France has created a new immigration category by implementing the European Union (EU) Blue Card directive to attract skilled workers from third countries and facilitate the mobility and permanent residence of such workers within the EU.
Law no. 2011-672 of June 16, 2011, and decree no. 2011-1049 of September 6, 2011, provide the legal framework for the transposition of the EU Blue Card directive into French law. The qualifying criteria are in accordance with the criteria stated in the EU directive:
- an employment contract with a duration of one year or more;
- a minimum annual salary threshold of 1.5 times the average salary of reference, which is determined by the Minister of Interior on an annual basis. According to the current reference salary (€ 34,296), this annual salary threshold is € 51,444; and
- A three-year higher education diploma or equivalent knowledge through five years of experience.
A qualifying third-country national will be issued a joint residence and work permit for the length of employment, with maximum validity of three years. This permit is renewable. An accompanying spouse will be issued a Private and Family Life category work permit, which may be renewed annually for as long as the main applicant has a valid Blue Card permit.
The Blue Card may 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 labor market testing. Its beneficiary and his or her spouse would qualify for the EU long-term resident permit after five years of residence under the Blue Card in the EU, of which only the last two years must be in France.
French authorities have up to 90 days to adjudicate the Blue Card application and up to six months to adjudicate the accompanying spouse's residence permit.
The advantages of the Blue Card over other categories are:
- Intra-company prior employment is not required.
- Mobility within the EU is facilitated.
- Acquisition of long-term resident status is facilitated.
- The qualifying criteria are very precise (leaving less room for the discretion of the government).