What is the TCF-IRN French language test?

Have you heard of the TCF-IRN French language test, but you do not know exactly what it is and what the name stands for? 

Credits: France Education International

First of all, the TCF is a test, not a diploma. 

It means that its validity is not permanent, and that the purpose of a language test is to evaluate your level. 

On the contrary, the objective of a diploma is to officialize a determined level of language, common for all competences, which you are supposed to have already reached when arriving on the day of the exam. 

The TCF-IRN is valid for two years. The diploma (like the DELF) is valid for life.

There is no minimum required level to take a test. You go as far as you can in the test, and the result of your good work determines what level of French you are at, for each competence.

In consequence, you could be at level B1 for the oral expression, A2 for the written understanding, etc.

In a way, technically speaking, you can not "pass" or "fail" a test because when you take it, you know that you will always be rewarded with a certificate mentioning your level of language. On the other hand, you need to reach a minimum level in all competences to obtain a residency card or your nationality. 

Second, TCF -IRN means: "Test de Connaissance du Français Intégration Résidence et Nationalité".

There are four categories of TCFs

- TCF Tous Publics (all public): for professional reasons, to enter university in France, or for personal reasons.

- TCF Canada: to emigrate to Canada. Even native French speakers are required to take the test.

- TCF Québec: to emigrate to Québec. Even native French speakers are required to take the test.

- TCF-IRN. This is the one you need if you wish to come to France and Integrate, apply for a Residence card, or for Nationality.

The TCF test is celebrating its 20th birthday this year.

Coming to France, and staying in France.

There is a lot of different "cartes de séjour", that is to say residence cards or permits, in France, each one corresponding to a very precise situation, and it can be a bit complicated sometimes to navigate through all the procedures. 

Please remember that I am not an immigration lawyer, and in consequence I am not competent to give any advice or practical help regarding your rights to immigrate to France or the immigration procedures. 

On the other hand, I am competent to provide all the necessary training for the language tests or diplomas you wish to take. 😃

The best if you wish to immigrate to France is to read, first of all, this very good internet page which explains everything you have to do, including all documents you need to provide, depending on your personal situation. The page is also in English.

So, the first step is to come to France. As it is not up to you to decide which visa and/or carte de séjour you will be granted, all you have to do is not to worry and follow the procedures for the visa or very first card you have received, or will receive, that allows you to come to France (I am not taking of the cards that allow you to stay in France), and gather all the required documents. 

To know what visa or first card will be attributed to you, you can visit France Visa's internet website. This site is the one you need to visit to ask for your visa, as it is now done exclusively online. It is also in English, Arab, Chinese, Russian and Spanish.

Once you have obtained your visa or very first residence card, you can visit this website that will allow you, in the future, to do all the next procedures online once you have arrived in France. This site is also in English and Chinese.

TCF-IRN.  I for Intégration

When you arrive in France, you must follow an integration programme called the "parcours d'intégration républicaine", which is organized by the OFII, the Office of Immigration and Integration. You are required to sign a contract where you commit to observe and respect the principes and values of French society and the République. You are also required to follow some training, like lessons on French values and civic duties, and language lessons if you need them. 

You can see this as being a bit strict, but it is good because the purpose is to help foreigners to integrate quickly, and not let them manage by themselves and potentially struggle. 

Like in all contracts, both parties have commitments. The French State commits to provide you with the necessary help for your integration in the country. It does not mean they are going to find you a job or accomodation, of course, it means they put at your disposal the necessary procedures to welcome you as best as they can, like an interview to evaluate your needs, training, or language lessons, as mentionned above.

To fulfill your commitments, you need to carry on respecting the terms of your contracts, and you need to have reached level A1 of the CECR. 

The TCF-IRN will tell you if you have reached this level.

If your objective is to move to France, I will provide you with all the necessary training so you can reach level A1.

TCF-IRN.  R for résidence

TCF-IRN, showing level A2 minimum in all competences, is the exam that you can choose (unless you prefer the DELF A2 or another valid document*) when you wish to live in France on a long term basis and you need a test to obtain a long term residence card, valid for ten years.

For residence cards in general, that is to say the cards allowing you to stay in France, everybody will more than likely have to take a language test soon, because a new law is being discussed at the moment in France to extend this language test to a category of residence cards that did not previously need it**.

**the "pluri-annuelle" card, that is to say the card you receive after you have spent your first year in France, and which preceeds the long term 10 years cards, where a language test is already compulsory.

The required level of the test for the long term residence card is A2, and it has been level A2 since 7th march 2018. 

Many commentators expect the test required by the new law to be at the same level, or at least not higher than A2. I will update this article as soon as the law has passed (or is rejected) and we know more about it.

*If you already read French, you will find in these two documents:

- 2018 Law

Precisions to the 2018 law

the lists of all the diplomas, tests and certifications that are accepted for a residence card application.

On the contrary, you will notice that these tests are not accepted:

Unless the law changes in the future, you are exempt from the residency language test if you are over 65 years old. 

It is not known at the moment if there will also be age exemptions for the residence tests based on the new law, but commentators also expect the exemptions to be similar to those for the 10 years long term card.

You only need to justify your level of language for the residence card test. You are not asked to prove your knowledge in French history and culture or French society.

For those whose objective is to apply for a residence card, I will help you very efficiently with the preparation of your A2 language exam. 

TCF-IRN.  N for Nationalité.

The TCF-IRN is also the test you can choose to take if you want to apply for your French nationality.

The required level is B1 minimum, and it has been level B1 since 11th August 2020, so it is quite recent that the level has been raised. 

The DELF B1, as well as other diplomas, tests or certificates, is also accepted to fulfill the language requirements. 

This time, you also need to justify your sufficient knowledge of the history and culture of France and French society. 

The rules for the exemptions from the language diploma or test requirement for people applying for naturalization have changed on 31st December 2019. Now the exemptions are only for:

- Applicants with a handicap or a chronic disability, 

- Refugees or stateless people and who are over 70 and who have been living in France for more than 15 years (you need to fulfill the three conditions).

For those whose objective is to apply for nationality, I will help you very efficiently with the preparation of your B1 language exam, and we will also work together on the programme for the necessary knowledge about the (fascinating) history and culture of France, and French society.

Finally, the content of the TCF -IRN test.

The exam lasts 1 hour and 15 mns and consists of four parts:

- Oral understanding. 15 minutes.

- Written understanding. 20 minutes.

- Written expression. 30 minutes.

- Oral expression. 10 minutes. 

Apart from the diploma DILF which you can only take in France (including the "DOM", the French overseas departments and regions), and which is at level A1.1 anyway, so you are not concerned if your objective is a residence card or nationality, French tests and diplomas can be taken abroad. 

There are 1200 exam centres around the world for French language tests. They depend on France Education International, a public organisation under the supervision of the French Ministry of Education. 

You can take a look at the location of all those test centres here.

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