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French Immigration Law: An Outlook of Potential Changes in 2023


Clarisse Delaitre


March 08, 2023


01:44 PM

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On 1 February 2023, the French government presented to the Council of Ministers a bill aimed at controlling immigration and improving the integration of immigrants in France. More than four years after the Asylum and Immigration Act of 10 September 2018, which aimed to strengthen immigration and asylum measures, Emmanuel Macron once again wants to reform this sensitive issue.

This text, spearheaded by Labour Minister Olivier Dussopt and Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, contains several articles on "better integration of foreigners through work and language", which clearly shows that migratory movements in Europe have increased significantly. Faced with this reality, it is necessary to take measures to meet the challenges ahead, such as the fight against illegal immigration, the protection of legitimate asylum seekers and the effective integration of legal immigrants. This means better control of our borders and proper management of the current situation.

This draft law contains a few innovations, particularly in labour migration:

French Residence Permit « job in demand »: Regularizing irregular migrants through work

58% of recruitments are considered difficult by companies; the main difficulty cited is the lack of candidates » according to the survey Besoins en main d'œuvre 2022 by Pôle emploi.

Currently, only the exceptional admission procedure allows for the regularization of foreigners in an irregular situation in France through work. Foreigners can apply for an "employee" or "temporary worker" residence permit, depending on their "work" contract, provided they meet the conditions of length of stay and duration of paid employment set out in the circular of 12 November 2012. An entry visa is not required.

Exceptional residence through work is currently the only way to regularize the situation of foreign workers in an irregular situation. However, this process requires the foreign worker to provide evidence, such as forms filled in by the employer (CERFA) and pay slips, which can create an imbalance between the employer and the foreign worker, who is then dependent on the employer for regularization. In addition, although the employment of foreign workers without authorization is punishable by five years' imprisonment, this process allows the employer to contribute to the administrative regularization of the situation, which is a crime.

The list of shortage occupations in the CESEDA has only a limited impact on obtaining a residence permit. It only simplifies the formalities for the employer who wants to hire a foreigner by exempting him from publishing the job offer for 3 weeks. The difficulties have increased for the professions of nurse, specialist teacher and public transport driver. The bill proposes to test a new residence permit for workers in "shortage occupations". This permit, valid for one year, will allow these irregular workers to apply for a residence permit on their own initiative and to work legally. The experiment will last until 31 December 2026 and a report on the results will be presented to Parliament to decide whether this title should be maintained.

The residence permit for "work in shortage occupations" has three objectives:

  1. To allow foreigners already present on the national territory to stay and work on their own initiative, without the intervention of the employer during the procedure;
  2. To prevent and punish violations of workers' rights by employers and to protect the rights of all workers (during the examination of the application for a permit, the employer's situation is subject to the checks and controls provided for in Article R. 5221-20 of the Labour Code, after which a report may be sent to the competent authorities) ;
  3. Contribute in a subsidiary way to reducing labour market tensions in certain professions or geographical areas, in addition to other means of improving job supply and demand (training, working conditions).

The temporary residence permit "work in jobs in demand" would be issued directly to the foreign worker if he can prove by any means that he has:

  • Worked for at least 8 months in a job and in a geographical area defined by law. Activities as an asylum seeker, seasonal worker or student are not taken into account;
  • Lived in France continuously for at least 3 years. They can then obtain a temporary residence permit for one year, which also allows them to work in the profession for which it was issued.

The French government also wants to amend the CESEDA.

Reforming "talent passports" and creating a "talent - medical and pharmaceutical professions" residence permit

The multi-year "talent passport" residence permit was created by the law of 7 March 2016 on the rights of foreigners in France. It contributes to France's policy of attracting skilled immigration by facilitating the stay of the most qualified foreigners and their families. To attract and retain them on French territory, foreign nationals who can prove their qualifications or experience are granted a multiannual residence permit (CSP) "talent passport" for a maximum of four years on first entry to the country. The Code de l'entrée et du séjour des étrangers et du droit d'asile (CESEDA) lists ten categories of "talent passport", grouped under the following six headings :

  • Skilled workers
  • Researchers
  • Business creation and investment
  • legal representatives of an establishment established in France
  • artistic professions
  • International reputation.

This "talent passport" residence permit allows its holder to work without having to apply for a work permit and is accompanied by a right of residence for the same period for family members.

