Update: 21 December 2023

The recent immigration bill passed in the French National Assembly on December 19, 2023, has sparked significant controversy and debate across the political spectrum. 

The session’s outcome, with 349 votes in favor, 186 against, and 38 abstentions, is said to underscore the deep political divides and tensions over immigration policies in France, reflecting a landscape where the intersection of legal, societal, and international considerations are at the forefront of political discourse.

Here’s an update on what’s happened since we published the piece on this bill a few weeks ago.

The bill’s critics, including Marine Le Pen, who hailed it as an “ideological victory,” the Defender of Rights, who called it a “serious attack on the principles of equality and non-discrimination, the foundation of our Republic,” and leaders of major universities and grandes écoles, who deemed the measures “unworthy of our country,” have raised concerns about its potential impact on the French values of universalism, openness, and the free circulation of knowledge.

This legislation, aimed at tightening family reunification, citizenship rights, and residence permits, has raised constitutional questions, as noted by Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne herself. 

It now appears to align with far-right policies and contradicts the ideals of the France of the Enlightenment—a France committed to human rights and non-discrimination based on origin.

As the world commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this bill is said to challenge the very foundations of France’s national pact and common ideal. 

It’s said that it introduces measures such as conditional allocations establishing national preference, questioning the right of soil, revoking citizenship for dual nationals, and restricting access for students and family reunification.

The bill’s implications extend beyond the legal sphere to societal and international perspectives. 

It questions the attractiveness of French higher education, where foreign students constitute 40% of doctoral candidates, and potentially harms France’s global image and attractiveness to investors. The “Choose France” campaign might not suffice to counter the reputational damage this law could create.

In an era where biases are increasingly influenced by ambient discourse and media repetition, the call for awakening and action becomes more critical. 

The need to combat biases in our daily lives and organizations and foster inclusivity is paramount for preserving our humanity, reputation, and attractiveness.


The latest immigration bill, proposed by the French government, is a complex and multifaceted piece of legislation aimed at addressing various challenges and opportunities in the realm of immigration. 

This piece delves into the key components of the law, exploring how it seeks to balance labor market needs, integration, public safety, and humanitarian concerns.

1. Addressing Labor Shortages: The High-Demand Professions Permit

In an effort to address critical labor shortages in key sectors such as construction and home care, the French government is proposing the introduction of a one-year “work in high-demand professions” permit. This innovative policy is specifically designed to assist undocumented workers, providing them with a legal avenue to regularize their status in France. To be eligible, these workers must have resided in France for a minimum of three years and possess at least eight months of work experience in a sector facing labor shortages. For instance, consider the construction industry in regions like Île-de-France, where projects often stall due to a lack of skilled labor. Under this new policy, an undocumented worker with relevant construction experience could obtain legal employment status, contributing to the completion of critical infrastructure projects while securing their own livelihood. This approach not only aims to alleviate the immediate workforce deficit but also offers undocumented workers a chance to integrate more fully into the French economy and society.

2. Welcoming Non-EU Medical Professionals

Addressing the pressing needs in the healthcare sector, the French government’s proposed legislation includes a provision for a new multi-year residence permit specifically tailored for medical and pharmaceutical professionals hailing from non-EU countries. 

This “talent” permit is strategically crafted to attract and retain highly skilled individuals like doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. For example, consider the scenario in regional hospitals across France, particularly in rural areas like Auvergne or Brittany, where there is a notable scarcity of medical professionals. 

By offering this specialized permit, France can draw in qualified doctors and pharmacists from abroad, effectively strengthening the healthcare infrastructure in underserved regions. 

This initiative not only enhances the quality of healthcare services available to the French population but also provides a valuable opportunity for international medical professionals to contribute their expertise to the French healthcare system.

3. Easing Work Access for Asylum Seekers from High-Risk Countries

In a notable shift in policy, France is now allowing asylum seekers from countries with high protection rates to enter the workforce immediately, eliminating the previous six-month waiting period. This change is designed to expedite their integration into the labor market and to help fill urgent labor shortages. For instance, consider asylum seekers from Syria, a country with a high protection rate in France due to the ongoing conflict. Under the new policy, a Syrian asylum seeker, skilled in a trade like carpentry, can immediately seek employment upon arrival in France. This not only aids in their personal and financial stability but also addresses the acute shortage of skilled tradespeople in regions like Normandy. By enabling such individuals to work right away, France not only supports their integration but also leverages their skills to meet critical labor demands.

4. Language Proficiency for Integration

A key feature of the new legislation is its focus on French language proficiency for immigrants. 

Those applying for multi-year residence permits are now required to show a basic understanding of French. 

This requirement is intended to facilitate better integration and active participation in French society. 

For instance, consider a Moroccan engineer applying for a residence permit. 

Under the new law, they must demonstrate a certain level of French language proficiency. 

This requirement ensures that the engineer can effectively communicate in their professional environment and engage more fully in community life, thereby fostering a smoother integration process. 

This approach not only benefits the individual but also strengthens social cohesion by encouraging cultural and linguistic assimilation.

5. Employer Responsibilities in Language Training

Under the new French immigration law, employers are mandated to provide French language training to their foreign employees. 

This policy aims to enhance workplace integration and improve communication, benefiting both the workforce and the company. 

Consider a real-world implication: a hospitality business in Lyon employs a diverse team of staff from various countries, including Spain, Morocco, and Romania. With the implementation of this law, the business is obliged to offer French language courses to these employees. 

This training not only enables the staff to interact more effectively with French-speaking customers and colleagues but also assists them in assimilating into the local community. The result is a more cohesive and efficient team, improved customer service, and a positive impact on employee morale and retention.

