If you weren’t lucky enough to have been born in the European Union, you’re likely reading this post because you’re looking to get your hands on a French work permit. Good news: There are quite a few that you can apply for, which will give you semi or full working rights in France.
Note: These are all the visas that I came across in my research. It is not an exhaustive list. So if you know of any other ones, that I haven’t named here, feel free to let me know in the comments!
Working Holiday Visa
The French working holiday visa is a multiple-entry long stay visa that is valid for 12 months (renewable for up to 24 months depending on your nationality). It is also, coincidentally, the visa that I first came to France with!
The idea of this visa is to give young people aged 18-30 (up to 35 if you’re from Argentina or Canada) years old the ability to travel around the country on a long-term basis to discover the language and culture, while also giving them the right to work from time to time to replenish their funds.
That said, it is not meant to strictly be for working – freelancing and long term employment contracts (CDI) are forbidden on this visa, with only short term employment contracts (CDD) allowed. You are also obliged to return to your country of origin at the end of the visa, and it cannot be transformed into a different status from France.
France currently has a working holiday agreement with 14 countries:
- South Korea
- New Zealand
- Hong Kong
Jeune Professionel Visa
The jeune professionel or young professional visa is similar to working holiday, in that it falls under the youth mobility umbrella, is limited to CDD contracts, and you must return to your country of origin at the end of your visa with no option to transform it into something else in France.
The main differences are that you can only work with one employer (the one who sponsored your visa), and the visa can be renewed for a maximum of 18 months.
The age restrictions are also different: applicants must be between 18-35 years old, with exceptions being up to 30 years old for Russian applicants, and up to 40 years old for those from Benin.
The visa is also more difficult to get than the working holiday visa, as that one you can apply for at your local French consulate without having a job set up beforehand – for the jeune pro visa, you must have already found an employer who will have to send an application to their local DIRECCTE and OFII to get working permission for you, before you can apply at the consulate. This can take a few months in itself.
There are 16 countries which have made an agreement with France for this visa:
- Republic of Congo
- USA (French American Chamber of Commerce – FACC only)
- New Zealand (agriculture-related jobs only)
The salarié visa gives you the right to work for the employer who sponsored you. It is issued as a 12 month visa, which can be transformed into a 2- or 4-year carte de séjour upon expiry if you have a CDI contract. It is renewable and can be changed into a different status while in France, if you so wish.
I currently hold salarié status, the process for which I explain here. To briefly recap, it requires finding a company willing to sponsor you, who will then make an application and send it to the DIRECCTE (who will send it to OFII and then to the consulate). In the application they’ll need to prove you’ll be doing a job no local can do, and provide proof of all your qualifications such as diploma, work certificate, etc. The salary offered will also need to be 1.5x the SMIC minimum.
If approved, you’ll be summoned at your local consulate to apply. The whole process takes roughly 5-6 months, in my experience.
I have heard rumours that you can change jobs once you have the multi-year card, but I think you’ll still need your new employer to go through the work authorization process before they can hire you, otherwise you may run into issues renewing your card in a few years time!
Highly qualified individuals may find themselves eligible for a passeport talent visa, of which there are numerous categories:
- Salarié qualifié/entreprise innovante (qualified employee/innovative enterprise)
- Salarié en mission (employee on mission)
- Créateur d’entreprise (business creator)
- Investisseur économique (investor)
- Projet économique innovant (innovative economic project)
- Mandataire sociale (company representative)
- Renommée nationale ou internationale (person with a national or international reputation)
- Profession artistique et culturelle (artistic and cultural profession)
Each of these statuses have vastly different criteria, so instead of trying to poorly explain each myself, I will just direct you to the official webpage here.
EU Blue Card
If you’ve been offered a high salary from a French company, and have sufficiently high education or work experience, you may be eligible to apply for the EU blue card. One of the main conditions is that the contract must be valid for at least 12 months, and the salary must be at least 1.5x the average salary set for the specific year (the last minimum salary reported on their website is 53,836.50€ gross).
You must also prove that you have studied for a minimum of three years and have acquired a university or specialized college degree, or that you have at least 5 years of relevant work experience.
One of the major perks of being a holder of an EU blue card is that after five years of uninterrupted stay in the EU, including two years of continuous stay in France, you can apply for an EU longterm residence permit, which will allow you to freely work and live in any EU member state.
Au Pair Visa
If you are between the ages of 18 and 30 and would like to come to France temporarily to work on your linguistic skills, an au pair visa is a good option. You will, of course, need to find a family in France willing to host you, and they must not be related to you, as well as must hold a different nationality than your own.
To apply, the family must give you a convention d’accueil de jeune au pair, which will include terms of renumeration (minimum 320€), work hours (up to 25 a week), lodging, meals, and other important conditions. You must justify basic knowledge of the French language.
If approved, the visa will be issued for 12 months, which can be renewed once for a maximum of two years.
If you decide to do your higher education in France, you will be permitted to take on paid work for a total of 964 hours in a single year while you are on the course. If you graduate with a French Master’s degree, you will also be eligible to apply for an autorisation provisoire de séjour or APS, that will let you extend your stay to look for work, which can then be transformed into salarié status if you find an employer willing to sponsor you.
It goes without saying that the primary purpose for getting a student visa is to study, and not to work. You can find more information about this status on the official website.