1Migration flows are more difficult to measure statistically than other demographic variables. While birth, marriage and death are clearly defined events, migration is less easy to pinpoint. It cannot simply be defined as a stay in another country: we do not consider tourists and business travellers as immigrants, for example. A person must stay for a sufficiently long time, and – according to international guidelines on migration statistics – have the intention of settling in the host country. Length of stay and individual motivations are hard to incorporate into a statistical estimation, added the simple fact that no democratic country is able to record every single entry and even less every single exit.  Inflows and outflows of goods are tracked more closely by the customs administration than inflows and outflows of people. Compounding those methodological difficulties, migration is a highly sensitive political and media issue. When multiple sources and indicators are used to measure migration, this is sometimes interpreted as an attempt to cover up the “reality” of the situation, or as the government’s inability to monitor migration flows effectively. Yet it is the through wealth and diversity of statistics that we can shed light on the complex phenomenon of migration, whose many facets can never be encapsulated in a single figure.
2This article uses administrative data on residence permits issued to foreign nationals resident in France to define the characteristics of migration flows. A residence permit is an administrative document that authorizes a foreign national to reside in France for a specified length of time. It differs from a visa, which authorizes entry and a short-term stay in the country. Although some long-stay visas are now equivalent to residence permits, as explained below, in most cases a residence permit is required to reside legally in France after a visa has expired.
3This article looks in detail at the advantages and disadvantages of using residence permit data to construct statistical series on migration. It then presents migrant inflows and outflows, broken down by several criteria, for a sixteen-year period from 1998 to 2013.
The migrants included in the study
4By using residence permit data to characterize migrant flows, we consider only a fraction of the people who move to France. Firstly, the migrants included in our study are all foreign nationals. French citizens who return to France after having lived abroad are not recorded in these inflows. Secondly, some foreign nationals resident in France – European nationals, in particular – are not required to hold a residence permit. The right to move and reside freely within the European Union was introduced in 2003 and has been gradually extended to new member countries since then. Citizens of most European countries now have the right to live and work in France without a residence permit. Thirdly, among non-European citizens, residence permit data only cover those third-country nationals who are living legally in France. The only undocumented migrants recorded in the administrative database used here to measure inflows are those who have legalized their status by successfully applying for a residence permit.
5Inflows and outflows of foreign nationals who hold a residence permit are therefore smaller than total migration flows. In this article, the term “inflows” refers to entries into a legal status, not entries into the country. The status in question is that of legal, long-term migrant. It should be noted that the start date of a residence permit does not necessarily correspond to the date of entry into the country, especially if the migrant entered illegally. Similarly, the holder of a valid residence permit may have left France. The term “outflows” therefore refers here to the expiry of the right to legal, long-term residence as a foreign national in France. To sum up, residence permit data provide a measure of migration via rights granted to foreign nationals, specifically the right to reside, rather than through observation of physical residence. The concept of legal migrant and the associated rights are very important in the French political and social arena, as shown by the popularity of the term sans-papiers (without papers) to refer to undocumented migrants who lack the necessary official paperwork.
The residence permit database
6The administrative database that contains information on residence permits and their holders is known by the initials AGDREF, which stand for Application de gestion des dossiers de ressortissants étrangers en France (application for managing files of foreign nationals in France). The database was created by decree on 29 March 1993 “to manage the files of foreign nationals in France from their application for a residence permit to granting thereof; to maintain records of foreign nationals resident in France; and to produce statistics on migration flows”.  AGDREF data are processed by the Department of Statistics, Research and Documentation (DSED) of the Ministry of the Interior. A decree of 8 December 2009 authorized the National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) and the French Institute for Demographic Studies (INED) to obtain anonymous extracts from the database for statistical purposes. AGDREF is a national database containing information supplied by the local databases of each prefecture in France. For the characterization of migration flows, the AGDREF database contains exhaustive data on all the migrants within its scope and is thus free of the traditional biases of datasets drawn from surveys.  Data extractions  from AGDREF have been performed at regular intervals since 2000 and are supplied to INED. They are used to construct statistics on flows of third-country nationals and are published in INED’s annual articles on the demographic situation in France (Mazuy et al., 2013, 2014, 2015). INED also has another statistical series, covering the period 1994-2008, produced from files extracted from the database between 2000 and 2009 (Thierry, 2001, 2004, 2010).
