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Immigration in France: An Eternal Debate


Clarisse Delaitre


July 01, 2024


08:22 AM

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This topic is not new and has already been fiercely debated last year. After a lengthy and particularly sensitive debate, French deputies voted, barely six months ago, for a law "to control immigration and improve integration".

For the record, the French government published a new comprehensive immigration law on January 27, 2024, which had immediate effect.

The main work-related changes included:

· a new classification of Talents visa categories as well as a new residence permit for medical professionals;

· limits on the repeated renewal of certain temporary residence permits;

· the introduction of a French-language proficiency requirement for multi-year residence permit holders; and

· a residence permit allowing for the regularization of certain undocumented workers.

Moreover, penalties for companies employing illegal workers have been stepped up. The amount of the criminal fine incurred by an employer who, directly or through an intermediary, hires, keeps in his service or employs for any period whatsoever a foreign national who does not hold a permit authorising him to work as an employee in France, Is increased from €15,000 to €30,000, and from €100,000 to €200,000 when the offence is committed by an organised gang.

The new law was mainly intended to fight irregular migration and control foreign workers’ stays in France.

The upsetting result of the European elections in France

The result of the European elections in France on June 8th and 9th 2024 was marked by a historic breakthrough for the "Rassemblement National" party, on the far right of the French political spectrum, led for years by the Le Pen family clan (Madame Marine Le Pen was a candidate in the last presidential elections) and its President, M. Jordan Bardella.

The RN collected 31,37% of the votes, this coming in first place.

In view of this historic score, the french President of the Republic, Mr. Emmanuel Macron, has decided to dissolve the National Assembly and invited the French people to elect new deputies. The first round of elections will take place on Sunday June 30 and the second round on Sunday July 7, 2024.

In view of this trend and the rise of nationalism in France, opinion polls anticipate a relative or even absolute majority of "RN" seats at the end of the legislative elections.

Against this backdrop, what might be the short- and medium-term impact of an RN victory on French immigration policy, and more specifically on professional immigration?

What might be the short- and medium-term impact of an RN victory on French policy on immigration, and more specifically on work immigration?

"Immigration is not a subject that divides the French, contrary to what one might hear, but one that brings them together", declared the president of the Rassemblement National, Jordan Bardella, calling for a "return to reason". On the offensive on this theme, the RN has placed immigration among the "emergencies" it will tackle if it wins the legislative elections.

Among the measures cited are the abolition of the right to legal residency, the return of the offence of illegal residence - abolished during ex-president François Hollande's five-year term, and provided for in the 2024 immigration law at the request of the Republicans (right side), but censured by the Constitutional Council - and the replacement of the State Medical Aid with a more restrictive "emergency life-saving assistance". These provisions, along with restrictions on family reunification and the removal of obstacles to the expulsion of foreigners, would be grouped together in a bill to be examined during the summer.

At the same time, a ministerial circular would suspend all regularizations, which amounts to backtracking on the law passed in early 2024, which was intended to democratize this procedure for regularizing undocumented foreign workers.

In a second phase, the RN is planning additional measures to combat "migratory submersion". Reiterating its intention to propose constitutional reform by referendum, the RN promises to implement the "national priority".

The RN also pledges to step up sanctions against employers of illegal workers, to make it compulsory for asylum applications to be lodged at embassies and consulates, and to increase to 5 years the period of employment in France required to qualify for the RSA.

Finally, the RN says it wants to open negotiations at European level, in order to restrict free movement within the Schengen area to EU nationals only. This would mean that third-country nationals holding a residence permit in France would no longer be able to travel, even within the 90-day limit, to another country in the Schengen area.

Yet...French companies have never needed more foreign workforce.

Cooks, hotel and restaurant workers, boilermakers, engineers, construction workers, skilled construction workers... Today, according to figures from the French Ministry of Labor, immigrant workers account for 10% of all jobs in France. There are some 2.7 million immigrant workers (EU and non-EU).

Between now and 2030, we'll need to fill nearly 800,000 jobs, given the demographic challenge of an aging population and the desire to age in place.

In our day-to-day work as business immigration lawyers, we daily advise French companies that are facing unprecedented recruitment difficulties in an increasingly wide range of sectors.

Just yesterday, an HR manager from a regional ETI in the shipbuilding sector told me: "A few years ago, we had 2 or 3 foreign nationals, mostly European. Today, around 30% of our payroll is made up of technicians from India, South Africa and the Philippines. No one in France is qualified for the job or wants to do it." Yesterday, it was a personal services company that explained to me that it was in a perpetual recruitment process, requiring a daily battle with the French Prefectures to enable its employees to work legally in France.

Between the visa, the work permit and the residence permit, even bona fide employers find themselves in an extremely delicate position.

HR far exceeds its legal obligations to assist foreign employees, even going so far as to show up at the (often closed!) doors of the Prefectures to support their cases and preserve the work-life balance of entire families!

While controlling the flow of illegal immigration is obviously essential for maintaining social peace, it is quite regrettable that the potential new "first party of France" lumps all types of immigration together in the same murky waters, to the detriment of the economic interests of businesses.

At no point in the election program was there any mention of holders of European Blue Cards, Talent Passports, seconded employees on intra-group mobility, investors, or company founders who concretely contribute to France's influence in cutting-edge sectors of innovation! A few days before the opening of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris, let's hope that France can maintain its historic reputation as the country of Human Rights and present itself as a welcoming land for men and women of goodwill.

In the coming months, the lawyers at Majorelle Mobility will closely monitor legal and administrative developments that could impact the reception of foreign workers in France.

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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