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How are Brits in France affected by new language test requirements?

The Local France
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How are Brits in France affected by new language test requirements?
Some Brits in France will be exempt from new language requirements. Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP

France is bringing in tougher new language requirements for foreigners living here, but there are several exemption to the new rules and the situation is different for some UK nationals living in France.

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France's new immigration bill, promulgated into law at the end of January, brings in a host of changes including one that could have a big impact on many foreigners in France - tougher French language requirements.

You can find a full explanation of exactly how the changes work HERE, but in brief the language requirement affects three groups of people;

  • Those making their first application for the multi-year carte de séjour plurianuelle (usually made after several years of residence)
  • Those making their first application for the 10-year carte de résident (usually made after five years in France)
  • Those applying for French citizenship.

The new rules affect only first-time applications - those who already have a carte de séjour plurianuelle or a carte de résident can renew them when required without taking a language test.

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The new rules also affect new applications for citizenship - those who have already made their application and sent their dossier should not be affected.

READ ALSO Your questions answered: France's new language requirements

So how does this affect Brits?

To answer this question, your arrival date is crucial - Brits who arrived in 2021 or later fall under the new post-Brexit rules, in which case they are treated the same as all other non-EU citizens arriving in France.

This means that in most cases people will need a visa, then a short-term carte de séjour residency card which is regularly renewed before you apply for one of the long-term cards. 

However, Brits who were living in France prior to January 2021 are covered by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, and therefore have a different system.

This group has a special Brexit carte de séjour known as the WARP or Article 50 TUE. Brits who had lived in France for more than five years were given a carte de séjour permanent (10 years) while those who had lived here for less than five years were given a five-year card.

So what happens when the time comes to renew the card?

The carte de séjour permanent needs to be renewed every 10 years - the card itself has a 10-year shelf life, but the right to remain in France is permanent. When the time comes to renew (in 2029 for most people) the only proof that will be required is the old card, plus proof of continued residency in France.

The five-year card can be swapped, once it is reaching its expiry date, for the carte de séjour permanent. When the time comes to renew (in 2026 for most people) it can be exchanged for the 10-year card. It is not possible to renew the card until it is nearing its expiry date.

The exact process for renewal has not yet been outlined, but the basic principle of the Withdrawal Agreement gives people the right to remain so long as they still fulfil the original criteria (legal residency in France). The criteria does not include a language test.

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Therefore Brits covered by the Withdrawal Agreement will never need to apply for either a carte de séjour pluriannuelle or a carte de résident, which are the only two cards which have a language requirement.

What about citizenship?

If you want to apply for French citizenship, then being covered by the Withdrawal Agreement makes no difference, all applications are treated in the same way.

READ ALSO The ultimate guide to getting French citizenship

In order to gain French citizenship you will need to supply a hefty dossier of documents, including proof of French language competence.

The level required was previously B1, but the new law raises that to B2. A previous exemption to the language test requirement for over 65s was scrapped in 2020. 

QUIZ Could you pass the new French language tests?

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