How to apply for seasonal work in France as a non-EU citizen

Job adverts, work permits and visas - we explain the rules for employees and employers

Finding seasonal work like grape picking as a non-EU citizen is more complex, but doable if you follow the rules

Several readers have asked about the process for non-EU citizens coming to France for seasonal work, such as chalet or bar jobs, or fruit-picking – relating to a travailleur saisonnier visa and residency card.

Employer must send you a work permit

In short, the process starts with a job offer conditional on the potential employer obtaining an autorisation de travail (work permit) for the person. 

Obtaining a work permit requires that the job has first been advertised via the French job centre network for three weeks, except in certain sectors deemed to suffer from a scarcity of workers (sous tension), which currently includes agricultural work.

Read more: ‘My candid experiences of hiring grape pickers in France’

You must apply for a seasonal worker visa

The employer then sends the permit to the worker, who can apply for a seasonal worker visa at the French visa website

The worker must attend a visa appointment in their country, taking supporting documents.

Apply for a residency card within three months in France

The visa allows the person to come to work for three months.

During that time they must apply at the Étrangers en France website for a residency card allowing stays for work of up to six months per rolling 12-month period. 

It needs to be collected from a prefecture. 

Legal expert Marta Nahay, of Exilae in Nice and Paris, said a work contract is typically exchanged via email. 

The card can take three or four months

The card is often issued for a three-year period, but this is a maximum – legally, it is one to three. 

A text message is sent when it is ready to collect. 

“It can take three or four months, but mostly people come on contracts of over three months. It’s rare an employer would bring someone for a very short period.” 

A receipt attestation issued on applying for the card allows work until it is issued.

Employing a non-EU seasonal worker

Ms Nahay said: “The employer doesn’t have to put forward such detailed reasons for taking the person on as they would do if they were offering a permanent contract. 

“As long as they have some experience in the sector, it is presumed they will be able to work.” 

The advert can be targeted – for example, stating that the person should have English-language skills. 

“If there are applications during the advert period, it does not mean it is impossible to offer the job to the non-EU candidate, but the employer would have to justify why they rejected the others.”

Changing jobs or extending a stay

Ms Nahay said it is possible, depending on the contract, to come for a block of up to six months, or to come for shorter periods at different times of the year. 

If the employer wishes to hire the person in a future year, or if that person wants to change employers, they would have to start a new contract, with a new work authorization, but not a new residency card. 

Contracts are a CDD (temporary work).

Read more: Explained: Types of employment contracts in France

It is also possible to apply to extend the card after the three years, with an application in France three months before it expires. 

“It means you can, for example, spend six years doing temporary work in France, if you make frequent return trips.”

You need a French address to apply for a visa

Avocate Fatou Babou, from Bordeaux, said those interested should start months in advance, checking the website of France Tra­vail for jobs. 

Interviews are often carried out at a distance. It is possible to speak to would-be employers on a visit to France but the person would have to be in their country of origin when they apply for the visa.

“The meeting can take place by any means. I’ve had owners of maisons d’hôte chalets in France, who go to the UK to meet potential chefs and maîtres d’hôtel.”

Ms Babou said it is best for the employer to provide accommodation, so the person has a French address they can give in their visa application. 

“If there is no address, the visa will generally be refused,” she said.

You do need relevant experience to apply for a job

In France, the person will be expected to attend a medical check at the offices of Ofii, she said. 

In the three-year period, a person can work for different employers or sectors, subject to new contracts and permits.

Ms Babou said dossiers of nationals such as Britons and Americans are likely to be treated more favourably by the French visa authorities than many other non-EU nationals. 

It is advisable, however, to obtain suitable experience in your home country, such as hospitality or agriculture, before applying to do similar work in France.