Immigration and Nationality Law for France > Work Visas

In spite of recent efforts to restrict the immigration of unskilled foreigners to France, France has nevertheless kept its borders open to skilled workers and the rules have been made ever more favourable to group companies and technical employees for the performance of international service agreements.

France has recently opened its borders to foreign (non EU) workers via a number of recent reforms providing for various means of obtaining work visas for France:

  • Introduction of a foreign worker (general procedure for hiring of a foreign worker in France,
  • transfer of a foreign worker for purposes of performing specific services,
  • intercompany transfers of foreign workers to France,
  • favorable provisions for the transfer of high-level executives and their families to France.
  • Special provisions for high-level employees of international groups. A special provision is provided for foreigners sent to France to open a representative office of a foreign company.

A foreign professional may also obtain a work visa as an independent (non-salaried) professional or officer of a French company.

Specific categories are provided for scientists performing research work or performing a teaching position at a university level, artists/performers and musicians, film artists, living language teachers, secondary school teachers via exchange programs, university teachers and other teachers of higher learning, researchers, interpreter/guides, camp counsellors, air pilots and crew, models, bull-fighters, student interns, professional interns, students requesting the right to work during period of study or during vacation periods, public service hospital workers, and private medical and pharmacy professionals.

Three options exist for international intra-company and affiliate cross-border transfers of key personnel:

  • (1) the favoured high level executive (cadre dirigeant) category,
  • (2) temporary employee transfer (detachment) category,
  • and (3) the common law regime new hire category.

The first category mentioned, the high level executive category, allows for considerable time savings but has stringent requirements regarding minimum salary, seniority with the group and existence of group relationship.

The temporary employee transfer category may provide a short-term solution where the minimum pay or international group criteria are not satisfied for the high level executive category.

Finally if employment in France shall be long-term, the new hire option is more time-consuming, but is a viable option. Under the standard procedure for application for a work permit, the French employer prepares the petition, often with the assistance of French counsel.

The petition involves submission of the employee's (and accompanying family's) personal documents and diplomas, with sworn translation if not in French, with letters/certifications from the French employer explaining the DIRECCTE for the foreign worker, and information regarding the lodging of the employee and an undertaking to pay Immigration Office (OFII) dues.

This file is presented to the DIRECCTE. The DIRECCTE thereafter sends the approved file to the OFII, who performs a cursory review and then forwards the file to the French Consulate abroad. The employee must appear personally at the foreign Consulate to process the entry visa. Immediately upon arrival in France the employee (and accompanying family) must submit to a medical examination, and will be issued a work permit (carte de séjour salariée)

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