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Moving to France For Members

How will France's new immigration bill affect moving to France?

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
How will France's new immigration bill affect moving to France?
The French National Assembly (Assemblee Nationale) in Paris in 2019. (AFP / Christophe ARCHAMBAULT)

Headlines around France's new immigration bill tend to focus on political hot-button issues like expelling radicalised foreigners - but there are also things in the new law that will affect people planning a move to France.

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France's immigration bill has been a political roller-coaster, but it's long and rocky journey finally came to an end on Thursday when the Constitutional Council - the highest authority on constitutional matters - delivered its verdict on the bill.

There is no right of appeal against the Council's decisions.

Here are the main parts of the bill that would affect anyone planning a move;

Language tests and levels - In an effort to increase French language standards and better integration of foreigners into life in France, people applying for multi-annual residency cards, 10-year cartes de résident (including the résident longue durée UE), and French nationality will need to prove higher levels of language acquisition than previously. 

It is worth noting that the changes to language tests are unlikely to affect people during an initial move to France, but they are worth keeping in mind when planning for the future.

According to a press release issued by the interior ministry on Friday evening, these new standards will bring France "closer with our European neighbours such as Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Italy and Portugal."

Moving forward, those switching onto multi-annual (pluriannuelle) carte de séjour for the first time will need to demonstrate a minimum level of French, which will be A2 according to the international DELF scale, rather than A1 as previously reported.

The pluriannuelle card is usually acquired after at least one year on a short-term residency card.

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This level corresponds to "carrying out simple tasks of daily life (going to a shopkeeper, finding information, taking public transport, etc.); using the most common polite and exchange expressions; recounting a past event; understanding a simple conversation; talking about things one likes and dislikes; describing daily life; understanding directions; and connecting sentences using 'and', 'but' and 'because'."

Several groups are expected to be exempt from this requirement, including those holding a 'carte de séjour temporaire' with the title 'student', 'visitor', or 'family and private life'.

The requirement also does not apply to Brits who are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement and have the post-Brexit residency cards.

To obtain a 10-year carte de résident (or résident longue durée UE, available after five years' consecutive residency) for the first time, foreigners will need to prove a level of B1, rather than A2 which was the previous level required. Currently, those switching onto the 10-year card can show a diploma or language certification as proof.

The Local has contacted the French Interior Minister to clarify how this information will be collected in the future.

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

As for applying for naturalisation, the interior ministry announced Friday that the language level requirement will be increased from B1 to B2.

Currently, applicants have several ways to show B1 level, including a DELF or TCF test result or graduating from a university programme taught in French. 

Requirement to 'respect the values of the republic' - applying for any kind of residency permit (long or short term) would require agreeing to 'respect the values of the French republic'.

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Those values are defined in the law as "personal freedom, freedom of expression and conscience, equality between women and men, the dignity of the human person and the motto and symbols of the Republic as defined in article 2 of the Constitution".

It would also make it possible to refuse, withdraw or not renew certain residence permits for new reasons linked to a person's behaviour (a law that is largely intended to target foreigners who have become radicalised - such as radical Islamists).

Limits on short-term residency card renewal - the Conseil Constitutionnel left in the proposal limiting the amount of times you can renew a short-term (one-year) card. The idea is to prevent people from avoiding the language requirement by simply never moving onto a multi-year card, instead continuing to annually renew their short-term one.

This means that people on short-term cards would only be able to renew three times. Afterwards, they would have to switch onto either a pluriannuelle card or a carte de resident.

However, several groups will be exempted from this requirement, most likely including visitors and students. More information to come.

Rejected clauses

Many of the more eye-catching amendments such as limits on the rights of foreigners to healthcare, benefits or citizenship were struck down by the Constitutional Council. 

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When does the new law come into effect?

Now that the law has cleared its final legal hurdle, it is up to the government to decide when it comes into effect.

It has the option of either introducing the law in stages or bringing in new parts all at once - it is expected that at least some of the parts of the law will be introduced by the middle of 2024.

We will update our Moving to France section as soon as we know more.

If you're thinking of moving to France, you can sign up for our new monthly Moving to France newsletter, which covers topics of interest to new arrivals and those planning a move - sign up here

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