"We no longer want immigration that is inflicted [on us]," he said. "We want selected immigration. The system of integration the French way no longer works,"
Workers who could "contribute to the economic dynamism of our country", such as scientists, IT experts or artists, would be given a three-year work permit.
Students taking courses that are in less demand would be given priority in obtaining visas to study at universities.
Immigrants applying for lengthy stays would have to respect a list of obligations as part of a new "contract of welcome and integration".
These include learning French and actively looking for a job. In return, they would be "protected against discrimination" and given 10-year residency permits.
Immigrants failing to respect human rights would face expulsion.
"In the case of a woman kept hostage in her home without learning French, the whole family will be obliged to leave," Mr Sarkozy said.
The law also makes it harder for an illegal immigrant to gain residency status by marrying a French person.
The new spouse must now wait three years instead of 18 months to apply, then prove that he has made efforts to integrate into his new home.
Only five per cent of legal immigrants came to France for work, said Mr Sarkozy, who heads the ruling UMP party. The remainder arrived to join family members.
While that right is guaranteed under the European convention on human rights, Mr Sarkozy pointed out that "a foreigner wanting his family to join him would have to prove that he can support them through his salary".
Under the proposals, companies that employ foreign workers illegally would have to pay for their repatriation.
In the interview, he rejected the zero immigration policy of the far-Right National Front, calling it "technically impossible and counter-productive".
But the "clandestine prize" which gives illegal immigrants permanent residency if they stay in the country for more than 10 years unnoticed is expected to be scrapped under the new laws.telegraph.co.uk
pros and cons
MIgration Rechit net
"The proposed bill is a blatant violation of immigrants' rights and is based on a selective racist approach," eight rights groups led by the French League for Human Rights (LFRH) said in a joint statement on January 7.
"This draft law does undo all the good work made by the French government in enhancing social welfare and immigrants' rights over the past years," LFRH media officer Patrick Emanuel told IOL.
He hit out at the "inhumane" nature of the new bill as it made no exception for neither the handicapped nor patients who need residence permits to get charge-free medicine.
The move angered rights groups and left-wing politicians, who described the clause as an insult to the second and third generations of the immigrants.
"Keeping the best and sending back the worst is not exactly Christian," said Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon.
Ivorian reggae singer Alpha Blondy said: "This notion of chosen immigration, this migratory apartheid takes us back to the time of slavery, when the traders chose the strongest or those with the best teeth to take them to the west."
"African slavery was one of the worst tragedies of history and it is essential not to trivialise this crime against humanity by inapt comparisons. Chosen immigration means regulated immigration, organised with reference to the reception capacity of our country," he said.
it is not true, that selective immigration per se is an evil. It is not a discriminatory argument to state that integration and acceptance of immigrants may be enhanced if their qualifications are valued.
"The violence which exploded in our suburbs is not unconnected with the shocking failure of our policies of integration and immigration," he told the National Assembly.
"We are closing the doors to those who have a job and opening it for those who don't. This absurd system is an essential ingredient in our malaise."
Hmmm what do you think?