Research students arriving on exchange schemes as English assistants at Nanterre University have fallen foul of tough French immigration laws.
Ten PhD students of United States, Canadian, Indian and South African nationality have been unable to start work although they have been in France since September. Their French counterparts are already at work on their side of the exchange scheme.
The English department at Nanterre University put the new term back a week in protest and to put pressure on the authorities to settle the students' status.
It is the first time France's tough immigration laws have been applied to the letter for visiting university assistants.
"Up to last year, we were able to sort out the paperwork when they arrived, even though it should have been done beforehand. But the new laws make that impossible," said English department director Jean-Jacques Lecercle.
"This has led to dramatic personal problems for the visitors and is threatening the exchange scheme. It's inconceivable that an American university will tolerate their students being treated like this." he said.
For two assistants living in the suburbs, the paperwork was sorted out quickly. But for the ten staying in the city, the Paris police had until last week refused all requests for work permits. An American student at Oxford University with working papers for Britain will have to go back to the UK to apply from there.
"The situation is absurd. I have jobs vacant, people to fill them and students waiting to be taught. It is putting our university exchanges in jeopardy. Our students are being well treated abroad, but that is no longer reciprocated," said Professor Lecercle.