Thousands of people move to France every year, many to retire and live on their pensions. A few are lucky enough to be posted by their company. That still leaves a large number of people who move here for a change of lifestyle but who need to earn a living. Not everyone buys a château or gîte, so how easy is it to find work in France?
Can You Work in France as an Expat?
First of all: are you allowed to work?
Visas and working permits in France
EU citizens automatically have the right to work in France. If you are British and moved to France before 31stDecember 2020, you are protected by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. You should have applied by now for a titre de séjour under this protection which, among other things, gives you the right to work in France. Your residency card will say ‘toutes activités professionnelles’ on the back. This allows you to set up a business or apply for any job.
If you moved to France after this date, or are not British or a EU citizen, you need a long stay visa to stay in the country beyond 90 days. There are several types of visa but some of them restrict or prohibit work. Make sure you research thoroughly in order to choose the right one for your circumstances.
Should I Look For A Job in France Or Go Freelance?
Finding a job in France is not easy, especially if your French is not fluent. Unsurprisingly, many people decide to become self-employed for the first time.
If you have a skill, experience in a particular field or even just a passion for your hobby, this can be turned into a profitable venture. Fortunately, the French government makes it pretty easy to set yourself up as a small business, known as a micro-entrepreneur.
You can register yourself online as a micro-entrepreneur, which is ideally suited for single-person businesses just starting out. Becoming a micro-entrepreneur will also register you with the appropriate social security regime. The downsides are that the turnover thresholds are relatively low and you cannot claim back expenses.
You can find more information about micro-entrepreneurship here.
Popular Jobs for Expats in France
Many of these activities are suitable for micro-entrepreneurs but good places to find advertised vacancies are the FUSAC website and The Local. LinkedIn, of course, is another shop window to search for jobs, network digitally, and advertise your services.
Teaching English in France
Teaching English in France is always in demand. For private tutoring, formal teaching qualifications are not usually necessary. However, if you apply for jobs in language schools, a reputable establishment will usually ask for a recognised TEFL qualification and /or experience.
In Paris and other large cities it is possible to find teaching jobs in other subjects in international or private schools. However, a recognised teaching qualification is usually required for reputable schools. You could also try teaching English online in France.
Working as a Tour Guide
Tour guiding is a popular activity if you live somewhere that attracts a lot of foreign tourists. You don’t need a qualification to set up as a tour guide but you won’t be allowed to take people inside museums or historic monuments. Only licensed tour guides can do that. Obviously, a passion for French history and the heritage of your location are essential, as well as public speaking skills and physical stamina. It is a crowded market, so finding a niche will make you stand out. In Paris, for example, visitors can take guided tours that focus on women’s or black people’s contribution to the city, or offer photography tours.
Working in Childcare in France
One activity where it is relatively easy to obtain a contracted job is babysitting / childcare (garde d’enfants in French). There are several agencies operating in Paris and other cities, looking for childcarers to teach English in an informal, playbased environment. This can tick lots of boxes for newcomers:
- a job contract, which will smooth the path with a lot of other French administration;
- enthusiasm and love of children are more important than teaching qualifications;
- age is not a barrier: if you have experience of your own children or grandchildren, that will strengthen your position;
- even if your French is not fluent, you can capitalise on your English instead.
The work usually involves collecting children from school or nursery, playing and doing activities with them that introduce them to simple English, preparing their lunch or goûter. The recruitment process should include a criminal check. Agencies that have a nationwide presence include Momji and Educazen but outside the large cities, check local Facebook pages for informal childcare offers.
Trades and Personal Services
Other popular areas of work, especially in rural areas, include trades, relocation advisors and personal services.
Plumbers, plasterers, painters and decorators, electricians – English-speaking tradespeople are in regular demand so if you have the qualifications, skill and experience, work is available. In small communities a lot of business is built up through word of mouth.
In popular expat areas such as Provence and the Périgord, working as a relocation advisor can be a successful way to build up a business. It may be easier to start by working for an established estate agency specialising in foreign relocations before striking out alone.
If you provided a service back home, why not transfer it to France? Whether it was teaching yoga, translating, accountancy or hairdressing, it is possible to continue in France. Just make sure you meet any qualification or regulatory requirements for your profession. See our guide to starting a small business in France for more advice.
Or, go online. Covid-19 has made online working mainstream and few people are fazed now by Zoom or Teams meetings. We are also much more accustomed to shopping online and this could be the perfect time to launch your business. If making and selling your own products is not an option, consider moving into a new, digital profession such as virtual assistant.
Finding a Job in France the Conventional Way: Employment Agencies and the Pôle Emploi
International employment agencies such as Glassdoor, Indeed and Monster all have French websites. Alternatively, the Pôle Emploi, or job centre, provides job offers across the spectrum of employment. You can register online on the Pôle Emploi website. However, in both of these cases the jobs will be French-speaking and you will be generally expected to speak and understand French fairly fluently if you apply for them. You will also be competing with French nationals or long-term residents who may be preferred by employers.
That’s not to say it isn’t worth registering with the Pôle Emploi or agencies, but it may be more difficult to find work than via some of the routes mentioned above.
Finding work in France obviously brings different challenges to those faced at home. However, with a bit of lateral thinking, imagination, and perseverance, it is perfectly possible to earn a successful living here.
By Pat Hallam
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