Moving abroad as an expat in France can be an exhilarating experience. However, as with any exciting opportunity, the romance of the idea is coupled with the reality of making it happen. Unless you are planning to retire in France, you’ll need to obtain the legal right to seek employment in the country. Fortunately, there are a few great and easy options for expats looking to work abroad in France!
Work Permits in France
Those who have citizenship from an EU nation, the EEA (European Economic Area, including Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway), or Switzerland do not need any additional documentation to work abroad in France.
Potential expats from the U.S. and Canada will need to obtain appropriate documentation to work in France, coming in the form of a temporary residency permit (carte de séjour temporaire). This is obtained by making an appointment with your local French consulate or embassy. The type of temporary residency you receive will depend on your intentions in France. Most types (visitor permit being an exception) will allow you to work in France under some capacity. For example, the student permit allows you to seek employment up to 60% of the government-designated annual working hours.
Standard working permits in France can be given for both employed and self-employed individuals. For the employee permit, you will need a letter of employment from your company, showing proof of the hire and detailing your ability to perform the job in France. For self-employed individuals, you’ll need to show that you have proper qualifications for the job you intend to do, provide an approved business plan, and show that you have the financial support to fund the business.
If you are going the employee route, you’ll need to find a job before applying for this permit. This can be done during the 90-day travel visa that U.S. and Canadian nationals receive automatically when they arrive in France. You will have to return home, however, to start the application process for the permit.
Working for Private or Family Purposes
Those who are seeking residency in France for what the government calls Private or Family Purposes (vie privée et familiale), which usually involves being a minor dependent or spouse of a French permit holder, can receive their own form of carte de séjour temporaire. This permit allows the holder to work without limitations in France and without having to get job approval first. You will, however, have to show financial means to support yourself if you don’t have a job lined up.
Temporary or Seasonal Work
There are two types of work permits in France that you may qualify for if your reasons for working in the country don’t fit into the category for the typical carte de séjour temporaire:
- Temporary work permit (ATP, Autorisation provisoire de travail): This permit is granted for those who will be working in France for a foreign company whose payroll will remain overseas.
- Seasonal work contract (contrat de travail saisonnier): This permit is given for work that is temporary and limited to certain specific locations or times of the year.
Compétences et Talents Card
Some people can qualify for the compétences et talents card, which allows them to legally work in France without having employment authorized ahead of time. This is granted for special projects (sporting, humanitarian, cultural, etc.) that the government views as making a significantly positive impact on France.
EU Blue Card
Similar to the compétences et talents card, the EU Blue Card is granted to those whose line of work is deemed as highly beneficial to the country. The difference, however, is that this is granted to individuals whose expertise is seen as highly specialized or highly skilled. This Blue Card lets you work abroad anywhere in the EU zone without the need for different work permits.
Important Data for Working in France:
- Labor force: 30 million
- Labor by occupation: services (71.8%), industry (24.3%), agriculture (3.8%)
- Unemployment: 9.5%
- Average net salary: €30,400 annually
- Minimum wage (gross): €1,480 a month/€9.76 per hour
- Main Industries: machinery, chemicals, automobiles, metallurgy, aircraft, electronics, textiles, food processing, tourism
Working abroad in France is the best way to truly assimilate into your new international life. Luckily for expats from the U.S. and Canada, the process of obtaining a work permit is streamlined with many avenues in which to qualify!
Tyler Sorce is an American writer and digital nomad currently living in Lisbon, Portugal. In a past life he was a chef in Manhattan and Paris, follow his travels and favorite dishes on Instagram.
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