However, the bill stresses that the term "passport" creates confusion as to the nature of the document issued to the target population and to the companies that recruit them. The current "talent passport" residence permits are not adapted to the specific situation of certain health professionals, in particular with regard to the remuneration conditions, which appear to be too high in relation to the salaries actually received. In addition, foreign nationals with a degree from outside the European Union can only obtain the "talent passport - EU blue card" residence permit. The residence permit "talent passport - qualified worker" is reserved only for foreign talent with a degree from a state-recognized higher education institution or from a list established by decree.

It is proposed to make the multiannual "talent passport" residence permits more understandable by changing their name and to make them more attractive to project sponsors by creating a single permit and merging the different types of permits under this new "talent" name.

It is also proposed that health professionals with non-EU diplomas be allowed to come and practice in France for a limited period without having to wait if they undertake to pass a competition. Finally, it is proposed that health professionals with non-EU qualifications be given the benefits of the multiannual "talent passport" residence permit, including family reunification, to attract them to France.

The project therefore intends to change the current name of the "talent passport" scheme to "talent" in order to remove any ambiguity about the nature of the document issued. To avoid any confusion and to rationalize the number of categories of residence permit, the project intends to merge all residence permits linked to the creation of a company, an innovative economic project, and an investment in France under a single title "Talent - project holder". This choice will allow project or investment holders to move from one ground to another without being held back by the conditions for obtaining the permit. The aim of this reform is to make the right of residence for foreign talent easier to understand and read.

In order to make the right of residence for health professionals more readable and attractive, a new residence permit called "talent - medical and pharmaceutical professions" has been created for these professionals and their families who are recruited by public or private non-profit health or medico-social institutions. This card is intended for doctors, midwives, dentists, and pharmacists working as employees. It makes it possible to establish conditions of access and duration of validity adapted to the specificities of these professions and to consider the career paths of foreign health professionals who have obtained their qualifications outside the European Union.

The granting of the "talented medical and pharmaceutical professions" residence permit is subject to an employment contract of at least one year in a not-for-profit health or medico-social institution, a provisional authorization to practice, if necessary, and compliance with a salary threshold. This card is valid for a maximum of 4 years and can be issued on first application to foreign health professionals who have passed the aptitude tests. Family members of the card holder may also benefit from a residence permit for family reunification.

The CESEDA will be amended to replace the term "talent passport" with the word "talent".

Article L. 421-16 will be amended to merge the various residence permits for holders of economic projects into a single title "talent - project holder". A new article will be created to facilitate access to residence and work for highly qualified medical professionals and pharmacists.

Make the granting of the multiannual residence permit (CSP) conditional on a minimum level of French in order to promote integration

"The labour market and access to employment are insufficient and unsatisfactory for immigrants in France", explained the Minister of Labour on leaving the Council of Ministers.

To obtain a first multi-year residence permit (CSP), the foreigner must prove that, unless exempted, he or she has taken part seriously and diligently in the compulsory training courses of the Republican Integration Contract (CIR) set up under article L. 413-2 of the CESEDA, and that he or she has not demonstrated any rejection of the essential values of French society and the Republic. The Republican Integration Contract (CIR) is signed between the French State and any non-European foreigner admitted residing in France who wishes to settle there permanently, unless exempted. The signatory undertakes to attend courses designed to promote his or her integration into the State. Civic training is compulsory and language training may be required depending on the signatory's level of French.

At present, language requirements are not included in the admission procedure. Approximately 25% of the foreign nationals who must undergo compulsory language training under the EIF do not reach level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) at the end of the training. Of the 27,016 signatories who completed their language training in 2020, almost 7,000 did not reach the A1 level. CIR trainees, even if they are subject to the language training obligation, can now be issued with a multi-year residence permit without even reaching the A1 level.

As a result, the professional integration of immigrants, especially women, is significantly lower than that of other people due to a lack of knowledge of the French language. To ensure successful integration, the government considers it necessary to have stronger budgetary and legal tools, to carry out a structural reform of our asylum system and to strengthen the requirements for successful integration through language.

In order to ensure successful integration and access to autonomy for foreigners wishing to live in France, the government considers it necessary to require a minimum knowledge of French as a condition for obtaining the first multiannual residence permit.

Objectif Poursuivi

The aim of the project is to make the issue of a residence permit conditional on a minimum level of French. This measure makes it possible to ensure the integration of foreigners who benefit from it, while at the same time assessing the level of language proficiency and the fulfilment of the commitments made when signing the Republican Integration Contract (CIR).

