For members


Members’ Forum: Why is it so hard for foreigners to find work in France?

A global survey has revealed that foreigners in France find it harder to land a job compared to other countries. Is that really the case? And why? Please share your own experiences and opinions with readers in the comments section below.

Members' Forum: Why is it so hard for foreigners to find work in France?
Photo: AFP

While France might attract a huge number of people who come to these shores to put their feet up at the end of long and stressful careers, most foreigners who come here are actually of working age.

Which means they need to find work.

But perhaps unsurprisingly many of them find it difficult, indeed more difficult than foreigners do in other countries.

A survey by InterNations global community, which interviewed 18,000 respondents around the world found that 55 percent of expats in France found it hard to apply for a job.

That's compared to the average of 36 percent around the globe.

There were other stats as well that revealed how foreigners found it hard to get work in France. For example 47 percent said they were happy with their career prospects in France compared to 55 percent globally.

That score saw France ranked 52nd out of 68 countries for career prospects.

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

“It seems to be generally hard to apply for a job in France,” InterNations wrote, quoting one foreigner who said: “The process of getting your papers and finding a job is very complicated.”

The survey did not go into detail about the possible reasons for why foreigners found it hard to land a job in France but did quote one expat who simply said: “The job market is awful”.

Another reason alluded to and one that regular comes up as a topic of discussion among foreigners is the difficulty in getting qualifications recognized which may hold people back.

Some 44 percent of newly-arrived foreigners in France found this to be an issue compared to 52 percent globally.

In France, having your diploma/s recognised by French authorities could be essential depending on your situation and your plans for life in France but French bureaucracy is renowned for being fairly complex and tedious.

In France, the legal principle of academic or professional equivalence with other countries does not exist. 

That means that if you're a foreigner looking to work or study in France, your prospective employer or educational institution may require a certificate of comparability for your qualification, a document that makes it as transparent as possible for them to understand it in a French context.

This might the reason many find the process of getting their qualifications recognized a real headache. 

READ ALSO: How to get your foreign qualifications recognized in France

Another factor is clearly the language.

Unless they are looking for bar work, au pair jobs or English teaching positions then finding a job without a competent level of French will be difficult.

That's the case even in Paris, although many new start ups in the French capital use English as their office language given the number of international staff.

But that's only a recent change and Paris is not like other European capitals such as Amsterdam, Berlin or Stockholm where the locals will have a high level pf proficiency.

Remember the French are regularly ranked the worst in Europe at speaking English and although things are improving the upshot is you'll need to speak French for most jobs and many foreigners simply don't have a good level.

That's not to say it's not impossible to find work if you don't speak French. There are many jobs out there for those who haven't mastered the language of Moliere, Depardieu and Mbappé.

READ ALSO: The jobs in France where you don't really need to speak French

As for the jobs market that the expats complained about, well there's no doubt it's not as fluid as in other countries and unemployment is still stubbornly high – hovering just over 9 percent and over 20 percent for young people.

Again things are slowly changing and reforms have been passed in recent years aimed at making it easier for French companies to hire and fire staff but in general there is not as much movement in the French jobs market as you'd find in Britain, for example.

When people land permanent contracts known as CDIs they tend to hold on to them because it might harder to get another one. And a without a CDI in France it's still hard to get an apartment or a loan.

Most contracts handed out by companies are still temporary contracts (CDDs) which might not prove tempting for people moving to France from abroad and keen to get settled. Although in reality starting with a CDD temporary job is what most people do in France.

So the bureaucracy, the still-rigid jobs market, high unemployment and the need for French language will no doubt make it harder for foreigners to find work in France than in some other countries.

And it's obviously harder for some nationalities more than ever. Americans for example will have a great deal more trouble finding legal work in France than EU nationals given the visa requirements.

Although British nationals may soon find themselves in the same boat depending on what happens with the fraught Brexit negotiations over the coming months.

READ ALSO: What Americans can do to find work in France

But are there are other reasons why expats foreigners and immigrants find it hard to land a job in France? Please share your views and experiences in the comments section below.

