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New immigration law: Who has to take 'integration courses' in France?

Genevieve Mansfield
Genevieve Mansfield - [email protected]
New immigration law: Who has to take 'integration courses' in France?
An illustration photo of a welcome centre for new immigrants in France (Photo by THOMAS COEX / AFP)

France's new immigration law - finally passed in January 2024 - includes extra requirements for some foreigners in France to pass a language test, attend classes on French history and culture and sign a contract promising to adhere to 'republican values'.


The recently passed immigration law had two primary goals: "manage immigration and increase integration", and within these objectives there were several changes for foreigners in France.

As The Local has covered extensively, one aspect of 'increasing integration' was adding new, stricter language requirements. You can find all of the details for that HERE.

The law also introduced other new requirements aimed at this goal, which include signing a contract to promise to 'respect the principles of the French republic', plus more involved civics and language courses for certain groups.

The 'republican contract' - The first change is the introduction of the contrat d'engagement au respect des principes de la République française for everyone applying for a French residency card or visa. 

Regardless of your immigration status, you will need to sign this document as part of the application process. Previously, only certain groups of people (those required to take CIR courses, more on this below) would have signed anything resembling a 'republican contract'.


As of April 2024, signing the contract was not yet a universal requirement for all visa or residency card applications, but the change is expected take effect in the near future, once a decree is passed by the Conseil d'Etat.

In terms of tangible change, this will simply be one more document to sign when applying for your visa or your next residency card.

What does the contract say exactly? 

We do not know yet, but we can assume it will be close to what the new law lays out.

It says that; "Foreign nationals applying for a residence permit undertake, by signing a contract of commitment to the principles of the Republic, to respect personal freedom, freedom of expression and conscience, equality between men and women, the dignity of the human person, the motto (la devise) and symbols of the Republic within the meaning of Article 2 of the Constitution, and territorial integrity as defined by national borders, and not to use their beliefs or convictions as an excuse to disregard the common rules governing relations between the public services and private individuals."

The next segment of the law specifies that "no residency document can be given to a foreigner who refuses to sign the 'contrat d'engagement au respect des principes de la République' or whose behaviour clearly demonstrates that they are not complying with these obligations."

Civics classes 

Confusingly, even though it bears a similar name, the document you will have to sign when applying for a residency card is not the same as the 'contrat d’intégration républicaine' (CIR), which was first introduced in 2016 and encompasses several steps to help foreigners assimilate into France, including compulsory classes in French history and culture.

The CIR is a contract agreeing to the values of the republic, as well as a promise to take OFII provided civics/ language courses, as needed.

Unlike the new 'contract of engagement', which applies to everyone applying for a French visa or residency card, this one only applies to people with certain immigration statuses and many groups are exempt from this requirement. You can see an example of the document here (PDF).

If this is required for you, then you start by meeting with OFII (France's office of immigration and integration). They will assess your needs and determine which training courses to assign you, depending on your individual situation.

READ MORE: OFII: Your questions answered on France's immigration office

You will also take a written and oral test to determine if your French level is beyond A1 (beginner level) - if it is not, then you may be assigned language courses. Some foreigners in France have reported being assigned between 100 and 200 hours of (free) language classes by OFII. 

You will also be signed up for four days' worth of civic training (a total of 24 hours) as well as an exit interview. The content of this course focuses on the values, principles and institutions of the Republic. At the end, you may also be provided with professional support if you are seeking employment.

How is the CIR changing?

Aside from increasing the scope of the civics courses to include more French history and culture, the main change resulting from the 2024 immigration law will be a test added at the end of the training.


If you do not achieve the minimum result, you will be allowed to retake it. You will need to show you passed the test when applying for your next residency card.

It does not change which groups are required to take the classes.

Who has to do the CIR?

The groups required to sign the CIR, and complete the resulting civics/ language courses, did not change as a result of the new immigration law.

