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Current Migration Trends | France |

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Current Migration Trends

Marcus Engler

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Despite its restrictive immigration policy, immigration to France has risen constantly in recent years. This can be seen in the allocation of residence permits to third country nationals. In 2006 and 2008 about 183,000 residence visas were given each year to immigrants from third countries. In 2010 it was about 188,000.

The main form of immigration continues to be family reunification (82,235 residence permits were allocated in this category in 2010), followed by student migration (17,819 residence permits for foreign students in 2010) and labor migration (19,251 work permits were given out in 2010). While family reunification is decreasing due to more restrictive conditions (compare “Current Developments”), student migration is gaining in significance. The influx of foreign students rose from about 50,000 people in the years 2007 and 2008, respectively, to about 60,000 people in 2010 and 2011. Chinese students constitute the largest group (since 2008 about 10,000 per year). The preferred students are those undergoing their master and doctoral studies, usually in the context of set programs and partnerships with foreign universities.

Allocated immigration Visas for third country nationals 2006-2010 (bpb) Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de

With regard to third country nationals, between 2007 and 2010 the most important sending countries were Algeria and Morocco. Each year about 25,000 new migrants came from each of these countries to France. Ranked third and fourth are China and Tunisia, respectively.

All in all, the migration balance (net immigration) has been continuously positive in recent years. In 2010, it was at about 75.000 people. Migration has thus contributed to the growth of the French population. Unlike other European countries such as Germany, however, France also has a higher number of births than deaths. The average birth rate in France in 2010 was about 2.01 births per woman (average in the EU-27 in 2010 was 1.59 births/woman). In this year the birth rate reached the highest level since the end of the Baby Boom in 1973. According to the Institut National d’Etudes Démographiques (INED), contrary to the widespread stereotype, the birth rate among immigrants is not significantly higher than that of the French-born population. In contrast to fears expressed in the wake of the EU’s enlargement to the East in 2004, even eight years later no significant rise in legal and long-term immigration from these countries to France has been registered. Together with the majority of EU states, France first limited the free movement of workers from East European countries, then opened their employment market to them incrementally. Right on time for the French accession to the EU-Council Presidency on July 1, 2008, France finally lifted the last of these restrictions to their employment market. In 2006 residence permits were granted to 7,879 immigrants from those East European countries which became Member States in 2004. After the admission of Bulgaria and Romania (2007), the number of residence permits rose to 9,569 (2007) and 9,566 (2008). The rescission of the transitional regulations for those Eastern European countries that had joined the EU in 2004 and the accompanying full movement and residence rights for their citizens led to a significant decrease in the number of allocated residence permits (6,711 in 2009 and 7,358 in 2010).



  1. Secrétariat général du Comité interministériel de contrôle de l’immigration (2011).

  2. Pla/Beaumel (2012) and Pla/Beaumel (2011).

  3. Libération 1-21-2004.

  4. See Euractiv 5-29-2008.

  5. Secrétariat général du Comité interministériel de contrôle de l’immigration (2011).

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