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French government scraps restrictions on foreign graduates' right to work

AFP/Pierre Verdy

France’s Socialist government was on Thursday set to scrap an order from former Interior Minister Claude Guéant limiting foreign graduates’ right to work in France a year to the day after it came into force.

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The so-called “Guéant circular” caused a storm of opposition from students’ unions, immigrants’ rights groups and employers when it was issued and François Hollande promised to revoke it during his campaign to become president.

The circular instructed local officials to hand out fewer working papers to non-European Union students who graduated from French universities and came after Guéant, in reaction to a strong showing by the far-right Front National in cantonal elections, pledged to cut legal immigration from 200,000 to 180,000 people a year.

The government on Wednesday told students’ unions that a new order was being drawn up, telling officials to treat requests for papers “more favourably”.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls told French television Thursday that it would be sent out that day, adding that the employment of foreign graduates trained in France was “an opportunity for them and an opportunity for France”.

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.

Students’ unions welcomed the change but pointed out that it does not mean an automatic right to work in France for foreign graduates.

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