Working in France
The job market
What are your chances of getting a job?
You're most likely to find work with multinational or major national employers. Alternatively, you could look for work with a company in the UK that has offices in France. Other opportunities include working as a teaching assistant or language teacher.
The ability to speak rudimentary French is essential in most organisations in France. You may have to get work experience in your home country before working in France and also improve your spoken and written French.
Networking is important and you may increase your chances of getting a better job if you gain some local experience (not necessarily in the job you eventually want) and develop your network of contacts.
Where can you work?
- Major industries: aircraft, aerospace, agriculture, automotive, chemicals, electronics, pharmaceuticals, food and drink, industrial machinery, metallurgy, textiles, tourism.
- Major companies: Air France, AXA, BNP Paribas, CHANEL, Carrefour, Crédit Agricole, EDF, ENGIE, L'Oréal, LVMH, Renault, Société Générale, Thales, Total.
What’s it like working in France?
- Average working hours: 35 hours a week.
- Holidays: five weeks of annual leave per annum.
- Tax rates: personal income tax rates range from 14% to 41%, depending on your level of income, and can rise to 45% for those on very high incomes. Those on a very low income will pay no income tax. Income tax currently isn’t deducted at source (only social security contributions) and you must declare your income in your annual tax return. However, from January 2018 it is proposed that the French tax system will change to a PAYE system and your tax will be deducted at source from your pay packet. Don't forget to check your UK tax and National Insurance position with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to ensure that you're not losing any UK pension rights.
Applying for jobs
You can begin the application process from your home country but you'll probably need to be in France for the interview stage unless a company offers you a telephone interview. Typical methods of application include online application forms and CVs with covering letters (lettres de motivation). Speculative applications are also used. Your CV and all letters of application should be in French.
The application and interview processes in France are similar to those used in the UK. See our application and CV advice for more details on how to construct a good CV.
Make sure you provide details of your language skills in your application, giving your mother tongue as well as your levels of spoken and written French and any other languages you speak. If you've lived in France, mention this in your application.
When including your qualifications, provide details of their equivalent in the French education system. For more information on French applications and interviews, see L’Etudiant.
Will your UK qualifications be recognised?
Following the Bologna Process and the creation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), UK qualifications are usually recognised by an employer.
- APEC – vacancies and job seeking advice in French for executives and young graduates.
- Cadremploi – vacancies for executive posts and jobs with responsibility in French.
- L'Etudiant – includes job vacancies and placements in French for students and young graduates as well as job hunting advice.
- EURES – European Job Mobility Portal – includes job vacancies, living and working conditions and labour markets in France, as well as a CV-posting service for jobseekers.
- Pôle Emploi (French national employment agency) – job vacancies and job seeking advice in French.
- Xpat Jobs - global job site with vacancies in English.
- Recruitment agencies are listed in the Pages Jaunes (use the search term: cabinets de recrutement).
- Reputable agencies should be members of Prism'emploi (professionnels du recrutement et de l'intérim). See their website for a list of members.
- L'Express – news weekly.
- Le Figaro – national daily.
- Le Monde – national daily.
- Le Point – news weekly.
- Liberation – national daily.
- L’Obs – news weekly.
Regional papers may also carry vacancies. For details, see Guide Presse.
- The Centre de Formalités des Entreprises (French business start-up centre) has information in French for those interested in setting up a business in France.
- Networking and speculative applications (candidatures spontanées) are important routes into employment. Using personal contacts can be effective, although you may need to think creatively to develop your own network of contacts. Find out if your university has a French alumni group or create a profile on LinkedIn and network online.
- Attend local job fairs to meet prospective employers.
Getting work experience
Erasmus+ is the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport for 2014-2020 and covers student exchange, work experience and volunteering opportunities. Both undergraduate and postgraduate students can study abroad for 3 to 12 months. Erasmus+ also provides opportunities for work experience for students to learn new skills or languages, as well as volunteering in different countries for between 2 weeks and 12 months.
Work placements and internships
Consider taking a year out from study in the UK to undertake a period of work experience or stage in France. The ability to speak and understand French is essential. You'll be in competition with French students, so take time with your application and be prepared to make some speculative applications.