The CIR is required of refugees, as well as certain people under 'vie privée et familiale' statuses, including parents of French minors and foreign spouses and partners (PACs) of French nationals.

People whose residency is tied to employment (salarié status) or self-employment (entrepreneur/profession libérale status) are also required to do the CIR, and proof that you completed it will be requested when you attempt to apply for a multi-year (pluriannuelle) card for either of these statuses.

If you want to apply for the 10-year carte de résident (available after several years in France), you may be required to show proof you completed and signed the CIR.


There are several exemptions, but the main group concerned by this would be those seeking the standard carte de résident de longue durée-UE, which is awarded to foreigners who has lived uninterrupted in France for at least five years.

READ MORE: What exactly is France’s carte de résident?

Which residency statuses are exempt from the CIR?

There is quite a long list of groups who are exempt from the civics classes requirement, including;

  • Visitors (carte de séjour temporaire "visiteur")
  • Students (carte de séjour temporaire portant la mention "étudiant")
  • Trainees/interns (carte de séjour temporaire portant la mention "stagiaire")
  • Temporary workers (carte de séjour temporaire portant la mention "travailleur temporaire")
  • People who were born in France and have resided here for at least eight years (you fall under the jeune étranger né en France status of the carte de séjour temporaire portant la mention "vie privée et familiale")
  • People with serious illness (you fall under the 'étranger malade' category of the carte de séjour temporaire portant la mention "vie privée et familiale")
  • Seconded employees and their families (carte de séjour pluriannuelle portant la mention "salarié détaché")
  • Seasonal workers (carte de séjour pluriannuelle portant la mention "travailleur saisonnier")
  • Passport talent holders and their families (carte de séjour pluriannuelle portant la mention "passeport talent")
  • People who completed at least three years of French secondary school or one year of higher education in France
  • EU/EEA/ Swiss nationals
  • Holders of the post-Brexit Article 50 TUE carte de séjour
  • People who qualify for the carte de résident due to service in the French foreign legion or military

If you fall onto that list, then you do not need to do the CIR, but in some cases you may be able to request it if you want to, as the free language classes and civics training could be helpful.

What if I spent five years on the 'visitor' card and now I am switching onto the carte de résident?

This situation is a little different than the norm.

People on the 'visitor' status are normally exempt from having to go through the CIR process.

However, after five years of consecutive residency under the 'visitor' status in France, you are eligible to apply for the 10-year carte de résident - and one of the requirements of the carte de résident is supplying justicatif (proof) that you signed the CIR.

This is where things get a little tricky - if you held visitor status for five years, you would not have been called up by OFII to do the CIR, so you will need to reach out to them.


Fill out this request form (PDF) and attach a copy (of both sides) of your visa or residency permit. Then send (by post) the documents to your regional OFII office - the bureau de l'accueil et de l'intégration.

You will then be given an appointment date for your individualised interview with OFII, during which they may assign you French civics/ language courses to complete.

Whether you have to do the classes really depends on the level of French language and integration that you can demonstrate at the interview.

That being said, there is a line specific to the carte de résident that states the mayor of your commune or municipality may be asked for their opinion on your integration level.


If you have a relationship with your local mayor, it might be worth asking them to write you up a quick document (attestation) attesting to your level of integration in France. While it might not get you out of courses, it could smooth things along.

As a reminder, the carte de résident already has a minimum language level attached to it, previously it was A2 (upper beginner), but the 2024 immigration law increased it to B1 (lower intermediate).

People who are 65 years and older are exempt from the language requirement, but they still must show proof they completed the CIR.

Can I count my CIR language score for the new language requirements?

As of April 2024, it was still not clear whether the CIR language certificates could count as proof of French level for immigration purposes. Previously, applicants have been required to show specific exam certificates, diplomas, or proof of higher education in France.

You can learn more about eligible language tests here.

When does this come into effect?

At the time of writing, the new laws have not been put into effect by the préfectures. It is expected that they will be in place by the end of the year, but there is as yet no confirmed start date.


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