7The two series are not identical, however, due to methodological differences, particularly regarding the choice of files extracted, the treatment of minors, the nationalities included, and the inclusion of France’s overseas départements and collectivities. The AGDREF database has also been used to calculate inflows to the labour market (Léger, 2004, 2008; Léger and Breem, 2013).
8Other data sources can be used to characterize migration flows. The population census is the source traditionally used by INSEE to measure the components of population change. Net migration can be calculated as the difference in the number of residents between two population censuses, minus natural increase (births minus deaths). This method has two advantages: it measures the population actually living in the country; and flows can be broken down according to the many social and demographic variables in the census. One disadvantage is that it does not distinguish between inflows and outflows. More problematically, it is heavily dependent on the frequency of the census. Before 2006, annual flows were estimated using a rule that combined the number of residence permits issued and an extrapolation based on past trends; these figures were subsequently adjusted after the census had been completed (Héran and Toulemon, 2005). Since 2006, the census statistics have been compiled annually and corrections have not been necessary as net migration is deduced from the difference between two censuses (the averages of the five annual surveys). However, the French census is now a large-scale survey rather than a complete count of the entire population. Over a five-year period, every municipality with a population under 10,000 is included, along with 40% of the population living in towns and cities of 10,000 inhabitants or more. The new census can be used to estimate the number of foreign nationals living in France, i.e. the stock of migrants rather than flows. To estimate inflows, two questions in the census questionnaire are used. A question on the year of arrival in France is first used to estimate inflows in a given year based on the number of individuals who report having arrived in that year. For respondents who do not answer that question, inflows can be estimated on the basis of a second question on previous place of residence (five years before the survey date for the annual census until 2010, and the year before the survey for the censuses conducted since 2011). This is how INSEE produced the annual statistics on the number of entries for the period 2006-2012 that were transmitted to Eurostat. 
9The statistics based on residence permit data have advantages and disadvantages with respect to census-based statistics. First, the administrative database contains a record of all individuals who have applied for a residence permit. There is therefore no risk of bias due to an unrepresentative sample.  Second, the period covered is longer. Third, and most importantly, by linking inflows to residence permits issued for stays of one year or more, residence permit statistics reflect an intention to settle, which is one element of the concept of permanent migration. However, the statistics constructed using the AGDREF database do not include European nationals, whose inflows are estimated by INSEE using the population census. By definition, illegal migration is not included in inflows based on granting of residence permits. INSEE’s statistics are also likely to overlook illegal migration because census officials probably have limited access to this population.
10The trend in migration flows is determined by two factors: the demand for residence permits from foreign nationals wishing to settle in France and the supply of residence permits decided by the French administration. Depending on the status of the applicants, demand or supply may be the dominant factor. For example, granting of residence permits to spouses of French nationals is strongly determined by demand, whereas granting of residence permits for employment is more contingent on the government’s immigration policy. The latter changed considerably over the period under review. The years 1997 and 1998 were marked by a major campaign to regularize illegal immigrants. On the legislative front, the Act of 16 March 1998 on Citizenship, and the Decree of 10 March 1999 introduced special provisions on children of foreign nationals living in France, as well as specific documents for them: a foreign-minor identity document (le titre d’identité républicain) for those born in France, and a foreign-minor travel document (le document de circulation) for those born in another country. The Act of 11 May 1998 on the Admission and Residence of Foreign Nationals and the Right of Asylum eased the conditions for family reunion and created new types of residence permits. A few years later, policy changed again, however. In particular, a longer period of residence in the country was required in order to qualify for permanent residence (Act of 26 November 2003 on Immigration Controls, Residence of Foreign Nationals and Citizenship), conditions on family reunion and regularization were tightened, while those for students and workers with specific skills were eased (Act of 24 July 2006 on Immigration and Integration, and Act of 20 November 2007 on Immigration Controls, Integration and Asylum). In 2011 and 2012, an act and several circulars specified the conditions of admission for residence of students, skilled workers, undocumented migrants and asylum seekers.
11Statistics on migration flows are useful for quantitative analyses of migration. They complement academic studies that, in most cases, use the number of foreign nationals living in France at a given point in time. The temporal dimension of data on flows is particularly valuable in econometrics for addressing the problem of endogeneity between migration variables and economic variables due to two-way causality. Gross (2002), Gross and Schmitt (2012) and d’Albis et al. (2016), in particular, use these flow series to estimate the economic impact of migration in France.
I – Data and method
12Several important methodological choices were made when constructing the series of migration flows based on residence permit statistics. The flows can be broken down by the characteristics of the residence permit holders, or of the permit.
