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For members

VISAS

Is there a minimum salary for a French work permit?

If you are looking to come work in France, you might be wondering whether you should seek out jobs of a certain salary to qualify for a work permit. Here is how the system functions in France and what to expect:

Is there a minimum salary for a French work permit?
Employees work with foreigners at the Paris Préfecture in 2007 (Photo by THOMAS COEX / AFP)

Each country has a different approach to work permits, even members of the European Union. Recently, Sweden announced it would be doubling the required salary to be eligible for a work permit, leaving thousands of non-EU residents with their futures upended.

In France, however, you usually won’t need a high salary.

Who needs a work permit?

Many foreigners living in France have a residency permit that in itself gives the right to work, with no need for a separate work permit.

For instance – people with the ‘family and private life’ residency permit status have the automatic right to work included as part of their titre de séjour, so they do not need a separate work permit document.

Brits who are beneficiaries of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, receive a carte de séjour residency permit that allows them to work with no need for a permit.

Holders of the student visa or residency permit also have the automatic right to work, albeit with a limit of 964 hours per year.

Oftentimes, those in need of a separate work permit document would be applying for or renewing a residency permit that is specifically related to working in France (eg. the salarié or travailleur temporaire statuses).

There are also certain sectors that allow people to work without needing a permit.

If you are curious whether you need one, you can consult the French visa website HERE, which offers a simulator that you can click through and find out if you need a work permit (autorisation de travail).

READ MORE: Working in France: Who needs a work permit?

What about salary thresholds?

For those who do need a permit, there is no set minimum salary, but the guideline amount is French minimum wage – the SMIC – which as of May 2023 was set to €1,747 per month, pre-tax. 

Generally, the test is that you will not become a burden on the French state, but each visa and residency permit is assessed on its own merits, including several other aspects unrelated to salary.

READ MORE: Three things to know about work permits in France

If you’re a full-time employee then you should naturally be earning at least French minimum wage (otherwise your company is in trouble), while part-time workers may need to demonstrate that they are earning the amount set by the collective agreement for their sector. 

Setting yourself up as a freelancer/contractor in France

If you want to work as a freelancer or contractor in France, you can apply for the “entrepreneur/profession libérale” residency card. Typically, you will be required to show proof that you have a history of earning at least minimum wage, or proof that you will be able to earn at least minimum wage. 

In some cases, this requirement might be relaxed depending on your individual situation, but you should expect to justify your ability to earn a living as a freelancer. To find more information on how to apply, click here.

Graduates from French higher education

If you have graduated with a higher degree from France, then in most cases you will be eligible for the job seeker residency permit (recherche d’emploi/création d’entreprise) – a handy permit that essentially gives you a year after graduation to find a job.

Once you have secured a contract you will need your employer to apply for a work permit on your behalf. 

READ MORE: Ask the expert: How students can remain in France after finishing their degree

The benefit of this card is that it gives you a year to find a job after graduating. If you find a job in your sector, then your employer will not have to prove that you are more qualified than other local candidates for the role.

The downside is that your eventual job must have a higher salary threshold than most – as of 2023, the minimum monthly gross salary was €2,620.80, or 1.5X the minimum wage (as shown in the table below) for switching onto salarié or travailleur temporaire following higher education in France.

Screenshot from the French Service-Public website

Passeport talent residency permits

If you came to France on a ‘talent passport’ visa – a multi-year visa reserved for people in certain specialist fields or work or high-earners, you may also face a higher salary requirement.

There are many different types of passeport talent residency permits. Most give the right to work, meaning a separate work permit document would not be required. However, some of them (not all) have salary minimums to qualify for the residency permit.

1. Salarié qualifié: This residency permit requires that you have obtained a higher education degree in France. You must also hold an employment contract with a salary (as of 2023, pre-tax) of €41,933 or more per year.

2. Carte bleue européenne: To qualify for this residency permit, one of the requirements is that you have at least three years of higher education or five years of work experience in your field, as well as an annual pre-tax salary of at least €53,836.50.

3. Salarié en mission: This permit applies to intra-company transfers to France, meaning you are the employee of a company established abroad and have come to France to work via a transfer or agreement between establishments of the same company or between companies of the same group. One of the requirements is a pre-tax annual salary of at least €37,739.52 (as of 2023).

4. Mandataire social: To qualify for this passeport talent, you must be a legal representative of a business established in France and you must have been working within that group or business for at least three months. You must earn at least €62,899.20 per year (pre-tax) to qualify for this residency permit.

Other considerations

As we’ve seen, many foreigners living in France will not need a work permit at all, as their residency card might act as one or they may work in a specific field with exceptions. For those who do need work permits, most people won’t need to earn much above the French minimum wage.

But there is another consideration – the work permit is the responsibility of the employer, and getting it for a new employee can be a time-consuming process, especially if that employee is recruited from outside of France. In some cases, employers must also prove that they have already advertised the job locally and did not get any suitable French or EU candidates, before they are allowed to offer the role to a non-EU candidate.

This means that non-EU candidates are in general less attractive to French employers, because of the extra paperwork required.

In practice this means that employers are often reluctant to hire non-EU staff for low-wage jobs, and non-EU candidates need to prove that they have something special to offer to make the extra paperwork worth while.

This isn’t the case for all jobs, however, especially for industries that are suffering from recruitment problems – such as hospitality or healthcare. 

