Visas, residency cards: What changes in France’s new immigration law?

Non-EU citizens, for example Americans or Britons, coming to France to live or work in France will be affected by several changes in the new law passed by parliament

Among the changes are new rules relating to residency cards and visas
Published Last updated

Article written December 20, edited December 21 to clarify latest changes regarding temporary residency cards for retirees

Non-EU citizens coming to France to retire will also be affected by the changes.

The law, voted through the French parliament definitively last night, still has to go for final checking by the Conseil constitutionnel but is otherwise now definitive.

Read more: What happens next for law to ease second-home visits to France?

Among the changes are new rules relating to residency cards and visas.

Key changes in the immigration law

The law contains good news for Britons who live outside France but have a French second home. They will be able to visit for more than three months at a time without paperwork formalities as they could before Brexit.

Read more: Automatic visa for easy second-home visits passed by French parliament

Other articles in the law include:

  • Some foreign non-EU citizens will not be able to obtain more than three 'temporary' cartes de séjour (residency cards) in a row under the same heading; ie. after this their only option will be to obtain a 'multi-year' version of the same card (two to four years' duration) or apply for a card under a different heading. At present, obtaining a multi-year card on renewal is dependent on showing 'assuduity' in following any language training you may have been asked to undertake if you did not have basic French when you came, and that you are integrated in France and adhere to 'Republican values'. Another part of the new law (see below) will make passing a basic langauge test at European level A1 an obligation to obtain the multi-year card - meaning it will no longer be possible for some people to stay in France indefinitely without at least speaking some French.

NOTE: Contrary to the version of the text sent from the Senate, in the latest text available for us to read (the one agreed by the 'mixed commission' of MPs and senators) a proviso to the above clause has been inserted which says the new rule does not apply in the case of categories of card where the person is not required to sign a 'contract of Republican integration'. The means in practice that the rule on not renewing temporary (one-year) cards more than three times will mostly apply to employed or self-employed workers.

This is good news for foreign retirees coming on 'visitor' status temporary cards, therefore, who would, by our calculations, otherwise have been obliged to obtain a 10-year carte de résident de longue durée - UE after five years in France, which has extra requirements compared to renewing the temporary visitor cards.

Read more: Foreign non-EU retirees moving to France could face tougher rules

  • Obtaining a ‘multi-year’ residency card (ie. which lasts more than one year before it needs to be renewed) will involve passing a language test at the basic A1 level. This will mostly affect self-employed and employed workers and people coming to France to join family members.
  • Residency conditions for obtaining certain benefits have been toughened. Family allowance and allocation personalise d’autonomie (for help with dependency needs in the home) will only be available after five years in France for those who are not working, or two-and-a-half years for workers.

At present all families with at least two children can have family allowance in France, while anyone living stably and legally in France can receive APA.
APL housing benefit will be available after five years for non-workers but after only three months for workers. At present it is available to eligible people with their main home in France, without conditions of length of residency.

  • Prefects will have the discretion to allow undocumented migrants working in understaffed sectors to obtain residency cards. This will be undertaken on a trial basis until the end of 2026.
  • Immigration quotas - other than for asylum seekers - are to be set
  • Children born in France to immigrant families no longer become French automatically but must apply, stating their desire to become French
  • A délit (medium severity crime) of ‘staying in France illegally’ is being created, punishable by a fine
  • Rules on regroupement familial (bringing over family members) are being toughened, including the applicant having to have been in France for two years instead of 18 months and their partner having to be at least aged 21 instead of 18.

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