Choice of individuals counted in migration flows
13The first methodological choice concerns the distinction between a foreign national and an immigrant. In line with international institutions that produce migration statistics, INSEE defines an immigrant as “a person who was born a foreign national in a foreign country and who resides in France”. Under that definition, not all immigrants are foreign nationals because some have acquired French citizenship; and not all foreign nationals are immigrants because some were born in France.  French-born foreign nationals are therefore excluded from the statistics on migration flows. Although the AGDREF database contains data on residence permits issued to French-born foreign nationals, only the data on foreign-born individuals are used. It should be noted that foreign-born children of foreign nationals who have been adopted by French parents are considered to be French by birth and are therefore also excluded from the statistics on migration flows.
14The second methodological choice concerns the range of nationalities taken into account. This is an important choice because the requirement to hold a residence permit has applied to different nationalities over time. The term “third-country nationals” is commonly used to refer to citizens of countries whose nationals are required to hold a residence permit to live in France. However, over the period under review, the rules on some countries were changed. The Immigration Act of 26 November 2003 abolished the residence permit requirement for nationals of European Union countries, the Swiss Confederation and the states party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area. Citizens of countries admitted to the European Union after that date were also exempted from residence permits after an initial transition period. By 1 January 2014, Croatia was the only EU country whose nationals wishing to work in France were required to hold a residence permit. For an unbiased estimate of flows of foreign nationals over time, the statistics presented must have a constant geographical scope. As a consequence, numbers given for past dates are smaller than those presented previously. The analysis thus excludes countries that were EU members on 30 June 2013, as well as the Vatican City State, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, the Principalities of Andorra and Monaco, the Republic of San Marino, and Switzerland. For information purposes, we also show flows of residence permits issued to nationals of those European countries separately. However, the trend in those flows over time is not particularly interesting. It has automatically decreased as more European countries have been exempted from residence permits. It is worth noting that a third-country national who holds a residence permit issued in another country in the Schengen Area has the right to stay in France for a short period, but if that person wishes to settle in France, he/she must apply for a French residence permit. The statistics presented in this article also include entries of individuals who had previously resided in another Schengen Area country.
Granting of residence permits
15In order to understand our methodological choices, it is useful to recall the typical process leading to the granting of a residence permit. A foreign national may enter France legally after obtaining a visa that authorizes the holder to stay in France for a period of time, usually three months, although this may vary. If the person wishes to remain in France for family or employment reasons after the visa has expired, he/she needs to apply for a residence permit at the prefecture. If the application is valid and complete, the applicant is issued with a receipt which entitles him/her to reside in France for a renewable period, generally of three months. The application may subsequently be accepted or rejected. If accepted, a residence permit is issued to the applicant in person at the prefecture. The permit has a start date and an expiry date. There are several types of residence permit, depending on the authorized length of stay, the applicant’s nationality, and the purpose of stay. The resident’s card (carte de résident) entitles the holder to reside legally in France for ten years. When a residence permit expires, it can be renewed through a similar procedure to the initial application. In 2009,  an alternative procedure was introduced, mainly for applications from students and families. French consulates abroad now issue long-stay visas equivalent to residence permits (VLS-TS). These are usually valid for longer than a traditional three-month visa. If holders of a long-stay visa wish to extend their stay in France beyond a year, they must apply for a residence permit renewal at the prefecture.
Method used to calculate inflows and outflows
16Migration flows are calculated on the basis of statistics on granting of residence permits. The AGDREF database contains information on all currently valid residence permits, all long-stay visa holders who have applied for a renewal at the prefecture,  as well as some expired residence permits.
17Flows of foreign nationals are calculated from AGDREF data as follows. INED has access to the data extracted annually since 2000 in June or July, with the exception of 2001 and 2011. Each extraction contains all information about residence permits contained in the AGDREF database on the date it was extracted. This is the information used to calculate migration flows. However, for the same variable – e.g. the number of residence permits issued in a given year – the statistic may change from one extraction to the next: if the extraction is done a long time after the year of interest, some permits issued in that year will have been removed from the database, in particular those whose holders have died or been naturalized; conversely, a file extracted only a short time after the year of interest could lead to an underestimate because of the time required for the prefectures to supply their data on new residence permits to AGDREF. We therefore made the following methodological choice: we calculated flows for the year n using the file extracted in the year n+2; this means that the period covered is 1998-2013.  Note that the Ministry of the Interior made a similar methodological choice for the final data on first-time residence permits issued in 2013 (DSED, 2015).
