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Fact Sheets: EU Unauthorized Immigration

Below are specific findings about unauthorized immigrants in France. The findings come from a Pew Research Center report about unauthorized immigrants in Europe.

An estimated 300,000 to 400,000 unauthorized immigrants lived in France in 2017, up slightly from 200,000 to 300,000 in 2014, according to new Pew Research Center estimates based on the latest available data. The 2017 estimate includes 38,000 asylum seekers who were waiting for a decision on their case at the end of that year.

The number of unauthorized immigrants living in France accounted for about 10% of all those living in the country who were not citizens of the 32 European Union and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries. Unauthorized immigrants made up less than 1% of the country’s population overall in 2017, however.

In 2017, France had the fourth-highest number of unauthorized immigrants among EU-EFTA countries. More unauthorized immigrants were estimated to have lived in Italy (500,000 to 700,000), the UK (800,000 to 1.2 million) and Germany (1.0 million to 1.2 million) at the end of 2017. One possible explanation for a lower number of unauthorized immigrants in France relative to other countries is the availability of a pathway to legal status for those who live without authorization in the country for several years and meet certain criteria.

France’s estimated number of unauthorized immigrants in 2017 accounted for fewer than one-in-ten of all those living in EU-EFTA countries. In 2017, an estimated 3.9 million to 4.8 million unauthorized immigrants lived in EU-EFTA countries.

Unauthorized immigrants are non-EU-EFTA citizens who are living in France without a residency permit. They either entered France without authorization or overstayed a visa. Asylum seekers waiting for a final decision in their case are included in the unauthorized immigrant population estimates. Their future status is uncertain since rejection rates are high.

Pew Research Center estimates for France’s unauthorized immigrant population used the “residual” method, an indirect way to estimate the size of this population. It is the same method used by the Center in the United States to estimate the size of its unauthorized immigrant population. The Center’s estimate for France is similar to that cited by government leaders as well as several French demographers. It also aligns with the number of people enrolled in a government medical plan accessed by unauthorized immigrants (some 300,000 in 2017).

For more information about the unauthorized immigrant population in France or other EU-EFTA countries, see the Center’s full report.