On December 19, France’s parliament passed the amended legislation, after a previous version was rejected. Within the latest version of the bill – containing even tougher measures for foreigners in France – one of the most significant changes for international students is the introduction of a deposit to be paid when applying for a student visa.

The deposit – of which the amount is yet to be specified – covers “unexpected costs” that may arise during their stay and will be returned to the student if they leave France on the expiration of the student residency permit, if they renew the permit or if they obtain a new French residency permit with a different title or status.

The deposit will be definitively withheld if the student has “evaded enforcement of a removal order”, the bill read.

The law also establishes an increase in tuition fees for students from non-EU countries, French publication Le Parisien reported. It also requires those with multi-year student residency permits provide evidence each year to show they are enrolled in a ‘real and serious’ study program.

The leaders of three of France’s top business schools – ESSEC, ESCP and HEC – expressed their concerns for the immigration law in a column in Le Parisien, arguing that the steps could “seriously threaten” France’s international competitiveness and branding the provisions as “far from solutions”.

In an interview with BFMTV, politician Paul Midy, member of the National Assembly and Macron’s Renaissance party, who is against the idea of the deposit, suggested the amount would be “symbolic” and “modest”, in the range of 10 or 20 euros.

Even so, stakeholders are calling for clarification, with the three business school leaders saying the amount “which would not be determined by law, opens the door to arbitrary and clearly dissuasive variations”.

“France is a land of choice for many talents from all over the world,” wrote Vincenzo Vinzi, dean and president of ESSEC Business School in a LinkedIn post.

“They are an opportunity for our country and for French companies that are developing around the world. They are also a link between France and their home country, helping to build such important bridges in a more challenging geopolitical environment,” Vinzi continued.

“The solution has never been to turn inward”

“It is terrible that the ongoing debates on the immigration law open the door to doing the opposite and significantly undermining the attractiveness of France. The solution has never been to turn inward.”

The three leaders highlighted the goal of Campus France of reaching 500,000 international students by 2027, an aim that was set out in 2019. They questioned the negative impact the immigration law and its changes could have on reaching the landmark figure – which they believe is essential to growing the country’s academic influence and economic competitiveness.

The immigration law is set to make it more difficult for immigrants in France to receive certain benefits such as housing aid but luckily for international students, they are exempt from this specific change and can still receive housing benefits with their student visa.

The bill will also see it made more difficult for immigrants to bring family members to France, increasing the time that an immigrant has been residing in France before doing so from 18 months to 24 months, as well as in increase in age from 18 to 21 for unmarried partners.

France is not alone in tightening its restrictions on dependants, with the UK’s ban on international students bringing dependants brought into play on January 1.

Far-right politician Marine Le Pen claimed the passing of France’s immigration law as an “ideological victory”.

Meanwhile, 50 charities including the French Human Rights League branded it as “the most regressive bill of the past 40 years for the rights and living conditions of foreigners, including those who have long been in France”.

The immigration law still needs to be approved by France’s constitutional council, and aspects may be changed or removed in this process.

“The new immigration law will undoubtedly impact international students’ decision to choose France as their study destination. It’s vital to remember that France hosts over 400,000 international students annually, contributing significantly to the economy with a net economic impact of 1.35 billion euros,” said Nicolas Breton, COO and co-founder of Paris-based edtech company StudentGator.

“These students are not only economic contributors but also cultural ambassadors and future business leaders with a high inclination to work with French companies,” said Breton.

“Moreover, France is in competition with top schools and countries worldwide, and restrictive measures might deter this valuable influx, affecting France’s academic appeal and economic vitality.”

The immigration law still needs to be approved by France’s constitutional council, and aspects may be changed or removed in this process.