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For members

SCHOOLS

Are packed lunches really banned in French schools?

School children in France are entitled to a lunchtime meal of three, or even four courses – but what if you prefer to provide meals yourself? 

Are packed lunches really banned in French schools?

French school meals are, famously, pretty good – children get a three or even four-course meal of properly prepared dishes and the menu (including cheese course) is usually published in the local town newsletter so everyone can see the types of meals being served.

The concept of a proper meal at lunchtime is an important one. “The diet of a school-age child is essential for their growth, mental development and learning abilities,” the French Education Ministry says in a preamble about school meals on its website. “It must be balanced, varied and distributed throughout the day: for example 20 percent of total energy in the morning, 40 percent at midday, 10 percent at four o’clock and 30 percent in the evening.”

And it’s not all about nutrition, the social aspect of sitting together and eating a meal is also important – the ministry continues: “Mealtime is an opportunity for students to relax and communicate. It should also be a time for discovery and enjoyment.”

All schools provide meals in a canteen and most pupils take up the opportunity – however it’s also possible for pupils to go home at lunchtime so that they can eat lunch with their parents.

The idea of taking in a packed lunch (panier-repas) is much less common in France – but is it actually banned?

The rules on lunch

At écoles (up to age 11), the local authority or établissement public de coopération intercommunale (EPCI) is responsible for providing quality school meals. This generally involves meals being provided via a central kitchen, and then delivered to the school’s kitchen, where it can be kept warm, or reheated as necessary.

The system is slightly different in collèges and lycées (attended by children aged 11 and up). In those establishments, catering falls into the purview of the wider département or region – and is routinely managed directly by individual establishments, which will have catering staff on site to prepare meals. Often, meal services are outsourced to private businesses, which operate the kitchens.

There are various rules and regulations in place regarding what food is offered, and how long a child has to eat – which is, in part, why the school lunch period is so long. Children must be allowed a 30-minute period to eat their meal, from the moment they sit down with it at the table. 

Then, they’re given time to play and relax before afternoon classes start.

READ ALSO What you need to know if your child is starting school in France

At a minimum lunch must include a main course with a side dish, a dairy-based product, as well as a starter and/or a dessert. Meals must also, the government says, be composed of 50 percent sustainable quality products (including 20 percent organic).

Some local authorities go further and serve only or mostly food that is organic, locally sourced or both.

Water and bread must be freely available, but salt and condiments can only be added in preparation – no sauce bottles or salt and pepper on the tables. 

Daily menus are generally available to view on school websites and many town newspapers or newsletters also publish them.

Parents pay a fee for the school lunch, which is calculated according to income and can be free in the case of low-income families.

Packed lunch

But what if your child doesn’t like the school lunches and you don’t have time to pick them up, cook a full lunch and take them back in the afternoon everyday? The obvious solution would seem to be to send them in with a packed lunch, as is common in the UK and USA.

In theory this is possible, but only in certain circumstances and with very strict rules and caveats. 

The Ministry, in a written response to a Senator’s question in 2019, said: “The use of packed lunches [home-supplied meals] by primary school students can provide an alternative to school meals. This method of catering is authorised in particular for children with a medically established food allergy or intolerance, requiring an adapted diet.”

READ ALSO How to enrol a non-French speaking child in school in France

It added: “the preparation and use of packed lunches in schools must follow certain rules. First of all, it is important to respect the cold chain”.

The cold chain is a term applied to food handling and distribution – it’s usually used by food-preparation businesses, but in the context of a packed lunch it means that food prepared at home must be kept in appropriately cool conditions until it is ready to eat. It would be the responsibility of parents to ensure that the food is delivered to school in containers appropriate for the job (ie an insulated cool bag).

Once at the school, it is up to whoever manages the kitchen to ensure that food is properly reheated. This becomes the sticking point at which many parents’ requests to send their children to school with a packed lunch, rather than go to the canteen, or eat back at home, are refused.

The reheating concern suggests that schools are also expecting parents to prepare a proper meal – rather than just throwing some sandwiches and a cereal bar into a bag.

Unless there’s a genuine and proven health reason for your child to eat a home-prepared meal, most parents will probably find the school won’t budge on this – even in cases of a strike by kitchen staff or lunch monitors.

READ ALSO Just how much do private schools in France cost?

The Ministry’s written response explains: “[A]s this is an optional public service, the municipality can justify its refusal to admit the children concerned by objective material and financial constraints, such as the need to equip itself with additional refrigerators, or for additional supervisory staff to supervise them during lunch.”

As well as the practicalities, for some schools this is an equality issue – because of the varied fee structure for school lunches what happens in effect is that richer parents are subsidising a good quality lunchtime meal for poorer students in the class; if everyone brought in a packed lunch and therefore stopped paying the fee, the lower-income kids would miss out. 

What about allergies or other health issues?

Children with allergies or other health issues that require a particular diet must be accommodated. An individual meal plan – known as a projet d’accueil individualisé (PAI) can be set up. More details (in French) are available here, on the government’s website.

It also becomes easier for parents to provide home-produced meals in such instances. As ever, it is up to the parents to ensure any meals are appropriately packaged and transported to school.

Not all schools

Some individual schools in France do permit pupils to bring in meals from home. They must be taken to school in an appropriate cold-storage container, and they will be stored in the kitchen area until they are needed, when meals will – if necessary – be reheated.

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