France is the largest country in Western Europe and a member of the United Nations Security Council, a founding member of the European Union, and is part of the EU’s Schengen Area (granting free movement throughout most of continental Europe).

France has traditionally been very protective of its domestic labor force, which explains the many bureaucratic obstacles that companies wishing to recruit foreign workers had to face. However, in recent years this situation has changed drastically due mainly to a shortages of certain skills – particularly in the IT industry – which affected the performance of many French companies and therefore the country’s economic growth.

New procedures have been implemented, including the establishment of several new work permit categories. Despite these significant improvements, France remains one of the most heavily ‘protected’ labor markets in Europe.


Before the new provisions of the Law came into force (30 October 2016), you would have automatically needed a “work visa for short term stay” and you employer would have supplied you with a work contract approved by DIRECCTE (the ‘Direction Départementale du Travail, de l’Emploi et de la Formation Professionnelle’). Nowadays, it will depend on the nature of your trade as numerous activities are now WORK PERMIT EXEMPT (for a duration not exceeding 90 days); these include:

  • Sporting, cultural, artistic and scientific events;
  • Conferences, seminars and trade exhibitions;
  • Cinema, audio and show production and distribution when the applicant is an artist or part of the technical team;
  • Models;
  • Domestic employees during the stay in France of their employees;
  • Audit and computer experts, management, finance, insurance, architect and engineering missions;
  • Occasional teaching activities by guest professors.


It takes approximately 2 months to be processed, although certain French Consulates abroad process them in a much shorter time.

You then need to ask for a “long stay visa”.

Not necessarily. These long stay visas can be issued for academic, professional, or family reasons. This long stay visa will be adapted to your specific reasons and duration of stay. If you come to France for work, your employer needs to apply for a separate work and residence permit (carte de séjour) on your behalf.

Your visa will be issued on the basis of this work permit. The visa available to family members also depends on your work permit.

Until recently, this applied to every foreigner residing in France.  However, these ID-like passes (or carte de séjour) are no longer required for most EU and Swiss citizens during their first five years in France or for holders of long-stay visas for a period of up to one year.

Visas issued for a period of 3 to 12 months now represent a formal residence permit therefore replacing the old carte de séjour. Expats who are not EU nationals and staying in France on a valid visa for over 12 months may still need a carte de séjour. Keep in mind that all long-term visa holders MUST register at the French Office of Immigration and Integration within the first two months of their stay.

You collect it from the town hall (‘Prefecture’) in the city where you will be residing in France so no need to worry you do not have to worry about if before you arrive in France. The residence permit will stipulate the purpose of your stay and all relevant info will be mentioned on your work permit.

You need to renew your residence permit every year EXCEPT if you have a special permit ‘carte compétences et talents’ (also referred to as TALENT PASSPORT), in which case your residence permit will be valid for 3 years and acts as a combined visa, work and residence permit. If you have been legally living in France for at least 5 consecutive years you can apply for a ‘carte de resident ‘  which is valid for 10 years.

You would need at least a short-stay visa and, depending if your trade belongs to the “employment authorization exempt” category, you may require a work visa. Only EU members’ nationals (and Swiss citizens) can work in France without a work visa (at the exception of Croatian nationals who need a permit for their first year of work). You will need for your work visa to be authorised BEFORE your “carte de séjour” (residence permit) can be granted.

Your employer in France has to obtain your authorization for you to work; this means that you will need FIRST need to find an employer.

First, check if your activity is not work permit exempt; if not, then your employer in France will get you a temporary work permit approved by the French Ministry of Labour, the DIRECCTE (Direction régionale des enterprises, de la concurrence et de la consummation, du travail et de l’emploi). This authorisation to work is then sent to the French embassy/consulate in your home country where you can apply for your visa.

