Work in France: Guide to French work visas and permits
Moving to France to work? Find out if you need a visa or permit to work in France, and the procedures for applying for your French work permit.
Certain nationalities require a French work visa to be able to legally live and work in France. There is a number of different types of French work permits, as well as exemptions, depending on your employment situation in France. The French work permit is closely linked to your residence status in France, and in most cases, a job will need to be arranged before you can apply for a permit to move to France.
Do you need a work visa for France?
If you’re from the EU/EEA or Switzerland, you are free to work in France without a work permit (with the exception of Croatian nationals, who need a permit for their first year of work). If you’re coming to France with a family member who has a permit for certain types of highly skilled work, you also may be able to work without a work permit.
Most other people will need permission to work in France – and they’ll need this authorisation before a visa/residence permit can be granted. This is a procedure organised by a prospective employer. You will need an employer to organise the authorisation for you to work, so first of all, you have to find a job. For help on this, see our guide to looking for work in France.
Working for less than 90 days (3 months)
If you’re going to work in France for less than 90 days, you need your employer to get you a temporary work permit approved by the French Ministry of Labour, the DIRECCTE (Direction regionale des enterprises, de la concurrence et de la consummation, du travail et de l’emploi), or a convention d’accueil stamped by the local prefecture if you’re a scientist/researcher. This authorisation to work is then sent to the French embassy/consulate in your home country where you can apply for your visa.
You’ll need a short-stay work visa to work in France for less than 90 days unless you’re from the EU/EEA/ Switzerland. If you’re from Australia, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Japan, Mauritius, Mexico, St Kitts and Nevis, Seychelles, Singapore, S. Korea, US or Venezuela, you don’t need a visa to enter France but you will need to make sure that your employer has organised a valid work permit for you at the time of travel. To be sure of the latest rules, check with the French consulate in your home country.
Working for more then 90 days
If you’re planning on working for more than 90 days/3 months, you apply for a long-stay visa, which also acts as your residence permit. Your employer has to draw up a work contract and send it to the local division of the French Ministry of Labour, the DIRECCTE (Direction regionale des enterprises, de la concurrence et de la consummation, du travail et de l’emploi). If any family members will be coming with you, then the employer will need to start the ‘accompanying family member’ procedure at the same time. If the DIRRECTE approves the contract, it is sent to the Office Francais de l’Immigration et de l’Integration (OFII).
Once the OFII has approved the contract, it will be sent directly to the French embassy or consulate in your home country responsible for issuing your visa. You (and any relatives coming with you) will then be invited to make an appointment to visit the embassy/consulate in person to apply for a long-stay visa. You’ll need to bring along your passport (issued within the last 10 years and with three months validity past the end of the visa), a completed application form and plus any other documentation required by the type of work (and permit) for which you are applying. On arrival in France, you have to register with the L’Office Francais de l’Immigration et de I’Integration (OFII).
Different types of French permits for working
There are different types of residence permit, each one with its own requirements, length of validity and conditions, for specific work or types of worker. Some permits provide exemption from other general requirements for migrants coming to live in France, for example, the requirement for migrants to sign the Contrat d’Accueil et d’Intégration (CAI). This contract aims to help migrants integrate into French society. By signing it, the French government agrees to offer trainings courses and the migrant agrees to take part in them.
‘Skill and talents’ permit
If you are an executive, independent professional or employee who, in the eyes of the French authorities, has the potential to make a ‘significant contribution’ to the French economy, especially in intellectual, scientific, cultural, sporting or humanitarian fields, and you’ll be involved in a specific project, then you can apply for a three-year, renewable, ‘skills and expertise’ residence permit (la carte ‘compétences et talents’).
You have to:
- provide documentation, including a detailed CV/resume, information about the work you’ll be involved with, and evidence of sufficient funding (as determined by the French authorities).
- meet other criteria as set out by the Commission Nationale des Competences et Talents,
- show a contract approved by the DIRECCTE (if an employee, it should be arranged by your employer).
If you are issued with this permit, then your family members (spouse and minor children) will be issued with a vie privée et familiale card, which allows your spouse to work legally in France. Neither you or your spouse have to sign the CAI. You can find more information in Expatica's guide on moving to France to join a relative or partner.
‘Employed' or ‘salaried’ and temporary workers’ permit
After 18 months in a long-stay residence permit marked ‘employee’ or ‘temporary worker’, you may apply to bring your family to France. Spouse and minor children can apply for a one-year ‘visitor’ visa (without being able to work during this time), and must sign the CAI (see Expatica's article: Moving to France to join a relative or partner).
