By Moustafa Daly
Like many European and advanced economies, France is facing an imminent labor shortage – and it’s working on a new immigration bill to address it.
In the works since February 2023, the new bill is set to be the 29th overhaul of the French immigration system since 1980. Balancing anti-immigrant sentiments with France’s need for labor, the new bill confronts an uphill battle to satisfy all sides of the political spectrum.
The bill is expected to begin parliament deliberation on November 6, 2023, and is set to see the light in early 2024.
“The new immigration bill, announced months ago, is sponsored by the ministers of interior and labor, billed as a way to ‘control immigration and improve integration,’” says Clarisse Delaitre, an immigration attorney at Majorelle Avocats.
According to the attorney, the proposed bill is causing controversy. “Intended to appeal to both the Republican conservatives, which is increasingly radical on the subject, and the left, which denounces the conditions under which foreigners are received, the text ends up angering everyone,” reveals Delaitre.
Once the bill made it to parliament in March, senators quickly proposed a series of amendments to satisfy the “historic positions of the far right, such as tightening up the conditions for access to family reunification and abolishing State Medical Aid, which is reserved for undocumented migrants,” she elaborates.
New residence routes being introduced in France’s immigration bill
To address the labor shortage, the new bill introduces routes for undocumented workers to legalize their situation if they meet certain conditions.
“Illegal workers will be able to apply for regularization under this new card, which will be issued automatically to those who have resided in France for at least three years, and have at least eight months of experience in the preceding two years of applying, with experience being in a job or area where there is a shortage of workers,” explains Delaitre.
This residence route would be tested until the end of 2026 before it becomes permanent upon the legislator's approval.
On the other hand, the proposal states that employers who hire and abuse illegal workers will be subject to a newly stated administrative fine of up to €4,000 per employee.
France also intends to tap into its huge pool of asylum seekers, which amounted to over 600,000 in 2022 alone.
“Asylum seekers from the most at-risk countries (applicants benefiting from a high level of protection in France) will be able to work immediately,” says Delaitre. A list of these countries will be drawn up every year. Normally, asylum seekers are only authorized to work six months after submitting their application.”
The medical field is one of the sectors suffering a critical shortage in France and across Europe. The country aims to move towards shoring this gap by introducing a special residence permit for non-EU medical workers.
“A new ‘multi-annual talent - medical and pharmacy professions’ residence permit has been introduced. It will benefit practitioners with qualifications from outside the European Union, doctors, midwives, dental surgeons, and pharmacists,” explains Delaitre.
France’s new immigration bill reinforces integration efforts
The new proposed bill would entail a minimum knowledge level of the French language – yet to be decided in the final bill draft. This condition already exists for long-term residence permits and nationality applicants - but it might get tightened further.
“With the same objective of integration, employers' obligations to provide French as a foreign language (FLE) training for their foreign employees have been strengthened,” says Delaitre.
“In addition, all foreign nationals applying for a residence permit will have to undertake to respect the principles of the Republic: freedom of expression and conscience, gender equality, the motto and symbols of the Republic, etc.,” she adds. “At present, this is not a requirement for some permits. If one of these principles is rejected, prefectures will be able to refuse, withdraw, or not renew the residence permit.”
Alternatively, the new bill would simplify the legal procedures by which the authorities can expel foreign nationals who pose a public order threat.
“It will allow the expulsion of legally resident foreign nationals, even if they have been in France for a long time or have personal or family ties there, convicted of crimes or offenses punishable by at least ten years' imprisonment or five years in the event of a repeat offense (murder, rape, etc.),” explains Delaitre.
“At the same time, the judge will be able to issue a ban from French territory (ITF) on a wider scale. The bill will also authorize the deportation of illegal immigrants who pose a serious threat to public order, including those with personal and family ties in France (foreigners who arrived in France before the age of 13, spouses of French nationals, etc.). The system of obligations to leave French territory (OQTF) has been modified accordingly,” she adds.
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