Home Moving to France Visas & Immigration Work in France: a guide to French work visas and permits
Last update on September 15, 2020

Moving to France to work? Find out if you need a visa or permit to work in France and the procedures for applying for a French work permit.

Wondering how to live and work in France? Certain nationalities require a French work visa to be able to legally live and work in France. There are many French work permits, depending on your employment situation in France. The French work permit has ties to your residence status in France. In most cases, you need a job before you apply for a work visa for France. 

This guide includes:

Do you need a work visa in France?

If you’re from the EU/EEA or Switzerland, you are free to work in France without a work permit. If you’re coming to France with a family member who has a permit for certain types of highly-skilled work, you also may be able to work without a work permit.

Most other people need permission to work in France. They need this authorization before granting a visa. The prospective employer organizes this process on your behalf. You need an employer to organize the authorization for you to work; first of all, find a job. For help on how to get a job in France, see our guide to looking for work in France.

Working for less than 90 days

If you’re working in France for less than 90 days, your employer must get you a temporary work permit. The employer gets this from the French Ministry of Labor, the DIRECCTE (Direction regionale des enterprises, de la concurrence et de la consummation, du travail et de l’emploi), or a convention d’accueil stamped by the local prefecture (French local authority/administrative office) if you’re a scientist, researcher, or teacher. This authorization then goes to the French embassy where you apply for your visa.

You need a short-stay work visa to work in France for less than 90 days unless you’re from the EU/EEA/Switzerland. If you’re from Australia, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Japan, Mauritius, Mexico, St Kitts and Nevis, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, the United States, or Venezuela, you don’t need a visa to enter France. Make sure that your employer organizes a valid work permit (convention d’accueil) for you at the time of travel.

How to work in France

To be sure of the latest rules, check with the French consulate in your home country.

Working for more than 90 days

If you’re working in France for more than 90 days, you must apply for a long-stay work visa. This is also your residence permit. Your employer draws up a work contract and sends it to the local division of the French Ministry of Labor. If any family members are joining you, then the employer must also start the accompanying family member procedure. If the DIRRECTE approves the contract, it is sent to the Office Francais de l’Immigration et de l’Integration (OFII).

Once OFII approves the contract, it goes directly to the French embassy in your home country. You then receive an invitation to visit the embassy in person to apply for a long-stay visa. Bring along your passport, an application form, and any other documentation necessary. On arrival in France, you have to register with the L’Office Francais de l’Immigration et de I’Integration (OFII).

Different types of visas to work in France

There are many different types of residence permits to work in France, each one with its own requirements. Some permits provide exemptions from other general requirements for migrants coming to live in France; for example, the requirement for migrants to sign the Contrat d’Accueil et d’Intégration (CAI). This contract aims to help migrants integrate into French society. By signing it, the French government agrees to offer training courses and the migrant agrees to take part in them.

The Talent Passport permit

In 2016, the French government made it easier to obtain certain work permits for non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens. The passeport talent permit is one such example. This permit now includes the following ten categories:

  • skilled recent graduates
  • employees of an innovative company
  • highly-skilled workers (EU Blue Card holders)
  • employees on a mission with a French work contract
  • researchers/scientists
  • champions of an innovative economic project
  • economic or financial investors
  • company representatives
  • artist/performers
  • a person internationally or nationally renowned in science, literature, arts, education, sports, and so on

In summary, if you are an executive, independent professional, or employee who, in the eyes of the French authorities, has the potential to make a significant contribution to the French economy, especially in intellectual, scientific, cultural, sporting, or humanitarian fields, and you’ll be involved in a specific project, then you can apply for this four-year, renewable residence permit.

This permit has varying requirements depending on which above category you all into, but some general requirements are to:

  • provide documentation, often including a bachelor’s degree or higher, a detailed CV, information about the work, and evidence of sufficient funding.
  • meet other criteria as set out by the Commission Nationale des Competences et Talents,
  • show a work contract, typically for at least three months, approved by the DIRECCTE.

Information (in French) is available on the French Public Service website, and the French National Assembly website. If you receive this permit, then your family members get a vie privée et familiale card. This allows your spouse to work legally in France. Neither you nor your spouse have to sign the CAI.

Employed or salaried and temporary workers’ permit

After 18 months in a long-stay residence permit marked employee or temporary worker, you may apply to bring your family to France. Spouses (partners are excluded) and minor children can apply for a one-year visitor visa (without being able to work). They must sign the CAI (see Expatica’s article: Moving to France to join a relative or partner).

