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France opens up work permits to international students

French officials have instructed the local authorities to review work-permit applications from foreign college graduates following criticism from students, heads of schools and companies that immigration rules were forcing highly qualified graduates to leave the country.

Last week, a joint memo from the ministries of Interior, Higher Education and Labor called on local prefects to “re-examine” requests filed while stricter rules stated in a previous memo, issued on May 31 of last year, were in place. All expulsion procedures against applicants whose papers were rejected under those rules are to be suspended, the memo said.

Non-European holders of at least a French master’s degree or equivalent will have six months after graduation to find a “first work experience” and apply for working papers. They can also file for a regular work permit.

The new memo “corrects difficulties and errors that we made,” the higher education minister, Laurent Wauquiez, said on RMC radio. The Interior Ministry said that it knew of 674 cases of graduates affected by the original memo. “Yes, France wants to control its immigration policy,” he said, but added, “No, France doesn’t close its doors to foreign students.”

Strict application of immigration rules on foreign graduates sparked fears that the country could become less attractive for students.

“France strongly affirms its willingness to host foreign students,” Pierre Tapie, chairman of the Conférence des Grandes Ecoles, a grouping of some of the country’s most prestigious schools, said in a phone interview last Friday.

Source: The New York Times


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