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WORK PERMITS

Working in France: Who needs a work permit?

If you want to work in France and you are not an EU citizen you will need a visa, but you may also need a work permit - known as an 'autorisation du travail' or 'permit du travail' - here's how they work.

Working in France: Who needs a work permit?
Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP

Who?

This applies to people who do not have citizenship of an EU country, so for example Brits, Americans, Canadians, Australians.

Most people who have long-term residency permits or cartes de séjour plurianuelle will not need a work permit (full details below) and Brits who are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement – ie those who moved to France before December 31st 2020 – won’t need one either.

Where?

There are some exceptions where a work permit is not required:

  • work at a sporting, cultural or scientific event
  • work at a seminar or trade show
  • the production and broadcast of cinematographic and audiovisual works (such as musicians putting on concerts)
  • modelling
  • personal service workers and domestic workers working in France during their private employers’ stay in the country.
  • providing an audit or expertise in IT, management, finance, insurance, architecture and engineering, under the terms of a service agreement or intra-company transfer agreement.
  • occasional teaching activities by invited lecturers

Responsibility

The key thing about the work permit is that it is the responsibility of the employer to get the permit, and likewise the employer who will end up in trouble if they are found to be employing people who do not have the correct permit.

This is in contrast to the visa or residency card, which it is up to the employee to sort out (although you will need to have the work permit in order to get certain types of visa).

The process for employers, however, can be pretty complicated and involves them demonstrating that there is a valid reason that they are not employing an EU worker instead – for example they might need to show proof that they have advertised the job and got no responses in France.

It is the administrative complexity and expense (in certain circumstances employers have to pay extra tax for non-EU employees) that make some employers reluctant to recruit non-EU workers who do not already have the right to live and work in France, which can make getting their first job more difficult.

It’s not impossible of course, but you are at a disadvantage compared to EU candidates, who can be employed with no extra paperwork or expense. 

Short-term work

You will only need a work permit if your period of work is more than 90 days – so for example people on business trips do not need them, neither do contractors or freelancers doing short projects.

Visas

The key thing to know is that a visa and a work permit are two different documents, with different requirements to fulfil to get one.

However, not every non-EU citizen living in France needs a work permit, as certain types of visa or residency card ‘act’ as a work permit as well.

The basic rule of thumb is that people who already have the right to live and work in France don’t need a new work permit for every new job they get – the main categories of people who need them are recently-graduated non-EU students who studied in France, and people arriving in France to take up a new job.

The French visa website HERE gives you a simulator (shown below) that you can click through and find out if you need a work permit, depending on the type of visa or residency card that you have.

Service-public official website

Once you are onto a carte de séjour pluriannuelle – the long-term residency card – you are unlikely to need a work permit.

If you are coming to France on the talent visa (passeport talent) you also won’t need a work permit, as the visa also acts as a permit.

Certain types of visa, such as the visitor visa, does not allow you to work at all, so you would need to swap your visa for a work visa, as well as also potentially getting a work permit. 

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LIVING IN FRANCE

Is it true that the French don’t like to talk about money?

How much do you make? Did you get a pay rise? What's the value of your house? These might seem normal questions for foreigners, but in France many people will consider them rude - as French writer Ilana Levy explains.

Is it true that the French don't like to talk about money?

When you have just met someone and want to learn more about them, it’s normal to ask questions about their life and situation – but in France there is one subject that is somewhat taboo; money.

If the French will easily complain about how much they spent on gas or groceries or how much their rent is, they will rarely tell the exact price they pay. Instead, they prefer talking about their mental health or giving details about their sexual encounters. 

This particular French habit is said to come from both Catholicism and peasant culture. The Bible tells us that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” and the Church pushed people to believe money should be taboo. After all, greed is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. 

In addition is the peasant theory; that you should hide your money otherwise people will get jealous and steal from you.

Whatever the reason, the French have a long history of keeping their income a secret. 

Pay packets

Around the world, many people don’t mind sharing their salary but in France, it definitely is considered presumptuous.

I asked a few French people how they feel about money.  “I would feel ashamed to tell someone how much money I make, especially if it is less than them,” said Alexia, a Parisian salesperson, told me.

“Moreover, some people are afraid to negotiate their salary and might end up earning less than their colleagues doing the same job. This is mainly why I would not talk about money at work,” she said. 

There is a real sense of prejudice because “people believe your salary reflects your education”, and “you would want to earn more than your friends, just for the pride,” explained Eleonore, a waitress.

Money is a private matter, she added, saying: “French people tend to deduce what you can and can’t have depending on how much you make a year, I would not want someone intruding on my privacy.”

Unsophisiticated

One thing French people hate more than anything is showing off. There is a real contempt for the ‘nouveau riche‘, someone coming from the middle class whose fortune is newly acquired and considered unsophisticated.

Showing you are wealthy is not considered classy, the French tend to still associate money with refinement.

This is personified in ex president Nicolas Sarkozy, a man who enjoyed wealth and luxury and was nicknamed the ‘bling-bling president’ by French people who considered his enthusiasm for money unsophisticated.

Tense 

Money is a real issue for the French, according to a January 2022 survey by Harris Interactive, money has already been the subject of disputes for 50 percent of them, most often within couples.

The same survey reveals that only 44 percent of people know the income of at least one of their friends, and they rather not ask the question. 

A generational issue? 

So is the taboo around money changing with the generations?

In my experience people in their 20s – like me – still consider it rude to show off their wealth, especially with the energy and financial crisis going on, but they are not afraid of discussing salaries.

“I don’t mind telling someone how much I make, I know it is not much, but we all have money issues,’ Etan told me. However, he added: “My parents would never tell me if they have issues.” 

But things are changing – the Church is not as influential as in the past, and people are not hiding their money under their mattress anymore. Moreover, the Covid crisis also seems to have encouraged the French to negotiate their salary: “I would never have negotiated my salary if I did not know that they needed people. It made me feel more confident about my income,” added Ethan.

 

Overall, the older generation still considers money a taboo in France, mainly because it is a tradition. The younger generation seems more open to discussing income – perhaps due to contact with other cultures and foreign people.

Ilana Levy is a bilingual freelance journalist living in Paris.

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