EU Blue Card for highly skilled/educated workers

This is a one- to three-year residence/work permit for highly skilled workers. To be eligible, you must have a diploma/degree attesting to three years of higher education or five years’ professional experience in a specific field, a work contract for at least a year, and earn a monthly salary of at least 1.5 times the French average gross annual salary (in 2017, this amount increased to €53,836 per year). You must work in the field for which you were admitted to the scheme for two years; then you can take on any highly qualified work.

After 18 months in France, you can work in other EU countries. After five years, you’re eligible for the renewable, 10-year, long-term EC residence card. Family members can get a private and family life residence permit, allowing them to work and after five years. They, too, are eligible for the long-term EC resident card. They are exempt from the CAI requirement.

It’s possible that this specific permit will be included in the highly-skilled workers (EU Blue Card holders) qualification category of the passeport talent permit.

Employees on assignment permit

If you have been working for at least three months in a company outside France and are seconded to one of your employer’s companies based in France or another company in the same group, and will be earning 1.8 times the minimum wage (around €2,664 per month), then you are eligible to apply for this permit, which is valid for three years and then renewable.

Your spouse can join you on this permit but cannot work until they’ve been in France for six months and have a vie privée et familiale permit. If you are a senior manager, then you can get a version of the permit that allows your family to come with you at the outset and for your spouse to work. Neither you or your spouse have to sign the CAI in either case (see Moving to France to join a relative or partner).

It’s possible that the specific permit will now be included in the employees on a mission with a French work contract qualification category of the passeport talent permit.

Exceptional economic contribution permit

Foreign investors investing large sums of money (at least €10 million in tangible or intangible assets) or planning to create more than 50 jobs are eligible for a 10-year residence permit. Your spouse and minor children also get the same rights. Your spouse doesn’t have to sign the CAI.

It’s possible that this specific permit will now be included in the economic and financial investors qualification category of the passeport talent permit above.

Students and graduates

French work visa

Students can take on part-time paid work during their course (a maximum of 964 hours a year). You may need to get a visa to enter France and study at a university; there are different types of visas, depending on the course you’ll be taking. For more information, see Studying in France: student visas and work permits.

Student interns

You must be a student with a university in your home country and the internship must relate to your studies. While most internships are unpaid, you can receive a small allowance from the employer. You need to have an internship (convention de stage) signed by you, your employer in France and your school or college in your home country, as well as proof of financial security (approximately €615 per month), flight reservations, and proof of accommodation.

Scientists/researchers permit

If you have a master’s degree or above, and you are going to be carrying out research or teaching at university level, then you are eligible for temporary scientific activity residence permit (carte de séjour temporaire ‘mention scientifique’). This is valid for one year and is renewable annually for up to four years.

It’s possible that this specific permit will now be included in the researchers qualification category of the passeport talent permit.

You must provide evidence of your status and duration of the research work, and also have a hosting agreement (convention d’accueil) from a scientific organization or university. Your spouse and family are entitled to a residence permit marked vie privée et familiale (private and family life) but do fall within the requirements of the CAI (see Expatica’s guide on moving to France to join a relative or partner).

Seasonal workers permit

If you are employed with a seasonal contract lasting more than three months, then you are eligible for a residence permit valid for three years, which is renewable for further three-year periods. It allows you to work in seasonal employment for a maximum of six months out of every 12. You may only stay in France for six months each year, with your normal residence outside of France, although you are allowed to have several contracts in succession, provided that you do not exceed six months out of one year in total. Your family may not join you.

Au pairs

French work visa: au pairs

If you’re between 17 and 30 and want to work as an au pair with a French host family, your host family need to organize an au pair contract (accord de placement) and get it approved by the DIRECCTE. You also have to have a letter of admission to a language school specifying when you’ll be attending (10 hours/week minimum) before you can get your visa.

Finding work in France

To find a job in France, take a look at Pôle Emploi, the French national employment website, or the European Employment Services EURES.

Further reading

  • DIRECCTE – this is the French language website for the French Labour Ministry Directions régionales des entreprises, de la concurrence, de la consommation, du travail et de l’emploi. Go the main website and you can be redirected to the French region you need.
  • OFII -– this is the English language version of the website for the L’office Francais de l’immigration et de l’intégration, the French agency in charge of migration (click the “EN” in the top right corner for English). There are offices all over France; look on the website for contact details of your nearest one.
  • France Diplomatie – this webpage is the English version of the website for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for more information on visas and migration to France.
  • Service-Public – this website is for the French government’s public services (in French). To find the contact details of your local mairie (town hall) see here, and for other local departments and public services, see here.