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Stricter Language Laws for French Residency


France has introduced stricter language requirements under the umbrella of new immigration laws proposed last year.

Non-French nationals will now need to pass French tests for certain types of residency cards and a higher level language requirement when applying for citizenship.

Formally passed into law in the last week of January, the new bill faced a rocky political battle and now contains amendments to matters of national security, immigration, and language. It specifies the expulsion of radicalized foreigners from France. 

The new law entitled Contrôler l’immigration, améliorer l’intégration (control immigration and improve integration) will affect some foreigners already living in France—mainly with pressure to improve or sustain their knowledge of the French language. 

Interior minister Gérald Darmanin, who came up with the idea for the legislation in 2022, said, “Today, a quarter of foreigners who have residence permits understand and speak French extremely badly.”

Until now, only applications for French citizenship, or for the 10-year long-term EU residency card require proof of competence in the French language. People with a very low command of French can be ordered to attend language classes at the OFII (Office for Immigration and Integration), but there is no requirement to pass a language test.

The new law will mean that individuals applying for a multi-year residency permit will have to provide proof that their French is at least A2 level (the second-lowest level on the Common European Framework—CEFR—scale, just above the beginner level).

With regards to the 10-year Carte de Résident, the required proficiency level has been raised from A2 to B1—defined as intermediate. Simultaneously, the level required for French citizenship has been raised from B1 to B2—the higher level of intermediate French.

Residents and applicants do however have some time yet to adjust to the changes, as Article 86 of the new law states that a start date will be “fixed by decree of the Council of State (Conseil d’État), no later than January 1st 2026.”

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