France’s new law restricts Nigerians, others from housing, other welfare benefits

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The French parliament has passed a controversial immigration law that restricts family reunification for migrants, delays access to welfare benefits, and creates a two-tier system of citizen and non-citizen rights.

The legislation, supported by President Emmanuel Macron but backed by both his centrist party and the far-right National Rally, has sparked outrage from the left and exposed fissures within the governing alliance.

The legislation, a tougher version of a previously rejected bill, makes it significantly more difficult for migrants, including Nigerian students, to bring their families to France.

The new law will make it harder for non-EU immigrants living legally in France to bring family members over to join them.

People seeking a visa for a spouse or relative won’t be able to apply until they have been in France for at least two years, and they have to show proof of “stable, regular and sufficient” financial resources as well as a form of health insurance (including public).

In the case of unmarried partners, only those over the age of 21 will be eligible, rather than those over the age of 18.

Additionally, it imposes a longer waiting period for accessing welfare benefits and creates a two-tier system with different eligibility criteria for citizens and legal migrants.

Critics, including Socialist Party leader Olivier Faure, accuse Macron of enabling the far-right, while Marine Le Pen’s National Rally supports the bill.

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Key provisions of the law stipulate that some social security benefits for foreigners are conditional on spending five years in France (or 30 months for those employed).

Children born to foreign parents in France must now formally apply for nationality between the ages of 16 and 18, instead of automatically receiving French citizenship at 18.

Convicted individuals will face denials of their nationality applications, and dual nationals convicted of murdering a law enforcement officer can be stripped of their French nationality.

The law goes further to limit immigrant access to welfare in France, introducing a waiting period before non-EU nationals can claim certain benefits.

Immigrants from outside the EU must reside in France for five years (reduced to two and a half if employed) before being eligible for housing allowances, family benefits, and income support for the over-60s.

First-time student visa applicants from non-EU countries are now required to pay a deposit to the state to cover unforeseen costs during their studies. The amount, yet to be determined, will be refunded if the student complies with the terms of their stay.

Students with permission to stay several years in France will also have to prove annually that they are enrolled in a genuine, “serious” programme.

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France offers certain visas on the basis of ill health to allow immigrants to remain for the purpose of receiving medical treatment.

However, under the reform, such visas will only be granted if an applicant can demonstrate there is no “appropriate treatment” available in their country of origin. And if they have a certain level of resources, they will be shut out of the state healthcare system.

However, parliament did not agree to scrap state-funded medical aid for undocumented immigrants, as sought by the right but opposed by public health experts.

Source: Guardian Newspaper

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