France plans special residency permits for workers in under-staffed sectors

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France plans special residency permits for workers in under-staffed sectors

The French government's new Immigration bill proposes, among other things, a special residency permit for people working in sectors where there is a labour shortage.


Under proposals put forward by Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and Employment Minister Olivier Dussopt, the special residence permit is intended to ease the worker shortage in a number of under-pressure areas of the economy, including construction, hospitality, and healthcare.

It is part of a wide-ranging immigration bill that also includes compulsory language exams for certain groups and a tougher regime for people served with a notice to quit France.

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The bill is at this stage only a proposal and still needs to be formally drafted and then debated on both houses of parliament. The Ministers say the bill will come before parliament in early 2023.


Who does it affect?

The proposal is to allow undocumented immigrants already living and working in in France sans papiers (illegally) to gain a residency permit and become legal workers - if they work in certain sectors that are experiencing a labour shortage.

It also includes ending, in certain cases and in particular industries, the six-month period during which asylum seekers cannot work.

So this really only affects people who are already in France - either working illegally or having applied for asylum. There is no suggestion at present of providing an easier visa route for foreigners entering the country to work in specific sectors.

“A majority of foreigners [in France] live from the fruits of their labour and try to integrate," Darmanin said, while Dussopt pointed out the proposal would reduce the abuse of undocumented immigrants by some employers.

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“The future Asylum and Immigration bill, which is to be presented in early January, will include a major section on work, as a way of responding, at the very least, to the labour shortage, which can be counted in the tens of thousands in certain sectors. It is a form of absurdity of the system," Dussopt told Le Monde. “We lock some foreigners into inactivity and others into illegality."

The working population of France is around 30 million and of those 3 million - roughly 10 percent - are foreign workers, according to Ministry of Interior figures. These include people who have come to live and work in France from other EU Member States.

READ ALSO How non-EU citizens can move to France (and stay here)

The true figure is probably higher, because there are also undocumented foreign workers. Neither the Interior Ministry or Employment Ministry has been able to provide estimates of the number of illegal foreign workers in France.

The government spokesman rejected suggestions that the scheme represents an 'amnesty' for undocumented workers, but that's really what it is, albeit only in certain sectors. 


What does it mean for businesses?

The measures only affect sectors that are officially designated as "under stress" by the government - that means those that are having serious and ongoing difficulty in recruiting enough people.

As well as giving workers a residency card, meaning that businesses no longer have to run the risk of hiring illegal workers, there is also a suggestion that businesses in certain sectors would no longer need to provide work permits for non-EU workers.

The work permit system puts non-EU workers at a disadvantage compared to EU staff, since it involves more complicated paperwork for the employers to complete, making non-EU staff less attractive to hire.

In tandem with these methods, sanctions will apparently be stepped up on businesses that are found to be using illegal workers.

Which sectors are 'under stress'

That's the big question, but there is no detail yet on which sectors will be involved.

The list of sectors under pressure varies from region to region and will be defined “after consultation with the regions and social partners” say the ministers.

The construction and hospitality sectors have loon been struggling to recruit, and are notorious for employing undocumented workers. France is also struggling to find healthcare workers. 


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