EU Blue Card for highly skilled/educated workers
This is a one- to three-year residence/work permit for highly skilled workers. To be eligible, you must have a diploma/degree attesting to three years of higher education or five years’ professional experience in a specific field, a work contract for at least a year, and earn a monthly salary of at least 1.5 times the French average gross annual salary (around EUR 2,105/month). You have to work in the field for which you were admitted to the scheme for two years; then you can take on any highly qualified work.
After 18 months in France, you can work in other EU countries. After five years, you’re eligible for the renewable, 10-year, long-term EC residence card. Family members can get a private and family life residence permit, allowing them to work and after five years, they too are eligible for the long-term EC resident card. They are exempt from the CAI requirement. (see link to Expatica page Coming to France with your family).
Employees on assignment (sometimes called ‘expatriate employee’) permit
If you have been working for at least three months in a company outside France and are seconded to one of your employer’s companies based in France or another company in the same group, and will be earning 1.5 times the minimum wage (around EUR 2,105/month), then you are eligible to apply for this permit, which is valid for three years and then renewable.
Your spouse can join you on this permit but is not allowed to work until he or she has been in France for six months and has been granted a vie privée et familiale permit. If you are a senior manager, then you can get a version of the permit that allows your family to come with you at the outset, and for your spouse to work. Neither you or your spouse have to sign the CAI in either case (see Moving to France to join a relative or partner).
‘Exceptional economic contribution’ permit
Foreign investors investing large sums of money or planning to create more than 50 jobs are eligible for a 10-year residence permit. Your spouse and minor children also get the same rights. Your spouse doesn’t have to sign the CAI (see Moving to France to join a relative or partner).
Students and graduates
Students can take on paid work during their course. You may need to get a visa to enter France and study at a university (check here to find out if you do); there are different types of visa, depending on the course you’ll be taking. For more information, see Studying in France: student visas and work permits.
You must be registered as a student with a university in your home country and the internship must be related to your studies. While most internships are unpaid, you are allowed to receive a small allowance from the employer. You need to have an internship (convention de stage) signed by you, your employer in France and your school or college in your home country, as well as proof of financial security (approximately EUR 630/month), flight reservations and proof of accommodation.
If you have a master’s degree or above, and you are going to be carrying out research or teaching at university level, then you are eligible for temporary ‘scientific activity’ residence permit (carte de séjour temporaire ‘mention scientifique’). This is valid for one year but can be renewed yearly for up to four years.
You need to provide evidence of your status and duration of the research work, and also have a ‘hosting agreement’ (convention d’accueil) from a recognised scientific organisation or university. Your spouse and family are entitled to a residence permit marked vie privée et familiale (private and family life) but do fall within the requirements of the CAI (see Expatica's guide on moving to France to join a relative or partner).
Seasonal workers permit
If you are employed with a seasonal contract lasting more than three months, then you are eligible for a residence permit valid for three years, which is renewable for further three-year periods. It allows you to work in seasonal employment for a maximum of 6 months out of every 12. You are only allowed to stay in France for six months each year, with your normal residence outside of France, although you are allowed to have several contracts in succession, provided that you do not exceed six months out of one year in total. Your family are not allowed to join you.
If you’re between 17 and 30 and want to work as an au pair with a French host family, your host family need to organise an au pair contract (accord de placement) and get it approved by the DIRECCTE. You also have to have a letter of admission to a language school specifying when you’ll be attending (10 hours/week minimum) before you can get your visa.
Finding work in France
Croatian nationals don’t need a visa to come to France but do need prior work authorisation, and a residence permit indicating ‘EC – all professional activities’. After five years legal residence in France, they no longer need to request a work permit and the residence card will state ‘EU – permanent residence – all professional activity’. If you are Croatian and have a Master’s degree (or equivalent) then you are exempt from needing a work permit.
For more information:
- DIRECCTE – this is the French language website for the French Labour Ministry Directions régionales des entreprises, de la concurrence, de la consommation, du travail et de l'emploi. Go the main website and you can be redirected to the French region you need.
- OFII -– this is the English language version of the website for the L'office Francais de l'immigration et de l'intégration, the French agency in charge of migration. There are offices all over France; look on the website for contact details of your nearest one.
- France Diplomatie – this webpage is the English version of the website for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for more information on visas and migration to France.
- Service-Public – this website is for the French government's public services (in French). To find the contact details of your local mairie (town hall) see here, and for other local departments and public services, see here.
Note: the information in this article is for general information only and you should always seek advice from the French consulate if you have any queries about your particular circumstances.
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Updated from 2012.
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