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'A National Front pamphlet from the 1980s' - What's in France's controversial immigration bill?

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'A National Front pamphlet from the 1980s' - What's in France's controversial immigration bill?
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin speaks during a session of questions to the government at The National Assembly in Paris (Photo by Bertrand GUAY / AFP)

Here's the latest on France's controversial immigration bill.


French politicians debated it late into the night on Monday and discussions are due to resume on Tuesday with the government reportedly determined to reach a deal. 

The unexpected torpedoing of their flagship immigration bill has led to a crisis for Emmanuel Macron's government. Most media reports have been focusing on the political fallout.

But foreigners living in France, those hoping to move here some day and second-home owners might have more practical concerns, such as how the bill's success or failure will affect their own lives or plans. 

From language tests for residency cards to a tightening of citizenship rules and a special visa exemption for British second-home owners, the various forms of the bill can significantly affect people's lives.


Where are we now?

Last week Monday, MPs in the Assemblée nationale voted in favour of a Motion de rejet - which means the bill was rejected before debates could even begin.

However, the Macron government is reportedly determined to get it passed and opted for a rare parliamentary procedure known as a Commission mixte paritaire (CMP).

This is a committee made up of both MPs and Senators whose role is to make alterations to the bill to come up with a compromise that would be accepted by both houses of parliament.

The CMP met on Monday evening - although negotiations had been going on behind the scenes for a week - and debated until past midnight without reaching a compromise. Discussions are due to continue on Tuesday morning.

What does that mean for me?

At this stage we don't know exactly what compromises the CMP will come up with, but analysts say that the political composition of the CMP means that the revised bill would likely be more right-wing than the original, with tougher measures against immigration. 

The CMP's debates are private, but the reaction of politicians on the left suggests that measures being debated are indeed more rightwing - the Communist senator Ian Brossat described it as "like a National Front pamphlet from the 1980s" while Jordan Bardella of the far-right Rassemblement National described it as an "ideological victory" for his party.

It's likely that there is an element of hyperbole to both statements, however.


The original bill attempted to take a 'something for everyone' approach with appeals to the right such as easier expulsion of radicalised foreigners and language tests for long-term residency cards alongside appeals to the left such as the amnesty for undocumented workers in some sectors.

It ended up, however, pleasing no-one. 

Language tests for foreigners - in the original bill perhaps the most far-reaching clause for people already here was the idea of compulsory language tests in order to secure a long-term carte de séjour residency card - you can read full details of the proposal HERE. This seems likely to remain in the bill. 

When the bill passed through the Senate there were several amendments added that could also affect people planning to move to France, as well as second-home owners. Most of these were junked when the bill passed back to the Assemblée nationale, but it's possible that some or all could now be revived by the CMP. 


Immigration quotas - another Senate suggestion is the idea of an annual quota on migration, which would be set by parliament. Little detail has been provided on this at this stage.

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 proposed 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 certain family benefits 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 - this is a major red line for politicians on the left or the centre. 

And what about visa exemptions for second-home owners?

The Senate also added an amendment to ease visa conditions for second-home owners. The amendment that ended up being adopted was a curious one - it covered only British second-home owners and proposed a complete exemption to visa requirements for Brits who own property in France - you can find full details here.

This was also junked when the bill came back to the Assemblée nationale with MPs arguing that it promotes inequality to offer a visa exemption to people based purely on wealth. It's possible that it could come back, but it seems unlikely that it will be at the top of the priority list of the CMP as they grapple to come up with a compromise acceptable to all. 

So what next? 

If the CMP does manage to agree on a revised bill, it will still need to be debated and passed in the Assemblée nationale, so there are still no guarantees that any of this will become law.

The government hopes that an agreement will be reached on Tuesday, and the vote could take place on Tuesday evening, although this may be optimistic. 

We feel safe in making two predictions, however - the first is that most of these clauses outlined above will be largely drowned out in the public and political debate by more headline-grabbing issues such as the expulsion of radicalised foreigners and the amnesty for undocumented workers.

The second is that we haven't heard the last of this. 


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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Mary Bowen 2023/12/14 16:33
I submitted a request for a carte de dix ans three months ago in September 2023, was given a récépissé (valid for six months from my application date), and have yet to hear from the prefécture. Does this debate affect applicants like me, a U.S. citizen with a second home in France; in other words, has my application been stalled pending the outcome of this debate or would it be going through the existing process? Your website helps me to stay connected with France when I’m not there.
Chipps Chippendale 2023/12/13 19:03
I'm just coming up to two years in France, having moved here with my German wife from the UK. If there'd been a 24 month delay in being able to do so, I wouldn't have been able to move to France. For a start, we'd sold our house in the UK, so I'd have had nowhere to live!
Robert 2023/12/13 13:52
As an American second home owner, it is not clear to me why there’s support for a special visa for second home owners of British nationality, and not for second home owners of other nationalities outside of the EU. It seems counter intuitive to be exclusive with regard to country. Canadian second home owners would seem to be in la même bateau. A piece about the rationale for the « British » distinction, at some point, would be of interest.
  • Emma Pearson 2023/12/13 15:40
    Hi, thanks for your comment. Yes, the reason some people are calling for it is Brexit-related More details here - But there are others who say, as you do, that there's no real logic for an exemption that doesn't include all non-EU second-home owners

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