Is speaking French mandatory to get a French residence permit?

parler françaisThe first thing to master if you want to live or reside in a foreign country is its language! France, which grants French nationality to more than 100,000 foreigners a year, has required mastery of the French language from all applicants for long-term residence and naturalization.

France thus requires a “minimum command of French” to obtain a residence permit and French nationality. A basic mastery which should allow the foreigner to express themselves fluently on everyday subjects, and to hold a simple conversation.

Why is mastery of the French language required?

Initiation to French is one of the essential conditions for integration in France. All foreigners wishing to obtain a residence permit, a resident permit or French nationality must have a minimum level of French. We then speak of a basic knowledge of the French language which would allow the person concerned to be able to express themselves freely in daily life, and to participate in simple conversations.

How is the mastery of the French language assessed?

The goal here is to ensure the complete autonomy of the foreigner in his daily life, but also in his professional life. For example: when exercising his professional activity, when he goes shopping, when he goes to a medical center, when he goes to public places, etc.

The assessment of French for obtaining a residence permit

According to the terms of the law of March 7, 2018, obtaining residence permits and the resident card is inevitably linked to knowledge of the French language.  

Thus, to demonstrate their skills in French, the applicant for a residence permit must hold certifications or diplomas equivalent to level A2 of the CEFR. He must also have passed language examinations with nationally or internationally approved certifying bodies such as the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris, for example.

At level A2, one has the assurance of:

  • mastery of commonly used expressions;
  • understanding single sentences;
  • the ability to communicate and discuss daily tasks;
  •  the ability to exchange simple information and converse on familiar topics.

The evaluation of French for obtaining Naturalization

The provisions relating to the minimum mastery of the French language also concern all persons applying for French nationality through “naturalization”.

As for obtaining a residence permit, the foreigner must present a diploma or a certificate of proficiency in French equivalent to level B1. The relevant examinations must have been carried out orally and in writing by bodies approved by the State.

In addition, mastery of the French language is also assessed during the naturalization interview which takes place within the Prefecture. This is the individual interview with an agent of the State or the High Commission, the outcome of which determines whether or not you obtain French nationality.