Reader question: Do you need a French language certificate to apply for a residency card and, if so, what level is needed? J.A.
This depends on the card concerned and your situation.
President Macron said in his re-election manifesto that he wanted to stress language skills for people applying for residency, and interior minister Gérald Darmanin has recently said that multi-year cartes de séjour should be conditioned on a minimum level of proficiency in French.
However, the president’s team has not been able to confirm to us what type of test would be involved in the carte de séjour application, and what level of French would be expected.
The new measure will also need to be voted through Parliament before it is adopted.
What are the current rules?
Having language skills was not a requirement for Britons living in France before Brexit and benefiting from the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, and this remains the case for any close family members who may be joining them in France under the terms of the WA.
Nor is it a requirement for swapping a five-year WA card for a ‘permanent stay’ card, or for EU citizens moving to France, who may, optionally, apply for a residency card.
You do not need to show any language skills for the carte de séjour visiteur, typically used by non-EU retirees and early-retirees to move to France, nor do you need one for a one-year carte de séjour salarié for people coming to do an employed job.
For multi-year cartes de séjour for employees and self-employed people you need to take a language test, and agree to take lessons if you do not have at least a 'very basic' level. However, there is no condition of passing an exam or proving you have attained a particular level.
You do, however, need a certain level of French when applying for the carte de résident de longue durée-UE, a card confirming long-term residency status and valid for 10 years, unless you are aged 65 or above.
In the latter case, the prefecture might instead ask your mayor about your ‘integration’ in France (this can also be the case for younger applicants).
This card can only be obtained after five years of continuous residency. The level required is A2 of the Common European Framework for Languages, which relates to the ability to deal with straight-forward information and to express yourself in familiar contexts.
You should be able to have a conversation on simple, everyday topics.