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How to get a work permit in France.

Par Alain-Christian Monkam, Avocat

1- A stringent policy against immigration has made very difficult to get a work permit in France as the applicant should go through a complex procedure.

2- It should be mentioned that the obligation to get a work permit applies to the non-European citizens.

The citizens of 27 states of the European Union (plus the Swiss citizens) are allowed to work without permit in France (Germany, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Norway, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slavonia and Sweden).

Such freedom of work is set out in the article 39 of the EC treaty providing the freedom of movement for the workers of the European Community. The Romanians and the Bulgarians still have to apply to the OFII (French Office of Immigration and Integration) for a permit.

3- The non-European citizens need a work permit in order to be appointed in a position. The procedure is as follows :

• the employer (and not the foreign applicant) is the one who must make the application for a work permit (section R. 5221-11 of the French Code of Labor) ;
• the application includes the contract of employment and a commitment to pay the relevant taxes to the OFII (French Office of immigration and Integration) ; depending on the type of permit, the taxes currently amount between 70 € and 1700 € ;
• the application is sent to the MOE (service of the foreign workers) that has the jurisdiction where the foreign employee is to work ;
• where the foreign applicant does not reside on the French territory, the MOE forwards (via the OFII) the application to the consulate of the country of residence of the foreign applicant ; if the decision is positive, the foreign applicant will be issued with a visa to come and work in France ;
• where the foreign applicant resides on the French territory, the MOE forwards the application to the OFII which subsequently convokes the foreign applicant to a medical examination ; if the work permit is afforded, the foreign applicant will be convoked to be issued with the relevant paperwork ;

4- The “Prefet” (ie local representative of the French State) takes it final decision of issuance or of refusal of a work permit in accordance with 7 criteria set out in section R. 5221-20 of the French Code of Labour :

• the employment situation in the industry and the geographic area which the application relates to ;
• the consistency of the qualification, the experience, the education of the foreign applicant with the features of the relevant position ;
• the employer’s compliance with the French labor statutes and laws ;
• the respect by the employer of the rules applicable to the relevant activity ;
• the conditions of employment and remuneration offered to the foreign applicant that shall be similar to those applied in the company or in the professional branch-industry ;
• the respect of the minimum wage ;
• the accommodation offered by the employer if applicable ;

The first criteria is certainly the most difficult one to satisfy as the employer must prove that, through the “Pôle-Emploi” (ie French unemployment administration), it advertised the position and that no French applicant fitted such position. However, in 2008, the French administration issued a list of employments “open” to the foreigners without the obligation to comply with the criteria of “lack of French suitable applicant”. Such list was recently shortened from 30 to 14 professions (arrêté of 12 August 2011).

5- The decision of issue of the work permit is taken within two months from the application. The “Préfet” usually delegates its decision to the DIRECCTE (French labor administration).

6- Finally, it should be noted that a quick and simple procedure is applicable to the foreign applicants who are highly qualified or chief executives or high level executives (section R. 5221-31-1 of the Code of Labor).

In conclusion, the current economic crisis and its serious consequences in France are likely to render more difficult the decision of issuance of a work permit.

How to get a work permit in France. Par Alain-Christian Monkam, (...)

Alain-Christian Monkam
Employment Solicitor et Avocat

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