Immigration: Interior minister wants family members to sit French test

There are also plans to tighten rules around means levels and accommodation. We look at who would be affected if this is brought in

The interior minister favours tougher rules for bringing over family members
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France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darminin has backed making it harder for non-EU nationals to join their families in the country, including a new French test requirement.

The regroupement familial system is used by many non-EU families moving to France, and post-Brexit can also apply to Britons among other ‘third country’ nationalities, such as Americans and Australians.

It refers to a situation where one person, usually the main earner, moves to France to start work, then applies to bring over their spouse/partner and children after a year or more in the country.

The biggest advantage is that the spouse and any older children will automatically be able to work in France after they arrive, which is not the case for example if they simply come on ‘visitor’ visas as non-working family members at the same time as a worker moving to France.

Read also: How to bring family to live with you in France post-Brexit

In comments before MPs in the Assemblée nationale, widely seen as a move to appeal to the right, Mr Darminin said yesterday: “I would be favourable to dispositions that could limit regroupement familial as long as they are not unconstitutional.”

He suggested this could include:

  • Raising the family means that the resident in France would need to show in order to bring over their spouse and children (the income of the resident is included in this, and any incomes of their spouse/partner that will continue to be paid to them after they move)

  • Requiring them to have a larger flat/house than is currently the case

  • Requiring the French resident to have been in France for longer

  • Requiring the family members to take a French test and to show that they respect the ‘values of the Republic’

His comments come as a new immigration law, which has already passed through the Assemblée, is set for debate by the senators towards the end of this month.

Mr Darminin said he has heard many senators proposing additional restrictions along these lines (the Senate leans towards the right in its make-up).

Regarding potential amendments, he added: “Is €1,800 [a month] for two people really enough?

“So, if the Senate went in the direction of changes towards a bigger home, more income, and especially, longer presence in France, that would seem to be common sense.”

In 2022 there were almost 44,000 residency cards issued to family members joining a resident in France under regroupement or the similar réunification familiale (the latter applies to certain specific groups such as refugees).

What would this change?

Requiring a language test for the family members coming under regroupement would be completely new, as it is not a requirement at present. It would be a new constraint as it would mean that the family [probably only adults] would need at least basic French to come and could not just pick up the language at a later stage.

Mr Darminin did not state what level of French the new laws would require, but they would probably involve people having to pass a recognised test such as the TCF (test de connaissance du français) which is offered by many centres in France, and to achieve a certain level of the CEFR European common language standards.

At present this is required, for example, for certain non-EU foreigners who have lived in France for five years or more and who are applying for a carte de résident, a kind of card giving stable long-term rights, including the right to do any kind of work. If aged under 65 they have to achieve at least level A2, which is a good basic level of French, sufficient for simple everyday situations.

People applying for French nationality, meanwhile, have to show the slightly higher, B1 intermediate level of French.

The current immigration bill going through parliament also proposes that obtaining ‘multi-year’ residency cards (eg. for self-employed or employed workers wanting to settle long-term in France) should be made conditional on at least proving some minimum level of French. This is as opposed to cards that require renewal annually.

What other impacts would there be?

If the requirements for more means, a larger home and a longer period of residency were imposed, then these would also make it difficult for some people coming to work in France to settle long-term and bring their families.

It is also possible, though this was not specifically stated by Mr Darminin, that such changes could in future influence French thinking generally as to the means and lifestyle that newcomer couples or families require so as not to be a burden on the state.

If so, this would also affect the terms on which other kinds of visas are issued in future, for example, to retired couples wanting to move to France.

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