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France: Law on Immigration, Integration and Nationality

(July 1, 2011) France's Constitutional Council found Law 2011-672 of June 16, 2011, on Immigration, Integration and Nationality constitutional (with the exception of some minor provisions), whereupon the Law was published in the country's official gazette on June 17, 2011 (Loi n° 2011-672 du 16 juin 2011 relative à l'immigration, à l'intégration et à la nationalité, LEGIFRANCE (last visited June 30, 2011).)

The Law transposes into French law three European Union directives:

  • the directive on “return” of December 16, 2008 (Directive 2008/115/EC on Common Standards and Procedures in Member States for Returning Illegally Staying Third-Country Nationals, 2008 OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION [O.J.] (L348) 98, Europa website (last visited June 30, 2011));
  • the directive on the “European blue card” of May 25, 2009 (Directive 2009-50/EC on the Conditions of Entry and Residence of Third Country Nationals for the Purpose of Highly Qualified Employment, 2009 O.J. (L155) 17, Europa website (last visited June 30, 2011)); and
  • the directive on “sanctions” of June 18, 2009 (Directive 2009/52/EC Providing for Minimum Standards on Sanctions and Measures Against Employers of Illegally Staying Third-Country Nationals, 2009 O.J. (L168) 24, Europa website (last visited June 30, 2011)).

The Law creates a temporary residence card bearing the notation “European blue card” to facilitate the admission and mobility within the EU of highly qualified third-country nationals (non-EU nationals). This card may be granted to foreign nationals who have a valid employment contract for the highly qualified for a period of at least one year. The card may be issued for up to three years and is renewable. (Law 2011-672, art. 17.) The Law stipulates that for regular temporary residence cards renewal may be conditioned on how well an immigrant has abided by the integration contract that he/she was required to sign in order to settle in France on a long-term basis. (Id. art. 8.)

Third-country nationals staying illegally in France, if intercepted, are subject to removal within 30 days of notification of their removal. The competent authorities may as an exception postpone removal for another 30 days, to take into account the specific circumstances of an individual case. Where the foreign national provides justification that he cannot either leave French territory or go to his country of origin, the competent authorities may, until he can be reasonably removed, temporarily place the foreign national under house arrest and electronic surveillance. (Id. art. 47.) A foreign national who needs medical treatment that is not available in his country of origin cannot be removed from French territory. (Id. art. 40.)

The Law also amends some provisions on nationality. To be naturalized, one must show full integration into French society, “notably by a sufficient knowledge of the French language, history, culture and society… and of the rights and duties bestowed by French nationality and by adhering to the essential principles and values of the French Republic.” (Id. art. 2.) In addition, one must sign a charter listing the rights and duties of the citizen that restates these essential principles, values, and symbols. (Id.)

The Law contains measures protecting foreign nationals who are victims of marital abuse. Foreign nationals who have been granted a protection order under article 515-9 of the Civil Code (emergency order for marital violence) due to violence committed by their spouse, partner, or concubine may be issued a temporary residence card bearing the notation “private life and family,” even though they entered French territory without the necessary visa. This temporary card allows the individual to work. In addition, if the residence card or visa authorizing a foreign national to stay in France has expired and she/he has been granted a protection order under article 515-9 of the Civil Code, the given document will be renewed. (Id. art. 21).

In addition, the Law contains several provisions aimed at protecting the rights of illegal immigrants employed in France on the one hand (id. arts. 74-82) and at fighting illegal employment on the other. (Id. arts. 83-87.)