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France Visa Language Test Toughened

The French government have raised the minimum level of French language competence required for those seeking a permanent resident visa.

One of the formalities of obtaining a visa to live permanently in France is an obligatory language test.

It is required for non-EU nationals seeking a carte de resident and carte de résident de longue durée-UE.

Following Brexit, once the transition period is over, these visas are likely to be amongst those offered to UK nationals seeking permanent residence, where they do not otherwise have rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.

Hitherto, the language test used has been the DILF - Diplôme Initial de Langue Française - a basic certificate equivalent to level A1 of the Council of Europe's Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

Obtaining it attested to a ‘sufficient’ competence in the French language to allow a permanent resident visa to be granted.

However, in 2016 a substantial new immigration law was passed which presaged a tougher language test, and a decree setting out mechanics of the new test finally emerged last month.

The decree specifies that the new level of language competence required for a visa is A2 of the CEFR.

Whilst the A1 standard testifies to an introductory understanding of the French language, the A2 standard is a level that would enable the applicant to undertake a basic training course or obtain access to basic employment.

As formidable as this might sound, the A2 standard still remains an elementary level of comprehension; there are four higher levels in the CEFR scale B1, B2, C1, and C2.

Those seeking French nationality are required to take a test equivalent to B1 standard, although those aged of 60+ (or disabled/chronic illness) are exempt from the test.

More specifically, the visa test requires the applicant to demonstrate:

  • An understanding of isolated sentences and frequently used expressions in relation to everyday situations (personal and family information, shopping, close environment, work, etc.).
  • Communication of routine daily tasks requiring only an exchange of simple information concerning familiar subjects.
  • Description by rudimentary means of their training, of their immediate environment, and subjects corresponding to their immediate needs.

The tests can be taken by authorised training bodies, normally arranged through the prefecture. The test is operative from 7th March 2018.

Those aged at least 65 years old are exempt, as are those who hold a mainstream French educational qualification.

Strictly speaking, also exempt from the test those seeking the visa «résident de longue durée - UE» who are of EU nationality, but we hear of many instances where a test has been imposed.

However, some prefectures are clearly processing the incorrect visa for EU nationals. As Debra Archer of the RIFT citizens’ rights campaign group in France points out: “EU nationals should make sure they apply for the 'Carte de Séjour "Citoyen UE/EEE/Suisse - Séjour Permanent', so as to avoid the language test. It is the correct residence card for EU nationals after 5 years of lawful residence."

A comparison of the requirements for the A1 and A2 standards is set out below.

French Language Tests Comparison
Je peux comprendre des mots
familiers et des expressions très
courantes au sujet de moi
-même, de ma famille et de
l'environnement concret et immédiat,
si les gens parlent lentement et
Je peux comprendre des expressions et un
vocabulaire très fréquent relatifs à
ce qui me concerne de très près
(par ex. moi-même, ma famille, les
achats, l’environnement proche, le
travail). Je peux saisir l'essentiel
d'annonces et de messages simples et clairs.
Je peux comprendre des noms
familiers, des mots ainsi que
des phrases très simples, par
exemple dans des annonces,
des affiches ou des catalogues.
Je peux lire des textes courts
très simples. Je peux trouver
une information particulière
prévisible dans des documents
courants comme les publicités,
les prospectus, les menus et les
horaires et je peux comprendre des
lettres personnelles courtes et
Je peux communiquer, de façon
simple, à condition que
l'interlocuteur soit disposé
à répéter ou à reformuler ses
phrases plus lentement et à
m'aider à formuler ce que
j'essaie de dire. Je peux poser
des questions simples sur des
sujets familiers ou sur ce
dont j’ai immédiatement
besoin, ainsi que répondre à
de telles questions.
Je peux communiquer lors de
tâches simples et habituelles
ne demandant qu'un échange
d'informations simple et direct
sur des sujets et des activités
familiers. Je peux avoir des
échanges très brefs même si,
en règle générale, je ne
comprends pas assez pour
poursuivre une conversation.
Je peux utiliser des expressions
et des phrases simples pour
décrire mon lieu d'habitation et
les gens que je connais.
Je peux utiliser une série de
phrases ou d'expressions
pour décrire en termes simples ma
famille et d'autres gens, mes
conditions de vie, ma
formation et mon activité
professionnelle actuelle ou
Je peux écrire une courte carte
postale simple, par exemple de
vacances. Je peux porter des
détails personnels dans un
questionnaire, inscrire par
exemple mon nom, ma
nationalité et mon adresse sur
une fiche d'hôtel.
Je peux écrire des notes et
messages simples et courts. Je
peux écrire une lettre
personnelle très simple, par
exemple de remerciements.


Whether existing British nationals in France need to apply for a visa to live permanently in France after Brexit is questionable.

As we pointed out in the article Brexit and Long-Term Residents of France, those who have lived in France for at least 5 years have an automatic legal right of permanent residence in France.

Those who have been resident for less than 5 years will also obtain a permanent right of residence, arising out of the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU, as we pointed out in our article Brexit and Citizens Rights.  A 'no-deal' crash out from the EU remains a remote possibility, but it is inconceivable even then that France would not allow those resident in the country at the time of Brexit to remain.

Related Reading:

This article was featured in our Newsletter dated 07/03/2018

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