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What changes under France's new immigration law for foreigners in France?

The Local France
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What changes under France's new immigration law for foreigners in France?
France's immigration bill contains several measures that would affect how foreigners in France get residency cards. Photo by PASCAL LACHENAUD / AFP

Headlines on France's new immigration bill have headline-grabbing measures like expelling radicalised Islamists - but the bill does contain things that may affect the life of foreigners living in France.


France's immigration bill has created a lot of political drama, but its 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 will affect foreigners who are already living in France - if you're planning a move you can find information here and information for second-home owners here.

Residency cards

Most of the sections of the bill that affect foreigners in France are to do with the carte de séjour residency card - this only affects non-EU citizens living in France. People who have citizenship of an EU country can live in France without a residency card, and there are no plans to change that.


Several aspects also concern obtaining a long-term card, which usually happens after four or five years of residency, depending on your personal situation - people who already have a long-term residency card such as the carte de séjour pluriannuelle or carte de résident will not be affected by the changes. Brits who were living in France prior to 2022 and have the special Brexit carte de séjour are also not affected.

Here's a look at the proposed changes to the residency card system;

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. 

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.

It is worth noting that the pluriannuelle card is usually acquired after at least one year on a short-term residency card.

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) will 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 will 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).

Easier expulsion - the law will also make it easier to expel foreigners who do not respect the values of the republic, including by limiting the right of appeal against an OQTF (Obligation de Quitter le Territoire Français - order to leave the country) and removing the exemption that people who arrived in France aged 13 or younger cannot be expelled.


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

The Constitutional Council rejected many of the headline-grabbing amendments that were added at a later stage by right-wing parties - these included limits on benefits access and citizenship for foreigners, as well as tighter rules on family reunification.

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 site as soon as we know more.

If you have questions on how the law will affect foreigners living in France you can email [email protected] and we'll do our best to answer them 


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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Christopher Ley-Wilson 2023/11/27 17:44
Could the Assemblee re-ratify the testamentary rights of resident foreigners under Brussels IV, avoiding one or more of the inevitable complications, delays, costs, family squabbles. which would lead from the current requirement for Notaires to notify all inheritors under French law about their full rights, whatever limitations may have been imposed under a foreigner's will under the provisions of Brussels IV?

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