How I Got a Carte de Séjour Salarié: Part 1


APRIL 2021 UPDATE: As of April 1st 2021, the process to sponsor a foreigner for a work permit has changed. Previously processed through the DIRECCTE, as of April 6th companies need to apply via a new online service, with the request being treated by the company’s local prefecture. How they make their decision has also changed, as they now take into account the unemployment rate for that occupation in that geographical area, among other criteria. I don’t know if it’ll make the process simpler or more difficult. For more information, visit the service public page or read the official decree. I’m keeping up my blog posts unaltered in case some information may still be relevant but please keep in mind this is no longer exactly how things are done. This concerns Part 1 of the series in particular – as far as I’m aware, the steps related to VFS & OFII (Part 2) and applying for a CDS at the prefecture (Part 3) have not changed.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer or an immigration expert, and I cannot promise that following my advice will guarantee you a work permit in France. I am just sharing my own experience. There are many variables involved that will influence whether or not you’d be approved to get a carte de séjour salarié

After two years of worry, stress, and frustration, I finally received news from the French administration that I will be the recipient of an elusive carte de séjour salarié.

French work permits are no easy thing to acquire, especially if you’re not moving from a student visa (who have a special route to getting a carte de séjour salarié if they did a Master’s degree in France), and if you do not qualify for any of the passeport talent.

But somehow, I managed to do it. And I want to share how I made it possible with my readers, some of whom I know are vying for a work permit themselves.

My Situation

First thing’s first, I want to describe what my situation was going into this process. There are a lot of variables at play when trying to get this visa, and there’s no doubt my situation influenced their decision. That’s not to say that only people in positions like mine will get this visa – I just wanted to make this clear from the start.

I first arrived in France on a working holiday visa under the France-Canada Youth Mobility Agreement. While I mostly holidayed (and worked on this blog!) during my first year, in my second year I took up a couple of different jobs. One of these included work at a digital marketing agency in the périphérique.

After a few months there, my company decided that they wanted to sponsor me for a work permit so that I could continue working for them after my temporary visa expired. This was the first – and a hugely important – step.

Step-by-Step Process to Getting a Carte de Séjour Salarié

The process to acquire a carte de séjour salarié is long and complex, but in my experience (and the experience of others I know who successfully got this permit), followed this order:

  1. Find a company who is willing to sponsor you,
  2. Have the company advertise the job on Pôle d’Emploi or another job posting organism for 2-6 weeks (the longer, the better),
  3. Together with them, put together a dossier to send to the DIRECCTE, that presents you as a foreign candidate that they’d like to hire,
  4. Wait for a response from the DIRECCTE. If approved, it will be sent to OFII.
  5. OFII will transmit your papers to your local embassy,
  6. Your local embassy will contact you to make an appointment to receive your visa,
  7. You will receive a temporary work visa, which allows you to enter France and begin work,
  8. You will need to register with OFII upon your arrival,
  9. Undergo a medical control, after which you will receive a certificate,
  10. Do a personal interview with OFII and attend civic classes,
  11. Once you have all your OFII documents, you can make an appointment at your local préfecture to request a carte de séjour salarié a few months before the expiry of your visa.
  12. Once you’ve made your appointment, you’ll need to prepare your dossier.
  13. On the date and time listed on your convocation, you’ll need to go to the prefecture to renew your titre de séjour salarié and request a card.
  14. A few weeks to months following your appointment, you’ll receive a SMS from the prefecture asking you to come pick up your carte de séjour salarié.

In this post, I will detail steps 1-5. Steps 6-10 will be outlined in my next post on this subject, while steps 11-14 will be in part 3.

1. Find a Company to Sponsor You

You cannot apply for a work permit on your own – you need to have a company who wants to sponsor you and is willing to go through the months-long process. This is the first step, and one of the main reasons why I got the card.

I was lucky that I’d already been working for a company, and so they were firm in their decision that they wanted to keep me based on their positive experience with me thus far.

