Language Tests Get Tougher For French Citizenship

A,Chalkboard,With,The,Question,Parlez vous,Francais?,Do,You,Speak

The rumour of more stringent language tests for non-European people wanting to live permanently in France has been making ex-pats nervous for the past year or so, with rumours last month that a decision was imminent.

It would seem that a decision has finally been made under the auspices of new immigration laws that were proposed in February 2023.

At the time, the proposal was centred around introducing a new compulsory language test for anyone applying for a ‘Carte de séjour pluriannuelle’ (multi-year residency permit in France).

According to the man responsible for writing the legislation, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, “Today, a quarter of foreigners who have residence permits understand and speak French extremely badly.”

Under the terms of the new bill passed at the end of January this year, people wanting to live permanently in France will have to demonstrate more advanced language skills than previously required. Written and oral language ability is measured according to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).  CEFR uses a six point scale, starting at A1 for beginners, and rising up though A2, B1, B2, C1 to the highest level, C2, which is only awarded to those who have fully mastered a language.

So what does that mean for our clients?

For holders of the 10-year Carte de Résident, the proficiency level has been raised from A2 to B1, defined by CEFR as intermediate level.

For those applying for French citizenship, the level has been raised from B1 to B2 (high intermediate level).

The good news is that the new law will probably take a little while to implement. The latest possible start date has been set for January 2026, which hopefully gives everybody a bit of breathing (and learning) space.

However, it is better to be prepared.

Here at French Connections HCB, we’ve had many conversations this month with clients worried that they might not make the grade. So as well as offering reassurance, we decided to put some positive help in place by reaching out to our friends at the Alliance Française.

We spoke to Melissa Saura, National Program Manager of the Federation of the Alliances Françaises USA, and Isabelle Leroux, President of the Federation of the Alliances Françaises USA, who are both based in the US.

Isabelle is quick to acknowledge that the new rules for the citizenship applications to go from level B1 to level B2 can be challenging for some people. “The French test is harder than the test for US citizenship, for example.”

It’s not just the degree of difficulty. As Isabelle explains, “People are sometimes surprised by the type of exam it is. You need to be prepared. If you decide to do so, we recommend spending time with someone from an Alliance Française to practice taking the exam so that you know what kind of questions to expect. The fact that the exam is 100% online surprises many people and it can be easy to lose track of time. Even when you have the necessary language skills, this may be insufficient given the format of the exam. Being prepared is your best option.”

We discussed how to overcome this lack of readiness. Isabelle is quick to confirm that test preparation courses are available at the Alliance Française. You can also challenge yourself with online practice tests.

Melissa explains, “It’s an exam, and like any exam you have to practice making sure you are fast enough, and that you are not surprised by the questions.”

Speaking about her home market, Melissa says, “We have 106 Alliance Française chapters in the US alone. It’s the largest AF network in the world, with one centre in most of the big cities. You can’t sit the exam in all those places, but you can practice in any Alliance that is able to do it and they will refer you to the closest exam centre.”

So if you need to take the exam for citizenship, what should you do next?

“Contact the AF closest to you and they will check your level and let you know whether you are eligible for the exam or need to improve your language skills.  In cases where your French is not up to scratch, we evaluate how many hours of French language tuition you need and get you to where you need to be. You have the choice of in-person, online or private lessons.”

Alliance Française is designed to gear you up for success.

Isabelle points out that there is another very good reason for wanting to pass first time.  “The exam is pricey – around US$300 – so you don’t want to fail. As well as the cost of the exam, you may need to travel to the nearest exam centre, which may entail an overnight stay. It all adds up so you want to get it right first time. You don’t get a discount if you need to re-sit.”

While the Alliance Française can be a test centre, the exam itself is strictly regulated by the French administration. The exam tests your oral and written French and If you are successful, you will receive a certificate as proof of your language level which must be included in the documents you submit for your citizenship application. Just to be clear, the exam should not be confused with the interview that happens face to face at the Consulate later in the application process.

Melissa adds, “The advantage of Alliance Française is not only the small classes and great camaraderie with your teacher and the other students, but in parallel there are also all the cultural events that you can join – movie events followed by discussion, conversation groups, cultural events… There are so many opportunities for you to get out and practice what you are learning.”

Isabelle agrees that practice is key to success. “At Alliance Française, we prepare people. We do our job very well and most of our students are successful.”

To help you find your nearest Alliance Française, here are easy links for the US, UK, Australia, Canada and France:






Meanwhile, if you need help or advice on anything to do with residency visas or citizenship, the friendly team at French Connections HCB is here to help.  Get the ball rolling with an initial 30 minute face to face video consultation with our visa specialist, Richard Hammond, by booking here at a time to suit you.  The consultation costs 90 euros but is fully refundable from the first service you book with us.

Here’s to the joy of permanently living in France!

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