“This is the end” For The Highly Controversial “Guéant’s Circular”

Yesterday, May 31st, the famous “Guéant’s Circular”, was revoked. It comes exactly one year after Claude Guéant, the former Minister of the Interior, published the order. This was one of Hollande’s promises during the campaign.

The “Guéant Circular”, named after its principle proponent, was highly controversial in France as well as abroad, as the circular made it harder for foreign students who had pursued education in France to acquire working papers to stay in the country. The order to local officials called for rigorous” consideration of the applications of international students for working visas in France. The circular made it almost impossible for non-EU students to find jobs in the country, even if they had a stable job offer. Additionally, many students lost the jobs they had been offered after leaving prestigious universities, forcing them to spend a month here illegally, with neither a work nor student visa.

Immediately after its publication, the bill sparked strong protests across the whole country, especially at universities, which strongly resisted the bill. Some notable professors even became sponsors of students whose situations were jeopardized, and even illegal in some cases.

The bill had lead to many bizarre and uncomfortable situations. For instance, some agencies from the US and China immediately took advantage of the law and came to France with heads-hunters looking hire the students who were forced to refuse proper job offerings because of the bill. Many accused it of being counterproductive decision that actually achieved the opposite of the intension, threatening the French influence abroad and spreading a negative reputation in both the research and business communities. The minister of Higher Education, Genviève Fioraso commented on May 24th that the bill “had an extremely harmful impact and stained [the French] figure in the world.”

Several people denounced the circular, which was deemed xenophobic and anti-immigrant. According to the severest opponents, the order represented extreme-right and nationalist tendencies.

The new Minister of the Interior, Manuel Valls, reassured the representatives of several interest groups, that a new bill would be drafted that only includes the “positive points” of the previous bill. It could be published in the next few days, and should help to “guide the prefects (local officials)” in their decisions regarding international students. However, President François Hollande said during his campaign that a discussion regarding the number of immigrants in France needed was necessary. He proposed a plan through which a national “rate” of immigration would be set every year by the parliament. Many believe that this was merely a tactic for Hollande to show that the immigrant situation was on his priorities list while the country faces increasing unemployment rates. Nevertheless, the socialist President has made clear that he wants to have this type of discussion without triggering a general resentment against international students and foreign workers.

The new order should then forbid the automatic expulsion of students after their visa has expired and should encourage the reduction of the waiting time for the treatment of applications. Student associations, many Universities and an understandably large amount of international students studying in France have warmly welcomed this gesture.

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