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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.

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Reader Comments (15)

I don´t have problems with the citizenship as I´m married to a EU citizen (spanish), neither with money because I have enough to live for six months which is my idea. Thing is I´m interested in doing an internship, don´t really know yet in which field, it´d be basically to have some busy hours each day, learn something, meet people and practice my french. Are they too tough with internships as with work? Do you have any ideas?
I´m 27, a musician, love literature, kids, french, cuisine, photography and have good english although I´m not a native.
Great article!

March 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdaphne
I appreciate all the suggestions as I am in the very early stages of planning my relocation to Paris. My hopes are to get hired on stateside with an international company like Marriott and transfer. I am thinking that way may be easier with visa and housing considerations. Thoughts?
Of course I am not opposed to teaching English as a second language, tour guide etc to help make ends meet.
January 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTroy Swezey
Hi Troy,
Getting a job through an American branch of a French company is a good way to start. Unless you already have an applicable university degree and work experience, it wouldn't be a good idea to think you'd find a job teaching English or being a tour guide (the number of legal, native English-speaking candidates for those jobs who already have experience outnumbers the current available positions). For everyone looking for work, please don't forget unemployment in France is higher than in the US. Unless you have some sort of high-level skill, are bilingual, and can already work here legally without counting on company "sponsorship", then you're really better off just coming for an extended vacation and biding your time until the economy improves.
January 3, 2012 | Registered CommenterHeather Stimmler-Hall
Hi! I'm an American citizen trying to find work under the table, since I'm only on a tourist visa. I have plenty of experience in construction and hospitality. Any hints on where I could start looking??
March 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Murray
Hello Nick,
Sorry, it's illegal to work without the proper visas, and if you try working under the table you will likely never get paid (because unscrupulous employers know you have zero recourse). If you want to work here legally you'll need to apply for a working visa back in the US since it can't be done while you're in France as a tourist. The economy is better in the US, it will be a lot easier for you to find work there and then come back to Paris as a tourist on vacation. :-)
Best of luck!
March 14, 2016 | Registered CommenterHeather Stimmler-Hall

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