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VISAS

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

France is keen to attract international students, but if you studied in France and want to stay here, there are also several routes tailored towards keeping qualified graduates in the country - specialist immigration lawyer Maître Haywood Wise explains more.

France has set itself a goal of attracting more foreign talent to universities, and the government is also keen for these highly qualified graduates to stay and become part of the French workforce.

Students who have an EU passport can stay with minimal paperwork, but non-EU students will need to change their student visa to ensure that they have the correct documents to live and work in France.

This is neither simple nor paperwork-free (of course) but there are several routes that recent graduates can take in order to stay.

Immigration lawyer, Maître Haywood Wise, who practices in the Paris area, explained some of the options:

Recherche d’emploi et création d’entreprise (RECE) – Job Seeker/ New Business Creator

If you did a vocational degree or masters level (or above) the ‘job seeker’ residence permit might be the best bet for you. 

The goal of this card is to allow you to “have a first professional experience or start a company in a field that corresponds to your training.”

On this residence permit, you will be allowed to search for and hold a job in connection with your degree or research for one year. 

According to Maître Wise, there are several “advantages” to this residency permit. You are permitted to work full-time while on this titre, in contrast to the part-time requirements of the student visa.

Maître Wise explained that the benefit of this permit is that while on it you “do not need a work permit” as a foreigner, as you have the legal right to work while on it – making you instantly more attractive to employers who are spared the burdensome task of security your work permit. 

In order to qualify, you must have received one of these degrees, and during your studies you must have held a student visa (VLS-TS):

  • a Licence Professionelle (vocational degree),
  • a master’s degree or equivalent (such as an engineering degree, a degree from an institute of political studies (IEP), the higher diploma in accounting and management, a veterinary diploma, etc
  • a Specialised Master’s degree
  • a Master of Sciences (MSc) accredited by the Conférence des Grandes Ecoles

Keep in mind that this also applies to researchers who completed their research in France (meaning you previously held the residency permit: “Carte de séjour “passeport talent – chercheur”)

If you are worried that the above-criteria might not apply perfectly to your situation, Maître Wise explained that the legal code regarding who exactly qualifies is “rather ambiguous,” and that you might still be able to consider applying for this permit even if you do not come “directly under the terms of the legislation.” However, it is recommendable to seek legal advice in this scenario. 

If you completed an undergraduate degree in France, unfortunately this will “most likely not work” for the ‘job seeker’ permit.

READ MORE: Visas and residency permits: How to move to France (and stay here)

How much does it cost?

For students, the cost is €75, for researchers, the cost is €225.

What rules should I be aware of? 

You are not obligated to do this directly after graduating – in fact, you can apply for the ‘job seeker’ permit up to four years after completing your degree. 

How long does it last?

This residency permit is valid for 12 months – even if you get a permanent job during this period, there is no need to change the permit until the 12 months are up.

At the end of the 12 months, if you have found a job (in your field) or started a business in France, then you must switch onto a different titre

When switching onto the next residency permit, if you’ve set up your own business or set up as a freelancer, you can look into the “temporary residency card: entrepreneur/professional.” For those who were offered a job, the next residency card will depend in part on your salary and field, as shown below courtesy of French government website service-public.fr. Keep in mind that exact salary amounts may differ from year to year, so it is best to check with official government websites.

Advice from French website service-public.fr

Carte de séjour: salarié/travailleur temporaire – Employee or temporary worker

If you did any type of higher education in France, you can apply for this visa once you have been offered a job in the field you studied.

The employment contract you must have been offered for this work is either a CDI (permanent position) or CDD (temporary position), but cannot be a stage (internship) or as a pigiste (casual worker).

Normally people getting this type of permit also need a work permit, for which employers need to demonstrate – among other things – that there is no local candidate who could do your job. However if you switch onto this permit type from the RECE card, demonstrating this is not necessary, assuming you meet the other requirements (the job meets the income threshold and is in your field of study). 

You will still need to have your employment contract validated by the DIRECCTE (the Regional Department of Competition, Consumption, Work and Employment) when applying for an “employee” or “temporary worker” residency permit.

You’ll likely also need to provide proof of your current residency permit, your passport, proof of residence, three passport compatible photos, and your autorisation du travail (work permit). 

How long does it last?

The first time you apply for this residency permit it is valid for one year (12 months). It is renewable, and can be renewed for a period of up to four years. 

Passeport talent : carte de séjour pluriannuelle d’un étranger en France – Talent Passport

This residency permit is aimed at highly qualified candidates and for recent graduates it is issued based on your study field and salary level, and there are several different categories within it. 

It’s less common for students, although some researchers qualify for it. For someone who has just finished their studies in France, you most likely would fall under one of these categories: “qualified employee”, “artist” , or “creation of a company.”

If you’re applying as an employee (rather than freelancer or business start-up) you need to have graduated from a professional degree or a Specialized Master’s/Master of Science (accredited by the Conférence des Grandes Ecoles) or at least equivalent to a Master’s degree, and have been offered an employment contract with a gross annual salary of more than €39,494 or more (as of 2022).

You can find the other requirements HERE. Keep in mind your employer will need to fill out a Cerfa form to request that you fall under the ‘passeport talent’ category.

How long does it last?

This is a multi-year residency permit, and also allows you to bring a spouse and/or family members with you.

Final tips

Check official government websites to see when you must begin the application process for a ‘changement de statut’– sometimes this varies by préfecture, and if you are still waiting on your diploma certificate from your French university you can ask them for a provisional letter attesting you have met the graduation requirements and passed your grand oral (if that applies to you).

Maître Wise recommends the RECE permit if you qualify for it: “Stay on this titre de séjour until its expiration,” he said, adding the reminder that  “each préfecture works differently. Some of these applications are easier in Paris.”

