Immigration bill to boost influx of smarts, skills

9th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 9, 2006 (AFP) - The French government Thursday agreed on a bill that would overhaul its immigration policies to favour highly skilled foreigners in a bid to boost economic competitiveness.

PARIS, Feb 9, 2006 (AFP) - The French government Thursday agreed on a bill that would overhaul its immigration policies to favour highly skilled foreigners in a bid to boost economic competitiveness.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who is championing the legislation, has warned that France is losing out to the United States in attracting qualified migrants in technical and cultural fields.

"France, like its European partners, cannot remain on the sidelines of the global flows of intelligence and skills. Our dynamism, the modernisation of our economy depends on it," he wrote in a comment for Le Figaro newspaper.

The bill, approved in a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, would give skilled, non-EU migrants a three-year working visa and facilitate the entry of foreign students if they promise to return home after their diplomas.

The left-wing opposition has criticised the bill for putting more restrictions the right to French residency through marriage or family reunion reasons — currently the country's two main sources of legal immigration.

Part of the proposed law would see stricter checks made on marriages involving a French citizen and a foreigner to crack down on bogus unions.

France last year took in 164,000 immigrants. Many of them come from North African countries under French influence, such as Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

The proposed new law, which parliament is to debate in the next few months, aims to replicate the selective policies used in the United States and other European countries such as Germany. It would only affect non-EU nationals.

Citizens from most of the European Union's 25 states generally have the right to work and live in any of the other member countries.

"Neither France nor its European partners can be satisfied with a situation where the elites from developing countries head massively to the United States or Canada, while the European continent receives an under-qualified immigration," Sarkozy wrote.

He said his goal was to come up with a policy that would benefit both France and the countries from which short-term migrants came, to ensure that neither suffered a "brain drain".

He added that the plan would also "contribute to forming a network of Francophile elites in the world."

Sarkozy urged the measures to be adopted EU-wide, to ensure that temporary immigrants to France did not simply take their qualifications and know-how to another EU country after their visa term was up.

The French cabinet approved almost all the measures proposed by Sarkozy, though it scrapped an idea that the number of visas be capped under a quota system — previously a key point of protest by the opposition Socialist Party.

But the Socialists still criticised the bill as being "utilitarian" for putting economic priorities over family and social factors.

"We are going to have 'good' immigrants who benefit from full rights and 'bad' immigrants without any," the party said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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