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FRANCE: Changes to Immigration Law

The French government has participated since the summer in a consultation process with immigration professionals on nationality law. A general circular, expected in the coming weeks, is expected to encourage prefectures to be more flexible in considering applications for naturalization. The government has already published a new circular in this regard and is implementing the charter of rights and duties of new French citizens.

Circular of October 16, 2012: Adhesion to the Charter of Rights and Duties of French Citizens (Law of June 16, 2011, Articles 21 and 24 of the Civil Code)

The law of June 16, 2011, on immigration, integration, and nationality requires that those seeking French nationality through naturalization or reinstatement sign the charter of rights and duties of the French citizen. Refusal to sign results in the dismissal of the application for naturalization for lack of assimilation into the French community. Written in part by the High Council for Integration, the charter sets forth the principles, values, and essential symbols of the French Republic. It is presented during the welcome ceremony to all new French citizens.

Relaxation of Criteria for French Nationality

In a second circular dated October 16, 2012, the Ministry of the Interior stated that some criteria for French nationality are flexible. Four main criteria are examined.

Assessment of Employability

Prefectures are invited to assess an applicant's employability throughout his or her career and not solely on employability at the time of the request. A temporary or short-term employment contract should not be a barrier if the applicant shows adequate resources. The circular, however, notes that frequent periods of inactivity and recurrent use of welfare schemes may lead to the conclusion that the applicant does not meet the conditions of assimilation into the French community.


The government notes that the student residence permit category should not automatically lead to an unfavorable decision. An applicant who holds a student residence permit may be naturalized if he or she proves employability.

Young graduates with a job, even if they do not have several years of experience, may demonstrate the promising nature of their career. Similarly, the government notes that applications from students of Grandes Ecoles and those with a Ph.D. showing a high potential for contributions to France should receive a comprehensive review and not be rejected based only on the residence category or the type of employment contract. For holders of a foreign medical degree, the requirement to obtain a license to practice medicine is abandoned.

For holders of a foreign medical degree, the requirement to obtain a license to practice medicine is abandoned.

Young persons under the age of 25 who have lived in France for at least 10 years and have attended school for at least five continuous years continue to be subject to a comprehensive review and must show a strong presumption of having assimilated into the French community.

Effect of Unauthorized Stay

Periods spent in France without authorization should not lead to a systematic rejection of a request for French nationality, the government states. Only lawful residence within five years (or two for certain categories of applicants) before the application is mandatory.

Evaluation of Knowledge of French History, Culture, and Society and Adherence to Core Principles and Values of the French Republic

The government will forward a new list of questions to the prefectures. An incorrect answer to one or more questions may not necessarily lead to rejection or postponement of the request for French nationality. The government's goal is to guide the prefectures to apply transparent and fair naturalization criteria as set by Articles 21 to 26 and following of the Civil Code, and to ensure that naturalization applicants demonstrate a strong commitment to be French.

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