New French Naturalization Rules

Interior Minister Manuel Valls.
Photo: Flickr.com/fondapol

On Thursday October 18th, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls announced that he sent a document to the prefects, which altered naturalization conditions. Namely, Valls removed the multiple-choice questions (QCM) about French culture and history, as well as the obligation to have signed a contract of indeterminate length (CDI).

He presented this reform four months ago, in order to counteract the policy of the former government. The exact numbers are not known, but the number of naturalizations decreased between 45% and 30% from 2010 to 2012. Valls said he “does not have a specific statistic that he wants to achieve, ” but rather, that he only wants to “retrieve the old rhythm and review the whole process.”

In Toulouse, Valls presented a speech for the ceremony of Nationality Certificate’s Conferment. He declared that he would “change the whole procedure of instructing demands and criteria” in two steps, and that most importantly, he would remove the more discriminating criteria which caused a refusal rate of nearly 70%.

Valls explained the two majors measures he planned on implementing. He stated that, “he refuses that only those who have a CDI can become French.” Furthermore he said that, “ from now on, the multiple-choice method (QCM) method on French history and culture’s knowledge is dropped.” This QCM method, which had been decided on by the former government, should have been applied on July 1st.

However, since the majority in the government has changed, this aspect will no longer be implemented. Valls is very critical about the former government’s policy, which he described as creating a “France full of doubts, which watches the world with defiance and which surrenders to the retirement temptation.” Thus, he denounced the national identity debate, which he refused to further develop.

In addition to the official reforms, Valls, also, requests that the prefects be more lenient with the foreign students’ files, which were systematically denied these last two years due to “lack of means.” It presented a real handicap for the young graduates who had studied in France, since hiring a foreigner is really binding in France.

Valls also wants to go back to the idea that you must reside in France for at least five years in order to ask for French citizenship. Former Interior Minister Claude Guéant had implied that the minimum be raised to ten years, without ever officially passing a law. This new law, however, explicitly requires five years of legal residence. Despite some very different policies, Valls does agree with some points changed by Guéant, including that naturalized citizens must have some knowledge of French history, and that they must have reached an education level equivalent to the 9th grade.

Yet, reactions to this change were immediate, especially in the UMP and the Front National. The right and extreme-right personalities moved ardently against this “cheap nationality” as stated by Eric Ciotti, an UMP deputy. Michele Tabarot, the general UMP’s delegate, said that this was a “huge sell out of the French nationality.”

This reform will lead to a new debate on national identity, an idea that already divides most French parties. Some view France as a traditional land of immigration, while others want France to stay purely French.

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