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EXPLAINED: What are the main obstacles to finding a job when moving to an EU country?

Moving to another country is never easy, as it requires going through cultural changes and administrative formalities. It can be even more complicated when looking for a job.

EXPLAINED: What are the main obstacles to finding a job when moving to an EU country?
The lack of skills in the national language is most commonly cited as a hurdle for immigrants, especially in Sweden (Photo by Jessica Pamp on Unsplash)

According to new data released by the EU statistical office, Eurostat, the knowledge of the national language and the recognition of professional qualifications are the two most common obstacles experienced by foreign-born people in finding a ‘suitable’ job in countries of the European Union.

Overall, about a quarter of people born outside the EU who had experience in working or looking for work in the bloc reported some difficulties getting a ‘suitable’ job for level of education (without considering the field of expertise or previous experience).

The Eurostat analysis shows that the situation is better for EU citizens moving within the bloc. But there are major differences depending on countries and gender.

Life can be more difficult for women

In 2021, 13.2 percent of men and 20.3 percent of women born in another European Union country reported obstacles in getting a suitable job in the EU place of residence.

These proportions however increase to 20.9 percent for men and 27.3 percent for women born in a non-EU country with a high level of development (based on the United Nations’ Human Development Index) and 31.1 percent for men and 35.7 percent for women from non-EU countries with a low or medium level of development.

Finland (42.9 percent), Sweden (41.7 percent), Luxembourg (34.6 percent) and France (32.1 percent) are the countries with the highest shares of people born outside the EU reporting problems. Norway, which is not part of the bloc, has an even higher percentage, 45.2, and Switzerland 34.3 percent.

In contrast, Cyprus (11.2 percent), Malta (10.9 percent), Slovenia (10.2 percent), Latvia (10 percent) and Lithuania (6.7 percent) have the lowest proportion of people born outside the EU reporting difficulties.

Lack of language skills

The lack of skills in the national language is most commonly cited as a hurdle, and it is even more problematic for women.

This issue was reported by 4.2 percent of men born in another EU country, 5.3 percent of those born in a developed country outside the EU and 9.7 percent of those from a non-EU country with a middle or low level of development. The corresponding shares for women, however, were 5.6, 6.7 and 10.5 percent respectively.

The countries where language skills were more likely to be reported by non-EU citizens as an obstacle in getting a relevant job were Finland (22.8 percent), Luxembourg (14.7 percent) and Sweden (13.1 percent).

As regards other countries covered by The Local, the percentage of non-EU citizens citing the language as a problem was 12.4 percent in Austria, 10.2 percent in Denmark, 7.8 percent in France, 5.1 percent in Italy, 2.7 percent in Spain, 11.1 percent on Norway and 10.1 percent in Switzerland. Data is not available for Germany.

Portugal (77.4 percent), Croatia (68.8 percent), Hungary (58.8 percent) and Spain (58.4 percent) have the highest share of people from outside the EU already speaking the language as a mother tongue before arriving, while more than 70 percent of non-EU citizens residing in Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg and Norway said they had participated in language courses after arrival.

Lisbon Portugal

Portugal has the highest share of people from outside the EU already speaking the language as a mother tongue before arriving. (Photo by Aayush Gupta on Unsplash)

Recognition of qualifications

Another hurdle on the way to a relevant job in EU countries is the lack of recognition of a formal qualification obtained abroad. This issue was reported by 2 percent of men and 3.8 percent of women born in another EU country. It was also mentioned by 3.3 percent of men and 5.9 percent of women born in a developed country outside the EU, and 4.8 percent of men and 4.6 percent of women born in a less developed non-EU country.

Eurostat says this reflects an “unofficial distrust” among employers of qualification obtained abroad and the “low official validation of foreign education”.

The lack of availability of a suitable job was another factor mentioned in the survey. In Croatia, Portugal and Hungary, this was the main obstacle to getting an adequate position.

This issue concerned 3.3 percent of men and 4.5 percent of women born in another EU country, 4.2 percent of men and 5 percent of women born in a developed non-EU country It also worried 3.9 percent of men and 5.1 percent of women born in a less developed non-EU country.

Restricted right to work due to citizenship or residence permits, as well as plain discrimination on the grounds of origin were also cited as problems.

Discrimination was mostly reported by people born in a less developed non-EU country (3.1 percent for men and 3.3 percent for women) compared to people born in highly developed non-EU countries (1.9 percent for men and 2.2 percent for women).

Citizenship and residence permits issues are unusual for people from within the EU. For people from outside the EU, this is the only area where women seem to have fewer problems than men: 1.6 percent of women from developed non-EU countries reported this issue, against 2.1 percent of men, with the share increasing to 2.8 and 3.3 percent respectively for women and men from less developed non-EU states.

