The French Immigration Bill at a glance 

Member news | April 01, 2024

Exceptional regularisation for undocumented workers in short-staffed occupations, a "talent" residence permit for foreign doctors, measures on integration and asylum, easier deportation for serious offences... What does the immigration law contain?

The French government published a new comprehensive immigration law on January 27, 2024, which has immediate effect.

The main work-related changes include:

  • a new residence permit for medical professionals;
  • limits on the repeated renewal of certain temporary residence permits;
  • the introduction of a French-language proficiency requirement for multi-year residence permit holders; and
  • a residence permit allowing for the regularization of certain undocumented workers.

The new law is mainly intended to fight irregular migration and control foreign workers’ stays in France.

For the record

The Immigration Bill in France has been a subject of extensive debate, reflecting economic, political, and social tensions surrounding the issue. It underwent a tumultuous legislative process, taking nearly a year to be adopted, with significant scrutiny from the Constitutional Council.

The bill was introduced to the Council of Ministers on February 1, 2023, by Gérald Darmanin, Minister of the Interior and Overseas Territories, Éric Dupond-Moretti, Minister of Justice, and Olivier Dussopt, Minister of Labour, Full Employment, and Integration. While it was initially adopted by the Senate on November 14, 2023, it faced rejection by the National Assembly on December 11, 2023, following a motion for prior rejection by the ecologist group.

Ultimately, the bill was passed definitively by both the Senate and the National Assembly on December 19, 2023, after an agreement was reached by the Joint Committee on the same day.

However, on January 25, 2024, the Constitutional Council censured 35 articles of the law, either partially or entirely, after being referred to it by various political entities, including the President of the Republic, the President of the National Assembly, deputies, and senators.

The ruling by the Constitutional Council notably rejected measures toughening access to social benefits and family reunification, as well as the introduction of immigration quotas set by parliament. While much of the bill presented by President Emmanuel Macron's government was upheld, contentious additions made under pressure from the right and far right were censured.

The rejected measures included those making it more difficult for immigrants to bring their families to France and limiting their access to social welfare. Additionally, the bill strengthens France's ability to deport foreigners considered undesirable.

The law encompasses various sections, including employment, integration, deportation, asylum, and litigation involving foreign nationals.

This summary provides an overview of the complex legislative journey and key provisions of the Immigration Bill in France.

The law has several sections: employment, integration, deportation, asylum and litigation involving foreign nationals. 

Work by foreign nationals 

  • Undocumented workers in short-staffed occupations (construction, home help, catering, etc.) will be able to obtain a "temporary worker" or "employee" residence permit on an exceptional basis, as at present. 

However, they will no longer be obliged to go through their employer to apply for this permit. In particular, they will have to prove that they have worked for at least 12 months (consecutive or otherwise) in the last 24 months, that they have been resident in France for 3 years and that they have integrated. Prefects will have discretionary powers to grant the permit. This measure will be tested until the end of 2026. 

The government's initial text went further in terms of work, since it provided for the automatic issue of a residence permit for "work in short-staffed occupations" (under certain conditions), as well as immediate access to work for asylum seekers from the most at-risk countries (and therefore likely to obtain refugee status).

  • This new regularisation mechanism raises questions about its usefulness and implementation.

The text does not specify the procedures for checking "by any means" the "reality of the activity alleged" by the foreign national.

Nor does it mention the checks to which the employer may be subject. However, these appear to be provided for, insofar as the impact study and parliamentary reports mention them unequivocally.

The Act of 26 January claims to set up a regularisation system without the involvement of the employer, but it is hard to see how these checks could be carried out without the employer's involvement, particularly if the illegal employee has no pay slips.

  • At present, the list of these professions is defined jointly by the Ministries of the Interior and Labour at national level. The shortage occupations are then differentiated by region, according to the needs defined by the central administration. The latest update dates from 2021. There are currently a number of occupations in high demand, including roofers, lorry drivers, bricklayers, boilermakers, locksmiths and blacksmiths, as well as a range of technician positions - electrical, mechanical, etc. - maintenance workers and labourers, body repairers and butchers. The list also includes jobs for researchers, construction engineers and even bank managers. 

The problem is that because the list is defined at national level, and only specified at regional level, it misses out on specific local features. The majority would like to remedy this problem. The text provides for this list to be determined at departmental level. It could also be applied in a differentiated way, taking into account the specific characteristics of a geographical area and its needs, particularly in tourist areas. 

  • To meet recruitment needs in hospitals and medico-social establishments, a new 4-year multi-annual "talent - medical and pharmacy profession" residence permit has been introduced for doctors, dentists, midwives and pharmacists with qualifications from outside the European Union (PADHUE).
  • Talent Passports residence permits for qualified employees and project sponsors have been simplified. Renamed “talent”, three categories of card issued to qualified employees (master's degree holders, young innovative companies, intra-group mobility "employees on assignment") are merged into a single category called "qualified employee-talent", based on the fact that the maximum period of validity of these cards and the associated rights are identical. 
  • In order to combat the illegal employment of so-called "platform" workers, the law makes access to the status of auto-entrepreneur conditional on the possession of a card authorising work under this status.
  • Penalties for companies employing illegal workers have been stepped up. The amount of the criminal fine incurred by an employer who, directly or through an intermediary, hires, keeps in his service or employs for any period whatsoever a foreign national who does not hold a permit authorising him to work as an employee in France, is increased from €15,000 to €30,000, and from €100,000 to €200,000 when the offence is committed by an organised gang.
  • Finally, several provisions of the Labour Code have been amended to improve employer participation in French language training for allophone employees, with the aim of promoting their integration into the workforce.


Insights brought to you by FACC Member Clarisse DELAITRE

About Clarisse DELAITRE, a French lawyer registered at the Nantes Bar, leads the international division at Majorelle Avocats. 

Since 2020, she has been spearheading the international mobility (expatriation, secondment) and business immigration activities at this leading employment law firm.

Clarisse assists French and international companies with various issues related to hiring foreign employees, sending teams abroad, engaging foreign subcontractors in France, and complying with French employment and social security requirements. She is proficient in English and German and provides guidance to foreign companies regarding the establishment of their operations in France and their HR compliance. 

Clarisse holds a Master’s degree in business law from Sciences Po Paris and a Master's degree in labor law from the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne.

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