French work permits should be subject to points system, says MP

The idea is under review and could be added to a new immigration bill. Applicants would have more or fewer points depending on their degree, language skills or origin

The idea of a points-based immigration system could be added to existing immigration bill
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A French MP has said that France should adopt a points-based immigration system, ahead of the presentation of the government’s new projet de loi immigration bill in the Senate next week.

An unnamed MP from the Renaissance party said that there are hopes that an amendment will be added introducing plans for a permis de travail à points (points-based work permit) during the Assemblée nationale debate stage.

This was one of the proposals put forward by Les Républicains’ new leader Éric Ciotti during the presidential candidate primaries in 2021.

Read more: New leader of French Les Républicains party is ‘right of right’

“At the moment, Mr Ciotti is spending a lot of time with [Interior Minister Gérald] Darmanin; [Mr Ciotti] could be persuaded to vote for the text,” a member of Les Républicains told La Dépêche.

A member of President Emmanuel Macron’s party Renaissance also told the newspaper: “So that this bill avoids being an accumulation of technical measures, we need to provide a vision of our immigration policy which is not only quantitative but also qualitative, as while we work in quantitative terms we are stepping on Rassemblement National’s toes.

“I am calling for the introduction of a points-based work permit in order to prioritise different criteria. Applicants would have more or fewer points depending on their degree, their language skills or their origin.

“Germany is in the process of doing this. We must encourage people who will confirm the benefits of immigration to come, people who work in the innovation sector, for example.

“Today, 38% of the people who arrive in France have le brevet [the exams taken by pupils in the equivalent of Year 10 or ninth grade] or less.”

It is thought that if a points-based system were introduced, the criteria would be regularly revised by parliament. “It needs to be decided in a transparent way,” a Renaissance MP told La Dépêche.

Scepticism from some MPs

However, Mathieu Lefevre, another Renaissance MP in charge of the working group on immigration, said that the idea is “something that we are looking at but nothing has been decided.”

He added: “I am personally not convinced; I think that there is also work to be done with countries of origin so that they reject the work permit applications that we do not want.”

A points-based system would likely be accepted by Les Républicains in view of Mr Ciotti’s previous proposals, but Rassemblement National (RN) is less likely to support it.

“Apart from for doctors, nursing staff and some researchers, I do not see – considering the unemployment rate in France – why we would not train up French people rather than going abroad to look for people,” RN MP Jean-Philippe Tanguy said.

“This bill will, once again, do nothing,” RN’s Marine Le Pen said during a press conference. “It will not make progress in a situation which is catastrophic [...] immigration is completely out of control in our country.”

Far-left party La France Insoumise (LFI) is also expected to be in opposition but for different reasons. “This project betrays the philosophy of the text,” LFI MP Hadrien Clouet said, calling it a “completely utilitarian vision”.

Countries that currently have a points-based system in place include Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Singapore.

Balance of ‘firmness’ and ‘humanity’

The projet de loi immigration is likely to be voted through by the Senate as it is without much opposition as this chamber is dominated by members of Les Républicains and centrist groups.

However, the Assemblée nationale debate that follows may prove less straightforward for the government.

Ministers have suggested that the existing text proposes the acceleration of expulsion procedures for people who have been asked to leave France, the provision of work permits for undocumented workers in sectors under strain and language tests for people applying for multi-year titres de séjour.

Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne has said that the bill is “balanced”, combining “firmness” with “humanity”.

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