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French government complements the 31st May circular with more details: Marche arrière?

On 12 January, three French ministers responsible for the interior, employment and higher education and research – Claude Guéant, Xavier Bertrand and Laurent Wauquiez, respectively – signed a complementary note to the circular of 31st May 2011. This circular set out stricter provisions for the access of non-EU graduates from French higher education institutions to the French job market, entailed move that had caused some confusion at the regional implementation level, as well as wide protests by foreign students whose job permit applications were rejected. French Prime Minister Francois Fillion had already stepped in last December to provide his clarifications on the amended residence and employment rules for foreign students (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, December 2011).

The complementary note outlines additional provisions on issuing work permits to foreign students to be taken into account by French prefects. In particular, special modalities are to be applied for those students who have successfully graduated from French programmes at the Master’s level or higher. In addition to their right to a 6-month provisional stay in France, these individuals can also apply for a residence permit allowing them to take their first job on the basis of an employment contract or even a promise to be employed. In such cases, students have to present a joint attestation issued by a president of a higher education institution and a chief of an enterprise certifying that all necessary conditions with regard to their qualification, diploma and the area of specialisation (as provided by Article L.311-11) are met. Furthermore, “more favourable provisions are to be applied as specified in France’s agreements on immigration flows with several countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Capo Verde, Gabon, Mauritius, Senegal and Tunisia).

The complementary circular now declares that “an in-depth knowledge of a foreign country, civilisation, language and culture can be a specific competence for some French enterprises, for example, for conquering new markets”. It also provides specific examples of ‘mitigating evidence’ that can be considered in the examination of applications, including: the interests of a prospective employer in the region from which the student originates; higher education studies sponsored by an enterprise; excellent academic results; academic mobility (partly) financed by France; and secondary education pursued in a French educational institution. In order to avoid so called ‘social dumping’, the note stipulates that salaries offered must be commensurate with applicants’ qualifications. Finally, it mandates that all cases pending since 1 June 2011 be reconsidered based on the additional provisions issued in the note.

French government – note of 12 January 2012 (in French)