France's new immigration law in a nutshell


The recent adoption of France's immigration bill was a landmark event in the French political landscape. After an eventful 18-month legislative process, the law was finally passed, provoking major repercussions within the government and varied reactions among political parties and civil society.

The draft immigration law put forward by Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin met with cross-party opposition, with MPs from the left, right and far right expressing reservations for a variety of reasons. In the face of this opposition, the government opted for a joint commission, aimed at establishing a compromise acceptable to a majority of the Assembly.

France's immigration law: Key points

The final version of the law, considered stricter than the initial text, includes several measures:

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  1. Social benefits for foreigners non-Europeans : From now on, access to financial assistance, such as family allowances and personalized housing assistance (APL), will be more difficult. For example, waiting periods for family allowances have been extended to 5 years for non-working foreigners and 30 months for those in employment.
  2. Aide médicale d'État (AME) : The law provides for a reform of the AME, with changes expected in 2024, although there will be no total abolition.
  3. Regularization of undocumented migrants: The law stipulates that the regularization of illegal workers in sectors will henceforth be at the discretion of prefects, on an individual basis.
  4. Offence of illegal residence : The law reintroduces the offence of illegal residence, enabling fines to be imposed on illegal residents.
  5. Family reunification : The conditions for family reunification have been tightened. From now on, a resident must have been living in France for at least 24 months (previously 18) to start a family reunification procedure. In addition, the spouse must be at least 21 years old.
  6. Migration quotas : Parliament will set quotas for immigration, excluding asylum seekers. These quotas will be debated annually, although their constitutionality may be questioned.
  7. Expulsion of convicted foreigners : The law facilitates the expulsion of foreigners convicted of serious crimes.
  8. Nationality disqualification: In certain cases, notably when convicted of intentional homicide against a public official, dual nationals can be stripped of their French nationality.
  9. Foreign students : Stricter conditions are imposed for residence permits students, including a deposit and proof of seriousness of studies.

For details of this new legislation, see the article : French immigration law reform 2024: Article 3, changes and new features.

Is France's new immigration law definitive?

The immigration law recently passed by the French Parliament is about to be examined by the Constitutional Council. This step is a standard procedure for checking the conformity of new laws with the French constitution, which is the supreme law of the land. This review is all the more important for legislation with a profound impact on society, as is the case with immigration laws.

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Possible modifications : During its review, the Constitutional Council assesses whether the provisions of the law respect the fundamental rights and freedoms set out in the constitution. This includes, but is not limited to, human rights, freedom of expression, the right to a fair trial, and the principle of equality before the law. If parts of the law are found to be unconstitutional, they can be amended or annulled. For example, controversial aspects of the Immigration Act, such as the tightened conditions for family reunification or the criteria for the deportation of foreigners, could be subject to revision.

Impact of these changes : Decisions by the Constitutional Council can significantly redefine the content and scope of the law. For example, if measures deemed too restrictive or discriminatory are modified, this could mitigate some of the law's harshest critics. Conversely, an unqualified validation of the entire text would reinforce its legitimacy and could accelerate its implementation.

Consequences for governance : The outcome of this constitutional review may also have political implications. For the government, a return to the Assembly for significant amendments could be seen as a political setback. For opposition parties and civil society groups, it could be an opportunity to advocate reforms more in line with their visions of social justice and human rights.

Political and social reactions

The law has provoked a crisis within President Emmanuel Macron's party, with the resignation of a minister and divergent votes among MPs in his camp. The Minister of the Interior defends the law as balanced, while the Les Républicains party sees it as a victory for their agenda. The left, on the other hand, severely criticizes the law, accusing it of taking up elements of the far-right's agenda. The far right, represented by Rassemblement National, welcomes some of the measures adopted.

Associations such as the Fondation Abbé Pierre are expressing concern about the social repercussions of the law, particularly in terms of poverty and exclusion. The academic and educational world is also concerned about the new rules affecting foreign students, fearing a negative impact on the attractiveness of French higher education.

Although the focus is primarily on domestic reactions, this law is also likely to influence the way France is perceived on the international stage, particularly with regard to human rights issues and the management of migratory flows.

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