18We calculated inflows in two phases. In the first phase, we considered only permits that are valid for at least one year. This eliminated short-term permits associated with temporary migration, as well as permits in the form of application receipts or other provisional authorizations to stay. In fact, our definition of “residence permits valid for at least one year” covers all residence permits where the difference between the start date and the expiry date is at least 364 days. For many of the residence permits, the difference is exactly 364 days. If we had included only permits valid for 365 days or more, we would have severely underestimated migration flows. In the second phase, out of that set, we considered only permits issued for the first time to a given individual. For example, a migrant may have successively held a three-month provisional permit, a one-year permit, and a ten-year resident’s card. The first phase eliminates the three-month permit, while the second phase eliminates the ten-year permit. The second phase is necessary to avoid counting the same migrant more than once. These choices also mean that a person who was legally resident in France for more than a year and who then, for any reason, lived in France without a valid permit but for a period of less than five years, is not counted as a new entry if he/she was issued with a new residence permit. 
19The order of the phases is important. Choosing first-time permits from the set of permits issued for one year or more is not the same as choosing permits issued for one year or more from the set of permits issued for the first time. Moreover, the number of permits counted also depends on the duration chosen. Table 1 shows the number of first-time residence permits issued in 2013 by period of validity. The number of individuals receiving only ten-year permits for the first time (101,276 individuals) is less than half the number receiving a permit of any duration for the first time (228,203 individuals).  The choice of a duration of at least one year produces a smaller figure than the total number of permits because it eliminates individuals who were issued with a permit valid for less than a year who have never held a permit valid for one year or more.
Number of first-time residence permits issued in 2013 by period of validity
Number of first-time residence permits issued in 2013 by period of validity
20The set of permits valid for more than one year issued for the first time is the stock of permits in AGDREF on the date when the file was extracted. We used the extraction of year n+2 to calculate inflows for the year n (see Footnote 11). Inflows are determined by counting all the residence permits (including long-stay visas) with a start date in year n. There are two reasons for choosing the start date. Technically, it is the most reliable time variable in AGDREF: the non-response rate is zero, and it is not based on self-reporting by migrants. More fundamentally, the start date indicates entry into the status of permanent migrant. Moreover, this date is often, although not always, the date of entry into France.
21The AGDREF database can also be used to estimate outflows. However, this is a less reliable measure than the estimate of inflows and should be considered as an order of magnitude only. The outflow series was constructed as follows. The file extracted in year n+2 was used to calculate the number of individuals holding a residence permit of more than one year valid on 1 January of year n+1 and on 1 January of year n. As it is possible for the same person to hold more than one valid permit simultaneously, we eliminated duplicates so as to count only one permit per person. The difference between the two stocks, from which we subtracted inflows in year n, provides an estimate  of outflows in year n. The same extraction from the AGDREF database is used to estimate both inflows and outflows in a given year. Since the elimination of duplicates is random, outflows can only be broken down by the characteristics of the residence permit holders, not the residence permits. The same precaution applies to outflows as to inflows here. Outflows represent exits from the status of permanent migrant, not necessarily exits from the country. Indeed, a person may hold a valid residence permit but no longer be physically present in France on the date considered. Equally, a person may no longer have the status of permanent migrant due to death or naturalization.
Characteristics of the immigrants
22Migration flows can be broken down by the nationalities of the permit holders. We grouped nationalities together to make the statistics easier to read. Group 1 consists of the countries of the Maghreb in the strict sense, namely Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Group 2 consists of all other African countries. Group 3 comprises all Asian countries, including Turkey. Group 4 comprises all European countries, including the Russian Federation, whose nationals needed a residence permit to live in France on 30 June 2013. Group 5 consists of all countries in the Americas and Oceania. For a small number of cases – fewer than 350 permits per year – no nationality is recorded. This may be due to a data entry error or may correspond to stateless migrants.
