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How Americans can find work in France

The Local France
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How Americans can find work in France

US citizens can find it challenging to find work in France, legally at least, even though the French economy is suffering from a notable skills shortage. Here are some options for you to consider.


Firstly if you are an American working in France we would like to hear your accounts of how you found the job and how easy or difficult it was. Please email us at the address below.

If you’re an American hoping to live and work in France for either a short or long period of time - we’re not going to lie to you - making that dream come true will be challenging. 

That’s despite the fact that in 2017 President Macron urged American scientists and academics and any “responsible citizens” to move to France if they didn’t want to endure Trump’s presidency.

Don’t despair just yet though, as there are a number of ways that Americans can find jobs - both menial and professional - in the land of Moliere.

How about a working holiday visa?

Unfortunately France’s ‘vacances travail’ scheme is off the cards for Americans.

Citizens from a number of non-EU countries – including English-speaking countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand – have access to a scheme that allows them to split one year in France between work and sightseeing.

But somewhat surprisingly the US isn’t on this list.

A popular option among young Americans is to apply for a student visa in France as they’re by default eligible to work up to 19.5 hours a week like that.

That means that as an American student you can probably pick up some bar work or another part-time job where your English might be an asset.

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Naturally this loophole has been exploited by some just for the sake of landing work easily in France, leading French authorities to offer fewer student visas to non-EU nationals than previously.

According to, you can also get work as a nanny on this student visa, although this type of job is renowned for being low paid and has its pros and cons.

READ ALSO: 10 things you need to consider before becoming an au pair in France

So what are my other options?

The first consideration to remember is that as a US citizen you do have the right to stay in France for three months without needing a visa.

During this 90-day period you can actively look for work but your prospective employer will have to prove that there are no EU nationals available with the skills that you have and they need for the work. That’s at least the case in theory.

What is for certain is that if you want to get a work visa you first have to get sponsored for a job (skill shortages needed in France discussed further down).

The other legitimate option for Americans is setting up a company in France, which will require a comprehensive business plan, proof of financial means and a number of tax and other bureaucratic requirements.

There are two easier ways for Americans to have easy access to a work visa in France but they’re largely down to luck.

These are having dual citizenship including European nationality, and being or getting married to a French or EU citizen…like a reverse version of Andie Mcdowell and Gerard Depardieu in Green Card.

FIND OUT: Are you an American hoping to retire in France? Here's what you need to get French residency


Does that mean there’s no easy way for Americans to get work in France?

Well, native English speakers have for a long time had the advantage of being able to capitalize on the importance of the world’s lingua franca to land easy teaching work.

There are many Americans who get by in France by giving private English lessons and getting paid under the table. Yes, it is illegal and if you’re doing it after three months in France even more so as it means you were given a one-year visitor visa in which you swore not to work.

Even if the amount you earned by getting cash in hand were not enough to be taxable it isn’t really worth having to confront the French taxman, especially if you’re still technically a guest in the country.

The best option is to do everything above board as you’re still very likely to find legitimate and well-paid English teaching work in France.

Before moving to l’Héxagone, get yourself a TEFL or CELTA English teaching qualification to be able to apply to language schools. Some academies may also ask that you have a university degree and in the majority of cases they’ll expect English to be your mother tongue.

Get in touch with language schools in the place you’re planning to move to in France (with plenty of time to spare) and find out what it is they will require of you.

FIND OUT: Top tips for teaching English in France

So is teaching English my best way to get my foot in la porte?

There are countless English teachers in France already, but proficiency in the language is just as important to many other job positions available in France.

If you can couple your linguistic skills with a particular understanding of some sector of the American market that a French company is interested in tapping into, it could qualify you for a work visa in the eyes of France’s migration and integration body OFII.

This includes jobs in sales, marketing or finance, any position where advanced communicative skills in English are required. Why not have a look on The Local France’s job site to see what’s available?

Check if a transfer to France through your current company is possible

If you work for a multinational with a subsidiary in France it’s always worth trying to wangle your way into a position at the ‘Paris office’.

American employees who are relocated to France can obtain a multi-year ‘intra-company transfer’ residence permit (‘Salarié détaché ICT’) although their right to stay depends on the length of the work agreement. 

Eligible candidates are often those in senior managerial positions but it’s definitely worth pursuing this avenue even if you aren’t at that stage in your career, as you would be able to sidestep some of the critical skills requirements of French immigration

READ ALSO: The 10-point checklist - What you have to do to land that job in France

So tell me more about France’s skills shortages

In 2017, between 200,000 and 330,000 jobs were left vacant in France because companies couldn’t find suitable and qualified candidates, France’s Labour Ministry announced at the time. 

It’s what’s called the ‘talent crunch’, a growing shortfall in the number of skilled professionals needed to support growing industries in France and around the world. 

One in two French SMEs reported difficulties in recruiting, according to the barometer published by labour analysts Bpifrance and Coe-Rexecode.

This means Americans with the right set of skills have a high chance of getting sponsorship from French companies that have been struggling to recruit the right French or EU candidates.

According to the OECD the biggest skill shortages in France are in computer sciences and electronics, mechanics and mechanical education and training as well as management. 

By contrast, sales, marketing and consulting skills are at surplus level in France. 

There have been reports by local and international news outlets such as the Financial Times highlighting the shortage of metalworkers, skilled cutters and other technical and mechanical workers for factories such as car manufacturer Peugeot’s. 

There’s also a lack of legal professionals in France, a 2016 study by the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training found, although it may be hard for Americans to apply their knowledge of American law in France. 

SEE ALSO: These 15 French companies are looking to hire 50,000 new employees


Do you have what it takes to get a French ‘talent passport’?

The name is certainly a bit cheesy but “le passeport talent” is one of the best French work visa options out there.

When in 2017 French President Emmanuel Macron urged America’s finest and most “responsible citizens” to move to France if they were disappointed by Donald Trump, he was essentially putting out a call out to the following people and projects:

1. Qualified young graduates
2. Highly skilled workers (Carte Bleue européenne | European Blue Card)
3. Employee on assignment or “mobilité intra-groupe”
4. Researchers / Scientists
5. Business start-up
6. Innovative economic project
7. Investor
8. Company representative
9. Performer / artist
10. Person internationally or nationally renowned in their field of expertise – science, literature, arts, education, sports, etc.

These make up the candidates for the passeport talent visa, a permit that can be granted for a period of 1 to 4 years depending on the category and the applicant’s project.

It’s what you’ll need if your only way to live in France is through work.

This visa also pretty much exemplifies that the best way to be accepted as an American worker in France is by having something exceptional or sought after professionally speaking.

Good luck! May ‘la force’ be with you!



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