Find out your rights to work in France as an EU or a non-EU citizen (which includes British citizens after Brexit), which French long-stay visas allow you to work, and whether or not you need a work permit.
Do I Have a Right to Work in France?
Whether or not you have a right to work in France and the kind of employment or business opportunities that are available to you depend primarily upon your nationality.
If you are a citizen of an EU country, a European Economic Area member state, or Switzerland, you have the unequivocal right to work in France. You do not need to obtain a visa or a work permit, and you do not need to have a job secured before you arrive in France. You are also free to seek any kind of employment (including temporary, permanent, or seasonal work), start a business, or undertake self-employed work.
Of course, if you intend to move to France to work or seek employment, there are still certain legal obligations you must undertake, such as filing a tax return and registering for a social security number.
Non-EU Citizens (Including British Citizens After Brexit)
Citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and all other non-EU countries do not have a right to work in France unless they have the appropriate work permit and/or visa. However, there are still many possibilities to work in France, from undertaking seasonal work or visiting on a working holiday visa to seeking employment with a French company.
This article will talk you through your options.
Do I Need a Work Permit or a Work Visa?
The short answer is both. All non-EU citizens coming to work in France will need both a visa that allows them to live and work in France, as well as a work permit that gives them the right to employment in France. In practice, however, you will probably only find you need to apply for one or the other.
Many types of long-stay visas and residency permits automatically serve as a work permit; these visas allow you to seek employment or conduct business, and you do not need to apply for an additional work permit (see our guide to French long-stay visas for the different options). If your visa does not permit you to work or is conditional upon a work contract, your employer will be required to apply for a work permit on your behalf.
Moving to France as a Salaried Worker
Any non-EU citizen looking to take up a salaried position, whether on a temporary or permanent contract, will need both a work permit and the relevant long-stay visa such as an ‘Employee’ Long-Stay Visa (VLS-TS salarié) or a ‘Temporary Worker’ Long-Stay Visa (VLS-TS travailleur temporaire). These two documents are intrinsically linked – you must have a work permit in order for an employer to hire you, and you must have a confirmed job position in order to qualify for the visa.
Work permits must be applied for by the employer, whether based in France or overseas, at least three months before you arrive in France (find out about the process here). In order to do so, they must prove a sufficient reason for hiring a foreign worker. This means that they must have attempted to find a candidate in the French labour market or be hiring for a position where there is a known shortage, known as ‘jobs under tension’ (see the full list of ‘jobs under tension’ here).
All this means that you are unlikely to be able to find a job offer in France suitable for your visa unless you have specific skills or work in any area of need.
Moving to France to Set Up a Business or as a Self-Employed Worker
It’s also possible to move to France as a self-employed worker, business owner, or to set up a business by applying for a ‘business/liberal profession’ Long-Stay Visa (VLS-TS entrepreneur/profession libérale). This option might be suitable for those who already run an international business or work remotely as a freelancer, but also for those looking to set up a business in France, or run a gite or chambre d’hôte.
For this visa, you will need to apply for a work permit based on your self-employed status or business proposal (you can do that here). Expect to be asked to prove the viability of your professional activity, which might mean proving that you have the right qualifications if you work in a regulated profession, proving that you have sufficient financial resources or income, or demonstrating the ‘economic viability’ of your project.
France’s Talent Passport
Another option for freelancer workers and entrepreneurs is France’s Talent Passport (passeport talent). This visa is open to any person that demonstrates business, creative, or academic skills, or those who have a provable reputation in their field (such as an artist, intellectual, scientific, or sporting professional). If you’re looking to run a business or start-up, work as a freelancer, or seek employment in an area on France’s liberal profession list (see the full list here), you may qualify for this visa, and it has a host of benefits.
Firstly, it’s a four-year visa, and it offers the opportunity to live and work in France without needed to have a job lined up, but it also allows you to bring your family with you. Investors, entrepreneurs, foreign executives, or young graduates having completed a masters degree are also potential candidates.
Temporary and Business Trips in France
If you’re working in France for less than 90 days, you may or may not need to apply for a short-stay visa. Visitors from the UK, United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand do not need to apply in advance – instead, your passport will be stamped each time you enter or leave the Schengen zone and will be allowed to stay a total of 90 days per 180 days.
If you wish to conduct business or work during this visit, you will need a temporary work permit – this can be applied for by your employer here.
Working Holiday Visas
Young people looking to travel or take a gap year in France, whilst also working to supplement their travels, may also be eligible for a Working Holiday’ Long-Stay Visa (VLS-TS Vacances-Travail). These visas are open to citizens of 15 countries, including Australia, New Zealand, and Canada (see the full list here).
With a working holiday visa, you are permitted to take paid employment and live in France for up to a year. The visas are not renewable and cannot be used as a road to residency (in the case of finding a permanent job offer, a separate work visa and work permit would have to be applied for).
Moving to France?
From applying for your visa and opening a French bank account, to integrating in your new community – FrenchEntrée is here to help! Let our Essential Reading and Visa & Residency articles guide you through the whole process, then visit our Owning Property, French Tax, Healthcare, and Life in France zones for everything else you need to know.
Disclaimer: Our Essential Reading articles are designed to give an overview of the visa requirements and procedures for moving to France. We always check our information against the official government information made available to the public, however, please remember that all visa applications are considered on an individual basis and the exact requirements, fees, or application procedure may vary. Unless you are an EU citizen, obtaining a French visa is not a right, and we cannot guarantee that your visa will be approved.