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For members


How to get a summer job in France

As the summer holidays approach in France, many employers are looking for seasonal workers - so if you're looking for a summer job, here's how to go about it.

How to get a summer job in France

There are thousands of employment offers in France – a simple internet search for jobs d’été came up with numerous jobs boards offering work in France, while the government-backed Centre d’Information et de Documentation pour la Jeunesse (CIDJ) offers advice and information on all aspects of life for young people in France, including finding seasonal work and summer placements.

Sectors including agriculture, hospitality and tourism are always recruiting in the summer, seeking fruit-pickers, holiday camp workers and serving/hotel staff.

But what are the rules for people seeking summer jobs?

READ ALSO Vendange: What you really sign up for when you agree to help with the French wine harvest


Children from the age of 16 (under certain circumstances, the age limit drops to 14) who are legally resident in France can work as long as they have written authorisation from their parents or legal guardians. A model authorisation letter is available here

Those under the age of 18 cannot undertake certain jobs for health and safety reasons.

In the following circumstances, children as young as 14 or 15 can work during school holidays.

  • The holidays must last at least 14 days;
  • The child must work no more than half the days of the holiday – so, if a vacation period is two weeks, they can work for no more than one of those weeks;
  • The child is given ‘light duties’ that offer no risk to their safety, health, or development;
  • From the age of 15 and if the child has completed their troisieme education, a minor can register for an apprenticeship. 


Salary is usually paid monthly and will have a payslip. For those aged 18 and over, pay will be at least equal to the minimum wage.

 For those aged 14 to 17, who have less than six months’ professional experience, the minimum allowed rate is 80 percent of the minimum wage. For those aged 17 to 18, the rate rises to a minimum of 90 percent of France’s minimum wage.

  • The minimum wage in France is currently €10.85 gross per hour (€1,645.58 gross per month based on a 35-hour week);
  • the employment contract is fixed-term and can take different forms (fixed-term contract, seasonal employment contract, temporary employment contract, etc);
  • Seasonal employees are subject to the same obligations as the other employees of the company and have access to the same benefits (canteens, breaks, etc.).

Under 18s have certain additional protections:

  • between the ages of 14 and 16, during school holidays, employees on any contract cannot work more than 35 hours per week nor more than 7 hours per day;
  • They cannot work at night;
  • Those aged 14 to under 16 working during their school holidays can only be assigned to work which is not likely to harm their safety, their health or development.

Right to work in France

If you’re a French citizen or hold permanent residency in France then you have the right to work, but for foreigners there are extra restrictions.

Anyone who holds the passport of a EU/EEA country or Switzerland, is free to work in France or to travel to France seeking work without needing a visa or work permit.

Most other people will need permission to work in France – even if it’s only for a short period or for casual work such as grape-picking. Depending on your country of origin you may need a visa – everything you need to know about that is here.

In addition to the visa, you may also need a work permit, which is the responsibility of the employer.  To employ anyone in France for less than 90 days, an employer must get a temporary work permit – before the prospective employee applies for a short stay visa. This permit is then sent to the embassy at which the employee is applying for a visa.

If you come from countries including the UK, USA and Canada you can spend up to 90 days in France without a visa – but you may still need a work (convention d’accueil) if you want to work while you are here.

READ ALSO Six official websites to know if you’re planning to work in France

Certain countries have specific ‘seasonal worker’ visas on offer, for certain sectors which allows – for example – Canadians to come to France and work the ski season. 

Cash-in-hand jobs

Certain sectors which have a lot of casual workers – for example seasonal fruit-picking – do have cash-in-hand jobs, known in France as marché noir (black market) or simply travail au black (working on the black, or working illegally). 

This is of course illegal and working this way carries risks – as well as the possibility of losing your job if labour inspectors turn up you are also in a vulnerable position. If your employer suddenly decides not to pay you, or make unexpected deductions from your wages, there is very little you can do about it since you won’t have any kind of work contract.