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Language tests and deportation for the unemployed – what a Marine Le Pen victory could mean for foreigners in France

Language tests and deportation for the unemployed - what a Marine Le Pen victory could mean for foreigners in France
Marine Le Pen has been trying to shake off the label of "extreme". March 9th. Alain JOCARD / AFP
If far-right party leader Marine Le Pen wins the 2022 French presidential elections, toughening up the rules on immigration will be one of her top priorities - which is likely to have big consequences for foreigners already in France and those planning a move here.

Marine Le Pen is preparing for a re-match with President Emmanuel Macron in the spring of 2022.

Early polls – and the election is still a year away – have designated the Rassemblement National (National Rally, formerly known as National Front) leader as the front-runner to face Macron in the second and final round of voting, as was the case in 2017.

The Local, attending an event organised by the Anglo American Press Association, asked her about her policies for foreign nationals in France.

“During the first six months of my presidency, I’d propose a referendum on immigration legislation with a series of measures that would radically change our approach,” she said, adding: “In principle, I am more or less in favour of not modifying the rules regarding those already present, as there is a principle in French law that laws do not apply for previous situations.”

Here’s what she said:

Language tests

Current rules – there are no formal language tests for those who want residency in France, although administrative processes are naturally in French. Only if you apply for French citizenship will you face a formal language test, you need a certificate that your French is B1 level or above.

All foreigners in France who come from countries outside the EU/Schengen-area need to get a visa or a carte de séjour (residency card) for stays that exceed a period of 90 days. Since the end of the Brexit transition period on January 1st, this also includes British citizens

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Le Pen proposal –  When asked whether foreigners should be required to pass a language test before getting a residency card (carte de séjour), she said: “Of course.”

“If you wish to settle in France, you obviously have to master the language. Except when you’re a student, as you by definition will be studying the language.”

Deportation

Current rules – Deporting foreigners today is a tricky process in France, especially if the person does not have their papers. The country of origin must first recognise the person in question and agree to take them back. It’s generally only used in extreme circumstances such as when a person has committed a serious crime or a terror offence, although people who commit immigration offences such as overstaying a visa or the 90-day rule can be blocked from re-entering the country.

Le Pen proposal –  Under a Le Pen presidency, foreigners in France who have proved unable to get a job or committed any kind of crime or minor offence (un délit) could face deportation. Only gaining French nationality would give people the right to stay if they are out of work.

“Those who come to France to work and don’t get a job will, after a certain amount of time, have to return to their country of origin,” she said.

“Our social security system cannot indefinitely take care of people who don’t have French nationality.”

She added: “If you commit a minor offence or a crime, you have to go back to your country of origin, probably without hope of being authorised to return to France.”

She added that this would include those who had arrived in France before the age of 13, who currently are protected by French law in a quasi absolue manner.

Le Pen used the example of the 18-year-old Islamist terrorist who beheaded a history teacher in a Paris suburb in October 2020. Because he arrived in France before turning 13, he would have been allowed to remain in France, she said, “had he not been killed by the police.”

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Citizenship 

Current rule –  you can gain French citizenship if you are born in France, have a French parent, are married to a French person or have lived in France for five years or more. If you go through the naturalisation route you face a complicated process involving a mountain of paperwork, a language test and an interview in which you are tested on French history and culture and required to demonstrate your understanding of, and support for, French values.

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Le Pen proposal – She wants to tighten the rules on gaining citizenship, getting rid of the droit du sol (birthright) which gives children born on French soil to foreign parents the right to citizenship. 

Her overarching principle would be that “French nationality is inherited, or merited,” she said.

“You will be able to become French either because one of your parents, or both, are French, or by naturalisation,” she said, adding that she intended to toughen up the naturalisation criteria to be more selective “as to whom we accord the immense opportunity of becoming French.”

She did not provide details on how the residency route to citizenship would change.

Asylum

Current rule – in common with most European countries, France decides asylum applications on their merits, once the person has claimed asylum on arrival in France. If the application fails, the person faces being deported.

Le Pen proposal – She said: “I will modify the rules regarding rights to asylum . . . by changing one of the rules that in my opinion poses a real problem, which consists of arriving, asking for asylum, in the immense majority of cases not receiving it, and remaining illegally in the country.

“This then becomes a real source for clandestine asylum, so a request for asylum should be done in a French consulate, whichever country in the world – not necessarily in the country for which the asylum is requested – and we will treat the request in embassies and consulates, and those who get the right to come, can thereafter come.”

She also added that the would end the right for successful asylum seekers to be joined by their families in France, saying it is: “One of the elements that has transformed the nature of immigration to France from a work-based to a settlement-based one.”


Member comments

  1. By these rules, I would not have been able to enter the country. Since my arrival my language skills have improved and I am working diligently, but I still do not meet B1 standards. It seems Le Pen believes I should not have been allowed in.

    Additionally, I come from a country where immigrants fear the police, both legal and illegal. The smallest infraction or even just misunderstanding results in deportation. I still get nervous around police, even though I have done nothing wrong. Just because of where I come from, I believe I always have something to be afraid of as an immigrant.

    When I received my carte de sejour I admired how well I am protected. Even if something tragic happens with my employment, I can still stay within France and look for a new job. I am not chained to my employer. Again, this is not the case in my country of origin.

    I imagine you have likely guessed that I am American. You are correct. I come from a country where immigrants are automatically treated with suspicion. Not treated like people who are trying to build a new life in a new place.

    Final Comment: It is my understanding that many readers here are English and their situation is likely different from mine. I do not wish to speak to their feelings on this topic. I can only speak for myself.

  2. Well the election is in 2022… still time to improve your French if you’ve not already secured a carte de séjour.

  3. Withdrawal Agreement ? If you already have a carte de séjour, you would not be required to pass a language test according to the proposed changes as described in this article. Why you would feel justified to reside in France without at least a remedial (B1) command of the language is «  Neanderthal thinking ».

  4. I don’t remember a language test being part of residency qualification in the Withdrawal Agreement.

    1. A language test was/is not required if you were ‘legally’ resident in France before 31st December and have applied for a Carte de séjour; this is for residency NOT citizenship. Citizenship which you can apply for after 5 years of residency , is an onerous process now. The language element and interviews mean you need to have a good degree of fluency. That exists now. That’s my understanding. If you are going to work in France I can’t see how you can avoid having a good degree of French fluency. I guess the big question is would you have to have that fluency BEFORE you apply for the residency, with the maximum visa length being 12 months you would need to get fluent pretty quickly. Many people gain residency by entering on a long term or student or working visa and then apply for residency when in France. It would be interesting if they close that. I have some sympathy for a system that is relatively slack- social services can only cope with so much. That said, an ageing and diminishing population means many countries actively use immigration and their taxation to pay more that going forward. What other options are their? Huge financial bonuses for babies perhaps…

    2. Regardless of any notion of residing somewhere without being able to communicate, the Withdrawal Agreement covers applications for those who qualify (ie in France legally) up til June 30th only.

      1. Un peu de Français est sûrement primordial et puis on y habite et on apprends – un tas de choses et la langue

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