Working in France

Regulations governing the right of foreigners to employment in France are complex. If you do not have permanent residency (une carte de résident) in France, which authorizes you to work here, obtaining a work permit depends on where you come from, whether you have legitimate grounds for living in France, and what sort of gainful activity you expect to pursue.  At present, citizens of pre-2004 member nations of the European Union and Switzerland need no official authorization to live and work in France (see further “Working in France for EEA Nationals”). For non-EEA foreigners, application for any prolonged stay (i.e., not a 90-day tourist visa) must be made through a French consulate in their home country.  Any authorization to work in France will be contingent on obtaining permission to live here.

Long-Term Residence Permit (carte de séjour)
Obtaining a legal status to stay in France is based on one of seven grounds:as a visitor (mention visiteur), as a student (mention étudiant), as an employee (mention salarié), as a merchant, tradesman or farmer (mention commerçant, artisan, exploitant agricole), for personal and family reasons (mention vie privée et familiale), for scientific exchange (mention scientifique), and for artistic and cultural exchange (mention profession artistique et culturelle). In some instances, this residence permit bestows a right to work, which may be conditional; for example, with professional, geographic, or functional restrictions.
Employment Status Definitions
Employee-The person performs tasks for financial compensation. – There is a relationship of authority between the person who directs and the person who executes. Self-Employed -The person performs tasks for financial compensation. There is no relationship of authority whatsoever. – Business is transacted between two independent entities. -The activity is performed on a regular basis by either a merchant (commerçant) or an independent professional (un travailleur indépendant/profession libérale).

Creation of a new corporation or branch: A business activity is incorporated as such.- An entity with by-laws is created. -Shareholders own the corporation through ownership of shares.

Expatriate: The person is an employee of a foreign employer. -The person performs the job in France, in the French-related company, on behalf of the foreign employer. -The person is in France for a limited time (the length of the assignment).

Representing a company in France: The person is an employee of a foreign employer. – The employer has no office or representation in France. -The person is in France for a limited time (the length of the assignment) in order to implement the plans of the employer.

Exporting into France: The goods or the services exported are located in a foreign country. -A French client needs these goods or services and will pay to get them to France.  Billing and receiving payment will occur from the foreign country.

The most difficult situation for a non-EU citizen who is seeking a permit to work in France is as an employee. In this case, the onus is on the prospective employer to demonstrate that this candidate is unique in fulfilling the requirements of the job. Even then, permission may be denied for reasons of high unemployment in a specific field or region.

Self-employment is less problematic, at least for those who already have a legal status in France. It should be noted, however, that moving to France and setting up shop as a self-employed travailleur indépendant is nearly impossible without having spent time in France and having built up sufficient clientele to sustain a business and support oneself. Furthermore, independent professionals in officially regulated fields such as lawyers, CPAs, pharmacists, doctors and architects must be recognized by peer organizations, and certain tradesmen such as plumbers and electricians must seek French certification. Information on the administrative requirements of self-employment for the professions libérales can be had at one of the offices of the URSSAF (Union pour le recouvrement des cotisations de sécurité sociale et d’allocations familiales). URSSAF,

For Paris arrondissements 1 – 7 and 11 – 15: 3 rue de Tolbiac, 75013 Paris, Tel: 08 20 01 10 10. For Paris arrondissements 8 – 10 and 16 – 20: 10 rue du Faubourg Montmartre, 75009 Paris, Tel: 01 53 34 75 75

Authors, translators and photographers should consult AGESSA (Association pour la gestion de la sécurité sociale des artistes auteurs) : 21bis rue de Bruxelles, 75009 Paris Tel: 01 48 78 25 00,
Musicians should consult SACEM (Société des auteurs, compositeurs et editeurs de musique) : 225 av. Charles de Gaulle, 92528 Neuilly sur Seine Cedex Tel: 01 47 15 47 15,
Graphic and fine artists should consult MDA (La Maison des Artistes): 90 av. de Flandre, 75943 Paris Cedex 19 Tel: 01 53 35 83 63,

Special provisions for employment exist for foreign students who need to work part-time during their studies in France and foreign language teaching assistants.

Useful Resources

As laws pertaining to immigration policy are constantly evolving and complex, foreign job seekers should seek professional advice on their particular case. Grounds for long-term stays and permanent residency in France are diverse, and each case has particular eligibility requirements. Further information about residency/work qualifications and application procedures can be obtained from: La Direction départementale du travail, de l’emploi et de la formation professionnelle(DDTEFP) at the nearest préfecture. Your préfecture can be located on the Web site:

Citizens of EEA nations whose membership predates May 1, 2004, and citizens of Switzerland have the right to work in France unconditionally; however, they must observe certain administrative formalities. At the present time and for a transitional period of up to seven years, citizens of EU nations that joined the European Union on May 1, 2004, (with the exception of Malta and Cyprus) must meet the same conditions as non-EU nationals.

Excerpt from the book AAWE Vital Issues chapter “Job Hunting and Employment.” It can be purchased at