electronic guide published by International Living ( It provides a wealth of information focusing on the problems facing Americans to move to France, including more than 200 resourceful Internet links.

For all people born in former French colonies, the five-year residency provision is waived. In America, thirteen states or parts of states have been carved out of the Louisiana Purchase Territory: Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Colorado and Montana. This means that those born in parts of those states and others born in Former French territories will be able to jumpstart the bureaucratic process taking advantage of the waiver of the five-year residency requirement. This law can be found in the Code Civil, La Loi du Mars 1998--La Loi du 29 Décembre 1999, Article 21-19 (5).

According to Jean Taquet, a French jurist and associate member of the Delaware Bar Association living in Paris, four major requirements, among others, are necessary to start the citizenship process:

1) Arrive with legal papers: including a French visa, carte de séjour, or carte de résident

2) Live five years in France before applying for French citizenship (this is the one the Louisiana Purchase exemption lets you skip)

3) One must prove complete assimilation into a French community

4) "De bonnes vie et moeurs"--One must be of good character (have no criminal record)

The office of the Préfecture found in all French cities handles this process. In proving assimilation into a French community, fluency in French is desirable, and one is encouraged to read French newspaper and magazines for the previous year. The authorities will be assessing what types of local French community activities you are involved in, and will expect you to talk about them. In France, personal relationships are very important, cautions Taquet. The more people one befriends, the easier the transition into a French community.

While the law states that native-born persons of the Louisiana Purchase Territories are eligible to apply for citizenship immediately after acquiring the right to reside in France, the practicality of it is yet to be proved. We recommend securing the assistance of legal counsel, such as Jean Taquet, and other immigration attorneys.

Click here for Part II of the article.

About the Author: Dale Novick is a native of New Orleans who has a passion for all things French. She teaches psychology at a college in the New Orleans area when not writing about France, history or human nature. She attended the Paris Writer's Workshop in May, 2002.

A regular contributor to Parler Paris, Jean Taquet is an expert on French residency law and other related matters. He is the author of the "Insider Guide to Practical Answers for Living in France,"
( and can be reached by email at [email protected]