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French language tests for residency cards: What the new law says

The Local France
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French language tests for residency cards: What the new law says
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After a lot of political drama, France's new immigration law has been passed - including a section on compulsory French language tests for certain carte de séjour residency cards. Here's what the new law says.


NOTE: This is an old article. The immigration law passed in January 2024, you can find an updated version of language test requirements here.

It's been creating political chaos for months, but on Tuesday night a heavily revised version of the immigration bill was passed by the French parliament.

You can find a full breakdown of what is in it HERE, but one section that will be of particular interest for foreigners in France is the idea of having to pass a language test to get certain types of long-term carte de séjour residency card.

At present people with a low level of French can be ordered to attend classes by the OFII (Office of immigration and integration), but there is no requirement to pass an exam in order to get a residency card - only French citizenship requires a language exam. 

Introducing the idea back in 2022, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said: "Today, a quarter of foreigners who have residence permits understand and speak French extremely badly.”


This affects non-EU citizens. Those who have the passport of an EU country, including dual nationals, are not covered since they do not require a carte de séjour.

The test is also only for long-term cards - the carte de séjour pluriannuelle or the carte de résident.

It does not cover Brits in France who are covered by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement since they already have long-term cards.


It does not cover new arrivals, since the test would be required only for long-term residency cards - it does not affect people on the one-year cartes de séjour, but only people who are moving onto multi-year cards, which usually happens after several years of residency.

It would not affect people who already have a long-term residency card.

It also does not affect visa applications, and does not change the requirements for French citizenship, which already has a language test as part of the application process.

What level?

This is of course the million-euro question - how hard is the test likely to be?

The bill specifies that people applying for the long-term cards must at a minimum "understand expressions frequently used in everyday language, communicate during routine tasks and talk about subjects that correspond to immediate needs".

It does not specify a language exam level as defined on the international DELF scale, but the requirements outlined above sound similar to those required for the A1 level.

At present A1 level is required for the carte de séjour pluriannuelle - although candidates do not have to take a formal exam - the Interior Ministry previously told The Local that the language level required was not expected to change.

The language level A1 in the international DELF scale is defined as: “The most basic level at which a language is used, called the “discovery” stage. At this stage, the learner can interact in a simple way: he/she can speak about him/herself and his/her immediate environment.”

TEST Could you pass the language level for residency?

For anyone applying for the long-term EU card - résident de longue durée-UE - a higher language level is specified. For this, candidates must be able to "understand sufficiently clear-cut conversations, to produce simple, coherent discourse on familiar matters and to put forward an idea succinctly".

Qualification type

At this stage we don't know what type of qualifications would be accepted and whether you would have to take a specific exam or can use qualifications already obtained. 

When it comes to citizenship, you need to have passed writing, reading, listening and oral sections of the exam - and for citizenship the higher level of B1 is required - and the certificates you present cannot be more than two years old.

There are exemptions for anyone who has a degree or equivalent from a French university, but an exemption previously in place for over 60s was scrapped in 2020.


READ ALSO How to find affordable language classes in France


The Immigration bill was passed by MPs in the Assemblée nationale on Tuesday night, but there are still several stages of parliamentary process to go through - including being approved by the Conseil constututional.

If it passes all those stages, it is then up to the government to decide when the law will come into effect - probably in 2024. 


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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Nic Kraj 2023/12/27 08:51
On the validity of DELF-DALF certificates, my understanding is that the qualification is without time limit in the eyes of the French state, just like a university degree or BAC certificate would be. There is another type of language qualification however which only has a two year validity. Are you perhaps confusing one with the other, or does an applicant really have to resit the DELF-DALF after two years to qualify for citizenship? It’s the first I’ve heard of it if so.
Carmela Santana 2023/12/21 15:28
This language requirement seems less about ensuring foreigners have a basic understanding of French, and more about targeting non-EU citizens. A German who speaks no French could stay multiple years, but an Australian would have to use resources to prove competency. In this day of translation tools and professional hand-holders, having a basic grasp of the language isn't so vital that it needs be an official requirement. This proposal adds time to an already-clogged visa renewal system.
Tom 2023/12/21 12:57
There are a number of exemptions to the language and renewal clauses in the fine print. Stay tuned.
Anonymous 2022/07/21 18:16
Vous allez voir que je trouve l'ecriture beaucoup plus difficile que les autres sujets. Avec le masculin, la feminine , l'accordance , les verbs irreguliers , les faux amis et beaucoup plus il sera difficile de reussir. J'ai oublie tous les tenses pluparfait, imparfait, passe simple Passe parfait. Les tenses on peut parler, les tenses on ne peut parler mais seulement ecrire . En plus , il y a les accents aigues et graves, circonflex Quel vrai horreur !! Ai-je reussi ? Alexandra x
Anonymous 2022/07/20 12:22
My poor parents have been living in France where they bought a house in 1999, not socialising much over the past years because people in their mid 80s advised not to during the pandemic.
Anonymous 2022/07/18 21:13
A1/2 is a far cry from a British A level! It is elementary....please don't put fear into people! That would be around C1! C2 is the highest.
Anonymous 2022/07/18 17:59
I recently went through the OFII process, and part of the integration process was a French language test. I have the VLS-TS visa, and was advised that the minimum level is A2. OFII also offered 100h of free French lessons for those testing A2 and B1.

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