Politics For Members

Language tests and easier expulsion: The latest on France's new immigration law

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected] • 23 May, 2023 Updated Tue 23 May 2023 10:06 CEST
Language tests and easier expulsion: The latest on France's new immigration law
France's Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin is pushing the new immigration bill. Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

France's proposed new law on immigration - including changes to cartes de séjour and language tests - has become embroiled in a political row. Here's the latest on what is happening and when, if ever, those changes might come into force.


A new law on immigration that included French language tests for certain types of carte de séjour residency card was first proposed back in 2022.

However the bill has still not come before parliament and is now embroiled in a row between political parties.

Here's a look at the latest political wranglings, and what the bill would actually mean for foreigners in France, and those hoping to move here.

The politics

The bill was first announced by interior minister Gérald Darmanin and labour minister Olivier Dusspot in a newspaper interview back in November 2022, but has been delayed several times since then.

In May, prime minister Elisabeth Borne gave a speech outlining the priorities of the French government after the bitterly-contested pension reform was finally passed. She said that the bill would be debated "in the autumn".

Behind the scenes, Darmanin has reportedly been instructed to build a parliamentary consensus on the bill, with the government - which does not have an outright majority in parliament - reluctant to introduce a bill which might be rejected in parliament.

His natural ally for this would have been the centre-right Les Républicains party, which not only has enough MPs to pass the bill in partnership with Macron's centrist block but is also a natural ally on matters pertaining to tough immigration rules.

However on Sunday, LR leader Eric Ciotti and two of his colleagues gave an interview to the Journal Du Dimanche newspaper in which he slammed the government's proposed bill as ineffective and laid out his own, extremely radical demands.

These include changing the French constitution and departing from EU laws on migration, expelling all undocumented migrants, making it a criminal offence to be in France without the correct paperwork and cutting healthcare provision to non-French citizens.

The proposals have been described as "copied and pasted" from Marine Le Pen's far-right Rassemblement National.

With the proviso there's probably a bit of political showboating going on, these are not proposals that the government is likely to support and so, for the present at least, it seems that the bill is stalled.


So, with the caveats that all this political wrangling means that the draft text may change, here's what the bill currently proposes;

Language tests for residency cards

Any foreigner in France applying for the long-term carte de séjour pluriannelle will have to prove that they have "mastered a minimum level of French language" - the first time that formal language tests have been required for residency cards (at present it is only required for citizenship).

This does not affect new arrivals or anyone on the short-term 1-year or 5-year cards, nor does it affect Brits in France who are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement (since they either already have a carte de séjour permanent or have the right to apply directly for the carte de séjour permanent once their 5-year card nears expiry).

At present the Office français de l'immigration et de l'integration (OFII) can order people who have no or very little French to attend language classes, but there is no requirement to pass any kind of test.

The new law specifies that a multi-year residence permit will be conditional on a minimum level of French, and no longer only on attendance at courses to learn the language. That suggests, therefore that there will be some sort of test.

The Interior Ministry told The Local that the level is not expected to change from the current requirement, adding: "To obtain a carte de séjour pluriannuelle, an A1 level is required."

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."

QUIZ Test your French language level on the A1 to C2 scale

Easier expulsion for foreigners who 'do not respect the values of the republic'

There are already provisions to either refuse a residency permit or expel from the country foreigners who commit crimes in France, but the new law contains several provisions to strengthen these and speed up the process.

Referring to the main lines of the bill in December, Borne referred to a "balanced text" combining "humanity" and "firmness" . Article 9 will make it possible to "facilitate the expulsion of foreigners who do not respect the values ​​of the Republic and who commit offences on national territory", while article 10 aims  to "reduce the scope of protections against decisions imposing an Obligation de Quitter le Territoire Français (OQTF - an order to leave France).

These provisions are generally used for people who have committed crimes or those linked to terrorism or extremist preaching. 

Overstaying, working without a permit and polygamy - what can get you expelled from France?

Article 13, however, contains a proposal to "require foreigners applying for a residence permit to undertake to respect the principles of the Republic and to make it possible to refuse, withdraw or not renew certain residence permits for new reasons linked to their behaviour".


At present only citizenship requires a formal declaration of adhering to French values.

The "principles" include gender equality, freedom of sexual orientation and freedom of speech.

A similar provision was initially included in the anti-separatism law in 2021 and was rejected by the Constitutional Council because it was too vague. 

Temporary residency cards for 'under pressure' industries

This is essentially an amnesty for undocumented migrants, since it concerns only foreigners who are already living in France in an 'irregular situation'. They must have lived in France for at least three years and have worked for a minimum of eight months out of the last 24 in one of the affected industries. 

Anyone who is already living in France and has worked in a job connected to one of the listed industries experiencing a worker shortage can apply for a one-year carte de séjour which will make them legal workers. This will mainly affect industries that find it hard to recruit and are known for employing undocumented workers such as constructions and hospitality.

If the bill is adopted, the system will come into force "on an experimental basis" until December 31st, 2026. An assessment of the measure's effects will then be submitted to Parliament.


Special residency cards for healthcare workers 

A new type of carte de séjour is proposed for healthcare workers - particularly doctors or pharmacists - to address a shortage of medics in French hospitals.

The card would last for a maximum duration of 13 months and would give qualified health professionals the right to bring their families with them. It can only be used by medics recruited by public or not-for-profit hospitals or health centres, not private ones.


The government wants to strengthen the fight against smugglers who organise the arrival of undocumented migrants in France. In Article 14, the ministers intend to "criminalise the facilitation of the entry and stay of illegal aliens in an organised group". Offenders would now be liable to 20 years in prison and a €1.5 million fine.

The executive also wants to authorise the "use of coercion to take fingerprints and photographs of illegal aliens" controlled at the borders.


The bill also aims to establish a number of "France Asylum" centres, responsible for receiving migrants and registering their applications. They would bring together agents from the French Office of Immigration and Integration, the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons, and the prefectures. "We want to reduce all asylum procedures to a maximum of nine months," Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told Le Figaro.

"Regional chambers" would also be created to make the National Court of Asylum more efficient.




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