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RESIDENCY PERMITS

French language tests for residency: What we know so far about proposal

The French government has rolled out a proposal to make language tests compulsory for certain types of carte de séjour residency card - here's what we know so far about the proposal.

French language tests for residency: What we know so far about proposal
Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash

What’s happened?

France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, in an interview with a French newspaper, announced that the government is putting together proposals to make “mastery of the French language” compulsory in order to get certain types of carte de séjour residency permit.

But what does that mean?

The minister’s announcement was very short on detail, and the Interior Ministry has not responded to requests for clarification from The Local, so there are some things that we don’t know.

Who?

This affects non-EU citizens. Those who have the passport of an EU country, including dual nationals, are not covered by the announcement.

Which permits?

Darmanin said that the test would be required for the carte de séjour plurianuelle, this is the permit for long-term residents, typically given after spending time in France on either a long-stay visa or a short-term or temporary carte de séjour.

There are certain groups, including temporary workers and au pairs, who are not eligible for the plurianuelle card, it is a multi-year card intended for people who are staying in France in the long term. You cannot go directly onto the general plurianelle without having first had another type of permit, so this doesn’t affect new arrivals in France.  

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.

From what Darmanin has said, it appears that this would not affect new arrivals, people applying for the temporary 1-year or 5-year cards, or those who already have a 10-year or permanent card.

What level?

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

Unfortunately, it is one we cannot answer at this stage, although we have requested clarification on this important point.

At present there is no formal language requirement for residency cards, but if you want French citizenship you will have to prove your language capabilities.

The level required for citizenship is B1 on the DELF scale, defined as “able to handle day-to-day matters that arise in school, work or leisure”. 

A B1 candidate “should be able to get by while travelling in an area where only French is spoken, and should be able to describe events and justify things like opinions, plans, or even ambitions”.

You are not required to be able to speak perfect, error-free French, only to be able to make yourself understood and understand any replies you are given.  

You can test yourself on the below quiz.

TEST Is your French good enough for citizenship and residency?

It seems unlikely that the language requirement for residency would be higher than that needed to become a French citizen.

The EU countries that do have a language requirement for residency purposes generally ask for either A1 or A2 on the DELF scale – roughly equivalent to an A level in the UK or having taken a high school foreign language course in the US. 

Qualification type

The other thing that we don’t know is what type of qualifications would be accepted and whether you would have to take a specific exam.

When it comes to citizenship, you need to have passed writing, reading, listening and oral sections of the exam, 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.

Looking around other EU countries, those who require a language test generally accept certificates from a variety of courses, so you don’t need to do a test specifically for the residency permit. In Norway, those who struggle with exams have the option or either taking the test or doing 250 hours of Norwegian classes at the state provider.

When?

This is only a proposal at this stage, so if you are applying for residency now then it does not concern you.

Darmanin says he intends to put forward a bill before parliament in September, at which point we should know more about what is being proposed.

However, any bill would need to be debated extensively in parliament, since it is likely to include a wide range of measures on immigration, not just language tests.

The Macron government has also lost its outright majority in parliament, which will make getting any bill passed more difficult. Then, even if the bill is passed, it will also need to come before the Senate for debate before it can become law. Generally the process of bills becoming law and being brought into effect takes many months, or years.

French classes

If you are worried that your French is not up to the level required then you may be looking for some extra classes.

As part of his announcement, Darmanin said that the “integration budget”, including the budget for free or discounted language classes, would be increased. Again, however, he provided no detail.

Member comments

  1. 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.

    Reply moderated
  2. 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.

  3. 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

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For members

PROPERTY

What to expect from your 2023 French property tax bills

The annual demands for property taxes have begun arriving at households across France - and many people will notice quite a difference to last year's bill.

What to expect from your 2023 French property tax bills

Every year in September and October the French tax office sends out bills to households across France relating to property taxes – these are separate to income tax bills, which arrive over the summer.

The autumn bills are usually made up of three parts; taxe foncière, taxe d’habitation and the redevance audiovisuelle.

However, system changes to all three parts mean that for some people bills will be be much lower than last year, while others will have nothing at all to pay.

Here’s what changes;

Redevance audiovisuelle – this was the TV licence and was charged at €138 per household, with some exceptions for pensioners or people who had no TV.

This year, it has been scrapped for everyone (including second-home owners) so most people’s bills are €138 less than last year.

Taxe d’habitation – this is the householder’s tax, paid by the inhabitant of the property – whether you rent it or own it. This is gradually being phased out, a process that started in 2019. It has been done based on income, with those on lower incomes having the charge scrapped first until it is gradually scrapped for everyone – with the exception of very high earners and second home owners.

So depending on your income level, you may have already had the tax phased out, or it may be phased out for you this year, or you may be paying a reduced rate this year.

These two changes are part of a tax giveaway from president Emmanuel Macron, and at the bottom of your tax bill you will find a note explaining how the charges have changed this year, and what you would have paid without the reductions.

It will look something like this;

Taxe foncière – this is the property owners’ tax and is paid on any property that you own – if you own the home you live in you may need to pay both taxe d’habitation and taxe foncière and if you are a second-home owner you will also pay both.

In contrast to the other two taxes, however, this one has been going up in many areas.

In fact, it’s connected to the taxe d’habitation cut – local authorities used to benefit from taxe d’habitation, so the phasing out has left many of them short of money. In some areas, they have reacted by raising taxe foncière.

This tax is calculated based partly on the size and value of the property you own (which is why if you do any major renovations or add a swimming pool you need to tell the tax office) and partly on the tax level decided by your local authority. 

This means that the actual rate varies quite widely between different parts of France, but in some areas it has gone up by 20 percent.

You can find more about how the tax is calculated, and how to challenge your bill if you think it is excessive, HERE.

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