According to the immigration law expert, it is best to take the residency permit process “extremely seriously, particularly because the préfectures lack transparency and are not functioning well.”

His final tip is to “get on it in advance, and be prepared for confusion regarding how you’re going to get employment. If you have an employer, solutions are easy. If you don’t then it’s not going to be so easy.”

Basically, do your homework before going and be prepared for a potentially bumpy ride. If your situation is complicated or atypical, it might be best to spend some money on legal advice.

* Maître Haywood Wise works for the HAYWOOD MARTIN WISE law firm. They offer consultations in English and French. You can find their website HERE

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For members

LIVING IN FRANCE

Overstaying, working without a permit and polygamy – what can get you deported from France?

From committing a crime to overstaying your 90-day limit and even having multiple wives - here is a look at all the things that can get foreigners deported from France, and how likely this is in reality.

Overstaying, working without a permit and polygamy - what can get you deported from France?

If you’re living in France and you’re not a French citizen, there are certain scenarios in which you can be expelled from the country, and although this isn’t an everyday occurrence there are quite a wide range of offences that can see you kicked out of France. 

Process

In France, there are a few different deportation procedures for foreigners.

Expulsion – The first, which you may have heard about before, is “expulsion”, which means you must leave the country immediately.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin recently made headlines after calling for the expulsion of an Imam for making anti-Semitic, homophobic and sexist comments, as well as speeches that were “contrary to the values of the Republic.” 

For the average person, being expelled from France is very unlikely.

Under president Nicolas Sarkozy, a 2003 law was passed allowing for three possibilities to expel foreigners who are already “integrated” into France – if they have engaged in “behaviours likely to undermine the fundamental interests of the State; that are linked to activities of a terrorist nature; or constitute acts of incitement toward discrimination, hatred or violence because of the origin or religion of persons.”  

In most cases though, “expulsion” only occurs if a person is living in France illegally (ie without a residency permit or visa) and they represent a “serious threat to public order.” 

Notice to quit – The more likely scenario for the deportation of a foreigner living in France is an OQTF (Obligation de quitter le territoire français) – an obligation to leave France.

The decision is made by your préfecture. You will be formally notified, in a document which outlines which country you are to return to, as well as the time limit for when you must leave France. 

This can occur following a prison sentence, or if your residency permit has been withdrawn (again, the most common scenario is following a criminal conviction) or if your application to renew a residency permit has been denied.

You can challenge an OQTF. In most cases, the administrative court responsible for handling appeals should offer a response within six weeks.

Barred from returning – if you have committed an immigration offence such as overstaying your visa or overstaying your 90-day limit, this is often only flagged up at the border as you leave France. In this circumstance, you are liable to a fine and can also be banned from returning to France. Bans depend on your circumstance and how long you have overstayed, but can range from 90 days to 10 years.

In practice, being barred from returning is the most common scenario for people who have overstayed their visa or 90-day limit, but have not been working or claiming benefits in France.  

You can be ordered to leave France within 30 days if you are in one of the following situations:

  • You entered France (or the Schengen area) illegally and you do not have a residency permit or visa. You can be immediately ordered to leave France under specific scenarios such as representing a threat to public order or being a “risk of fleeing.”
  • You have entered France legally, but you have overstayed your visa or overstayed your 90-day limit. If you stay more than 90 days in every 180 in the Schengen area without a valid residency permit, then you can receive an OQTF, although in practice this is not the most common response.

READ MORE: What happens if you overstay your 90-day limit in France?

  • Your residency permit application or your temporary residence permit has not been renewed or has been withdrawn.
  • Your residence permit has been withdrawn, refused or not renewed or you no longer have the right to stay in France (more on this below). 
  • You failed to apply to renew your residency permit, and stayed after the expiration of your previous permit. Keep in mind that once your permit expires, you can stay an additional 90 days in France if your home-country does not require a 90-day visa. However, in order to do this you must exit the Schengen zone and come back in to re-start the clock. 
  • You are working without a work permit and have resided in France for less than 3 months. A scenario where this might apply would be coming to France for under 90-days as a tourist (ie without a visa) and take a seasonal job. If you are found to have done this, you can receive an OQTF.
  • Other scenarios include being an asylum seeker whose application for protection was definitively rejected, or being categorised as a threat to public order (for those who have resided in France for less than 3 months).

Why might my residency permit be withdrawn or refused?

For those with a valid temporary or multi-annual residency permit, you might have your titre de séjour withdrawn in any of the following scenarios: 

If you no longer meet one of the necessary conditions for obtaining the permit in the first place. Keep in mind that if you have a salarié residency permit or a passeport talent, these cannot be withdrawn if you become “involuntarily unemployed” (meaning – you do not need to worry about potentially being deported if you lose your job). The best advice for this would be to request a change of status as needed rather than staying on a permit that no longer applies to you.

If you did not fulfil all the criteria for renewing your permit – this could involve failing to appear for an appointment you have been summoned to by the préfecture. 

If your permit was issued on the basis of family reunification, you could lose your titre if you have broken off your relationship with your spouse during the 3 years following the issuance of the permit. This does not apply in the case of death or spousal abuse, and there are exceptions for couples who have children settled in France. 

Other reasons might include:

  • Living in a state of polygamy in France
  • Serious criminal conviction (drug trafficking, slavery, human trafficking, murder etc.)
  • Illegally employing a foreign worker
  • Having been deported or banned from French territory previously
  • Being a threat to public order (usually terrorism related)

If you have a residency card, you can also lose your right to residency if you are out of France for a period of between 10 months and two years – depending on the type of card you have.

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