Whether it’s about living it up in the fashion capital (and political, commercial and every other kind of capital) Paris, or savouring life on the Riviera, there are thousands of reasons why foreigners want to work in France.
But high unemployment, sluggish growth and anti-immigrant sentiment means settling in France is a challenge. Preparing your move well ahead is key. And remember – EU citizens have a head start.
Job seeking sources
Foreigners looking for a job will usually start online. Remember, though, that networking is of the utmost importance in France. As a fresh face in the crowd, you must start building up your professional network. Join trade associations, go to job or industry fairs, get involved in your community and meet people.
There are also good websites that can help you find a job
The Local’s jobs section has comprehensive listings of jobs for English speakers across the country.
Be aware that there will often be a couple of websites dedicated to your industry with job listings.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. In France, it is crucial to speak French. Nationals are particularly sensitive to this, and will take offence if you don’t try. So start honing your language skills before moving. Once you arrive, sign up for a cheap language class subsidised by local authorities. Your local town or city council will have information.
There are a lot of work opportunities for native English speakers, whether it’s as a translator, call centre operator, teacher or tourist guide.
In some international companies, very exceptionally, employees will speak English.
EU/EFTA member states: if you are a citizen of one of these countries (with the exceptions of Bulgaria and Romania) you are allowed to work, bring your family and enjoy most of the same rights as French people. Swiss citizens are also allowed to settle.
Non EU/EFTA member states: if you are not a citizen of an EU or EFTA member state, you will find it extremely difficult to work in France. The bureaucratic process is very long and employers are not encouraged to employ non-EU nationals. You will have to prove you have something nationals don’t have.
Non-EU members must find a job before they apply for a work permit. But in reality this is often a Catch-22. You need a job to get a work permit and often employers won’t hire you if you don’t have a work permit.
If you do find a company willing to employ you, they will apply for your work permit and visa de long séjour (long stay visa). Only then can you move to France and apply for a carte de séjour (residence permit).
You can also come to France on a tourist visa – for up to 90 days – to check out the job market. If you do find a job, you will still have to leave the country and come back on a visa de long séjour.
The French Interior Ministry has recently tightened immigration rules, which means local authorities increasingly refuse to give work permits to foreigners who have found jobs in France. These new measures have hit qualified workers particularly hard.
Given the tough immigration rules, you may want to find a company that can transfer you to France. They will also deal with your paperwork.
Working holiday visa: Some non-EU members may want to apply for a working holiday visa which allows you to work in France for up to a year. Applicants must be aged 18 to 30 years old and come from a participant country (Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Korea). There are a limited number of visas available. See the French embassy in your country to obtain information.
Do not underestimate how difficult dealing with the French bureaucracy can be. Red tape is profuse. When dealing with the authorities, you will need a lot of patience. Also be prepared to wait in queues, be given inaccurate information and generally waste time.
You must also learn that an initial “no” to a request can sometimes turn into a “yes” if you spend enough time trying to sort things out. Once you have cleared the administrative hurdles, you will also begin to appreciate France’s great healthcare, good social benefits and subsidised access to education, sport facilities and cultural activities.
It’s important to bear in mind that dealing with immigration authorities can be particularly difficult.
Workers in France are expected to process their own tax contributions. This means you must download a tax form and fill it in. Next, look for your local tax collection centre by entering your postal address on this page.
Lastly, approach your local tax office and drop off your form.
Once you have filed your first tax application, you will be registered and sent a tax form automatically.
The rise of the far right party the National Front betrays the fact that a substantial segment of the French population is suspicious of globalisation and immigration – and this is having a direct effect on people wanting to move here. Over the past decades, moving to France has become more and more difficult for non-EU nationals. Most French people however do not share the National Front’s ideas and are very open to meeting foreigners.
Integrating and making friends may also take time. Some expats are bitterly disappointed and find locals frosty and unwelcoming. If you want to make friends beyond the expat circles, you will have to take an active interest in your community. France’s civil society network is thriving and joining an association or a sports club is a good idea.