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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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BRITS IN EUROPE

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.

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