The stage is governed by a formal agreement known as a convention de stage. This needs to be signed by the French employer, you (the employee) and a representative from your university. Contact your university for more information.
Useful resources include:
- IAESTE (International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience) – summer placements for science and engineering students.
- iAGORA – internships in various European countries, including France.
- CIDJ – stage vacancies.
- L'Etudiant – includes stage vacancies and application advice.
- French business directories such as the Pages Jaunes – to find companies for speculative applications.
- UK based multinationals advertising European placements – check with your university careers services.
AIESEC (Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales) provides an international exchange programme for students and recent graduates. They offer voluntary and paid work placements in professional organisations, schools and charities in a range of countries.
If you’re a native English speaker, have completed two years at university and have B1 level French or equivalent, you can apply to work as an English language assistant in France as part of The British Council – Language Assistants programme.
If your university has a department for foreign languages or equivalent, you may be able to pick up useful advice, guides and contacts on teaching opportunities available in France.
Temporary or seasonal work (emploi saisonnier or job étudiant) is available in areas such as tourism, hotel and catering work, agriculture and office work. For example, there are opportunities to work in the large ski resorts, in both winter and summer, as a resort representative, chalet worker or member of childcare staff. You could also work in hotels, bars and restaurants.
Fruit pickers are needed throughout the year in various regions in France and you may be able to travel between regions as different fruits ripen.
Summer camps may also offer opportunities to teach English or to run activities. If you have childcare experience, you may want to work as an au pair living with a family, looking after the children and carrying out basic domestic tasks.
The Pôle Emploi (French national employment agency) can help you find casual work.
Gap year and volunteering opportunities
There are many organisations offering gap years in France (or France as part of a gap year). To choose a reputable organisation, get advice from your university careers service or check whether the company is registered with Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (ATOL) or other similar organisations. Some companies will also offer services such as a 24-hour emergency helpline.
Details of volunteering opportunities in France can be found through organisations such as Concordia and the International Voluntary Service (IVS). Young people (17-30) can volunteer in a range of countries, including France, via the European Voluntary Service (EVS) on projects lasting from 2 weeks to 12 months.
Do you need a visa?
EU citizens do not need a visa or residence permit to visit, live or work in France. However, you can get a residence permit if you wish.
If you're a non-EU national, contact the French embassy in the country where you are currently residing about how to obtain visas and work permits. If you're living in the UK, visit the French Embassy website.
Once you're legally employed in another EU country, you are entitled to equal treatment with nationals of the country where you are working.
How do you become a permanent resident?
EU citizens are able to apply for permanent residency in France after living there for an uninterrupted period of five years.
Living in France
- Cost of living: the cost of living is particularly high in Paris and is also high in other large urban areas such as Lyon, Nice and Marseilles. Rural areas are generally cheaper than the major cities. Even in the same town, you may find prices vary between districts. Accommodation forms the main expense and is significantly higher in Paris than in the other regions.
- Internet domain: .fr
- Currency: euro (€)
- Health: high standard of health and well-being. Before going to France make sure you get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to be eligible for emergency medical treatment. Also take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.
- Type of government: democratic republic with two legislative houses of Parliament – the Senate and the National Assembly. The head of state is the president. The president appoints a prime minister, who forms a government.
- Laws and customs: you must be able to prove your identity either by providing documents when asked (passport, photo driving licence or documents provided by a government body) or within four hours at a police station. It is illegal to conceal your face in public places in France. This includes full veils, balaclavas and any other item of clothing or mask that is used to conceal the face.
- Emergency numbers: 112 (single European emergency telephone number, available everywhere in the EU free of charge). The British Embassy France, which has three British Consulates in Paris, Bordeaux and Marseille, can provide help and advice to UK citizens in difficulties.
- People: French or French with heritage of one of the following groups: Flemish, Catalan, German, Armenian, Roma, Russian, or Polish. Minority groups include Algerian, Portuguese, Moroccan, Italian, Spaniard, Tunisian and Turkish.
- Major religion: Christianity.