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France fast-tracks citizenship for COVID workers

Sou-Jie van Brunnersum
December 23, 2020

The French government has said it will reward those who "gave their time and swung into action" for the country during the pandemic. France initiated the measure in September, when it was preparing for a second wave.

Coronavirus hospital workers in France
France has invited to fast-track the naturalization process for people who have "actively contributed" in its fight against COVIDImage: Reuters/E. Gaillard

France said it has fast-tracked hundreds of citizenship applications from foreign frontline workers whose jobs  expose them to high COVID-19 risks.

The interior ministry on Tuesday announced it will take steps to hasten the naturalization process which normally can take years to complete.

"Foreign workers gave their time and swung into action for all of us during the COVID crisis," said Marlene Schiappa, France’s deputy minister for citizenship. "It is now up to the Republic to take a step toward them."

'Great services rendered'

In September , the ministry had invited people who "actively contributed" to the fight against the pandemic to apply for fast-track naturalization.

The beneficiaries include not only health care workers but also cashiers, garbage collectors and housekeepers.

"Health professionals, cleaning ladies, childcare workers, checkout staff: They all proved their commitment to the nation," Schiappa's office said in a statement.

Of the nearly 3,000 people who responded, 74 had already obtained citizenship and 693 more were in the final stage of the process, according to the statement.

Additionally, immigration authorities have been ordered to reduce the residency period needed for citizenship to two years from the usual five in the case of "great services rendered."

Last year, around 112,000 foreigners acquired French nationality, including more than 48,000 by naturalization, 10% fewer than in 2018.

France on Wednesday reported 2,547,577  coronavirus cases with 61,339 deaths — the country with the fifth highest caseload after Russia.

AFP contributed to this report