A compulsory language test is planned for anyone applying for a multi-year residency permit, the interior minister has confirmed.
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The plan will be part of an immigration bill – the 29th in the last 20 years – to be debated in parliament in the new year.
Gérald Darmanin said in a joint interview for Le Monde with labour minister Olivier Dussopt: “We want to make multi-year titres de séjour conditional on passing a French language test.
“A quarter of foreigners with titres de séjour speak and understand French very poorly.”
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Mr Darmanin raised the possibility of compulsory French exams earlier in the year, but this will be the first time it will be put to a vote.
Nicole Devel-Laigle, president of EuroMayenne, an association that helps foreigners in western France to integrate, said: “Integrating means living among people from that country, and interacting with them.
This will be more difficult without speaking the language.”
Two-thirds of its 180 members are native English speakers. “However, if I put myself in the shoes of our members, it is true that it’s not always easy to learn a language, especially as a large majority are retired.”
Cartes de séjour pluriannuelles can only be granted after a first year spent in France, either on a visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour (VLS-TS) or on a one-year carte de séjour temporaire.
There is currently no language requirement for applicants, although they must sign a ‘Contract of republican integration’, which includes having their French evaluated at the OFII immigration offices.
Not applied to Brexit Withdrawal Agreement cards
The change would not apply to Brexit Withdrawal Agreement cards.
Those who do not have an A1 level of French must agree to take lessons while in France. The consequences of the proposed exams will be more severe, according to Mr Darmanin, who told CNEWS: “If they do not succeed, we will take away their titre de séjour and they will have to leave.”
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A1 is the lowest level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). It means you can have simple interactions when the other person is prepared to speak slowly and repeat things.
It is currently unclear whether the proposed language tests will require A1 level or higher.
The next level up, A2, is needed for a 10-year residency card, while those applying for citizenship must demonstrate intermediate B1-level proficiency.
Ms Devel-Laigle believes a majority of new arrivals could pass an A1 test “if they use French a bit when going shopping, or speaking to their neighbours.
If they do nothing, I think they will need a few classes”.
EuroMayenne offers beginner classes with the aim of reaching A1 after 36 two-hour lessons.
MPs will also be consulted on allowing asylum-seekers from conflict zones to work during their first six months in France, and permitting undocumented migrants working in industries with labour shortages to remain legally in the country.
Mr Darmanin said he will propose the automatic renewal of multi-year titres de séjour for people who “cause no problems, and who have no criminal record” to avoid making them queue up at the prefecture.
There are also plans to register every foreigner ordered to leave France on the wanted persons list to know when they leave, as only aided and forced departures are currently recorded.
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