France Clarifies Job market Laws for Foreign Students
Claude Guéant, Minister of the Interior, Overseas France, Local Authorities and Immigration, Laurent Wauquiez, Minister for Higher Education and Research, and Xavier Bertrand, Minister for Labour, Employment and Health, had a meeting today with senior leaders of the French universities and grandes écoles (1), to take stock of the issue of recently graduated foreign nationals’ access to the French labour market.
The circular of 31 May 2011 is a general directive on job-related immigration policy which recalls and comments on the legislation in force on this subject. It only touches on the situation of foreigners who have recently graduated.
However, elected representatives and chancellors of universities and grandes écoles have highlighted cases of recent foreign graduates who have not obtained residence permits enabling them to work in our country.
In order to clear up any misunderstanding, the ministers therefore decided to send prefects an additional circular next week providing guidance applicable to the specific situation of foreign graduates who are highly qualified – i.e. with at least the equivalent of a Master 2 [second year of master’s degree] – and who wish to gain initial professional experience in France in accordance with the existing law.
This additional circular will ask prefects to ensure that the necessary controls on job-related immigration are not detrimental to the higher education system’s attractiveness or to some of our companies which need specific high-level skills.
The directive will therefore state explicitly that in-depth knowledge of a foreign country or culture may constitute a specific skill that is sought, for example to break into a new market. This will be taken into account in the assessment of applications for residence permits with authorization to work.
At the meeting, which gave rise to fruitful discussions, the ministers recalled that the aim of the government’s policy is twofold:
on the one hand, to enable French companies – particularly those exposed to international competition – to recruit outstanding managerial staff of any nationality, provided they possess skills those companies cannot do without;
on the other hand, to give our country every opportunity to develop in spite of the crisis. The employment situation in our country justifies the policy of limiting the flow of job-related immigration.
The ministers also recalled that recourse to job-related immigration cannot justify “social dumping” practices (2). The recruitment of foreign nationals cannot be a means of paying salaries below market levels.
These additional directives will reaffirm the principles of the policy on welcoming foreign students to our country. France is a country that is open to foreign students (58,419 students from non-European countries were welcomed in the first 11 months of 2011, compared to 50,656 in 2009; the number of status changes increased by 26% in 2011).
Welcoming students is part of a policy of giving special importance to the master’s and doctorate levels and encouraging “regulated mobility” – i.e. exchanges between establishments on the basis of partnership agreements.
All in all, the new circular to be sent to the prefects will maintain a balance between protecting employment in France on the one hand, and attractiveness and competitiveness on the other./.
(1) Prestigious higher education institutes with competitive entrance examinations.
(2) Employers’ use of migrant workers from countries with lower labour costs in order to maximize profit.
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