Work permits for employees in France: A complete guide for employers

Published

May 25, 2023

Employers who are hiring in France need to ensure they’re legally compliant with French employment laws. Among these: making sure all the team members you onboard are legally authorized to work there.

If you skip this step and employ workers who don’t have a work permit, you could face a fine of up to €15,000 per illegally employed foreigner and even a five-year-long prison sentence.

Here’s everything you need to know about French work permits so you can make your first French hire or transfer an existing employee to France without any hassle.

What is a work permit in France?

Similar to other countries around the world, a work permit in France is a legal document that demonstrates an employee has authorization from the French government to be legally employed in this EU member state. Most of the time, you need to have a confirmed job offer to be eligible for a work visa.

All foreign nationals who wish to work in France must declare themselves to the French Immigration and Citizenship Office (OFII) to obtain the work visa they need to be legally employed. Anyone planning to stay and work for more than three months also needs a residence permit.

Differently from other nations, in France, both the employer and the employee have to fill out paperwork for the latter to be legally authorized to work there. The employer needs to apply to the Ministry of the Interior to obtain a work permit, and the employee needs to apply to the OFII for a work visa.

Who needs a work visa in France?

If your employees are citizens of the EU (European Union) or the EFTA (European Free Trade Association), they don’t need a work visa. Students don’t need one either: Their work visa is included in their residence permit.

Otherwise, pretty much everyone else, including UK citizens, needs a work visa to be legally employed in France.

There are a couple of exceptions to this, but they’re based on the type of job the employee has. The following workers do not need work visas:

  • Artists and models
  • Employees attending a conference, seminar, or trade show
  • Domestic workers
  • IT, management, finance, insurance, architecture, and engineering consultants and auditors working in France due to an intra-transfer company agreement
  • Producers and distributors who are working in France because they’re at a music show, recording, or film event
  • Employees who are attending cultural, art, sporting, and scientific events

When you send an offer letter to a new hire in France, it should include a clause about the offer being contingent on their eligibility to work in France legally.

How long does it take to get a work visa in France?

Since there are two visas foreign employees in France need—the resident permit and the appropriate work permit—this question has a two-part answer.

Working together with the Regional Directorate of Economy, Employment, Labor, and Solidarity (DREETS) and the Ministry of the Interior, the OFII handles residence permits, work permits, and work visas. They can take up to three months to process an application for a work visa and between 15 and 45 days to process an application for the residence permit.

Employers are advised to apply for a work permit three months before the employee’s start date to ensure everything is done on time.

Types of work visas in France

There are four types of work visa in France. Selecting the one that’s right for your employee depends on the type of work they’re doing and how long they plan to stay in France.

Let’s take a closer look at each type of work visa:

  • Short-stay visa. If you’re sending an employee to France on business or they’ll be working there for 90 days or less, they’ll need a short-stay visa. These are not eligible for renewal.
  • Long-stay visa. Hiring employees to work a permanent job? They’ll need a long-stay visa. This type of visa is renewable, and it’s generally valid for one year. The employee will also need the proper resident permit to live in France.
  • Temporary stay. If you’re hiring an employee in France for a job that lasts more than three months but under one year, they need a temporary stay work visa. When they receive this visa, they’ll also get a temporary residence permit.
  • Talent passport. The Talent Passport is a special type of French work visa that’s reserved for certain professionals and entrepreneurs whose work and ideas will directly benefit the French economy. Not only can employees who receive the Talent Passport bring their families, including spouse and dependents, with them, but it doesn’t need to be renewed for four years.
  • Special case work visas. France offers separate work visas for volunteers, interns, students, and professionals between the ages of 18 and 30 who are taking a working holiday.

Application process for French work visas

Before an employee can fill out the work visa application, they must have a confirmed job offer. Additionally, you, the employer, need to apply to the Ministry of the Interior for the proper work permit.

Note: You might find that some sites say you should apply to the DIRECCTE for the work permit. However, this is old information. The Ministry of the Interior took over for the DIRECCTE several years ago.

For employers:

  • You can apply for a work permit online.
  • You’ll need to provide the following documentation:
    • A detailed job description
    • Proof the employee meets all the requirements of the role
    • Their annual salary (some jobs in France have statutory salary requirements)
    • Commercial register number or company tax number

Employers should start the application process for a French work permit three months before the employee is due to start. Once you’re approved, you need to remain compliant with French laws. As mentioned, you’ll be answerable to the Ministry of the Interior, not DIRECCTE.