23Migration flows can also be broken down by the usual demographic characteristics – namely, age and sex – of the residence permit holders. With respect to age, we made the methodological choice of the age of the person on 31 December of the year of the residence permit start date. This enabled us to distinguish between adults – who turned 18 or older during the year – and minors. This is a different choice from the one made to produce INED’s previous series, which used AGDREF data to determine flows of residence permits issued to individuals who entered France at age 19 or above. The new series therefore cover a broader scope. They also use a single source to determine flows of both adults and minors. Note that minors who do not work are not required to hold a residence permit in France. A residence permit is useful, however, if they wish to travel outside France or for certain formalities, so many minors do in fact hold one. The flow statistics may underestimate entries of minors and overestimate entries of adults because they include individuals who entered France as minors but who waited until age 18 to apply for a residence permit. This bias in the breakdown of the flows by age does not undermine the essential principles used to construct the flow statistics, since all individuals are counted, and counted only once.
24The AGDREF data also include information on the marital status and children of residence permit holders. The resulting statistics should be approached with caution, however, because this information is not systematically recorded. Depending on the year, the non-response rate hovers around 10% and is sometimes as high as 14%. For this reason, the statistics presented below are expressed as a percentage of the total permits for which these data are available. Moreover, the information recorded in AGDREF indicates the marital status and number of children known to the prefecture on the date of the extraction, not those reported on the date the migrant entered France.
Characteristics of the residence permits
25The AGDREF database contains detailed information on the residence permits issued. Firstly, we know whether a residence permit was issued in France or in another country, and whether the holder’s file is managed in metropolitan France or in one of the overseas départements or collectivities. Other residence permit information can be used to break down migration flows into different categories. The first is the type of permit issued. There are three main types of residence permit: “permanent” residence permits (resident’s card and retiree’s card, valid for ten years); temporary residence permits (temporary residence card, skills and talents card, long-stay visa/residence permit, etc.); and residence permits for minors.
26The second piece of information is the legal category of the residence permit, which indicates the reason for admission. There are many possible reasons, which may change over time. It is therefore important to group them into categories, depending on their economic and welfare implications, notably if they include the right to work.  Category 1 comprises permits issued for employment reasons, so directly linked to labour migration. This category includes seasonal workers whose residence permit is valid for at least one year, even if it only entitles them to live in France for certain periods of the year. Category 2 covers residence permits issued for family reasons. It includes permits issued to “family members” – i.e. spouses and children – of foreign nationals resident in France, notably within the framework of a family reunion procedure, as well as to “family members of a French national” and “ascendants and descendants of a French national”. It also includes residence permits issued for reasons of “private and family life”, which applies, for example, to families accompanying holders of a “skills and talents card” and scientists. Although the application procedure for a residence permit is different for family members of foreign nationals and family members of French nationals, in both cases the permit entitles the holder to work in France. Category 3 consists of “student” residence permits, which entitle the holder to work part-time. International classifications usually consider students as temporary migrants, even when they stay for more than one year. Category 4 is a general humanitarian category that groups “refugees and stateless persons” and “foreigners admitted for health reasons”. Category 5 covers all other reasons, in particular, “retired”, which has only existed since 2004 and does not entitle the holder to work or to obtain healthcare coverage under the French social security system.
27The AGDREF note next to the legal category of the residence permit also indicates whether the permit was granted as part of a regularization campaign, further to the circulars of 24 June 1997 or 28 November 2012 in particular. Exceptional admissions are also indicated. These are mainly regularizations of undocumented migrants who have been habitually resident in France for at least 10 years (or 15 years if the person was a student in France). AGDREF data do not identify “ad hoc” regularizations that do not correspond to either of these AGDREF notes.
II – Migration flows since 1998
28Migration flows and their breakdowns are described below, distinguishing between inflows and then outflows. The Appendix Tables provide a detailed presentation.
29The AGDREF database can be used to reconstitute inflows of foreign nationals to France. “Inflows in year n” represent the number of residence permits and long-stay visas valid for at least one year issued in year n to foreign-born third-country nationals for the first time.
30In 2013, inflows consisted of 192,419 individuals, i.e. less than 0.3% of the population living in France on 1 January 2014. On a constant geographical basis, the trend shown in Figure 1 reveals a sharp increase between 1998 and 2003, followed by stabilization in 2003-2005, when approximately 200,000 entries were recorded each year, then a 10% decrease until 2012 (Appendix Table A.1). Current inflows are much higher than in the late 1990s. The trend of inflows over the period mirrors fairly closely the changes in immigration policy described in the introduction. The easing of the conditions for certain types of residence permit after 1998 was followed by a tightening in 2003.
Total inflows, flows of residence permits issued to European Union nationals and to French-born foreign nationals
Total inflows, flows of residence permits issued to European Union nationals and to French-born foreign nationalsCoverage: Residence permits and long-stay visas valid for at least one year issued in year n to a foreign national for the first time.
