The electoral campaign started this year and immigration is a hot issue in France, as it is in most other European countries. With its new anti-business immigration stance, the current government is trying to recapture the voters it may have antagonized by its pro-business conduct in preceding years. Business should be back to normal by the middle of this year, after the presidential and parliamentary elections.
A government circular of May 31, 2011, instructed labor authorities to apply greater scrutiny in adjudicating work permits and to interpret the regulations restrictively, with the aim of reducing the number of foreign nationals being admitted to France for professional purposes. Among other things, labor authorities must evaluate if a foreign worker is under- or overqualified for the employment offered. If he or she is underqualified, the application must be denied. If overqualified, the advertisement must be modified and published again.
Authorities also must verify that: (1) the compensation meets appropriate thresholds as determined by collective bargaining agreements, the market, and minimum salary laws; (2) the candidate has an adequate knowledge of French; and (3) the candidate is provided adequate housing.
The restrictive measures, which have increased processing times for work permits generally, do not apply to work permit categories that receive preferential processing, such as intra-company transfers, secondments, and seasonal workers.
With respect to change-of-status applications, which mainly apply to foreign students, the government circular states that foreign students are to return to their home countries after the end of schooling. These instructions resulted in a massive protest by universities and students, and there were even protests from within the government. The government issued a new circular on January 13, 2012, providing guidelines to adjudicating officers. The goal is to avoid tarnishing the attractiveness of French schools for foreign students and undermining French business in need of foreign talent.
For more on the new restrictions, see the January 2012 issue of the ABIL Global Immigration Update.