In 2018, France received 277 000 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis (including changes of status and free mobility), 6.7% more than in 2017. This figure comprises 30% immigrants benefitting from free mobility, 14.5% labour migrants, 36.7% family members (including accompanying family) and 11% humanitarian migrants. Around 80 000 permits were issued to tertiary-level international students and 24 000 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants (excluding intra-EU migration). In addition, 262 000 intra-EU postings were recorded in 2018, an increase of 8.6% compared to 2017. These posted workers are generally on short-term contracts.

Algeria, Morocco and Italy were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2018. Among the top 15 countries of origin, Tunisia registered the strongest increase (2 200) and the United Kingdom the largest decrease (-700) in flows to France compared to the previous year.

In 2019, the number of first asylum applicants increased by 7.6%, to reach around 120 000. The majority of applicants came from Afghanistan (10 000), Albania (8 000) and Georgia (7 700). The largest increase since 2018 concerned nationals of Haiti (+2 400) and the largest decrease nationals of Sudan (-1 600). Of the 114 000 decisions taken in 2019, 24.7% were positive.

The 2018 law on immigration, asylum and integration fully entered into force in March 2019. To achieve the objective of reducing the average processing time for asylum applications from 11 to 6 months, some administrative procedures have been shortened. Foreigners have now 90 days instead of 120 to submit their asylum application. A national reception scheme now specifies the regional share of asylum seekers. Since 2019, asylum seekers are no longer free to move around without the authorisation of the French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII). In the event of non-compliance, the material reception conditions are automatically interrupted and the processing of the asylum request can be stopped.

Securing the obligations to leave the French territory after the rejection of an asylum application and increasing control over undocumented foreigners are another key aspect of the new law. The detention period has been extended from 45 to 90 days to give more time to the administration to organise the expulsion. New detention centres were planned for 2020. At the same time, staff numbers engaged in treating asylum requests (OFPRA) were planned to increase from around 800 to 1 000 FTE employees and a 30% increase in financial resources was proposed.

The 2018 law extended the multi-year “talent passport” residence permit introduced by the 2016 law to four years. This permit can now be issued to family members (spouse and children) without going through the family reunification procedure. A circular was sent to prefectures on 17 December 2019 suggesting organisational improvements to application processing.

New temporary residence permits have been introduced in the 2018 law for certain categories of students and researchers (job search or business creation card, etc.), as well as for au pairs.

The government also announced that it would implement a professional immigration policy by sector of activity, based on revised regional shortage occupation lists (not updated since 2008).

A national strategy for the reception and integration of refugees was adopted to strengthen individual pathways and provide social and administrative support to refugees as soon as they obtain their status. In addition, the Republican Integration Contract (CIR) was largely renovated. From 2019, newcomers (including refugees) who sign this contract may benefit from up to 400 hours of language courses (against 200 previously) free of charge (600 hours for illiterate foreigners). The length of civic training doubled from 12 to 24 hours.

Following the lockdown that started on 16 March, the validity of several visas (long stay visas; stay permits with the exception of diplomats; provisional stay authorisations; applications for a residence permit or for asylum seekers) which were set to expire between 16 March and 15 May were extended by six months. The delay to introduce an asylum seeker request has been suspended. Consequently, requests expiring between 12 March and 23 June could be resubmitted until 15 July 2020. Appeals have been extended until 24 June.

On 17 March 2020, France decided to limit all (international) trips and establish controls at its external and internal borders. Thus, all non-EU and non-Schengen nationals were not allowed to enter France and the EU until 15 April 2020 unless they had a compelling reason to enter or legally reside in France and hold a valid French residence permit.

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