The Migration Policy Institute published a paper describing France’s new immigration law of 2006. Below are quotes from the study, which says that France is well aware that it must compete with other global players for international talent. Countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia all actively recruit migrants and select them according to criteria that range from education and language skills to adaptability and age. I have already posted on Canadian policy and an extensive article in the Economist about the effort of other countries to recruit highly skilled labor (use “search” to find them.)
Comparisons between the U.S. and France
Population: U.S. 300 million France 61 million
Percentage foreign born: U.S. 12.5% France 10%
Unauthorized residents: U.S. 3% France 2%
Work based entry as % of total immigration: U.S. 22% France 11.9%
Family reunification as % of total immigration: U.S. 58% France 64%
Foreign students: U.S. 621,000 France 250,000
Students from abroad:
France has double per capita the number of foreign students and is trying to keep them in France to work. Between 2001 and 2003, the number of foreign students increased by 50 percent — a significantly larger increase than that which occurred in Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, or the United States. (Australia is ahead of all in recruiting foreign students.) The new law would require foreign students to receive approval to study in France from their country of origin. Once in France, foreign students who receive a masters or higher degree would be allowed to pursue a “first professional experience” that contributes to the economic development of both France and the student’s country of origin
The law in general:
France introduced in July 24, 2006 a new immigration law with fur objectives: recruiting skilled workers; facilitating foreign students’ stay; tightening the rules on family reunification; and limiting access to residence and citizenship. In sum, it aims to overhaul France’s immigration system by giving the government new powers to encourage high-skilled migration, fight illegal migration more effectively, and restrict family immigration.
Although the new law does not take effect until early 2007, one of its pillars is already making itself felt. The number of people deported for not having the required documents reached nearly 13,000 by the end of July 2006, more than halfway to the Interior Ministry’s 2006 goal of 25,000, inciting protests from tens of thousands of French citizens.
The unrest illustrates that France will not have an easy transition to a selective immigration system that emphasizes employment-driven immigration at the expense of the 113,000 immigrants who arrive in France annually for family-related reasons and that carries out a robust campaign against illegal migration.
Skilled based immigration:
The new law authorizes the government to identify particular professions and geographic zones of France that are “characterized by recruitment difficulties.” For those identified employers, the government plans to facilitate the recruitment of immigrant workers with needed skills or qualifications. However, this means employers who are not on the government-selected list may have more difficulty (or may face longer waiting periods) obtaining residence permits for migrant workers they wish to employ.
Under the new law, foreigners who possess skill sets of interest to French employers in the designated areas will be granted “skills and talents” visas, valid for three years. In a uniquely French twist, eligible candidates must be able to demonstrate that they will contribute to the economic or intellectual and cultural development of both France and their country of origin.
The new law’s emphasis on “skills and talents” has already created tensions with those who are concerned that it will negatively impact developing countries, whose highest-skilled nationals will likely seek to emigrate.
In an attempt to ease fears about “brain drain,” the government will only issue this visa to qualified immigrants from a developing country if the sending country has signed a “co-development” agreement with France or if the immigrants in question agree to return to their country of origin within six years. By doing so, the government aims to reframe the issue about the loss of some of sending countries’ most skilled nationals by emphasizing the “circulation of skills.”