Article written January 26, updated January 29
The French Constitutional council has given its final ruling on France’s immigration law - loi immigration - and discarded around a third of the contents.
The law had been voted through by parliament but the Conseil constitutionnel was given the final say.
It is France's top constitutional watchdog and its role is to ensure that constitutional principles are upheld.
President Macron, the president of the National Assembly, and left-wing MPs asked it to scrutinise almost 50 articles in the law, which had 86 articles when it was passed by parliament in December.
It announced its decisions on January 25.
Ideas rejected, of the more than 30 articles rejected in total, include:
- The creation of a new automatic visa right for second-home owners
- Making it a délit (medium severity crime) to stay in France illegally
- Extending the stay required for a foreigner to be in France legally before they can bring over a family member under regroupement familial, from 18 to 24 months; requiring the family member to be aged over 21 instead of over 18, and requiring their family member to be able to speak French
- Requiring longer periods of living in France for non-EU foreign people to access family allowance, housing benefit and benefit to help with autonomy needs
- Requiring young people born in France to foreign families to apply to become French, as opposed to this being an automatic right
- The holding of an annual debate about immigration in parliament, and setting immigration quotas
Key ideas among the 51 articles accepted, include:
- Tougher rules for ‘multi-year’ residency cards. Obtaining a ‘multi-year’ card (carte de séjour pluriannuel) will involve passing a test in basic French, affecting people such as self-employed and employed workers and people coming to France to join family members, who typically get a ‘temporary’ one-year card as their first card then apply for a multi-year card (up to four years). Prior to this it was only necessary to take lessons if a person's level was very low. Another rule states that in most cases it will no longer be possible to renew a one-year card (with no language requirement) more than three times under the same heading (employée, self-employed, family ties etc). This does not apply to retirees coming on the ‘visitor’ status.
- A higher level of French required to obtain French nationality – the description of the level of French needed has been reinforced, such that it now corresponds to level B2 rather than B1 of the European language levels. This is a high intermediate level, involving the ability to understand the key points from complex texts and communicate with spontaneity.
- A medical talent card. A new four-year ‘medical talent’ residency card will make it easier for doctors, pharmacists and midwives to come and work in France.
- More categories of people liable to be ordered to leave France. More people will now be at risk of being served with an obligation de quitter le territoire français (OQTF), including some that were previously protected such as those who first came to France before age 13. However, their links with France and the amount of time they have spent in the country must still be considered.
- The introduction of requiring ‘respect for the principles of the Republic’ in order to obtain a residency permit, especially those that respect personal freedom, the freedom of expression, and equality between men and women. Everyone applying for a residency card will have to sign a new contract to say they accept such principles (this appears to be seperate from the 'Contract of republican integration' that is already required to be signed for certain cards). Later on a renewal application can be refused, or their card cancelled, if they are found to have broken these principles.
- The legalisation of certain undocumented workers in certain under pressure sectors
- Longer periods of house arrest in France for certain foreign nationals, who have been ordered to leave France but who are unable to do so. The period will be increased from six months to one year, renewable twice instead of once.
- The deployment throughout France of dedicated ‘espaces France Asile’ - centres for treating asylum applications. Representatives from the prefecture will be present, as will agents from immigration agency Ofii and refugee protection body Ofpra.
Yesterday (January 25), Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said that the law was now set to be confirmed by President Macron.
Campaigners are still calling for further changes, however, including Steven Jolly, the founder of the France Visa Free Facebook group, which pushes for visa-free visiting rights for Britons who live part-year in France.
He said: “The council has not rejected the substance of Senator Berthet’s [automatic visa for second-home owners] proposal. Instead it states it is irrelevant to the purpose of the original bill. Therefore the campaign has hit a temporary barrier.
“[However], we have won support, our argument stands and our campaign continues.”
Senator Berthet also told The Connexion her political party, Les Républicains, will be seeking a further law, likely to bring back some of its ideas that were rejected by the Conseil or at earlier stages of debate.