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France: New Visa Restrictions for Foreign University Graduates

If the United States' immigration law had ever been similar to the one France recently decided to apply, Yahoo would have been a Chinese company (founded by Jerry Yang from Taiwan), Google would now be a successful Russian business (set up by Sergey Brin) and Apple would have been a Syrian enterprise – the father of Steve Jobs was a foreign student when his son was born.

What's more, if the University of Hawaïï had not given Barack Obama Sr. the opportunity to study in the US, his son would probably not be here today.

Immigration debate

A political debate has been going on in France since beginning of September 2011. Minister of Interior and President Sarkozy's former Chief of Staff, Claude Guéant, signed in May 2011, cojointly with the Minister of Work and Social Relations, Xavier Bertrand, a circular which makes it more difficult for foreign students who have graduated from French public and private universities to work on French territory and thus change their student visa permit into a working visa.

Claude Guéant, French Minister of Interior. Image from iledere.parti-socialiste.fr (CC).

Claude Guéant, French Minister of Interior. Image from iledere.parti-socialiste.fr (CC).

In addition, a decree was signed on September 6, 2011, in order to tighten conditions for foreigners looking to pursue their higher education in France.

Julie Smith, an American citizen living in France was affected by these new policies. After she received a deportation letter from the authorities, she wrote on French information website Rue 89:

Here is my story of being an American immigrant in France, the story of many as immigration policy has tightened under Interior Minister Claude Guéant. This policy destroys the lives of many foreigners who have been settled in France and have built their lives here for years. It deprives France of their real contribution to the economy and is applied in a completely illogical and unjust manner.

French and international students mobilised against these new legal steps, as well as several university chancellors. On October 18, 500 students symbolically demonstrated in front of the Sorbonne University in Paris, to protest against Guéant's policies. To show the absurdity of the measure, they threw their French diplomas into the garbage.

The following video posted on YouTube by user 123VivaAlgerieNew shows the scene:

Demonstration

The demonstration was organised by the “Collectif du 31 mai”, an organisation which gathers foreign students and graduates from French universities. It counts more than 6,000 supporting members on its Facebook page.

“La Confederation Étudiante”, the second most important student union in France, has also mobilised on the issue. The organisation has launched a petition asking the Government to withdraw the measure. It has been signed by more than 2,000 people thus far.

We interviewed Baki Youssoufou, president of “La Confédération Étudiante”. In the following video, he explains the absurdity of the measure, and why he assumes it is related to upcoming 2012 French presidential election:

Some international students assume that the May 31 circular is an opportunity for them to go back to their countries and help develop them. Kocoumbo, a Cameroonian student, published an anonymous guest post on Rue 89 entitled “African Students, Guéant is helping us: let us dare go back home” [fr]. He writes:

A cet égard, en dépit des tragédies personnelles des uns ou des autres, je ne peux m'empêcher de penser que c'est là un fier service que M. Guéant nous rend.

In this regard, despite of our personal tragedies, I cannot help myself thinking that Guéant is doing us a great favour

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