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FRANCE: The French Blue Card Permit

Executive summary: France has created a new immigration category by  implementing the European Blue Card directive, in order to attract skilled workers from third countries and facilitate the mobility and permanent residence of such workers within the European Union.

The directive is in course of being implemented. The law n° 2011-672 of 16 June 2011 has set up the legal framework. The decree n°2011-1049 of 6 September 2011 provides the implementation regulations and we are waiting for the Minister of Interior to set the average salary reference amount needed to determine the minimum salary requirement, and issue the implementation circular to labour offices in charge of adjudicating the work permits. This may occur within the next two months.

The qualifying criteria are in accordance with the criteria stated in the EU directive:

  1. Employment contract with a duration of one year or more.
  2. 1.5 times the average salary of reference (to be determined by the Minister of Interior on an annual basis).
  3. A 3 year higher education diploma or equivalent knowledge through 5 years of experience.

The qualifying third country national will be issued a joint residency and work permit for the length of employment, with maximum validity of 3 years. This permit is renewable. Accompanying spouse will be issued a Private and Family Life category work permit which authorizes work. This latter work permit will be renewed annually for as long as the main applicant has a valid Blue Card permit.

The Blue Card will also be issued to a third country national who already holds a Blue Card issued by another member state, and wants to accept employment in France after 18 months of residence under the initial Blue Card. The application is made within one month of arrival in France. The applicant need not present a long-stay French visa.

The Blue Card permit is issued without labour market testing.

The Blue Card holder and his/her spouse would qualify for the EU long term resident permit after 5 years of residence under the Blue Card in the EU of which only the last 2 years must be in France.

The French authorities have up to 90 days to adjudicate the Blue Card  application and up to 6 months to adjudicate the accompanying spouse residency permit.

What does the Blue Card change?

There were two immigration categories prior to the Blue Card which are meant to attract skilled workers:

(1) Skills and Talents work permit and (2) Intra-company Transfer work permit.

The Skills and Talents work permit is adjudicated on a case by case analysis of the merits of the application by the government. The selection criteria may vary in time and is determined by a commission. An employment contract is not a requisite.

The Intra-company Transfer permit is appropriate in the framework of a transfer of employee within the same corporate group. It does not apply to a new hire.

Just like the Blue Card permit, these two permits are valid for three years, and are renewable.

Both these categories will be maintained once the Blue Card is implemented. The advantages of the Blue Card are as follows:

  • It does not require an intra-company prior employment.
  • Renewal may be easier.
  • Mobility within EU is facilitated.
  • Acquisition of long term resident status is facilitated.
  • The qualifying criteria are very precise (leaving less room for discretion of government).

The wage threshold under the Blue Card (1.5 times the average salary reference) is most likely to be higher than the threshold under the Intra-company Transfer (1.5 times the minimum statutory wage). However under both categories the wages must meet the peer salary threshold.

We expect the Blue Card to be very good news for skilled third country nationals who are unable to qualify under the existing categories.

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