31For comparison, Figure 1 also shows residence permits issued to European Union nationals. Since 2004, they have no longer been required to hold a residence permit to live in France, so few are now issued with one. A total of 11,659 residence permits were issued to EU nationals in 2013, down from 52,528 in 1998. Since 2000, a large number of specific residence permits, introduced in 1998, have also been issued to foreign nationals who were born in France. These are mainly under-age children of foreign nationals who need a residence permit for certain formalities or to travel outside France. They are not considered as immigrants so are not included in inflows, but are shown in Figure 1 for the sake of comparison (42,758 individuals were in this situation in 2013). The breakdowns that follow show only inflows of migrants, not residence permits issued to European Union nationals or French-born foreign nationals.
32A majority of migrants are female (Appendix Table A.1). Females accounted for 52.2% of entries in 2013, a percentage that has increased overall since the early 2000s. Over the period 1998-2013, 50.9% of all entries were female. Migrants are young (Appendix Table A.2). Migrants aged 18-34 have made up roughly two-thirds of entries since 2007 (62.8% in 2013). The remainder can be divided into minors (9.5% in 2013) and over-35s (27.7% in 2013). Among the latter group, migrants aged 65 and over represent a small fraction (1.5% in 2013 or 2,805 individuals). Inflows of migrants aged 18-21 include some who entered France as minors but who waited until they were adults to apply for a residence permit.
33The percentage of married migrants varies with gender (Appendix Table A.3). Over the period, a majority of female immigrants were married, whereas a majority of male immigrants were unmarried. We observe a decrease in the percentage of married male immigrants after a peak in 2003-2006 (Figure 2). Furthermore, divorced, separated or widowed men are a tiny minority, accounting for only around 1% of inflows of male immigrants.
Inflows: married migrants as a percentage of those whose marital data are recorded
Inflows: married migrants as a percentage of those whose marital data are recordedCoverage: Residence permits and long-stay visas valid for at least one year issued in year n to a foreign national for the first time.
34According to the AGDREF data extracted in May 2015, the 100,372 women who were issued a residence permit in 2013 had a total of 67,454 children at that time, of whom 44.5% were born in France. The percentage has increased from around 32% in the early 2000s (Appendix Table A.4).
35The nationalities of migrants changed considerably over the period 1998-2012 (Figure 3, Appendix Table A.5a). Nationals of African countries remained a large majority, accounting for 57% of all entries in 2013, but their share decreased steadily after a high of 63.3% in 2003. Among African nationals, those from the Maghreb were the biggest group (59,052 individuals in 2013, or 30.7% of the total), although their share in total inflows also fell. Nationals from other African countries increased to 26.3% of the total in 2013, or 50,613 people. The percentage of nationals from Asian countries increased very slightly to 25.3% of total entries in 2013 (48,770 people, including 5,738 Turkish nationals). A minority of migrants were nationals of other countries. Nationals from the Americas accounted for 10.8% of total entries in 2013, a percentage that was relatively constant over the period 1998-2013. Nationals from European countries subject to the residence permit requirement on 30 June 2013 increased in number after the early 2000s and accounted for 6.2% of total entries in 2013. A more detailed breakdown by nationality reveals that Algerians and Moroccans were the biggest groups of migrants, followed by Chinese and Tunisians. Other nationalities accounted for fewer than 6,000 annual entries (Appendix Table A.6).
Inflows: breakdown by main nationality groups
Inflows: breakdown by main nationality groupsCoverage: Residence permits and long-stay visas valid for at least one year issued in year n to a foreign national for the first time.
36The percentage of females in inflows varies considerably from one continent of origin to another (Appendix Table A.5b). Females represented a minority of immigrants from Africa (47.5% over the whole period), but a majority of immigrants from Asia (53.6%) and an even larger majority of immigrants from the Americas (58.3%). These percentages remained fairly stable over the period. The increase in the number of females in migration flows can be attributed to an increase in the percentage of females from Africa since 2008 and to the growth of migration from Asia.
37Most of the migrants received their residence permits in France. The rest were issued with a long-stay visa equivalent to a residence permit at a French consulate in another country. The long-stay visa/residence permit, introduced in 2009, has been used since 2010 by more than 36% of total immigrants. In 2013, 95.5% of entries were to metropolitan France, versus 4.5% to the overseas départements. The latter percentage rose over the period under review.
