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Amidst heated debate and student protest, France's Prime Minister François Fillon has stepped in to clarify residence and employment rules for foreign students, which were enacted by the circular of 31 May 2011. This circular, signed by the Minister of the Interior Claude Guéant and the Minister of Employment Xavier Bertrand, and addressed to French prefects, has apparently made professional immigration more complicated for those who studied in France. It has also led to about 300 cases of foreign graduates being refused permission to stay and work in the country.
In his letter addressed to presidents of several French universities who expressed their concern about the new regulation, François Fillon reconfirmed France’s attachment to “its tradition of receiving foreign students”. However, he has also stressed that the circular takes into account the realities of France's employment market and unemployment levels amongst young graduates. Therefore, it promotes the “objective of excellence” and a “qualitative and selective approach”, as well as the need to “fight against abuses and misappropriations that can sometimes be the objective of student mobility” or “social dumping” practices. According to Fillon, the number of student visas issued in 2011 remained stable compared to 2010, and the number of approved changes in status from student to employee continues to grow.
Other high-level officials, including Minister Guéant and Education Minister Wauquiez, provided additional clarifications on the circular. Apparently, the document, which seemed to be widely misinterpreted, does not abolish the right of masters and doctoral graduates to a salaried six-month stay “for a first professional experience in an activity corresponding to the education followed”. These clarifications have been welcomed by national higher education leaders, including la Conférence des Présidents d'Université (CPU), la Conférence des Grandes Ecoles (CGE) and la Conférence des Directeurs des Ecoles Françaises d'Ingénieurs.French government Joint statement of CPU, CGE and CDEFI Le Figaro L’Express