« Paris Like You've Never Seen It | Main | Rue J-P Timbaud »

Working in Paris

Today I got a question from a Secrets of Paris reader (a friend of a friend, in fact) that is similar to many I have received in the past, so I thought I'd share this Q&A with all of you:

Hello Heather,

My name is Jan, and I am moving to Paris in a few months because of my boyfriend's job. We will be living there for 6 months, a year or longer...depending on the job. I have desperately been seeking employment in Paris. I have my masters in TESOL with 4 years of experience. I was wondering if you have any suggestions or help to offer me. I have applied to several jobs, all of them said that while I am qualified, they are unable to give me a job bc I am not a EU citizen and don't have a work visa. I thought the job would give you the visa but I guess not?  At this point, I would do any type of job, just something to make a little extra money while living there. Since we are not married, his company will not do anything....and I'm not even sure if they would be able to get me a work visa if we were married. Any information you could provide me with with me so very helpful.

Thank you so much for your time,


Hi Jan,

My advice? Sell your car, raid your piggy bank, or have a few bake sales before you leave the US, then live off that money while in Paris and just try to enjoy being here. Why? Because you are going to make yourself miserable trying to find work.

Even for the French, the job market is very tight. Always has been. There isn't the same kind of job flexibility here like there is in the US. Most people do the same job they've always done, and for which they have a degree that they studied for since their first year in high school. Of course, once you get a job here, it's practically impossible to lose it. So employers take few chances when hiring.

Even if you find work, getting a visa as an non-EU resident is almost impossible because the employer has to prove to the government that no other French nor EU citizen can do the same job (and in the case of Spanish teaching, you're competing with the Spanish). Finally, because you're only in the country for a relatively short time, it makes employers even less interested in submitting the tedious paperwork (a process that could, optimistically speaking, take up to six months to get approved even if you did convince them of your case).

Not that I want to be a big humbug, I just have seen too many people ruin what could be a great experience discovering a new place by trying to wade through one of THE most difficult processes of living here. Why do you think that I own my own company? It was easier than getting a job, and I have a visa, speak fluent French, and have lived here 13 years. ;)

Of course, if you want to risk working under the table part time, there are some jobs such as teaching or tutoring privately or babysitting. If you can find some freelance translation work in the US that lets you work from Paris, then that may be an easier option for you. Some opportunities may fall in your lap, so be open to them, but don't rely on it.

I hope this helps you a little bit. Do try and at least live here a few months without TRYING to find work. Enjoy it while you can. ;)



If anyone else has constructive recommendations for Jan, please do comment below.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (15)

it's the same problem for foreigners going to the US or Canada
February 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercolumbine
If you are at least a marginally talented writer (as I hope to be some day), you can pick up a couple hundred bucks a week writing for hire. It's not pretty work, and it ain't gonna win you a Pulitzer, but it'll keep you in Metro tickets and Pol Remy Brut champagne ($1.50 a bottle at Auchan -- don't turn up your nose; it's drinkable).

There are a lot of write-for-hire sites out there, but I'd recommend Demand Studios for the steadiest income. Here is a caveat: you have to start with them before leaving the States. They won't work with writers outside the U.S., but once you're working for them they have no way of knowing where you are writing from. As I think the policy is basically a tax thing, I don't think they much care, either. They pay weekly (very weakly, haha) through PayPal.

It's certainly one way to turn a buck in Paris.
February 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDave Guilford
Amen sister, this is one sensibly-written article! The only thing I would add is that Jan shouldn't forget that she will still need a long-stay visa even if she isn't going to work (any non-EUs staying for over 3months do).

Or her other option would be to enroll in French classes at an accredited school (Alliance Française, la sorbonne, etc), and get a student visa, which would give her the right to work up to 20hrs per week.
February 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSamantha
I would suggest applying for a year long student visa and then you could at least work part-time and hope your employer would consider you for contract once your visa expires. With the student visa, you'll be able to work full-time for nearly six months, or 19-some odd hours per week for the whole year. It's what I am doing now, as I am an American and have a French girlfriend and we are not yet married.
February 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam
Jan, ever consider being an aupair in Paris? Several wealthy families will foot the bill on your paperwork, health insurance, living quarters, stipend etc. in return for you taking care of their little ones and speaking English with them.

I'm an educated girl with good work experience from the states- in a similar situation as you and this is what I'm doing for at least a year. If you're lucky the family will pay for your language courses and airfare too (mine did). Not a bad deal. Only catch is, you must be younger than 30 under French law (and there are a lot of them).

Heather is right though- take this time to see PARIS. I think being an aupair is the perfect way to do this while making a little wine and cheese money.
February 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRed
Everyone has such accurate advice, plus Heather's that there is very little that I can add... Except to emphasize the part about the long stay visa- since three months are the max for non UE citz. I think to register as a student is a great idea... to have a longer visa.. Go to the French consulate in your city and check with them about visa requirements for long-stay visas. I have sooo many American friends whose hubby's are here for work- with American companies and though the wives have long stay carte de sejours, they have NO AUTHORIZATION to work, and so none of them work and they are ALL enjoying being a woman of leisure in Paris... Babysitting and other jobs like that looking specifically FOR Anglophones are MANY here in Paris... but MOST of them will ask for proper and current work papers and not many are willing to take in people without proper papers. Teaching Enlish as a prof or tutor may be a better choice than baby sitting... There is a great demand for it here... as it's required in schools at age 8! Parents are also willing to pay under the table for classes... I really don't recommend working "under the table" here in France but I am sure people do it... Hope it helps. Leesa
February 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLeesa
I had a lot of American Au Pairs when my children were little. Then I had a dog Au Pair (she had a free room for walking my dog Three times/day and talking to me in English from time to time). When she realized She could go almost for free to the Uni, she got wild and registered in so many courses nobody couldn't believe it (like anthropology of Tango). And then she decided to stay another year and now, some 10 years later, she's teaching French in NYC.
So, yes, real jobs are hard to find, but there are ways.....
February 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermartine silber
Hi heather, the wonderful David Lebovitz had directed me to your site. I was enquiring about employment like all the other day to day questions you get here. Just got back from Paris and fell in love, tossing around the old noggin about relocating there but want to do ALL of my research before we make any decisions about relocating. My husband and I are Americans but my husband has dual citizenship American/Finnish. To make a long story short we relocated to Finland almost three years ago to be closer to his parents. Now that we’ve explored a different place (Paris) we’re thinking about what if? My husband is a general contractor and I’m finishing up my degree in graphic design, how hard would it be for us to get into the work force in Paris with very little or no knowledge of the French language. Mind you we have two boys and would like to send them to one of the bilingual schools Paris has to offer. What neighborhood would be a place to look into? Hope I didn’t scare you with my many questions, have a wonderful evening….
If you can please help
Hum, would a scooter company be a good one to start?
June 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenternicole hirvonen
If you have a lot of money and a lot of time (at least a year) to learn French and get acquainted with the market and local laws, then come on over and start your own business. Which neighborhood to live in would be the least of your worries. ;)
June 4, 2009 | Registered CommenterHeather Stimmler
Since you have a TESOL degree, you can always work for the embassy. A very common job for teachers to work in France is the North American Exchange program. They hire Americans and Canadians who speak French and hold a degree. They offer a little over 1000 euros per month, benefits, and a 26 hour work week. I have friends who have done it in France as well as Spain. It does not seem to be very competitive for reasons I don't know!

I enjoy working at the schools in countries I live because it is (usually) a very nice way to see a different side of the culture.
October 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.