38The vast majority of migrants were issued with a temporary permit, valid for at least one year but for less than ten years (Figure 4): 79.1% in 2013 compared with 54.9% in 2000. Symmetrically, the percentage of those issued with a permanent residence permit (valid for ten years) as their first long-term residence permit fell sharply, from 30.4% in 2000 to just 9.9% in 2013. This trend began when immigration policy was tightened,  and the average period of validity of residence permits issued has decreased as a result. Among residence permits valid for one year or more, the percentage of permanent permits was 10% in 2013, compared with 32.1% in 1998, and has been always higher for females than for males. Lastly, residence permits for minors accounted for around 10% of permits issued after 2000.
Inflows: breakdown by type of residence permit
Inflows: breakdown by type of residence permitCoverage: Residence permits and long-stay visas valid for at least one year issued in year n to a foreign national for the first time.
39The vast majority of immigrants come to France for family or educational reasons (Figure 5, Appendix Table A.7a). Family reasons alone account for the majority of entries after 2000: in 2013, 107,894 people were admitted for this reason, representing 56.1% of total entries. More than 20% of entries after 1999 are for educational reasons. In 2013, 46,055 people entered France to study, representing 23.9% of total entries. Admissions for other reasons were proportionately fewer. Some 12,970 people were admitted for employment reasons in 2013, i.e. 6.7% of total entries. It is important to note that residence permits granted for employment reasons include permits issued to seasonal workers that are valid for a year or more but that do not entitle them to reside in France for the entire year. First introduced in 2008, seasonal-worker residence permits have been issued to around 1,000 people annually since 2010, who account for less than 10% of inflows for employment reasons. Lastly, 17,063 people were admitted in humanitarian grounds in 2013, accounting for 8.9% of the total. Refugees are included in this category.
Inflows: breakdown by reason for admission
Inflows: breakdown by reason for admissionCoverage: Residence permits and long-stay visas valid for at least one year issued in year n to a foreign national for the first time.
40The proportion of females varies strongly by reason for admission (Appendix Table A.7b). There are fewer women in inflows for employment reasons: women make up one-quarter of work-related flows among migrants from Asia and one-third among migrants from the Americas. The trend for African females changed direction over the period, with a sharp decrease until 2008 and an increase after that date. Women accounted for 18.7% of work-related flows among African migrants in 2013. They account for a majority of inflows for family reasons and their proportion increased over the period. The percentage of females receiving permits for family reasons was higher among Asians and Americans than among African migrants. In 2013, females from Africa accounted for 55.5% of inflows for family reasons. There were more female than male students from Asia and the Americas but more male than female students from Africa.
41The relative proportions of the four categories of reasons for admission have been relatively stable since 2000. The years 1998 and 1999 were unusual because numbers of permits granted were affected by a legalization campaign enacted by the circular of 24 June 1997. The campaign mainly gave rise to new entries in 1997 and 1998 and concerned 37,426 people according to the AGDREF database (Figure 6), admitted mainly for employment reasons. This figure is smaller than the OECD’s estimates (2004, 2005) of 49,500, based on medical examinations for residence-permit applicants at the French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII). By comparison, the circular of 28 November 2012 concerned 8,211 people, admitted mainly for family reasons. In addition to these regularization campaigns, there are also a number of exceptional admissions. These decreased until 2007-2008 then increased after that date. According to the AGDREF database, a total of 15,344 people were regularized in 2013, up from 1,558 in 2008.
Inflows resulting from regularization
Inflows resulting from regularizationCoverage: Residence permits and long-stay visas valid for at least one year issued in year n to a foreign national for the first time.
42With some precautions, the AGDREF database can be used to estimate outflows of foreigners from France. The difference between the number of residence permits and long-stay visas/residence permits valid for at least one year and current on 1 January of year n+1 and the number in year n is equal to the difference between the number of new permits and the outflows. Thus, “Outflows in year n” can be estimated as the difference between the number of new permits and the total increase in currently valid permits during the year n. We counted foreign-born nationals of a country required to have a residence permit on 30 June 2013. A person may be removed from the AGDREF file because he/she has left the country, has died, has acquired French citizenship, or has remained in France without valid documents; the only criterion taken into account here is expiry of the residence permit, regardless of the reason.
