Note: I recently blogged about the visas and jobs that have allowed me to live in France over the last 3+ years. This post is about all the different long-stay working visas for France that I know of, because I’ve received quite a few inquiries on this topic. My previous post doesn’t discuss most of these options, since they don’t apply to me personally. There certainly may be other ways to legally live and work in France that I do not know about. This list is based on my personal experience and research. Some of you may know more than I do about some of these visas, so please feel free to jump in with information, corrections, and links to posts you’ve written in the comments!
People contact me often with questions about teaching English in France. Some find me through my blog, some find me through the International TEFL Academy alumni group. I am totally happy for people to reach out to me with questions. I had so many questions before I came here, and I’m still grateful for the supportive expat community.
But when I looked back on the questions I received last year, I realized that almost no one had taken the time to say thank you for the long and detailed messages I wrote. That was a little discouraging. So I’m writing this to make everything I know accessible in one place. If you’ve read this and done your research and you still have questions, I would love to hear from you and I’m happy to take the time to answer your questions, share resources, and tell you about my experience teaching in France.
If you have questions about teaching English in France, I’ve written lots of stuff about it here including how I got my jobs and my visas. Right now I’m going to focus specifically on ways to get a long-stay visa that allows you to work in France.
(And I’ve included a ton of additional resources, because I am not the first person to write about French bureaucracy.)
I am an American citizen, so I know the most about visas for Americans. If you are Canadian, Australian, New Zealander (New Zealandaise? New Zealandian?) and some other nationalities, you may be able to obtain a working holiday visa. Americans do not have this option in France, so I don’t know anything about it! Check with your local French consulate.
Okay, let’s go. Here are all the ways I know to live and work legally in France.
Have an EU passport
If you have an EU passport, get out of here! You already have the right to work legally in France. Even if you are not European, sometimes European heritage can get you dual nationality. So if you parents or grandparents immigrated in the last century, check out the rules of the country they came from. (Start at the country’s consulate website.) You’ll probably need a lot of birth, death, and marriage certificates.
Marry a French citizen
Boom, a French spouse gets you a vie privée et familliale visa, which gives you the right to live and work in France. You have to renew it every year for three years (right, people with French spouses?) and then you can get a ten year visa. During that time, you can probably apply for French nationality too.
PACS with a French citizen
PACSing often gives you a vie privée et familliale visa, although it’s not as ironclad as marriage. (PACS is a civil union.) If you have proof of cohabitation in France, that will help. (If you’re PACSed, I’d love to hear what your experience was.)
A student visa gives you the right to work about 20 hours/week. You must be enrolled as a full-time student. (If you want to live in Paris, Studying at the Sorbonne by Where Is Bryan? is great.)
TAPIF language assistant program
This program will place you in a school (or two or three), hopefully in one of the regions you requested. It gives you the right to a travailleur temporaire visa. I’ve written about the program here.
This is a university teaching position for foreigners that allows you to have a one-year visa (renewable one time at the school’s discretion. You cannot be a lecteur/lectrice at another university – two years total as a lecteur/lectrice is the legal limit.) Your status may be travailleur temporaire or salarié, depending on how the préfecture is feeling. I’ve blogged about being a lectrice here.
Franco-American Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Trainee Visa
This visa is for Americans who have a four-year degree and are under 35. You must first obtain a work contract that meets the requirements, and then they will provide you with a visa for up to 18 months. More information here. (P.S. I’ve never actually met anyone on this visa, so if you’ve done it, do tell.)
Au Pair Visa
If you get a job as an au pair, you will be allowed to live in France. The visa requires you to take French language classes part time. The pay is usually low, but room and board is included. (Read How To Become An Au Pair from Ashley Abroad.)
I know nothing about this visa because I am the opposite of a research scientist (unless methodically tasting pastries counts as research) but I know that it is a thing. I think you would be a “chercheur scientifique.” Check with your consulate.
Compétances et Talents Visa
If you have a long-term project (usually something in the arts, hence “talents“) that will somehow benefit France, you may be able to get a three-year visa. Check with your consulate for requirements. More from Jennyphoria.
Work visa sponsored by employer
This is very rare for English teachers, but never say never. Your employer can sponsor your visa but most will not because it is expensive and complicated for them, and they have to justify why they chose not to hire a French person. The request can be denied if the government feels they should not hire a foreigner. Note that there are many ways for companies to hire native English speakers without this hassle – there are many E.U. nationals and anglophones with long-stay working visas. Most English teaching jobs specify that you must have working papers to apply, but if you have exceptional qualifications and experience you could give it a go at private/international/bilingual schools. If you are an in-demand specialist (think more software engineer, less English teacher), this one may work for you!
Alternatively, your existing employer in your home country could send you overseas to work temporarily or long-term. (If you’re married, your spouse will probably not be able to work in France, but they can come and hang out with you.)
Please note that I am not a lawyer or immigration specialist, and you should not consider any of this legal advice. I have simply been in France for several years and have read a lot about visas. I have personal experience with a few of the visas I mentioned. You can read more about my experiences with French bureaucracy here.
Anything I missed? Please share a link or a story about your experience. When it comes to French bureaucracy, we all have to stick together!