France relaxes foreign entry burdens

September 18, 1998

France has eased restrictions on foreign researchers and students wanting to work there.

Researchers from abroad are being encouraged to take up posts - scientists are particularly welcome - so France can benefit from top-level scientific knowledge, and conditions affecting foreign students' rights to take paid employment have been relaxed.

Citizens of European Union countries already had an automatic right to work here, but now researchers from other countries will be treated the same as their EU peers.

Bureaucracy has been slashed, and researchers and their families are entitled to entry visas without first having to get a work permit. All they now need is a formal invitation from a university or other research organisation.

Previously, French employment offices checked that there was no suitable French citizen available to undertake the job, in which case the applicant's file went to the Office of International Migrations, which would contact the applicant in his or her own country and specify conditions such as medical checks.

In instructions issued to consulates, the foreign ministry said the aim is to encourage foreign researchers to work in France in the context of increasing competition at an international level. "It is in the greatest interest of our country not to be deprived of these skills if it wants to maintain its place at the highest level of scientific exchanges."

The only exceptions are applicants from unspecified "sensitive nationalities", a category that includes those that pose a risk of terrorism or drug trafficking.

Meanwhile, the employment ministry has abandoned a rule requiring foreign students from outside the EU to wait until their second year of studies before taking paid employment. The may now work part-time from their first year though they will be limited to three months' consecutive full-time employment.

The change follows recommendations made last year by political scientist Patrick Weil on immigration policy. They especially aim to help students from poorer countries and to facilitate international student exchanges.

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