French working visas explained

French working visas explained

Thinking of working in France? First make sure you can! Lizzie O’Hara-Boyce explains how the French working visa operates…

One of the hardest things about working in France is figuring out which is the right visa, because without the correct authorisation, your choices will be limited.

As it’s such a complex topic, the best way to work through it is to take it step by step.



Let’s start with salaried work. In France, you can be employed under two principal systems. The basic difference is that one is permanent: Contrat à durée indéterminée (CDD). and the other is for a fixed period of time: Contrat à durée déterminée (CDD).

In the case of a CDI, once you have your employment contract, you will be entitled to a visa salarié. It is your employer’s responsibility to apply for it on your behalf and there are strict penalties if they don’t follow the correct procedures when they do this.

The CDD is a fixed-term or temporary contract lasting from three to 12 months, and you will need to have a visa travailleur temporaire.

The CDI and CDD options both assume that you have been offered employment before you arrive in France. If you are already there, you would need to return home to apply for the necessary working visa unless you already hold a titre de séjour. In that case, you can apply for a change of status. Meanwhile, your employer has to justify to the French authorities why they are offering you the job over and above local candidates, so the process is never spontaneous.



There is another working visa that is very difficult to obtain and is only applicable in certain circumstances and for certain roles. It’s called the talent visa or passeport talent visa. The basic requirement for such a visa is that you will make a significant contribution to the country’s economy or culture as an employee, investor, artist or entrepreneur and are planning on living and working in France on a long-term basis. It comes with several benefits, such as automatically including your family and allowing them to work too.

Talent visas are issued to individuals with proven skills or expertise in the realms of art, culture, science and sport. Expected educational qualification standards are very high it least a Masters) and the annual gross salary offered must be no less than €40,295. France is also keen to support start-ups and innovation, so researchers are in big demand as employees, as are people willing to invest at least €30,000 in setting up a business there.

If you have a spare €300,000 to invest in French business, your talent visa is almost guaranteed. Fame also helps. If you are an internationally recognised performer, writer, artist or scientist, the path to a talent visa is much easier.



But what if you are none of these things and are hoping to continue to work for the same company that you worked with before you arrived in France?

The way around this is to be self-employed by setting up your own French micro entreprise (or a classic French company if you have an annual turnover of more than €72,600). This allows you to work for clients anywhere in the world. You simply invoice them from your own French company and are responsible for paying your own taxes and social security charges.

If you are not already in France, your VLS/TS visa will specify ‘entrepreneur/profession libérale. If you are already there with the correct visa, it isn’t difficult to set up your own micro company on condition that you correctly declare what it is and have a business plan in place. (You can apply for a change of status if you arrived with a tourist visa.)

You will need to demonstrate that your business is financially viable and that it will deliver an income no less than the minimum wage in France (called the SMIC) which is currently €1,709.30 per month, thus €20,512 per year.


But what if you want to keep your current job and work remotely from France? If you live in France for more than 183 days, you are at risk of being considered a fiscal resident. In that case, the administration would insist that your actual place of work is in France, and therefore your employer is liable to pay French taxes.

So even though from an immigration point of view you are allowed to work remotely from France with a visitor long-stay visa, the situation is by no means clear and you could fall foul of the French administration system.

To sum up, you are able to work for your previous employer as self-employed or obtain a French contract. Otherwise, if you intend to work more than 50% of the time from France, we recommend you seek advice from a tax specialist.


Specific visas exist for temporary workers such as fruit pickers, au pairs or interns. Your first move is to apply for a travailleur saisonmer visa, for which you will need a work contract for at least three months. Your employer will have to prove that no suitable local candidates are available.

The good news is that the visa is good for up to three years, but only for the season’ and for no more than six months in any year. However, this is useful if you wish to do the same job the following year without needing to start from scratch with the visa process.

This article was written by Lizzie O’Hara-Boyce of French Connections HCB, with input from Louis Varaut, a London- based French lawyer at 186 Legal (

Back by popular demand, FrenchEntrée host Zoë Smith is joined by expert advisors from French Connections HCB and FAB French Insurance to answer all your questions on visas and residency in France. Find out about applying for a long-stay visa, the eligibility criteria for French residency, and the health insurance policies required for visa applications.

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