The introduction of a language requirement as a criterion for obtaining a multiannual residence permit (CSP) aims to:

  • restrict the granting of multiannual permits to foreigners who have demonstrated their willingness and ability to integrate in France, except for beneficiaries of international protection, who have the right of residence by virtue of their status;
  • make the system more incentive-based by encouraging foreigners subject to the CIR to make a greater effort to learn French and by making their right of residence more favorable (fewer administrative procedures, reduced fees, and stamp duties for renewing temporary residence permits).

The government is proposing to amend Article L.433-4 of the CESEDA, which relates to the issue of a first multiannual residence permit, by introducing in paragraph 2 the requirement to demonstrate a level of French language proficiency. The level requirement will be specified in Article R.433-5 of the same code.

Obligation for employers to provide French language training

Learning French is one of the priorities of integration policy. A guarantee of autonomy, a basis for cohabitation, a passport to employment, it is the sine qua non for the integration of foreigners who have been granted long-term residence in France, according to article 2 of the bill.

In the French workplace, knowledge of French is essential to understand job-related instructions and to assert rights in contractual relations with the employer. Improving language skills can also enable the employee to have his/her skills recognized, to acquire new skills and to progress professionally with a view to long-term integration in France.

In addition, French legislation requires the employer to maintain the employee's ability to perform his or her job, even if the employee has not requested training. This reinforces the requirement to have a certain level of language skills to obtain a multi-annual residence permit and provides more opportunities for foreign workers to learn French, which improves their employability and long-term professional integration.

Currently, the only way to assess the level of French is through the Republican Integration Contract (RIC), signed by newcomers to France who wish to settle permanently. If the level is insufficient, compulsory language training may be required and paid for by the state. By diligently following this training and making progress, the foreigner can then fulfil one of the conditions for obtaining a multi-year residence permit.

In addition, all persons aged 16 or over, whether employees, job seekers or self-employed, can benefit from a personal training account without any nationality restrictions. French language courses for foreigners are listed in the CPF catalogue.

The aim of the proposed measure is to strengthen the obligations of employers towards their non-native employees to promote their social and professional integration in France by enabling them to improve their knowledge of French in order to secure their situation with regard to the right of residence.

In the professional field, the aim is to make it easier for them to understand the instructions and standards (quality, safety at work) applicable to their job, but also to assert their rights in the context of the contractual relationship they have with their employer. Improving language skills also determines the employee's ability to acquire new skills and to progress professionally.

The employer is obliged to adapt the employee to his or her job, to ensure that the employee can hold a job, and to propose measures contributing to the development of skills and the fight against illiteracy. It is therefore proposed to enrich these actions by adding the possibility for the employer to offer training in French as a foreign language.

In the context of continuing vocational training, the Labour Code organizes the implementation of training courses on the initiative of the employer, in particular within the framework of the skills development plan. To provide a framework for the new measure aimed at enabling an allophone employee who has signed a republican integration contract (RIC) and who has undertaken to undergo training in French as a foreign language to do so during his or her actual working hours, it is proposed to create a Chapter II.

In order to provide a framework for the new measure allowing allophone employees who have signed a Republican Integration Contract (CIR) to receive French as a Foreign Language (FLE) training during their actual working hours, it is proposed to create a Chapter II in the Labour Code.

Employers will be able to provide training in order to achieve a level of French language proficiency defined by decree. This training will be organised as part of the employer's skills development plan and will take place during working hours, in accordance with the Labour Code.

Employers will be able to provide training to achieve a level of French language proficiency defined by decree. This training will be organised as part of the employer's skills development plan and will take place during working hours, in accordance with the Labour Code.

Finally, if allophone employees use their personal training account to finance training aimed at achieving a level of French at least equivalent to that laid down by decree, they will be granted leave of absence as of right, within the limits of a period laid down by decree of the Council of State.

The law amends the articles of the Labour Code and reintroduces Article L.6321-3 in Section 2 of Title II of Book III of Part VI of the Labour Code. Language training courses offered by employers can be financed by the OPCO responsible for the company from the contribution paid for the development of continuing vocational training.

Clarisse is a french lawyer specialized in employment law, international mobility and professional immigration. She assists companies in all their issues relating to the hiring of foreign employees, relocation of employees overseas, and the use of foreign subcontractors in France.

👉 Contact Clarisse Today

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