43Over the period 1998-2013, estimated outflows (89,232 people per year on average) were consistently lower than inflows (Figure 7, Appendix Table A.8), indicating a continuous increase in the number of third-country nationals legally resident in France. In 2013, we estimate that 114,901 people left the status of foreign national entitled to legal long-term residence in France; these exits represented 59.7% of the number of entries. Total outflows as a percentage of total inflows varied considerably over the period, from 33.7% in 2003 to 70% in 2007.
Inflows and outflows
Inflows and outflowsCoverage: Residence permits and long-stay visas valid for at least one year issued in year n to a foreign national for the first time.
44The breakdown of inflows and outflows by sex highlights a growing proportion of females among the population of migrants legally resident in France. The difference between numbers of entries and exits of females is higher than that of males in almost every year of the period 1998-2013 (Figure 8). The gender gap has widened considerably in the most recent years.
Difference between inflows and outflows
Difference between inflows and outflowsCoverage: Residence permits and long-stay visas valid for at least one year issued in year n to a foreign national for the first time.
45As in most other countries, arrivals and departures of foreign nationals are not recorded directly in France. In order to produce statistics on migration flows, other measures are needed. In this article, we used the AGDREF database managed by the French Ministry of the Interior, which collects data on residence permits, and can therefore be used to measure inflows and outflows of foreign nationals required to hold a residence permit who reside legally in France. The advantage of using AGDREF is that the data are exhaustive in their specific area of coverage and available for a relatively long period. Furthermore, thanks to the data on residence permit duration, both elements of the definition of a permanent migrant can be taken into account: length of stay and intention to settle.
46Annual inflows and outflows were calculated for the period from 1998 to 2013. The absolute number of entries peaked in 2003-2005 and decreased slightly after that date. The vast majority of migrants are young adults, nationals of an African country, who came to France for family or educational reasons. The absolute number of outflows varied more than inflows but was always smaller, which indicates an increase in the population of foreign nationals legally resident in France.
AcknowledgementsThe authors would like to thank Elodie Baril and Arnaud Bringé for their help in preparing the databases, the editors of the journal Population, and Chantal Brutel, Vianney Costemalle and Mouez Fodha, for their comments. H. d’Albis is grateful to the European Research Council for its financial support (ERC Stg Grant DU 283953).
Paris School of Economics – Université Paris 1, French Institute for Demographic Studies (INED).
Correspondence: Hippolyte d’Albis, Centre d’économie de la Sorbonne, 106 boulevard de l’Hôpital, 75013 Paris, France, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
CERDI – Université d’Auvergne, France.
On this subject and many others related to migration, see Héran (2007).
Opinion No. 116 (2010-2011) submitted by Jean-Patrick Courtois and François-Noël Buffet, on behalf of the legislative commission of the Senate, on 18 November 2010.
For a critical discussion of the merits of maintaining records of this type on foreign nationals, see Preuss-Laussinotte (2000).
An extraction is a “snapshot”, taken on a given date, of all the residence permits registered in AGDREF.
Details of the estimation method are presented in Brutel (2014). A comparison with the flows calculated on the basis of residence permits is proposed by Arbel and Costemalle (2015). Eurostat’s statistics can be consulted on Eurostat’s website: http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/show.do?dataset=migr_resfirst&lang=en.
On the impact of estimation biases on the calculation of migration flows, see Martí and Ródenas (2012).
French-born foreign minors (children whose parents are foreign nationals) cannot apply for French citizenship until they turn 13, at the earliest, and certain conditions apply, notably regarding the number of years of residence in France. By presenting the livret de famille (family booklet), the legal guardians of these minors can request residence permits on their behalf for certain administrative formalities or travel. Under the Citizenship Act of 16 March 1998, all French-born children of foreign nationals who hold a residence permit are entitled to an identity document.
Decree of 27 April 2009.
For more details on the inclusion of long-stay visas in the AGDREF database, see Papon (2012).
The exceptions are the years 1999 and 2009, for which we used the files extracted in 2002 and 2012 because there were no extractions in 2001 or 2011.
The file of a foreign national is deleted if it has not been updated within a five-year period from the registration of the initial data about the applicant (Article R611-7-1 of the Code on the Admission and Residence of Foreign Nationals and Right of Asylum).
This is not the same as the figure calculated by the DSED (2015), which only takes adults into account.
A person whose permit expired and who applied for a new permit between one and five years after the expiry of the previous document is counted as an exit, not as a new entry.
For the economic implications of this breakdown, see d’Albis et al. (2016).
Act No. 2003-1119 of 26 November 2003 on Immigration Controls, Residence of Foreign Nationals in France and Citizenship.