French immigration law

A new Bill will overhaul French Immigration Law in depth.

A new French immigration law will aim to control immigration and promote integration. President Macron had promised to overhaul French immigration law in depth. The new bill has been introduced and will be discussed in parliament in the spring of 2023 to be enacted in the fall of 2023.

This new law thoroughly revises immigration law in France. 

The main provisions of the law will cover: 

  • the regularization of undocumented workers in shortage occupations, 
  • a new “talent” residence permit for foreign doctors, 
  • facilitation of expulsion in the event of a serious threat to public order, 
  • the reform of the National Court for the Right of Asylum.

The bill was presented to the Council of Ministers on February 1, 2023 by Gérald Darmanin, Minister of the Interior, Éric Dupond-Moretti, Minister of Justice and by Olivier Dussopt, Minister of Labour.

The bill has several components: work, integration, deportation but also asylum and litigation for foreigners.

Easier work permit for certain trades

Faced with the shortage of labor encountered by certain economic sectors (catering, construction, etc.),the bill creates a one-year residence permit “work in shortage occupations”. Irregular workers will be able to request their regularization under this new card which will be issued automatically, under certain conditions (residence of at least three years in France, experience of eight months during the last 24 months in a profession or a geographical area in tension). This card will be tested until the end of 2026, before its possible sustainability. Employers will not have to take any steps, the card being equivalent to a work permit. Currently, undocumented workers can obtain an “employee” or “temporary employee” card pursuant to the so-called “Valls” circular of November 12, 2012, but these are exceptional regularizations at the initiative of employers.

To meet recruitment needs in hospitals and medico-social establishments,a new multi-year “talent – medical and pharmacy professions” residence permit has been introduced.It will benefit qualified practitioners from outside the European Union (PADHUE), doctors, midwives, dental surgeons and pharmacists. At the same time, the competence to issue authorizations to practice in France for holders of a foreign diploma is decentralized to the regional level in order to speed up the processing of applications.

A new Talent Passport is seen as key to alleviate the lack of medical professionals in France.

Asylum seekers from countries most at risk(countries benefiting from a high rate of international protection in France) can work immediately. A list of these countries will be drawn up every year. Normally, asylum seekers are only allowed to work six months after submitting their application.

To fight against illegal work, foreigners who create a self-employed business, in particular to work as a subcontractor for collaborative platforms (meal deliveries, etc.), must be in a regular situation. A new administrative fine of a maximum of 4,000 euros per employee (doubled in the event of a repeat offense) will penalize employers who abuse irregular workers. This fine is in addition to the criminal and administrative sanctions that already exist.

Integration and residence permits

Foreigners who apply for a first multi-year residence permit must have minimum skills in the expression of the French language (which will be fixed by decree). Today, residence permits, generally valid for four years, are issued on the sole condition of having followed an apprenticeship in French within the framework of the Republican integration contract. A minimum level of French is already required for the granting of a resident card (ten years) and for access to French nationality.

With the same objective of integration, employers will be able to offer their foreign employees the opportunity to follow a training course in French as a foreign language (FLE). These hours of training will be considered as effective working time.

Moreover,all foreigners applying for a residence permit must undertake to respect the principles of the Republic: personal freedom, freedom of expression and conscience, gender equality, motto and symbols of the Republic… Today, for certain titles, this condition is not provided for. If one of these principles is rejected, the prefectures may refuse, withdraw or not renew the residence permit.

The grounds for non-renewal or withdrawal of the residence card are extended to the serious threat to public order. In addition, an effective stay of six months per year in France will be imposed for the renewal of certain long permits.

Reinforced possibilities of deportation in the French immigration law

The Bill relaxes near-absolute protection against deportation enjoyed by some convicted foreigners present for a long time in France or who have personal and family ties there (for example parent of a French or foreign child who entered France before the age of 13). These foreigners can now be expelled in the event of terrorism, harm to the fundamental interests of the State or incitement to hatred or discrimination. In the future, they may also be in the event of a final conviction for a crime or misdemeanor punishable by ten years or more in prison or five years in reiteration (for example for murder or rape). In the same way, the text facilitates the pronouncement by the judges of the additional sentence of banishment from French territory (crime or misdemeanor punishable by more than ten years in prison, serious violence against the police, etc.).

The reduced text also protects against decisions to leave French territory (OQTF) in the event of a serious threat to public order, even when the foreigners concerned have ties in France (for example foreigner residing regularly for more than 20 years or foreigner spouse of French for more than three years).

The ban on placing foreign minors under the age of 16 in an administrative detention center (CRA) is laid down, including when accompanying adults. The government is translating the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on the subject. On the other hand, the conditions of detention of foreign minors aged 16 to 18 have not changed. The latter can always be placed in an CRA when they are accompanied by an adult foreigner.

Other measures to fight against irregular immigration complete the text: aggravation of the repression against smugglers and “sleeping merchants”, authorization of the use of coercion for the taking of the fingerprints of asylum seekers at the border , possible visual inspection by border police of private cars in the “border zone” (and no longer just vehicles with more than nine seats).

Asylum and litigation for foreigners

The bill creates“France Asylum spaces”, to offer asylum seekers a simplified administrative process between the various competent authorities (prefecture, French Office for Immigration and Integration, French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons). The government plans to gradually deploy this system, according to local needs and capacities, in order to rebalance the reception of asylum seekers on the territory.

The text also reforms the organization and litigation of asylum before the National Court for the Right of Asylum (CNDA), in order to speed up the processing of appeals against refusals of protection.The creation of territorial chambers of the CNDA(today only located in Montreuil in Seine-Saint-Denis)and the generalization of the single judge are planned. The college training will only be seized when the complexity of the case justifies it.

Finally, litigation for foreigners (which represents 40% of the activity of the administrative courts) is simplified. The number of typical contentious procedures is reduced from 12 to 4. This simplification is inspired by a report of a Council of State of March 5, 2020, entitled “20 proposals to simplify litigation for foreigners in the interest of all”. To facilitate the holding of hearings, the use of video is also extended for foreigners held in administrative detention or in a waiting area.

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