Immigration on the rise in France, driven by the needs of the economy and foreign students

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Moroccan workers harvest clementines in a field in Foleli, Corsica, on October 29, 2020.

This is a historic level. In 2022, France issued more than 320,000 first residence permits, an increase of more than 17% compared to 2021. These figures, published Thursday January 26 by the Ministry of the Interior, testify to a migratory dynamic on the rise. “We are picking up a long-term trend. The effects of the health crisis, which marked migratory flows in 2020 and 2021, have been partially erased,” indicated during a press briefing the Ministry of the Interior. By way of comparison, the first 193,000 permits were issued in 2012 and 172,000 in 2007. In total, in France, 3.8 million foreigners now hold a residence permit. Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia are at the top of the countries of origin.

“That does not make France the world champion of immigration, neither in absolute value nor in relative value”, tempers Jean-Christophe Dumont, OECD expert on international migration. By way of comparison, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Germany issued nearly 540,000 first residence permits in 2021 for a population of 83 million and Canada more than 400,000. first residence permits, for 40 million inhabitants.

Notable fact in France in 2022: if family and student immigration represent the two largest flows, it is mainly students and labor immigration that explain the growth observed over the year.

More than 52,000 permits have thus been issued for economic reasons, mainly to employees and, to a lesser extent, to seasonal workers. “Economic immigration is growing by 45%, directly linked to the needs of our economy in this period and a talent attraction policy”, underlined the director general of foreigners in France, Eric Jalon. “Talent passports”, intended for highly qualified profiles, are up 44.5% with nearly 18,000 titles issued in 2022.

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Increase in regularizations of undocumented workers

Echoing this dynamic, regularizations of undocumented workers have also increased by 29% with nearly 11,000 regularizations through work, out of a total of more than 34,000 regularizations (which primarily concerned Algerians, Moroccans and Malians). “One of the challenges of the shortage occupations permit will be to adjust access to residence for people who are already in a working situation to our needs”specified Eric Jalon when the government should present to the Council of Ministers on 1er February its immigration bill. In particular, it provides for the creation of a residence permit for undocumented workers occupying positions in sectors with labor shortages. Today, regularizations are decided on a discretionary basis by the prefectures, which can rely on criteria listed in a ministerial circular of 2012 and which notably sets conditions of seniority in the territory or a minimum number of payslips.

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