The article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.

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Three things to know about work permits in France

Working in France as a foreigner can be simultaneously exciting and stressful, particularly when it comes to figuring out whether you need a work permit and how to go about getting one. These are the three things you need to know.

Three things to know about work permits in France

If you do not already have a residency card that gives you the right to work in France – and you are not an EU citizen – there is a good chance you will need a work permit, or autorisation de travail.

The process in France might be different from what you might expect – and there are several exceptions to who actually needs one – so here are the three things you should know:

It is the employer, not the employee who requests it

In France, it is up to the employer to request an autorisation de travail. They do so by submitting an application via an online portal – which can be found HERE

In some cases, the employer might have to demonstrate that the job was published for at least three weeks with the French public employment agency before submitting a work permit application.

When it comes to the hiring of foreign students who obtained “a diploma at least equivalent to the master’s degree” in France, the employee is “examined without opposability of the employment situation,” according to French government websites. This means that the employer does not need to show proof that effort was made to hire a candidate in the French labour market.

READ MORE: The jobs in France where you don’t really need to speak French

Keep in mind, however, that this is depends on whether the employee is working in a field related to their studies and receiving salary of at least €2,518 per month (gross), as of August 1st, 2022.

The next step for the employer would be to submit all related documents.

At minimum, the employer will need to provide: 

  • A letter explaining the employee’s role or the reasons for their recruitment and detailing the duties they will be performing.
  • An up-to-date excerpt of the commercial register for legal entities (extrait K-bis) and sole proprietors (extrait K); a craft license (titre d’artisan); or, failing that, for private individuals, a tax notice.
  • A copy of the employee’s passport or national identity document.
  • If the employee is already resident in France, a copy of their current residency permit 
  • The employee’s CV, resume or other evidence of their skills and experience.
  • If applicable, a copy of any qualifications or certificates required for the position in question.
  • If applicable, proof the position was advertised for three weeks with the French employment agency, as well as proof of effort made to find a candidate already in the French labour market.

Other documents may be required, depending on the situation.

After submitting the application, the employer will receive confirmation it was sent. If the work permit is issued, then both the employer and foreign employee will receive it by email. 

If the application is approved, then the employer will be asked to pay a tax, which is determined based on the foreign worker’s pay.

READ MORE: Ask the expert: How students can remain in France after finishing their degree

For example, if the employee has a work contract lasting over one year with a gross monthly salary of less than € 4,197, the employer would owe 55 percent of their gross monthly salary (as of 2022). 

Not everyone needs to have a work permit as a ‘distinct document’

The people who would need a work permit are those who do not have citizenship of an EU country, and either have or will be requesting a residency status that requires a work permit.

Basically, if you already hold a long-term residency permit in France, you probably do not need a work permit. This includes Brits who are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement (those who moved to France before December 31st 2020).

Certain long-term residency permits – for example the “vie privée et familiale” (family residency permit) – are technically authorisations to work in their own right, and therefore do not require a distinct work permit document.

The main categories of people who need a work permit in addition to their residency permit or visa are recently-graduated non-EU students who studied in France, and people arriving in France to take up a new job.

If you are confused whether you will need a work permit, you can use the simulator on the French visa website HERE to get an idea of whether it will be necessary, depending on your residency status. 

The Local has also put together a thorough guide to help you determine if you will need a work permit.

READ MORE: Working in France: Who needs a work permit?

In some cases, the work permit is a prerequisite for applying to a visa or residency permit

If you are applying for the standard salarié or travailleur temporaire visa, then you will likely need to include the ‘distinct document’ in the application.

This means that you will need to have had your future employer request the permit ahead of time, so that it is issued in time for you to include it in the visa application. 

The process can take several months, so be prepared to ask your employer to send the application with lots of time in advance of when you would apply for the visa itself. 

If you are moving to France for a job, this might mean that your official start date will need to be several months after your employer offers you the job. French administrative bodies recommend that the company or employer submit the work permit application at least three months before the employee is due to take up their role.

Once the work permit is issued, as mentioned previously, the employee should receive the document via email.

Keep in mind that simply receiving a work permit does not mean you are exempt for requesting a visa. You will still want to allot time for that process as well.

Helpful vocabulary

  • Autorisation de travail: work permit
  • Contrat de travail: work contract
  • Opposition de la situation de l’emploi: The “opposability of the employment situation” – meaning the government’s right to refuse a foreigner based on the job market and whether that field has a shortage or surplus of employees. If “sans” is written in front of it, this might describe a situation where the candidate or job does not need proof that the employer has carried out efforts to recruit a candidate already present on the French job market.
  • Embaucher – to hire
  • Sanction – penalty 
  • SMIC – minimum wage