Mark A Ivener, A Law Corporation

[FRANCE] President François Hollande Introduces Measures to Enhance Attractiveness of France

President François Hollande introduced a series of measures to enhance the attractiveness of France on February 17, 2014, at the “Strategic Council for Attractiveness.” Also, a judgment of the EU Court of Justice aligns the status of a French national’s spouse or partner with that of a family member of an EU citizen when back in France after the couple’s effective movement from another member state.

New measures introduced by President Hollande. The new measures introduced by President Hollande, designed primarily to attract foreign capital, also introduce advances in immigration policy to attract international talent, strengthen the status of foreign students in France, and address social issues. The measures include:

Creation of a “talents passport” residence permit: valid for four years, renewable, to be issued to qualified young graduates, researchers, investors, corporate officers, and highly skilled workers. This measure is expected to be implemented by 2015.

Facilitating access to employment for foreigners whose professional stay in France is less than three months: the temporary work permit will be replaced by a system of prior declaration.

Facilitating business travel: entrepreneurs who regularly come to France for economic exchanges may have long-term visas for five years. In addition, visas for foreign businesspersons will be issued within 48 hours, as compared to several weeks currently. This measure is expected to be extended to tourists from emerging countries, and is already the case for Chinese nationals.

Facilitating the reception of foreign students in France: students will receive a residence permit, valid for at least the duration of the studies pursued. In addition, students with a master’s degree should be able to obtain, by a simplified process, an authorization to stay one year to find a qualified job corresponding to their university studies. The steps to change to working status should thus be facilitated. Finally, the government will provide for a further simplified procedure for master’s students with a particular profile of excellence. Signing new social security agreements with emerging countries: France signed agreements with Brazil and Uruguay that should come into force quickly. The government will also sign a social security agreement with China and plans to begin negotiations with Mexico later this year.

Providing for easy installation in France of foreign start-ups: the French government wants to help foreign start-ups in France. Also, foreign start-ups will have a single point of contact for their efforts, the “French Tech Help Desk.” Moreover, the “French Tech Ticket” will allow an ambitious entrepreneurial project, if selected, to receive financial assistance of € 25,000. In addition, foreign subsidiaries of large groups that would settle in France will be eligible for assistance from the public investment bank.

Judgment of EU Court of Justice. A judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union (EU) on March 12, 2014, aligns the status of the spouse or partner of a French national with that of a family member of an EU citizen when back in France after the couple’s “effective movement” from another member state.

An effective movement or stay occurs when the French national returns to France after having spent at least 3 consecutive months in another member state. Shorter stays, such as weekends and vacation periods that total 3 months or more are not considered an effective movement or stay.

Directive 2004/38/EC2 provides a derived right to reside in France for third-country family members of an EU citizen who has exercised his or her right to free movement. Conversely, the spouse or civil partner of a French national who is sedentary (i.e., has not exercised the right to free movement) is not covered by the Directive. Consequently, such spouse or partner receives less favorable treatment under French national law. This discrimination, called “reverse discrimination,” is an obstacle to the free movement prohibited by EU law when it discourages an EU citizen from returning to his or her country of nationality when his or her third-country spouse or partner may encounter difficulties in obtaining resident status.

The EU Court of Justice deepened this reasoning in its judgment of March 12, 2014. It held that any EU citizen having developed or strengthened a family tie with a third-country national on the occasion of an effective stay in a host member state may obtain a derivative right to stay for his or her third-country family members when he or she returns to settle in the member state of his or her nationality. Such latter state cannot then apply a less favorable regime to the third-country spouse or civil partner as would have been permitted under Directive 2004/38/CE.

Although in practice it is too early to comment on the practical application of this case law at the Prefectures, this case makes the point that third-country spouse or civil partner of a French citizen returning to France enjoys the same benefits as the family member of any EU citizen moving to France. While the third-country spouse/partner of a French national currently must obtain a long-stay visa before entering France, he or she should be exempt. Such spouse/partner, currently receiving a residence permit of 1 year, should receive a residence permit of 5 years, renewable.

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Mark A. Ivener, A Law Corporation, a nationally recognized law firm, has successfully assisted hundreds of clients in immigration matters.