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French government revives proposals for language exam for foreigners

France's Interior Minister has announced a new immigration bill due to come before parliament next year - which among other things revives the proposal for foreigners in France to take a compulsory language exam in order to obtain a carte de séjour.

French government revives proposals for language exam for foreigners
France's Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin intends to present a new law on immigration next year. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and employment minister Olivier Dusspot have given a joint interview to Le Monde newspaper announcing a new Project de loi immigration, which they say will come before parliament at the beginning of 2023.

The bill as outlined in the interview covers a number of issues including tightening up the process for expelling from the country people who have been refused permission to stay, and creating special residency cards for certain jobs where there is a labour shortage.

But probably of most interest to foreigners in France is the revival of the idea of a compulsory language exam in order to get the long-term residency card – the titre de séjour pluriannuel

This idea was floated by Darmanin earlier in 2022, as part of an immigration bill that was then cancelled by president Emmanuel Macron in favour of a ‘conversation’ on the subject of immigration.

However it now seems to be back as part of the 2023 Immigration bill, with Darmanin telling Le Monde that he wants to: “make multi-annual residence permits (titre de séjour pluriannel) conditional on passing a French exam”.

“This will change many things, he added. “Today, a quarter of foreigners who have residence permits understand and speak French extremely badly.”

He did not say what level of French will be required to pass the exam – The Local has asked the Interior Ministry for clarification on this issue. 

It also seems that the language exam will only be required for the multi-year carte de séjour, not the one-year or five-year cards, although again The Local has requested clarification on this issue.

At present there is no formal language requirement for residency in France, although the Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration (OFFI) can require people to attend French classes if their language level is poor.

Only citizenship has a formal language requirement – candidates must be able to pass written and spoken French exams to B1 level on the international DELF scale. An exemption for over 60s was recently scrapped.

QUIZ Could you pass the French language exam for citizenship or residency?

Although we do not know what level will be required for residency, it seems unlikely that it will be higher than that required for citizenship.

The ministers also proposed the creation of a special residency permit for industries that are having difficulty recruiting, which can be issued with foreigners in an ‘irregular situation’ – ie not having a current visa or carte de séjour.

They also vowed to crackdown on the expulsion of foreigners who have been served an Obligation de Quitter le territoire français (OQTF). This is a notice served on people who have either entered France without the correct papers or have been denied a renewal of their visa or residency card.

The notice is usually served once all appeals have been exhausted and required the person to leave France within a certain period, usually 30 days. However of the 125,000 OQTFs served in 2020, only 10 percent resulted in an expulsion from the country.

This recently became a political issue when a 12-year-old girl was murdered in Paris by an Algerian woman who had been served an OQTF but had remained in France illegally. 

The immigration bill will have to be debated in parliament, where the government does not have an absolute majority, and therefore may need to rely on votes from the centre-right Les Républicains and far-right Rassemblement National in order to get the bill passed. 

Government spokesman Olivier Véran later clarified that the Darmanin and Dusspot interview was not the outline of the bill, but concerned only the “main points”. He added that in December there would be a debate on the subject of immigration. 

Member comments

  1. I had to pass a language test and achieve a B1 level for my 10 year residency card in 2019. Is this still the case for that particular carte de residence?

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LIVING IN FRANCE

How and when to send Christmas presents from France

If you want to send Christmas presents to friends and family overseas you need to know the deadline dates and how to avoid being hit with extra charges - here's what you need to know.

How and when to send Christmas presents from France

Deadlines

First things first, you need to make sure your parcel arrives in time for Christmas, which means sending it before the deadline.

The French postal service La Poste has the following deadlines;

In Europe

If you’re sending a parcel within France, the deadline to have it delivered by Christmas is December 23rd. 

If you’re sending to the UK or Bulgaria, Cyprus, Spanish islands (eg Tenerife), Croatia, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Malta, Norway, Portuguese islands (eg Madeira) or Romania you have until December 16th.

If you’re sending to Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden or Switzerland you have until December 17th.

If you’re sending to Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands or Portugal you have until December 19th.

Outside Europe

If you’re sending to the USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand or Hong Kong you have until December 10th. Likewise if you’re sending to most French overseas territories, the deadline is December 10th.

For most other countries the deadline is December 3rd, but you can find the full list here

Private couriers like Fed-Ex and DPD have their own deadlines, although they are broadly in line with La Poste, and if you’re buying online each company has its own deadline on when it can guarantee a Christmas delivery.

Fees and customs declarations

If you’re sending parcels to another EU country then it’s pretty straightforward – just pay the delivery cost (you can check how much it will be to send via La Poste here) and make sure you send it before the deadline.

If, however, you are sending to a country outside the EU (which of course now includes the UK) then you will need to fill out a customs declaration form explaining what is in your parcel and whether it is a gift or not.

In addition to standard postal charges, you may also need to pay customs duties, depending on the value or your parcel and whether it is a gift or not. 

Find full details on customs duty rules HERE.

Banned items

And there are some items that are banned from the post – if you’re sending parcels to the US be aware that you cannot send alcohol through the mail as a private individual, so don’t try a ship some nice French wine or a bottle of your local liqueur. 

Most countries ban firearms and fireworks, not unreasonably, although be aware that this includes items like sparklers.

Sending food and plants is also often restricted with countries including Canada and Australia having strict rules and most other countries imposing restrictions on what you can send.

This also applies the other way and France bans any foodstuffs containing animal products (eg chocolate) sent from outside the EU. 

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