Charges for a residence permit are too high and the tariff schedule too confusing, says a French parliamentary report.
In a report published last month for the National Assembly's Finance Committee, parliamentary deputes Stella Dupont and Jean-François Parigi point to the high level of taxes for the issue, renewal and provision of copies of residence permits.
The authors consider these charges are likely to compromise the integration of foreign nationals, and propose several changes concerning their architecture and management.
Nearly 1 million residence permits (titres/cartes de séjour) are issued each year, around 75% of which are renewals. The activity produces nearly €200 million income for the state.
There are many different kinds of residence permits, ranging from temporary permits for a year, to multi-year permits, fixed term permits up to 10 years, and permits granting a right of permanent residence.
According to the report, there are 13 different basic tariffs that apply, plus supplementary charges, to which numerous exceptions and reductions are available.
The public concerned by these exceptions and reductions varies according to the nature of the permit and the operation carried out, whether first issue, renewal, or provision of a duplicate.
The report states that the complexity of the tariff structure leads to "divergences in interpretation between prefectures", an observation that has been previously made the French national auditor, the Cour de Comptes.
Inevitably, the complexity of the tariff structure "hinders users' understanding of the regulations", says the report.
Most of the permits issued to foreign nationals legally residing in France are subject to the payment of a charge, ranging from €50 to over €600.
The authors consider the general level that applies (around €250) to be "excessive", with France in the upper range of other countries in the European Union.
The amounts paid by foreign nationals are also much higher than those paid by French nationals for the issue of similar documents. The charges paid by a French national for a passport is €89, and no charge is imposed for the provision of an identity card.
Above all, the parliamentarians consider that the structure of taxation is unfavourable to foreign nationals on a low income, stating: "The lower the income of a foreign national, the more they may be required to pay these taxes regularly, in particular because of the restrictive access to multi-year residence permits."
The report recommends making the taxes simpler, by reducing their number from 13 to 5 and by rounding the tariffs (€0, €25, €50, €100 and €200) to facilitate the understanding and management of the system, with a general recommendation for the charge to be €100 for permits no longer than a year.
The parliamentarians also put forward eight proposals to make the tariff regime fairer and bring it closer to the average level of other European countries, including the abolition of charges on renewal of an existing permit.
To "make taxation more functional", the report recommends, among other things, allowing applicants to pay taxes in two instalments, while ensuring that the residence permit is issued as soon as the first payment is registered. No income threshold would be set for using this payment facility.
Finally, the report warns against "the increasing digitalisation of administrative procedures", which is intended to reduce queues in the prefectures. This new practice risks causing the "development of a new form of delinquency" via the the fraudulent marketing of open appointments by prefectures to receive applicants, with evidence that such appointments are being sold for up to several hundred euros.