France: New Immigration Law Eases Visa Requirements for Foreign Professionals

The French government has introduced a new immigration bill that could bring about significant changes to France’s immigration rules that could ease visa requirements for foreign professionals.

One of France’s attempts to welcome and retain foreign talent was through the implementation of their March 2016 immigration law. Following several implementation decrees, the 2016 law introduced a new fast-tracked visa procedure under the Passport Talent program that would attract top tech talent. The law also simplified rules on intracompany transfers of seconded employees, easing the review and approval process for visas and shortening processing times for assignees coming to France.

On the other hand, the 2018 immigration law goes a step further and better define certain categories of talented professionals and expand eligibility to other categories. For instance, the 2018 law extends the talent passport to individuals in senior legal or managerial positions, such as executive officers, and to individuals creating companies in France, though these latter “must be very well-trained.”


2018 Immigration Law: The Asylum and Immigration Law

The latest asylum and immigration reform in France was signed into law by President Macron and published on Sept. 10th, 2018.  The Asylum and Immigration Law (No. 2018-778) amends several articles of the French Code of Entry and Stay of Foreigners and the Right to Asylum (CESEDA).  Among other things, it extends the reach of the 2016 legislation that eased access for skilled foreign professionals into the country’s labor market.

Laws in France take effect on publication in the country’s official journal, but individual measures often require additional implementation decrees to go into force. Unlike the 2016 law, the 2018 law contains just a few measures that will require such decrees. In particular, creating the public body for deciding if a start-up project is “innovative” will require a decree.

The key changes implemented include:

Asylum Procedure

a) Access to the territory

  • The right to protection from removal for a “full day” (jour franc) is no longer available to persons refused entry at land borders (Article L.213-2 CESEDA). This change has significant consequences, given that the vast majority of the refusal of entry measures are taken at the French-Italian land border.

b) Accelerated procedure

  • Asylum applications lodged 90 days following entry into the territory, as opposed to 120 days prior to the reform, are channeled into the accelerated procedure. Moreover, as regards asylum seekers who pose a threat to public order or national security, OFPRA no longer has the possibility to re-channel the case into the regular procedure (Article L.723-2 CESEDA).

c) Appeal

  • The deadline to appeal Dublin transfer decisions is restored at 15 days, following a reduction to 7 days by Law n. 2018-187 of 20 March 2018. In relation to appeals against inadmissibility decisions and negative decisions under the accelerated procedures, the appeal no longer has an automatic suspensive effect, so the asylum seekers right to remain is no longer guaranteed automatically.


Reception of Asylum Seekers

a) Freedom of movement:

  • The national reception system will set out a distribution mechanism across regions, setting out the share of asylum seekers to be accommodated by each region. Where a region has exceeded its share and capacity, OFII can direct an asylum seeker to a different region where he or she will be required to reside throughout the asylum procedure. The right to material reception conditions becomes dependent on compliance with this requirement in such cases. The asylum seeker will have to request authorization from OFII to temporarily leave the assigned region, except for cases of overriding reasons of summons by authorities or courts (Article L.744-2 CESEDA).

b) Access to the labor market

  • The time limit for formal access to the labor market for asylum seekers is reduced from 9 to 6 months (Article L.744-11 CESEDA).


Content of International Protection

a) Civil registration:

  • Access to rights attached to international protection status is immediate and no longer dependent upon civil registration with OFPRA (Article L.751-3 CESEDA).

b) Residence permit:

  • Beneficiaries of subsidiary protection are entitled to a multiannual residence permit of up to 4 years, as opposed to residence permits of one-year validity granted prior to the reform. Following the end of the four-year period, they are eligible for a resident card, valid for 10 years (Articles L.313-25 and L.314-11 CESEDA).

c) Family reunification:

  • Unaccompanied children, beneficiaries of international protection may be joined by their parents under family reunification (Article L.752-1 CESEDA).


Proposed Changes/Requirements for Foreign Professionals

Intra-company transfers

Cooling-off period: EU Intra Company Transfer permit holders would be required to leave France when their status expires, for a period of at least six months.

Work experience: To qualify for the EU Intra Company Transfer permit, the employee would require a minimum of six months employment with their employer.

Dependents: The children of a primary applicant is a spouse who would qualify for dependent status, rather than only the applicant’s own children, as at present.

Pre-Approval for Employers

A proposed new pre-approval process for sponsoring companies would have streamlined work authorization processes, with faster processing times and less required documents. Further details are not yet available.

Talent Passport

The four-year Talent Passport would be able to qualify for “innovative” sponsors even if they have not obtained the status of “young, innovative company” (GAME).

Business projects that support the economic development of a company would also qualify for the Talent Passport.

Upgraded Permit for Non-EU Graduates

The current temporary residence authorization (APS) issued to non-EU nationals who have graduated from a French university or school would be upgraded to a full residence permit within the Schengen area, thus allowing graduates increased intra-EU mobility


What does this law mean for Foreign Professionals?

Under the new legislation, people starting up companies will have an easier time meeting the requirement that their project is “innovative.”.  While the earlier law required that start-ups qualify as “innovative” based on the tax code, the amendments give that responsibility to a public body, whose structure will be defined in a later decree.


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