Then you will be eligible for a residence permit valid for 3 years and renewable for another 3 years. This permit allows you to work in seasonal employment for a maximum period of 6 months out of every 12 months. You are only allowed to stay in France for 6 months each year, with your normal residence outside of France, although you are allowed to have several contracts in succession. Your family is NOT allowed to join you on a seasonal work permit.

Then you will need to apply apply for a long-stay visa, which also works as your residence permit. Your employer has to draw up a work contract and send it to the DIRECCTE.

Your employer will need to start the ‘accompanying family member’ procedure at the same time as she/he starts the procedure for your long-stay work visa. If the DIRRECTE approves the contract, it is sent to the Office Francais de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration (OFII).
Once the OFII has approved the contract, it will be sent directly to the French embassy or consulate in your home country responsible for the issuance of your visa. You (and any relatives coming with you) will be invited to make an appointment to visit the embassy/consulate in person to apply for a long-stay visa.

Work permits in France are based on the type of work or employers and length of validity of the permits.


  • Skills and Talent work permit or “TALENT-PASSPORT”:

If you are an executive, independent professional or employee who, in respect 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 a 3 years – renewable – ‘Talent-Passport’ (“carte competences et talents”). The list also includes EU blue Card holders, Master graduates recruited in a company considered as innovating, foreign nationals with an economically innovating project recognised by a public organisation, amongst other categories.

This permit allows the spouse to work legally in France and you no longer need to apply at DIRECCTE but you will apply at the French Consulate abroad.


  • Employed’ or ‘salaried’ and temporary workers’ permit:

If you have been employed for 18 months on a long-stay work visa or temporary worker, then your spouse and minor children can apply for a one year visitor’s visa – this visa does NOT allow them to work in France.


  • EU Blue Card for highly skilled/educated workers:

This is a 1 to 3 years residence/work permit for highly skilled workers. To be eligible, you must have a diploma/degree attesting 3 years of higher education OR 5 years’ professional experience in a specific field AS WELL AS a work contract for at least 1 year AND earn a monthly salary of at least 1.5 times the French average gross annual salary (around EUR 2,105/month). You must work in the field for which you were admitted to the scheme for 2 years; afterwards you can take any highly qualified work.
After 18 months in France, you can work in other EU countries. After 5 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 5 years, they are eligible for the long-term EC resident card.


  • Employees on assignment (or ‘expatriate employees’) or “ICT permit”:

If you have been working for at least 3 months in a company overseas and are seconded (transferred) to a branch or affiliate in France, and will be earning 1.5 times the minimum wage (around EUR 2,105/month), then you are eligible to apply for this permit. It is the French equivalent to the ICT permit and is valid for 3 years maximum.
The spouse can join you on this permit but is NOT allowed to work until he/she has been in France for 6 months and has been granted a vie privée et familiale permit. However, if the man applicant is a senior manager, then there is a version of the permit that allows the spouse to work. ICT permits are now processed directly in the French Consulates abroad.

The ICT permit also covers the following categories:

  • ICT intern: as part of an intra-group partnership agreement.
  • Mobile ICT employee: possible for a foreign national living in another EU country with an “ICT posted employee” or “ICT intern” status.


Yes, but it is called an “Exceptional Economic Contribution Permit”. This permit is for investors investing substantial funds in France OR intent to creating more than 50 jobs in France. They then qualify for a 10 years residence permit and their spouse and (minor) children automatically qualify and get the same rights as the main applicant.

In the old law, you would have needed to qualify for a “Scientists/researchers permit” which was valid for 1 year. Now, your status of ‘Researcher’ qualifies you automatically for a “Talent-Passport” which is issued for 3 years by the French Consulate abroad.

Yes, France now recognises same-sex marriages and they have equal rights in front of the law as heterosexual couples.

Yes and France even has a legal term for it – PACS (“Pacte Civil de Solidarité”) which means “contract of civil partnership, contact of civil union” and can be agreed on between 2 people of different sex or same sex to formalise their life in common. This form of union can be dissolved unilaterally. The PACS exists ONLY in France.