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French Elections For Members

What's at stake for foreigners in France if far-right Jordan Bardella becomes PM?

Emma Pearson
Emma Pearson - [email protected]
What's at stake for foreigners in France if far-right Jordan Bardella becomes PM?
French far-right Rassemblement National party President Jordan Bardella. Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / POOL / AFP

From 'French preference' for jobs and housing to visas, cartes de séjour and French language tests, here's a look at how the far-right Rassemblement National's policies could affect foreigners living in France, or hoping to move here someday.

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Marine Le Pen's Rassemblement National party is in the lead after the first round of voting in France's snap parliamentary elections.

The party's goal is to win enough seats in parliament to gain an absolute majority, which could force president Emmanuel Macron to appoint an RN member - most likely party leader Jordan Bardella - as prime minister.

READ ALSO Will the far-right get a majority in the French parliament?

With both a prime minister and a legislative majority the party would then be in a position to implement some of its policies, albeit constrained by having to work in 'cohabitation' with Macron.

But what would all this mean for foreigners already living in France or those hoping to move here one day?

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The party first produced a one-page leaflet setting out its policy goals, and then published its full manifesto. Since then, Bardella has also rolled out several extra policies during speeches or TV debates.

Here's a look at what the announced or manifesto policies would mean for foreigners in France, or those hoping to move here some day. 

Explained: The party manifestos for France's snap elections

Immigration

The RN made its name as an anti-immigration party and its latest policies suggest that nothing has changed.

"Drastically reduce legal and illegal immigration and deport foreign criminals" is listed as one of the key priorities for the party.

It's not uncommon for parties across the spectrum to call for crackdowns on illegal immigration. But what's more unusual is a promise to "drastically reduce legal immigration".

There are two ways that a government can do this; reduce the number of new arrivals by tightening the requirements or introducing quotas for visas and cartes de séjour; or make life uncomfortable for immigrants who are already here in the hope that they leave.

New arrivals - The manifesto opposes both non-economic migration and family reunification - no detail is given on changes to the visa or residency card system in this area, but it seems likely that anyone wanting to move for non-work related reasons (eg retirees) would face restrictions. Likewise spouse visas would be affected by any changes to family reunification rules.

This would mean that people moving to France would either need to have a job already arranged in order to qualify for an employee visa, or be able to meet the criteria for a self-employed visa (given to freelancers or those setting up their own business) or the talent passport visa (for high-earners or those who work in specialist sectors).

It would not allow non-economic visas - which includes the 'visitor' visa given to retirees or people who are not working - or the spouse or family members visa.

Explained: How the different types of French visa work

Asylum claims would exclusively be processed outside France.

People already here - France already passed in January 2024 an immigration bill that aimed to control immigration and improve integration - among its measures were the introduction of stricter language test requirements for long-term residency cards and French citizenship. 

But the RN manifesto proposes a raft of measures that would affect some people already living here.

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The big one is 'French preference' - giving priority to French citizens when it comes to jobs, housing or benefits. You can read a full explanation of what French preference means HERE, but it basically requires employers and housing providers (and maybe crèche operators) to prioritise applications from French citizens over non-French people.

Even those who have French citizenship may not be protected - the party wants to ban dual nationals from holding certain jobs.

Also on the party's list of priorities is changes to the benefits system - non-French citizens would only be able to access social benefits such as housing benefits or caring allowances after working in France for five years. This would seem to rule out people who retired to France from ever claiming any kind of social support.

Residency permits would be withdrawn for any non-French citizens who have been unemployed (on chômage, rather than retirees) for more than one year.

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Citizenship - When it comes to gaining French citizenship, this would be allowed only "on the basis of merit and assimilation" - it's not clear how this would differ from the current system where candidates must already prove that they speak French and understand French culture and politics.

The 2022 immigration law raises the language requirement from B1 to B2 for those applying through residency - further changes could be another hike in the language level required or raising the qualifying period for those applying for residency from five years. Currently France has one of the most generous residency requirements in Europe, many other countries require 10 years of residency.

The party also wants to scrap the droit du sol, which gives the right to French citizenship to children born in France to non-French parents.

Le Pen's 2022 policy was not to allow dual citizenship - so that people who gained French citizenship would have to give up the citizenship of their country of birth. She has since scrapped that policy - a senior party member on Thursday called for the end of dual nationality in a TV interview, but since then appears to have backpedalled.

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Criminal convictions - the "deporting of foreign criminals" is already a political hot topic after it was revealed that the majority of people served with an OQTF (and order to leave France) never in fact leave.

An OQTF can be served on any foreigner who has completed a prison term in France or who has been guilty of an immigration offence such as over-staying a visa or working while on a non-working visa. As well as tightening up the process to deport people served with such a notice, legislation chances could also extend the range of offences that can result in being ordered to leave the country.

OQTF - can you appeal against a notice to leave France?

Bardella said during a TV interview that: "French people of foreign origin or nationality have nothing to fear, if they work, pay their taxes, pay their contributions, respect the law..."

That's a heavily qualified welcome and bear in mind this refers to people who already have French citizenship.

Invited to celebrate the contribution to French life of French citizens who have an immigrant family background - such as football star Kylian Mbappé - he refused to do so.

Other policies

Foreigners in France are most directly affected by any changes to the immigration system, but anyone living here is likely to be affected by new laws on other areas too, so here's a look at what RN's leaflet says about its other priorities;

Cost of living - the rising cost of living was a key part of Le Pen's 2022 campaign and the new leaflet promises to "reduce gas and electricity bills and lower VAT on gas and other fossil fuels".

Le Pen is on record saying that she would also stop renewable energy developments, including halting the development of all wind farms.

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Law and order - the leaflet says that the party will "put an end to judicial laxity towards delinquents and criminals" and will also create a "presumption of legitimate defence" for police officers who kill or injure members of the public.

Agriculture - the part says it will "fight unfair competition" for French farmers.

Healthcare - the leaflet promises that the party will "fight medical deserts [areas where there are no enough doctors], support public hospitals and guarantee the supply of medicines".

Pension reform - one thing that was conspicuous by its absence was any reference to pension reform. Le Pen was staunchly opposed to Macron's controversial 2023 pension reform, which raised the retirement age from 62 to 64.

However the leaflet makes no mention of changing the age back to 62 again - or even lowering to to 60 as she has also mentioned. This is likely the result of an election pact with the Les Républicains party, which supports the pension reform. 

Economy 

There are also serious concerns about the effect that the party's economic policies could have - with business leaders sounding the alarm over what they describe as vague, uncosted proposals.

The British newspaper the Financial Times estimates that the effect of an RN government would be twice as bad as the effect that Liz Truss' disastrous economic policies had on the UK economy.

 

You can find all the latest on the snap elections in our election section HERE and sign up for our bi-weekly election breakdown here.

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