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Navigating the paperwork: Documents needed to work in France as an Expatriate

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

After an extensive experience in recruitment, Sophie Girault launched SOFIME Relocation in 2008, a company specialized in assisting expatriates in their relocation to France. The team includes different profiles of all experts in their field whether be it the immigration or the relocation processes. With some expatriation experiences and a sound knowledge of the challenges of expatriation, they know exactly what it takes to make a successful relocation.

At SOFIME, human beings are at the center of all concerns, a value that we share, at Absolutely French.

You can find more information about them on their website:

We had the opportunity to talk with Violette, the team expert in immigration. Violette helped us to better understand the challenges expatriates face and the processes they have to go through when they want to work and settle in France.

How to get a French work visa when coming from abroad?

All non EU citizen desiring to work in France needs to follow several steps in order to obtain a French work visa.

👉 Step 1: Find a job in France. You can search for job offers on websites, recruitment agencies, or via professional networks. (What if you don't know if your resume is adapted to the French market? You can learn more about it in our article)

👉 Step 2 : Have the employer sponsor the work visa

👉 Step 3: Submit the work visa application to the French consulate of your home country. You will have to provide documents, such as a passport, a visa application form, a letter from your employer, proof of your qualifications and work experiences, and proof of your financial ability to support yourself during your stay in France.

👉 Step 4 : Processing time (2 to 3 weeks)

👉 Step 5 : Application approval

The work visa will allow you to work directly when arriving in France. Note that you may need at some point to convert your working visa into a resident permit.

For the most part, the process for coming to work in France is the same for all non-EU expatriates, with the exception of Algerian citizens who are still subject to an agreement between France and Algeria.

The main work contracts for expatriates

In France, whether expatriates, EU or national citizens, there are 2 types of employment contracts:

👉 Permanent contract (CDI)

👉 Fixed-term contract (CDD)

For information, some immigration statuses may require a minimum contract length, such as the Talent Passport - European Blue Card, which generally requires a minimum 12-month contract.

What are the main immigration documents that expatriates can obtain to work in France?

Based on the situation of the candidate, there are different types of immigration documents that can be delivered:

👉 The long-stay visa for professional purposes is a document affixed to the passport. It is issued by the French consulate abroad. It allows entry into France and the start of the mission.

👉 The residence permit with the right to work is a card issued by the French prefecture. The residence permit gives the right to live in France and to return after a trip abroad (processing time is about 2 to 3 months).

👉 The work permit is an authorisation to work. It is a document issued by the labour authorities and it can concerns a candidate who is already in France or coming from abroad depending of the applicable process.

Important : You may hear of the the talent passport, beware it is not a physical document, but a term of ‘immigration status”. There are several statuses such as the talent passport employee on a mission, the talent passport European Blue Card, etc. For some statuses, you may have to prove certain knowledge, skills, or level of education. Under a talent passport, the candidate is exempted of work permit.

For reminder: immigration law & visa processing may vary depending on a country's situation.

For instance, due to diplomatic issues, France currently limits the number of visas for Morocco or Tunisia.

Compliance of the immigration law in France may be found in the CESEDA (Code de l'entrée et du séjour des étrangers et du droit d'asile)

What are the necessary documents to recruit an expatriate?

If an employer wishes to recruit a non-European expatriate, they are required to provide some documents to support their request. The necessary documents vary depending of the applicable immigration status. The steps are as follows:

👉As previously mentioned, employers must sponsor an application by filling out a number of forms and documents , sometimes it can be a cover letter or attestations showing the real need for a qualified person from abroad. Often a CERFA form to provide information on the foreign employee, the company, and the position is necessary.

👉For non-European expatriates who already have a residence permit, the employer must check the validity of the permit. If the current residence permit does not authorize the exercise of professional activity, a change of status is necessary

👉In the classic process of “salarié”, the employer might be requested to provide proof that the expatriate candidate is more qualified than other candidates who have applied for the same position. It is called the "test of opposability to employment" and must be completed to protect the French market.

What are the rights of expatriates working in a French company?

The rights and benefits for the non-European expatriate employee will be the same as for a French/ European employee.

Therefore, French labor law applies and foreign employees have the same rights, leave, salary, and development opportunities.

Likewise, foreign employees will be able to beneficiate the French social security. Foreign employees on a mission in France could however choose the social security system of their country of origin, whether it is a European or a non-European company.

Thanks again to SOFIME RELOCATION and Violette for taking the time to answer our questions. Do not hesitate to contact them if you need assistance. You can follow them on their social media:

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