For employees:
Employees can only apply for a work visa after their employer has been approved for a work permit. They can start the application process online and will need the following documents:

  • Valid passport or photo ID, along with two additional passport photos
  • The work permit (this serves as confirmation the job offer is real and valid)
  • Bank statements or another form of proof that they can support themselves
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Information about their accommodations while they’re working in France

See Rippling

Not sure what type of visa your employee would need? We offer immigration services backed by top tier immigration advisers, and sponsor work visas in many countries. Inquire for more information.

Frequently asked questions about work permits for employees in France

Do US and Canadian citizens need a work visa to work in France?

Yes. Only EU and EFTA citizens are exempt from the French government’s work visa mandate.

What documents are required to apply for a French work visa?

Employers must apply for the work permit, while the employee will need to apply for their work visa.

What employers should submit:

  • A detailed job description
  • Proof the employee meets all the requirements of the role
  • Their annual salary (some jobs in France have statutory salary requirements)
  • Commercial register number or company tax number

What employees should submit:

  • Valid passport or photo ID, along with two additional passport photos
  • The work permit (this serves as confirmation the job offer is real and valid)
  • Bank statements or another form of proof that they can support themselves
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Information about their accommodations while they’re working in France

What’s the fastest way to get a work visa in France?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to rush the process, particularly since it requires three steps to be completed. You can reduce delays by making sure your application packet is complete, providing the right forms and documents, and by paying any associated fees promptly.

How much does it cost to get a French work visa and residence permit (for employees)?

The French government charges separate fees for the work visa and the residence permit. Generally, it’s the employee who will pay these fees.

Type of work visa

Application fee

Residence permit fee

Short-stay visa

€9-€60

N/A

Long-stay visa*

€99

€225

Talent Passport

€99

€225

Temporary worker

€80

€225

Special work permits**

Varies

Varies

*To obtain a long-stay visa, you’ll need to pay with tax stamps. You can buy electronic ones either online or at a store that sells tobacco.
**The costs of each type of special work permit vary depending on which type you’re applying for. You can find out how much you’ll pay in fees when you apply.

How much does it cost to get a French work permit (for employers)?

As mentioned above, it’s expected that the employee will cover the application fees for their work visa and residence permit. That’s because the French government charges employers tax for hiring foreign nationals.

Exactly how much you’ll pay depends on a few factors, including the length of time the employee will be staying in France and how much they make.

  • Less than three months: There is no tax for employees who are working in France less than 90 days.
  • Between three and 12 months: You can expect to pay between €74 and €300, depending on the employee’s salary.
  • 12 months or longer: You’ll pay tax equivalent to 55% of the employee’s gross annual income, up to 2.5 times the limit of the minimum wage (SMIC).

How do I apply for a residence permit?

As mentioned earlier, employees need both a work visa and a residence permit. Fortunately, they can get them at the same time. On all applications except the short-term stay visa application, they’ll fill out the proper information and pay the fees for both the work visa and the residence permit.

Are family members included in work visa applications in France?

Family members are only included if you’re applying for the Talent Passport.

Who’s responsible for renewing the work visa?

Both the employer and employee need to fill out paperwork once the latter’s work visa expires (which, for long-stay work visas, usually happens in one year). Everything needs to be submitted two months before the expiration date.

Here’s what the employee will need to send in:

  • Either their new fixed-term or permanent employment contract or a contract that has been updated and amended (this should be provided by the employer)
  • Four copies of the application form (for long-stay work visas, this is Form Cerfa No. 15186*02)
  • Annual social security return (DADS) (if this isn’t available, the employer can give the employee an electronic report that has information about their last three payslips)
  • Information about how long they’ll be staying on the renewed visa
  • Grounds for potential rejection of the application as well as proof effort has been made to find a suitable French candidate to fill the position (this should be provided by the employer)

The application needs to be sent to the Prefecture, which is the office of the Prefect, the local representative of the French national government.

Hire and set up employees in France with Rippling

Whether you’re a French employer or based overseas, Rippling can help you hire, onboard, and set up employees in France within minutes.

  • Onboard employees and contractors in 90 seconds.
  • Sponsor work visas in France with Rippling’s immigration services, backed by top-tier legal advisers.
  • Manage HR, IT, and Finance in one unified system.

Rippling and its affiliates do not provide tax, accounting or legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any related activities or transactions.

last edited: July 31, 2023

The Author

Carrie Stemke

A freelance writer and editor based in New York City, Carrie writes about HR trends and global workforce management and is the Rippling content team’s expert on hiring know-how in Western Europe.

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