6. Upholding Republican Principles

The revised French immigration legislation introduces a compelling requirement: immigrants must pledge to uphold the principles of the French Republic, such as freedom of expression and gender equality. Non-compliance with these values can result in the denial or withdrawal of residence permits, highlighting the emphasis France places on these core principles.

Consider a scenario involving an artist from Brazil who applies for a French residence permit. 

As part of the application process, they must agree to respect the principles of the French Republic, including freedom of expression. 

This artist, known for their politically charged artwork, finds this requirement aligns with their values. However, if they were to publicly denounce these principles, it could jeopardize their residency status in France. 

This policy underscores the commitment of the French government to maintain and promote its foundational values among all residents, ensuring that those who choose to live in France are aligned with its societal and cultural ethos.

7. Strengthening Public Safety Measures

The updated French immigration law introduces stricter regulations for the expulsion of foreigners who pose a serious threat to public order. Notably, it allows for the deportation of long-term residents, even those with established family ties in France, if they are convicted of serious crimes. This policy reflects a robust commitment to maintaining public safety.

For instance, consider a case where a foreign national, residing in France for over a decade with a family, is convicted of a serious offense like aggravated assault. Despite their long-term residency and family connections in the country, under the new law, this person could face deportation. This example illustrates the French government’s determination to prioritize public safety and uphold the rule of law, even when it involves making difficult decisions about long-standing members of the community. The law aims to balance the rights of foreign residents with the imperative of ensuring a safe and secure society for all.

8. Protecting Minors: Prohibition of Detention Under 16

This immigration bill includes a significant human rights provision: it prohibits the administrative detention of foreign minors under 16 years of age. This aligns with the standards set by the European Court of Human Rights and highlights France’s dedication to safeguarding the rights of vulnerable groups, particularly children.

For example, consider a scenario where a family from a conflict-ridden country arrives in France seeking asylum. Under the previous regulations, the entire family, including children under 16, could be placed in administrative detention if their legal status was uncertain. However, with the new law, while the adults in the family might still face detention under certain circumstances, the children under 16 would be exempt from such measures. This change ensures that young minors are not subjected to the potentially traumatic experience of detention, reflecting a more humane approach to immigration and asylum policies. This policy shift not only aligns with international human rights standards but also demonstrates France’s commitment to protecting the rights and well-being of the most vulnerable individuals within its borders.

9. Streamlining the Asylum Process: “Espaces France Asile”

The introduction of “Espaces France Asile” represents a major overhaul in the French asylum system. These centers are designed to streamline the asylum application process by consolidating various administrative procedures into a single location, making the process more efficient and user-friendly for asylum seekers.

For instance, imagine a Syrian family fleeing conflict and seeking asylum in France. Under the previous system, they would have had to navigate multiple offices and agencies to complete their asylum application, a process that could be confusing and time-consuming. With the establishment of “Espaces France Asile,” this family can now go to one centralized location where they can register their asylum request with the prefecture, access rights and services from the French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII), and submit their application to the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA). This consolidation significantly reduces the bureaucratic hurdles and waiting times, making the asylum process more accessible and less daunting for those in dire need of protection. This reform not only benefits asylum seekers by providing a more streamlined and humane process but also enhances the efficiency of the French asylum system.

10. National Court of Asylum Rights Reforms

The reform of France’s National Court of Asylum Rights (CNDA) introduces territorial chambers and single-judge hearings, aimed at streamlining the asylum process. For instance, an Afghan asylum seeker might now have her case expedited due to these changes. The case, handled in a local territorial chamber with a single-judge hearing, could be resolved faster than before, reducing wait times and stress for asylum seekers. This reform enhances the efficiency of the asylum system while maintaining fairness in decision-making.

11. Migratory Quotas and Family Reunification

This bill touches on a more controversial aspect; the introduction of migratory quotas and stricter conditions for family reunification, marking a shift towards a more regulated immigration policy.

For example, consider a Syrian family seeking to reunite in France. Under the new law, they might face more stringent requirements and longer wait times due to the imposed quotas and tightened reunification conditions. This approach aims to balance humanitarian needs with France’s capacity for integration and resource management, reflecting a nuanced stance on immigration control.

12. Student Visa Reforms: “Return Guarantee”

The new law mandates a “return guarantee” for first-time student visa applicants, designed to ensure adherence to visa terms. For instance, a student from India applying for a French student visa for the first time may be required to provide a guarantee, possibly in the form of a deposit or a signed agreement, affirming their commitment to return to their home country after their studies. This measure aims to prevent overstaying and ensure that the visa is used for its intended purpose of education.

13. Healthcare Aid Restriction for Undocumented Migrants

The law’s shift from comprehensive state medical aid to more restrictive emergency medical aid for undocumented migrants has ignited discussions. For example, consider an undocumented migrant in France previously eligible for a broad range of healthcare services under state medical aid. With the new law, their access is limited to emergency medical aid only. This change signifies a more stringent approach to healthcare provision for undocumented migrants, focusing on immediate medical needs while limiting access to broader healthcare services.

14. Criminalization of Irregular Stay

The updated French immigration law introduces fines for individuals staying in France without proper documentation, aiming to deter irregular immigration. For instance, an undocumented individual discovered by authorities could now face a fine of 3,750 euros. This measure exemplifies France’s efforts to regulate immigration more strictly, using financial penalties as a deterrent against unauthorized residency.

To end this piece, it’s important to note that France’s new immigration bill represents a significant shift in the country’s approach to managing immigration. Balancing labor market needs with integration efforts and public safety concerns, the law reflects the complexities and challenges of modern immigration policy. As it unfolds, its impact on various sectors and the immigrant community will be closely watched and potentially serve as a model for other nations grappling with similar issues.

For more information about this bill, check out the French Senate website via the following link: https://www.senat.fr/dossier-legislatif/pjl22-304.html

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