Unless you are highly qualified or have niche skills, it can be harder to convince a company to sponsor you during the interview process. This is because the process takes months and requires the company to produce plenty of paperwork and pay a hefty tax.

2. Advertise on Pôle d’Emploi or Other Organism

In order to convince the French government to let them hire a foreign employee, your company must prove that they tried to hire a local first. This is because a French work permit basically means, that you’re doing a job that no one else in France could do.

Upon deciding they wanted to keep me, my company advertised the job again for several weeks to look for a replacement. They received dozens of CVs and interviewed over 20 candidates. After all that, they still couldn’t find someone with my unique profile, and so had a strong argument for sponsoring me: they’d given it their all to find a replacement, and still I turned out to be the best candidate according to the job posting.

This process is key because your company must give a fair chance to local candidates, and must have good reason behind why they didn’t hire any of them. If they don’t, your chances of being rejected go up.

Don’t think you and your company can bypass this step, either – in your application your company must include the job posting, say how many people they interviewed, and include CVs that they received. In the accompanying letter they must clearly explain why you were the best choice, and what skills or qualifications you possess that make you the top candidate.

3. Putting Together Your Dossier for the DIRECCTE

After advertising the job, and failing to find a suitable candidate, your company can go forward with submitting the application to the DIRECCTE. The process is clearly explained here in great detail, but I’ll personally share what we submitted for my own dossier:

From my company (that I know of):

  • List of all papers included in the dossier,
  • 4 copies of the completed CERFA form (we used the one for someone living outside of France, if you live in France use this one),
  • Original job posting,
  • CVs from other candidates,
  • 3-page motivation letter explaining how the company works, my situation, why they didn’t hire the other candidates, and what unique skills and qualifications I had that made them want to keep me.

They also submitted financial records and other business forms, but I am not 100% what these were as this was confidential. If your company wants to sponsor you they can contact the DIRECCTE or their local préfecture directly and find out exactly what they need.

From me:

  • Photocopies of my passport and any French visas I ever held,
  • My CV in English and in French,
  • Work certificates from every job I’ve ever held,
  • My university degree officially translated into French,
  • School records that showed I studied in francophone schools from kindergarden to Grade 12,
  • Certificate from my provincial school board that stated I was bilingual in French and English in the eyes of the Canadian government,
  • Certificate from the Mairie of Paris showing I had sucessfully passed B2 French courses.

The first four items I listed there are mandatory for any candidate. The additional documents I furnished proved that I was a bilingual French Canadian. This was important for me to add primarily because my company needed a native English speaker who was fluent in French. Depending on your job, you will likely need to provide additional documentation as well to show you fit that special profile (whether it’s language- or skill-based).

4. Going Through the DIRECCTE

Once your dossier is complete, your company can send it to their local DIRECCTE (Diréction régionale des entreprises, de la concurrence, de la consommation, du travail et de l’emploi Ile-de-France) by mail.

After that, all you can do is wait. They have up to 2 months to give you answer, and while I’ve heard of people who were lucky and had it pass in 10 days, for the majority it takes 2 months or more. For me personally, it took a little over 2 months to receive a letter that stated our application had been approved.

If approved, the letter will state, among other things, that your dossier has been sent to OFII.

If you are rejected, your company has the right to an appeal, but as I have never gone through that I will not comment on it.

I do not personally know how the DIRECCTE chooses who to approve and who to reject, but know that things such as whether your qualifications and skills match the job description, and what the unemployment rate in that is field is currently factor into their decision. They can be notoriously difficult to get a “yes” out of, so make sure your application is as strong as possible before sending it off.

5. Going Through OFII

OFII (Office français de l’immigration et de l’intégration) are the second administrative body through which your dossier will go through. They will treat your application for around 2-3 weeks, after which they will send your documents to your local embassy so that you can make the application for your visa.

My company was personally contacted by OFII via mail, to let them know the papers had been sent to the French consulate in Montréal, Canada.

In Part 2 and Part 3 of this post, I go through the next steps of the process to get a carte de séjour salarié