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France repeals controversial foreign student and graduate visa restrictions

The new French government has annulled a controversial measure that imposed stiff visa restrictions on foreign students and graduates, as the newly elected president, François Hollande, had promised to do during his election campaign.

The move to abandon the 2011 Guéant memorandum, which had limited the chances for foreign post-secondary students to stay in the country after their studies, was overturned 31 May – almost exactly a year after it was first announced.

The “new circular is understood to tell the relevant officials not to deport students whose temporary right to stay has run out, and to speed up the handling of requests for working papers,” RFI reports.

“The new memorandum will restore France’s image in the world and will reinforce positive aspects of our system of higher education and research,” said a statement by the higher education ministry.

The original policy had “caused a storm of opposition from students’ unions, immigrants’ rights groups and employers when it was issued,” according to RFI, and the previous government had already backed down from some of its most restrictive provisions.

France’s main student union welcomed the repeal but said in a statement on its website that the move alone was not sufficient and that it would continue to campaign for other measures to improve conditions for foreign students in France.

Ministers also ordered that the work-permit application process be made more efficient and transparent.

Sources: The Chronicle of Higher Education, The NY Times

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