France Streamlines Visa Process for Non-EU Agricultural Workers

France Streamlines Visa Process for Non-EU Agricultural Workers

To address the ongoing lack of workers in the agricultural sector, France has adopted a two-pronged approach.

First, it has added agriculture to the list of “short-staffed” sectors. This makes it easier to hire non-European workers already in France, even if they do not have all the right paperwork.

Second, it has eased visa requirements for foreign seasonal workers, allowing them to obtain work permits more easily.

Breaking down barriers to agricultural employment

Previously, irregular migrants seeking work permits had to prove that they had been in France for 10 years and provide 24 pay slips.

Under the new rules, they need to show evidence of only three years of residency and submit 12 pay slips.

Once obtained, the work permit is valid for one renewable year, providing a pathway to legal employment.

Streamlining the process for agricultural businesses

The move also benefits agricultural businesses seeking to hire foreign workers.

They can now hire non-European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) citizens more easily. They do not have to show proof of labor need, making the recruitment process easier.

This update solves problems for farmers who used to face long waiting times to obtain work authorizations, which made it hard for them to find enough help during busy seasons.

A widespread phenomenon in Europe

France is not alone in its efforts to attract foreign workers.

Germany has promised to bring in 400,000 skilled workers every year and has agreed to make it easier for undocumented immigrants to join language and integration programs.

Italy is also doing its part by giving special residence permits to encourage existing workers to make their status legal.

North-south divide in labor migration patterns

A distinct pattern emerges in the sourcing of foreign agricultural labor across Europe. 

In the northern regions, such as Germany, workers often come from Eastern and Central European countries like Poland and Romania to work seasonally on farms.

However, in Southern European countries like France, there is a growing dependence on workers from outside the EU. For instance, about 75% of seasonal workers in France come from Morocco.

EU’s support for targeted labor migration

The European Union recognizes the vital role of seasonal and migrant workers in meeting periodic labor demands in agriculture.

A recent report from the European Commission suggests promoting “targeted labor migration from third countries” to tackle skill shortages.

The European Parliament has also called for better integration of migrant labor as a potential solution to rural depopulation.

Contrasting political reactions in France

While left-wing parties in France appear cautiously supportive of the move, the far-right has rejected it outright, citing fears of encouraging mass immigration from outside Europe.

The centrist right is split on the matter, with certain leaders against the move while others see it as beneficial for farmers.

Mapping the journey for seasonal sojourns

The relaxation of visa rules mainly focuses on making it easier for agricultural workers from non-EU countries to enter the EU. However, these changes could also have an impact on people planning short-term visits to the Schengen Area.

Around mid-2025, the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) will be launched. This means that travelers from countries exempt from needing a visa will have to get authorization before they can visit the Schengen zone.

The move to regularize agricultural workers could potentially influence ETIAS policies and procedures.

As non-EU nationals take advantage of these relaxed visa requirements to enter EU countries, their legal status could affect whether they are eligible for various types of travel documents, depending on why they are traveling.

Reshaping long-term immigration prospects

Facilitating visas for agricultural workers could lead to longer stays or even permanent residency. This means that not only short-term visitors but also those working in agriculture could have more opportunities to stay in France.

For families of regularized workers, it could be easier for them to join their loved ones. Additionally, people from non-EU countries who work online or invest might find new chances in France’s agriculture sector.

Moreover, this policy shift might influence broader immigration dialogues within the EU.

As EU countries deal with a lack of workers in many industries, France’s actions might encourage similar ideas. This could change how immigration policies work in the long run and how people from outside the EU can become residents or citizens.

A pragmatic solution for the agricultural sector

The French agricultural sector benefits from regulating immigrant workers, which helps create clearer guidelines for temporary employment and prevents situations where workers face unacceptable conditions.

The FNSEA, France’s main farming union, has long pushed for agriculture to be recognized as a sector facing labor shortages, aiming to fill around 70,000 positions each year, especially during harvest times.

France’s decision to ease visa rules for foreign agricultural workers reflects a pragmatic approach to addressing labor shortages in a vital sector.

While political responses vary, this step aligns with broader European initiatives to simplify targeted labor migration and integrate migrant workers into local communities, ensuring a stable workforce for the agricultural sector.