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Retiring to France: What would change under France's new immigration bill?

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
Retiring to France: What would change under France's new immigration bill?
Retirees in France may be affected by the new immigration bill. Photo by Fred DUFOUR / AFP

France's new immigration bill has a lot of headline-grabbing issues such as an amnesty for undocumented workers - but there are also things in the proposed law that would affect retirees in France or people planning to retire here.


There's a wide-ranging immigration bill currently making its way through the French parliament which, if passed, could have a significant effect on retirees in France and those planning to retire here.

First the caveat - and it's a big one. This bill has already been debated in the French Senate but is yet to come before the Assemblée nationale, which is the parliamentary chamber that has the real power in France.

There is no guarantee that the bill will be passed, in fact - for all sorts of reasons - it's looking likely that there will be a massive political row once the bill comes before the Assemblée at the start of December. It could be altered, new amendments could be added or the bill could fail altogether.


There's a further complication that France's Senators have also added a bunch of amendments to the basic text of the bill - however the Assemblée can (and often does) ditch Senate amendments.

You can follow the latest progress of the bill here.

So with all those caveats out of the way, here's a look at the parts of the bill that could affect moving to France. 

Language tests - Any foreigner in France applying for a long-term residency card 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 would only affect people moving onto the long-term residency card, which usually happens after five years for people who are not working - it would not affect people who already have a long-term card (including Brits who are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement who all have either a five-year or a 10-year card). 

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 Interior Ministry told The Local that the language 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

Residency cards are only required for non-EU citizens in France so this rule - plus all others relating to residency cards - would only affect new arrivals in France who do not have citizenship of an EU country.

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'.

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).


Senate amendments

As we mentioned earlier, the Senate has added many amendments onto the basic bill. A few of these have been making headlines, but it's important to understand that the Senate has relatively limited power in France

Here are the amendments most relevant to retirees in France;

Limits on short-term residency card renewal - we mentioned above the idea of language tests in order to get a long-term residency card. The Senate has proposed an amendment to limit 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 the long-term card, instead continuing to annually renew their card.


Limit family reunification rights - rules around foreigners in France being joined by spouses or family members would be tightened up, with a minimum stay of 24 months required before you can be joined by a spouse or family member. The Senate also proposes stricter financial requirements for people who want to bring a spouse or family member to join them, although there is little detail on the amounts required.

French citizenship for children born in France - currently children who are born in France to foreign parents are automatically given the right to French citizenship once they reach 18 under the droit du sol principle (although in order to do anything practical like get a passport or ID card they still need to apply for a naturalisation certificate). The Senators proposed that this no longer be an automatic right and children must "express their will" to get citizenship - presumably through an extra admin procedures.

Benefit restrictions - currently foreigners in France can qualify for benefits such as housing allowance or top-up benefits to pensioners on a low income after they have been resident for six months, the Senate wants to increase the qualification period to five years. 


Healthcare restrictions - this would affect only those who end up in an 'irregular immigration situation' by not having the correct paperwork. People who arrive on a visa or residency permit are entitled to register in the French public health service after three months. Currently undocumented foreigners who are in France for more than three months are entitled to basic healthcare under the Aide medicale de l'Etat, with costs reimbursed by the State for hospital treatment and medication. The Senate amendment proposes a complete ban on this for anyone who is undocumented or in an irregular immigration situation - the government is reportedly strongly opposed to this.


Looser visa rules for British second-home owners - not strictly related to moving to France, but a Senate amendment to exempt British second-home owners from visa requirements has also been grabbing headlines - find full details of the proposal here

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