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Expat Work Permits for France

Expatriates are often attracted by France’s promising working conditions and good social security coverage. If you are also intrigued by the idea of working in France, our InterNations guide helps you learn more. We cover France’s industries, business climate, and work permits.
France offers several types of work permits for qualified expat professionals.

Who Needs a Visa?

If you are an EU or an EEA national (including Swiss), you don’t need a visa to live or work in France even if it’s for the long-term. Otherwise, you will have to apply for a visa if you want to stay in France for longer than three months. The type of visa you receive will depend upon what you’re doing in France, and you can see some examples below.

In general, however, if you are staying between 4 and 12 months, you will need a visa de long séjour (long-stay visa), which will be adapted for the duration of your stay and for your reasons (e.g. family, professional, academic). If you come to France for work, your employer needs to apply for a separate work and residence permit (carte de séjour) on your behalf. The visa available to family members also depends on the type of your own permit. Contact your local French consular or embassy to find out the specific documents required for your application. You may require a routine medical examination and a criminal record clearance upon your arrival in France.

Residence Permits

Known as a carte de séjour, a residence permit reflects the purpose of your stay and gives details on your specific work permit. If you are not an EU/EEA national or from Switzerland, and will be staying in France from one to four years, you need a visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour (VLS-TS), which is “a long-stay visa valid as a residence permit”. Remember that all VLS-TS visa holders do have to register at the French Office of Immigration and Integration within the first three months of their stay, though.

Other long-stay visas require the application for a residence permit once arrived in France. This needs to be done within the first two months and at the respective prefecture.

Residence permits need renewing every year, unless you have a special carte compétences et talents, which is valid for up to four years and acts as a combined visa, work and residence permit.

The “Skills and Talents” Work Permit

The “Skills and Talents” Card (carte compétences et talents) is intended for non-EU nationals who would like to carry out a specific project. Their aim should be to further the economic development of France and/or their country of origin. It acts as a combined visa, work and residence permit. It is valid for an initial period of up to four years, and accompanying family members automatically receive a “private and family life” permit allowing them to reside and work in France.

You need to submit your application together with a briefing paper presenting the project to the French Consulate in your country, or to the nearest Préfecture if you are already in France at the time of application.

Temporary Work and Residence Permits

This category comprises two groups: the “salaried” temporary residence permit is for foreign employees coming to France on an employment contract lasting one year or longer. The “temporary worker” residence permit is for those whose contract lasts less than a year.

In both cases, the prospective French employer is responsible for carrying out the formalities. They have to contact the French authorities and prove that they have tried and failed to recruit a French candidate for the job. Moreover, they have to show that working conditions, salaries, company accommodation, etc. are equal to those of local employees.

Every administrative region in France has its own liste de 30 métiers, i.e. 30 occupations which are open to foreign (third-country) nationals, provided they have the relevant qualifications and experience to carry out the job in question. For instance, in the Île-de-France around Paris, this list includes real estate agents and computer software engineers.

The “Employee on Assignment” Work Permit

The “employee on assignment” permit is the traditional work permit for expats, targeting managers, well-paid professionals, and skilled workers or employees.

Your employer can apply on your behalf if you have been with the company for at least three months and if your gross monthly salary is at least 1.8 times the minimum wage in France (as of 2017, this would equal around 2,664 EUR per month).

The permit allows you to work for one of the company’s branches in France or another company within the same group for an initial period of three years. Furthermore, your family will be allowed to join you on a “private and family life” permit.

For highly qualified candidates hoping to work in France or another EU member, there is the European Blue Card. Employees who are at least on a one-year contract and earning 53,836 EUR per year or more (as of 2017) can apply for this special permit and immediately bring along their family.

The Permit for “Seasonal Workers” and Academics

The “seasonal worker” permit is valid for three years, but it only allows the holder to work for a minimum of three and a maximum of six months over a period of 12 consecutive months. The main residence must remain outside France at all times, and family members are not allowed to join. Again, the recruiting party is responsible for all the paperwork.

The “scientific” permit is for academics with at least a Master’s degree wishing to participate in research or teaching activities in France. In order to apply, you need to have a convention d’accueil (hosting agreement) from an accredited French research institute or an educational institution endorsed by the French Consulate in your country of origin. It may also be necessary to get a VLS-TS if your stay will last longer than a year.

Academic residents aren’t allowed to take up paid employment outside their research or teaching assignment. However, their family members are allowed to join them in France.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

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