Plan for multi-year French residency cards to include a language test

Interior minister says the granting of the cartes de séjour should depend on proof that the applicant speaks French to a certain level

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People applying for a French multi-year carte de séjour should have to pass a language test in order to be granted residency, the interior minister has said.

“On the request of the prime minister, we are going to double the funds linked to integration and we will condition the titre de séjour pluriannuel – for a foreigner spending several years in the country – [on their knowledge] of the French language,” Gérald Darmanin told the Assemblée nationale.

The Connexion understands that this would only apply to people applying for cartes de séjour in the future, and would not concern people who already have residence permits. Britons living in France with WA (Withdrawal Agreement) - whether with five year or ten year cards - would also not be affected.

Read more: Brexit: We recap the rules for five-year residency cards in France

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.

In order to obtain a carte de séjour pluriannuelle, the government states that applicants must currently promise to comply with certain conditions regarding integration into French society, which involves lessons on French values and civic duties and may include language classes if necessary.

The citizenship lessons take place on four separate days over a period of four months.

Language lessons are required if your level of French is below A1 level: the lowest of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). This would mean that you were not able to understand and say basic introductory phrases and interact in a simple way even when people are speaking slowly.

Most carte de séjour applicants are likely to have a better level of French than this, and so do not need to go to the language classes.

At the moment there is no formal language exam requirement.

‘Minimum level of French’

“In the future, to obtain a multi-year carte, it will be necessary for people to prove [that they have] a minimum level of French,” the interior ministry told AFP. Further details on the specifics of this level have not yet been revealed.

The Connexion has contacted the interior ministry and the Renaissance party (formerly La République en Marche) for further information on the nature of the proposed test.

Mr Darmanin’s announcement remains, for the moment, a proposal, which will have to be passed by Parliament in order to become law.

However, if a bill is submitted, it is likely to be welcomed by right-wing MPs including representatives of Les Républicains and Rassemblement National, who have suggested similar measures in the past.

Read more: French residency cards ‘should depend on a language test’

Carte de séjour applications and French proficiency

In France, titres de séjour are issued in the following duration order:

  • Carte de séjour temporaire or visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour, which both last for one year

  • Carte de séjour pluriannuelle, which lasts up to four years

  • Carte de résident de longue durée - UE, which lasts up to 10 years

  • Carte de résident permanent, which allows you to stay in France indefinitely and unconditionally, unless you begin to pose a threat to public security. You can choose to renew your résident de longue durée card instead of applying for this permit.

Although there is currently no language test for multi-year cartes de séjour, the application process and interview are in French, and the officials will not necessarily speak English, so applicants must normally have a certain proficiency in the language anyway.

Non-EU citizens applying for a carte de résident de longue durée - UE or a carte de résident permanent need to speak French to A2 level unless over 65, and those applying for citizenship need B1-level proficiency.

This can either be proved through a language test or with a CEFR certificate.

You can find out more about this on the government’s website.

The scale goes A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2; B1 would mean that the person could cope with most situations in the language, describe events and experiences and write simple texts.

In the UK, 18 to 64-year-olds applying for long-term settlement must have at least B1-level English.

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