Working in Paris
France consistently ranks as one of the best countries for expats year on year, not only for having a strong economy but also for its quality of living. The opportunity of working in Paris represents a significant career milestone for many professionals. Working in France also offers a cultural and linguistic challenge for many, especially those who learned French and wish to become fluent in it. However, for expats who want to try living and working in Paris, mastery of the native language is only one of the many essentials they need to know before relocating. How easy is it to find jobs in Paris, especially for foreign nationals? What's the work culture like in one of the biggest cities in the world?
Getting Ready to Work in France and Making the Move to Paris
Before you can start living the expat life in Paris, knowing the current economic and working landscape in France provides you with a bigger picture of what life may be like for many expats in Paris.
France attracts a high number of foreign workers due to its global reputation in finance, technology, and manufacturing as well as its high standard of living especially its healthcare and social security system. According to data from INSEE, the national statistics bureau of France, of the 12 million people living in the Paris Region in 2012, there were 20,466 British citizens and around 16,000 US citizens.
Of the French companies listed in CNN Money's biggest 500 companies in the world, around 30 have their headquarters in Paris. These include BNP Paribas, AXA, Peugeot, Sanofi-Aventis, Christian Dior, and Alcatel-Lucent. Telecommunications, defense, machinery, and tourism are among the major contributing industries to the country's GDP. Tourism also offers many job opportunities owing to France's status as one of the top tourist destinations in the world. Fashion is a major draw as Paris is also known to be the hub of haute couture. Fintech is a growing sector, as the country hopes to expand its role as one of the major financial hubs in Europe. The French government under Emmanuel Macron, who was elected in May 2017, promised to implement several economic reforms in order to boost growth, address the high unemployment rate that's above the EU average, and to open France to more business and investor opportunities.
A high number of foreign workers who moved to France relocate as part of an overseas transfer from their company. For people trying their luck finding a job in the city, many expats who have lived and worked in France suggest doing the job search months before your planned move. Keep an eye out for available positions in companies in Paris known to have a high number of international employees. Make sure you've secured a job offer before making plans to relocate.
Expats working in France emphasize that fluency in French is absolutely necessary if you wish to work in Paris, or thinking of living in France for the long term. Even for most entry-level positions, the ability to speak French can give you a better advantage than most job seekers who can only speak English. Many foreign nationals looking for jobs in Paris start as English language teachers or work as au pairs until they achieve acceptable fluency in French and apply for higher-paying positions.
Expats should also familiarize themselves with the work culture in Paris, such as the social practice of cheek kissing or faire la bise. Expats advise taking a cautious approach with la bise in the workplace to avoid any awkward situations. Also worth noting is that the average length of a working week in France in 2017 was 37.2 hours, not the 35-hour work week that many believe to be. In fact, for full-time employees, most work an average of 40.5 hours per week.
Getting Your Work Visa and Work Permit
Expats need to fulfill stringent requirements in order to work in France. These requirements may vary depending on your country of origin or citizenship as indicated in your passport. For nationals from outside the European Union, the rules are somewhat more complicated. However, if you're hailing from any of the 28 member states of the EU or from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, which belong to the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), you don't need a visa to move to France and work in Paris. For any country-specific restrictions, make sure to check with your home country's French embassy or consulate.
If you're moving to France to work as a foreign employee of a company based in France or abroad, one of the most important documents you must secure first is an authorization to work in France, the work permit. Regardless of the length of your stay in France, this work permit is required before you can apply for a visa and must come from your employer.
The employer should be the one to submit the work permit application on behalf of the employee, ideally at least two months before he commences work in France. One of the requirements for submitting an application is that the employer must make sure that they have made the requisite attempts to find a suitable candidate in the French labor market via government agencies or private organizations. Thus, any expats working outside of the EU or looking for jobs in Paris should make sure that their skills and qualifications are exceptional enough and not easily found among workers hailing from any of the EU or EEA (European Economic Area) member states.
Note that work permit applications for foreign employees may be rejected on the grounds of employment levels based on current market conditions. This depends on the level of employment in the particular sector or local administrative region where you'll be working.
For expats staying only for three months or less, a Schengen visa is needed before moving to Paris. The short-stay visa or visa de court séjour allows you to travel through all Schengen countries. Also known as a "uniform stay visa" or "type C Schengen visa," this visa is applicable for purposes such as tourism, family or personal visits, business trips, and for short courses of study or internships. However, it does not allow the visa holder to stay in France long-term, bring their family or to work.
Short-stay visas are only single-entry, and the visa holder cannot re-enter once they've left the Schengen area. However, a visa waiver can be granted depending on certain conditions such as the applicant's nationality, their specific status, and whether they hold a valid stay permit for the Schengen Area or a long-stay permit.
Expats who need to stay in France longer than three months to work, set up a business, or for personal reasons such as family or retirement should apply for a long-stay visa or visa de long séjour. This also allows them to obtain a residence permit to live in France for a specified period.
The other option is the long-stay visa equivalent to a residence permit or VLS-TS (visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour) which allows the permit holder to enter and live in France from three months up to one year without needing to apply for a separate residence permit. In most cases, the employer must apply for the worker's residence permit or carte de séjour on their behalf. For information about long-stay visas, please visit https://france-visas.gouv.fr/en_US/web/france-visas/long-stay-visa.
Possessing a long-stay visa grants the holder the same rights as those with a temporary residence permit or a multi-year residence permit. The provision of a multi-year residence permit is part of a recent law created by the French government as part of reforms to strengthen the right of residence for foreigners residing legally in France.
There various types of long-stay visas that correspond to the purpose of the applicant for staying in France for the long term. The requirements are more stringent for expats taking up what is called "salaried employment" which includes intra-company transfers (ICT), a one-off assignment on behalf of a French company or organization, or as part of a sizable international company. The visa for accompanying spouses or children also depends on the type of visa and permit you to get. Please note that routine medical examinations and a criminal record clearance may be done once you arrive in France. Visit https://france-visas.gouv.fr/en_US/web/france-visas/professional-purpose for more information.
The Talent Passport
The French government has also created the Talent Passport, a multi-year residence permit to attract highly-skilled foreign talent and self-employed persons to France in order to increase the country's competitiveness and influence in the world. Any applicant for the Talent Passport must ensure that their employment contract and stay in France must exceed three months. The Talent Passport allows the holder to stay up to a maximum of four years in France starting from their arrival date in the country.
The Talent Passport is ideal for those who are setting up a startup, forming a new company or hold the position of a director in a multinational company. It's also applicable to professionals who have a contract with an employer established in France.
However, for employees, there are certain requirements to be eligible for the Talent Passport. These include professionals who hold a highly skilled position in their current or previous company; employees who moved to France from another company in the same group or parent company and signed a local employment contract with the group's French entity; employees recruited by an innovative new company and skilled foreign talents who possess a master's degree in France. Get more information about the Talent Passport on Business France.