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Q&A: Working in Paris

vintage Paris aerial view

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 (for example, English teachers are competing with the Irish, and Spanish teachers are 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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  • 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!Heather

  • 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??

  • 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.Regards,Heather

  • 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.

  • 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!Thanks!D.

  • 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.

  • 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. 😉

  • 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 helpHum, would a scooter company be a good one to start?

  • 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…..

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.