French election: What are the candidates’ policies for foreigners in France?

If you're a foreigner living in France, or have plans to move here, changes to immigration policy can have a direct effect on your life. Here we look at what the candidates in the 2022 French presidential election propose for foreigners in France.

French border police check the documents of people arriving from Tunisia.
French border police check the documents of people arriving from Tunisia. We take a look at the immigration policy of the main presidential candidates in 2022. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP)

Emmanuel Macron 

French President Emmanuel Macron is running for re-election and his manifesto is heavily focused on the economy and social issues. It is quite vague regarding immigration and rights for foreigners already living in France – but is certainly somewhat to the right since his programme in 2017. 

Among the measures he has proposed are:

  • Giving long-term residency cards (10 years) only to those who have passed a French exam AND have a job – he does not specify what level of French would be needed to pass the exam
  • Reforming the Schengen zone to make it harder to get into Europe;
  • Reinforcing the French border force;
  • Expelling foreigners who have “upset the public order” – no detail on whether this refers to all criminal offences or only those convicted of serious crimes
  • Reforming the asylum process to make it easier to decide who can stay and “to expel more efficiently” those who cannot. 

Marine Le Pen 

It should come as no surprise that Macron’s main election rival, the far-right Marine Le Pen, is on a mission to “stop uncontrolled immigration”. 

As far as immigrating to France in the first place is concerned, she wants to:

  • End non-economic immigration and immigration for family reunification purposes;
  • Treat all requests for asylum overseas. 

But the meat of her policy lies in making life harder for migrants who are already in France:

  • Reserve social aid for French people and condition access to other state benefits on having worked in France for five years;
  • Give French people priority in social housing and employment;
  • Take away visas/residency cards of all foreigners who have been out of work for one year in France;
  • Systematically expel illegal immigrants, delinquents and foreign criminals;
  • Get rid of jus soli (the right to citizenship through birth in France);
  • Allow French citizenship only to people who have “earned it and assimilated” – although she gives no detail on how this would be different to the current process, which already requires a French test and an interview on French culture for those applying through residency or marriage.  

You can read her manifesto here

Jean-Luc Mélenchon

Leftwing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon has the most pro-immigration policies out of any of the candidates. 

His wants to ensure a wider access to visas and make 10-year residency cards the new standard – in most cases foreigners get a short-term 5-year card first and then can apply for the 10-year card.

He has also spoke about the need to support refugees, guarantee Jus Soli and make it easier to become a French citizen. 

You can read his policies here

Valérie Pécresse 

Valérie Pécresse represents Les Républicains – the traditional French party of the centre right – but her xenophobic comments on the campaign trail are the kinds of thing that you would expect to hear from the far-right. 

“Yes, there is a link between immigration, islamism, terrorism and insecurity,” she said in one TV interview.

During a campaign rally, she even alluded to a racist conspiracy theory. 

It comes then as no surprise that her manifesto is full of policies that are hostile to immigration. 

Pécresse wants parliament to vote on quotas for the number of residency cards that can be issued every year, setting limits for individual countries and types of workers. 

Like Le Pen, she wants asylum claims to be examined overseas. 

Another policy cut straight from the Le Pen playbook is limiting state aid, medical care and social benefits to migrants in France. 

Pécresse wants to reintroduce bone density tests to determine the age undocumented minors in France. “They will be presumed to be adults if they refuse,” states the manifesto. 

She wants French tests to be obligatory for those who want to obtain a residency card – this would entail a language exam and some sort of quiz on the values of the French Republic, although again there is no detail on the level of French required. 

She wants French schools to impose a limit of how many ‘non-francophones’ can sit in a classroom. 

You can read her programme here

Éric Zemmour

It is no surprise that far-right pundit-turned-politician, Éric Zemmour, has an anti-immigration manifesto. 

If you plan on moving to France, you should cross your fingers that this guy doesn’t take charge. 

As far as immigration is concerned, he wants to:

  • Limit successful asylum applications to around 100 people per year; 
  • Get rid of the right to family reunification;
  • Require a €10,000 deposit for people coming to France from countries where illegal immigrants tend to come from, to fund deportations;
  • Do not allow anyone who has entered the country illegally to stay;

He also wants to make life harder for those already in France:

  • Create a ministry of repatriation, to get rid of “undesirable” immigrants including criminals and those on security watchlists
  • Only allow people to become French citizens if they have lived in the country for 10 years, have perfect French, a clean criminal record and a “real and verifiable assimilation”. Currently you can apply for citizenship after five years and need B1 level French (competent but not fluent)
  • Get rid of Jus soli; 
  • Expel foreigners who have been out of work for six months. 
  • Do not allow the automatic renewal of residency cards; 
  • Get rid of social benefits for immigrants living in France;
  • Limit medical care for illegal immigrants to emergency treatment. 

You can read his programme here

Other candidates

The five candidates listed above are currently polling at or above 10 percent and are therefore viewed as having a realistic chance of making it into the second round of polling.

You can find the manifestos for the other candidates here: Yannick Jadot, Fabien Roussel, Jean Lasalle, Anne Hidalgo, Philippe Poutou, Nathalie Arthaud and Nicolas Dupont-Aignan

Member comments

  1. Dear Local – could you please stop with the anti-right commentary and little digs and comments concerning the candidates? Not all of your readers are bleeding heart liberals and it’s not a great idea to exclude part of your audience.
    Not to mention, you’re journalists. That used to mean – be impartial.

  2. Well – that makes interesting reading – so pleased to see how welcome we are in France
    People who are retired are not welcome at all –
    it appears that the old Racist, nationalist and ageist French attitudes are on the rise

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Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.