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I want to settle in France. I am a 39 year old Australian living in Australia. I am single and I have no dependants so I am only concerned about myself in this process.

My understanding of the process is this:

  1. Get a job offer from an employer in France (while I'm still in Australia)
    • Wait for them to fill in the temporary work permit paperwork and submit it to the appropriate French government department
  2. Fly to Sydney from my home city to apply for a working visa in person
    • Fly back home
  3. Wait at least 2 weeks for notification of whether the visa was approved or not (could be up to 2 months)
  4. If the visa was issued, fly to France and start working!
  5. After five years of living in France start the process for permanent residency or citizenship
    • Alternatively, marry a French citizen and wait two years, but I'm not banking on that!

I have completed a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course so I am qualified to work as an English Teacher, which I understand is one of the easiest jobs to get in France as an English speaking foreigner. I have been in contact with an agency that would hire me instantly... if only I already had a working visa! They employ over 1000 foreigners every year but they don't submit the form for the temporary work permit. Most people they hire are students, who are allowed to work up to 20 hours a week on a student visa. If you want to apply for a student visa you have to do so before your 31st birthday, so I am too old to qualify for that.

The TEFL industry is huge in France, with most jobs being placed in August/September and January. I am planning to go in January if I can get everything worked out. This will give me three months to finalise my life in Australia. I rent a house by myself so I need time to dispose of my car, whitegoods, furniture, books, DVDs, etc. Fortunately, I don't own the house I live in so I don't need to sell it, just notify my landlord giving them sufficient advance notice.

I usually work as programmer in Australia but I am not planning on changing jobs quickly in France. As long as I enjoy what I'm doing, I can live off the income and it's in France I don't mind. I have enough savings that I could support myself for a short time if money was tight. It's probably hard for me to get a programming job in France anyway as French employers are required by law to fill all positions with French or EU citizens if available first.

I am also interested in working in the Netherlands on a short-term basis but not settling there. I mention this only in case there is a way of working in one EU country, then easily transferring to another one.

As far as I can tell, the only option for me is to get a working visa before I go to France (Australians can only be issued French visas in Sydney). I can't go to France to look for work because if I was offered a job I'd have to fly back to Australia and wait at least 2 weeks before being issued a visa, which is not guaranteed. Most of the advice I'm reading online says that to get a job as an English Teacher you need to be in France for face-to-face interviews.

Am I missing some relatively easy way of making this happen? Is there another way I could work in France long-term with a view to staying permanently?

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Your understanding is basically correct and unfortunately I think it will be quite difficult to get a visa in your situation.

Apart from highly-paid professionals, scientists and artists (who qualify for another type of visa) or selected occupations, the work permit (Autorisation de travail) is quite difficult to get. Being a native English-speaker and a qualified teacher might help but there are many other people (students, British and Irish citizens, people on family visas) who are already in France or can easily go there to fill those positions, which explains why the agency you found would not help you with the visa.

There is in fact a way to live in another EU country and then transfer your residence rights to France (the EU blue card) but it also has pretty steep requirements (including a minimum income threshold) and you won't get one to teach English. Depending on your specific expertise, you could perhaps find a job as a software developper in the Netherlands or Germany (I mention Germany because I think it's more welcoming to English speakers in IT positions and is doing much better than the Netherlands or France on the unemployment front). It's not easy but it could be a solution.

For completeness, there is also a residence permit that would allow you to live in France long-term but not to work, if you have sufficient resources (meaning an income of about €1200 per month or significant wealth from which you could draw) but I assume that's not your case. It's called the carte de séjour mention “visiteur”.

But the easiest solution is certainly the spouse visa for the partners of French citizens (or people from other EU countries actually, with the caveat that citizenship would be more difficult to get in this case). The rules are slightly different but marrying is not necessary, a registered partnership would be fine as well. I would in fact consider this the “classic” route to citizenship for people born abroad, either directly or after a string of student visas.

Incidentally, I am not sure where you got the two weeks figure but it seems quite optimistic. Do not count on it.

  • I knew about the non-working residence permit, I think it's for retirees, which is a bit too soon for me at 39! I'm not planning on getting into a relationship so I can stay in France! "Of course I love you darling! No, I'm not just using you to stay in your country!" If I happen to start a relationship in France, that's just a bonus but I'm not planning on it. The two weeks comes straight from the Consulate's website. They guarantee that it won't be less than two weeks but apparently two months is not unheard of. – CJ Dennis Aug 27 '15 at 13:03
  • @CJDennis Yes I think retirees are the main beneficiaries but there is no age requirement as far as I can tell. Regarding relationships, I certainly understand the feeling, I am not saying you should get a relationship to stay in France, that's just how the law is currently. But if you do meet someone, then maybe both of you can decide to get into a registered partnership earlier than you otherwise would to help with your visa. You can always decide later if you want more than this or not. I know people who have done this and ended up marrying… or not. Just something to keep in mind. – Gala Aug 27 '15 at 14:51
  • I have now researched about "highly paid professionals". I found a number of articles from 2006 stating that France was making it easier for certain professions (including programmers!) to get a work permit. However, the more recent information seems to indicate this now only applies to skilled migrants from third world countries. – CJ Dennis Aug 28 '15 at 9:36
  • @CJDennis The way it works is that employers must generally show they have tried to hire someone locally and could not do it. That's why it's hard to get a work permit. But if your profession is listed as a “métier en tension”, that's not necessary. There is a generic list that applies to everybody and then some additional lists for citizens of specific countries that have an agreement with France. The list also differs from one region to the next. – Gala Aug 28 '15 at 13:34
  • “Informaticien d'étude” et “Informaticien expert” (whatever that means exactly) are on the list in every region so that should be available to you in any case (if your occupation qualifies). – Gala Aug 28 '15 at 13:35

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