(Nov. 2, 2007) Following a campaign promise made by presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, in the last few weeks the French Parliament has debated a new immigration law that would further tighten the requirements for family reunification. Law 2006-911 of July 24, 2006, on Immigration and Integration, had already made the conditions for family reunification more stringent. These conditions include respect for the fundamental principles of the French Republic, in particular, secularism and equality between men and women; the applicant having sufficient means to support his family through work and not through social benefits; and the obligation to sign an integration contract.
After Sarkozy's successful election, the government sent a proposed immigration reform bill to Parliament. A parliamentary committee has just worked out the differences in the two versions passed separately by the National Assembly and the Senate. Under the terms of this combined version, applicants older than 16 years of age who seek to join family members are required to take a test in their country of origin to demonstrate a good knowledge of the French language and the values of the French Republic. If needed, the applicant may be asked to attend language courses before obtaining a long-term visa. Applicants also have to prove that their family could support them and that the family income providers earn at least the minimum wage. Parents have to sign an integration contract for the family with the state. The contract requires them to attend training on the rights and duties of parents in France and to agree to send their children to school.
The most controversial provision of the draft law is the recourse to DNA testing to fight fraud in family reunion cases. When the applicant does not have a birth certificate or has been notified by the French consular officer that there is serious doubt regarding the authenticity of the document presented, he or she may ask for DNA testing. The DNA test is limited to showing the relationship with the mother, to avoid potentially embarrassing revelations about paternity. The consular officer transfers the DNA request to the competent court to rule on its necessity. The French government is to pay for the test. Recourse to DNA testing is subject to a trial period until December 31, 2009. Parliament then will reexamine the provision.
Both chambers of Parliament will debate the new version of the draft law in the very near future. If it is adopted in its current form, opponents of the DNA testing have vowed to challenge the constitutionality of the measure before the Constitutional Council. (Sénat, Projet de loi relative à la maîtrise de l'immigration, à l'intégration et à l'asile: Texte élaboré par la commission mixte paritaire.)