How to hire and pay a foreign employee in France?

Mis à jour le Monday 19 December 2022

Foreign workers are an attractive talent pool for companies that may be facing periods of labour shortages or are looking for skills that are scarce domestically, for example.

However, the hiring of foreign employees is subject to specific procedures that vary according to the home country of the worker hired.

In this article, we will look at the main procedures for hiring a foreign employee in order to shed light on the varied and complex social regulations.

The different categories of foreign workers

  • The foreign employee is from the European Union

    Workers with European citizenship enjoy freedom of movement within the European Union.This includes nationals of the 27 EU member states, as well as citizens of Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein (Article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).

    Therefore, these nationals can be hired under the same conditions as traditional recruitment (see our article on the legal obligations of recruitment in France) without needing a specific work permit.

    It should be noted that there are also agreements between France and several other non-EU countries that allow workers from these countries to work in France. These are: Switzerland, Monaco, Andorra and Saint-Martin.

  • The foreign employee has permanent residence in France

    In France, the recruitment of a foreign worker in France is subject to obtaining a work permit. However, the law provides for exceptions depending on the status of foreigners or the duration of their posting (Article L8251-1 Labour Code).When the future employee of foreign nationality is not a citizen of the European Union but resides in France permanently, they have a residence permit or a visa allowing them to carry out a professional activity in accordance with the legal conditions.

There are various residence permits allowing the exercise of a professional activity, including those listed in the following summary table:

Documents and Visas authorising work Rights of the holder
Residence permit or EU long-term residence permit Authorises the holder to reside in France after having resided there regularly for 5 years.
Authorises the holder to work in France.
Authorises residence for more than 3 months, without a long-stay visa, in certain EU countries (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden).
Long-stay visa equivalent to a residence permit (VLS-TS) for “private and family life”
Temporary residence permit for “private and family life”, as a family member of a foreigner who has been granted EU long-term resident status in another Member State
Concerns people with family ties in France.
This permit authorises the beneficiary to work.
Multi-annual residence permit: “talent passport” or “talent passport” (family) Concerns foreigners, whether employed or self-employed, who want to contribute to the economic attractiveness of France.
The employment contract or the period of installation must be longer than 3 months.
This permit allows the employee to stay in France for 4 continuous years from the date of arrival in France.
Residence permit: “seconded ICT employee”
or “seconded ICT employee” (family)
or mobile seconded ICT employee (family)
Concerns non-EU foreigners
who come to France as an executive or expert for an assignment in a company of the group for which they are employed.
The permit is valid for a maximum of 3 years.
“ICT trainee” residence permit Concerns non-EU foreigners who come to France to do an internship in a company of the group that employs them.
The total duration of the stay in France is 1 year maximum.
“Student” or “student mobility programme” residence permit Concerns foreigners who want to study in France.
You must first apply for a “student” long-stay visa equivalent to a residence permit (VLS-TS) (valid for 4 months to 1 year).
After 1 year, apply for a temporary student residence permit (valid for 1 year) or a multi-annual student residence permit (valid for 2 to 4 years).
“Job search or business creation” residence permit Concerns non-EU foreigners who have graduated from a French institution (master’s degree or equivalent) and wish to work in France after their higher education.
Multi-annual residence permit: “beneficiary of subsidiary protection” or “family member of a beneficiary of subsidiary protection” Concerns beneficiaries of subsidiary protection granted by Ofpra (a form of asylum protection, granted to foreigners who do not meet the conditions for obtaining refugee status).
The residence permit issued is for a maximum of 4 years.
Residence permit: “stateless person” or “family member of a stateless person” Concerns foreigners with no nationality, who can obtain stateless status from the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (Ofpra).
The provisional residence permit (APS) or a provisional residence document bearing the words “authorises its holder to work” Concerns foreigners living with their seriously ill minor child in France.
Working holiday visa. Allows the holder to stay in France for one year for tourism purposes while having the possibility to work there.
It is issued for a maximum period of 12 months and is not renewable, except for Canada which is covered by a special agreement.
  • The foreign employee is not yet resident in FranceAn employee of foreign nationality who is not an EU national and who does not reside in France does not have a residence permit or a visa, which is why the employer must follow a special procedure.Indeed, the employer must apply for a work permit in the framework of a so-called introduction procedure with the Regional Directorates for the Economy, Employment, Labour and Solidarity (DREETS) and to the French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII).The introduction application file includes the following documents:

    – a copy of the employment contract, a document attesting to the accommodation of the employee and proof of payment of the compulsory OFII tax.

Understanding the OFII tax

This is a tax payable exclusively by the employer. It must be paid to the French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII).

This tax must be paid after the employee’s medical examination and is in addition to the cost of the visa or residence permit authorising the foreign worker to stay in France.

The tax is due on the foreign talent’s first entry into France or on their first admission to residence as an employee.

The amount of the tax is fixed according to the duration of the employment contract:

  • contracts of 12 months or more: 55% of the salary paid to the foreign worker, up to a limit of 2.5 times the monthly amount of the SMIC [French minimum wage] (i.e. €4,197.37 since 1 August 2022). If the gross monthly salary exceeds €4,197.37, the amount of the tax is limited to €2,308 for 2022;
  • contracts of more than 3 months and less than 12 months: the amount of the tax is between €74 euros and €300 depending on the gross monthly salary of the foreign employee;
  • seasonal contract: the amount of the tax is €50 per full or incomplete month of paid activity.


Companies employing workers for less than 3 months in France are not subject to this fee.

The employer must then publish the job offer with Pôle Emploi together with an introduction application file.

The file is sent by Pôle Emploi to the DREETS, which examines the application. It will be either accepted or rejected. In the former case, it is then sent to the OFII.

Finally, the OFII intervenes at the end of the recruitment procedure to manage the arrival of the foreign employee and ensure that they benefit from a medical check-up in the same way as French employees.

  • Brexit

Since the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, the formalities for hiring a British employee have become more complex, whereas before 1 January 2021, it was sufficient to apply the standard hiring procedure applicable to any European citizen.

British employees wishing to work in France must now have a residence permit in the same way as non-EU citizens.

Procedures and regulations applicable after the completion of specific formalities

Once the employer has completed all the specific formalities related to the hiring of the foreign employee, they are required to complete the standard hiring formalities, including:

  • Pre-employment declaration (DPAE)
  • Drafting an employment contract
  • Registering the employee with a supplementary pension institution
  • Providing for the information and prevention visit (pre-recruitment medical visit).

With regard to remuneration, foreign workers are not governed by any particular rules. They are subject, like French employees, to remuneration at least equal to the minimum wage (SMIC) and the minimum wage provided for by the collective agreement applicable in the company (Article L8252-2 of the Labour Code).

What are the penalties for hiring an illegal foreign employee?

Any irregularity in the procedure for hiring a foreign employee can result in very heavy penalties for the employer.

The various sanctions that apply include:

  • In case of fraud or false declaration to hire a foreigner in France, the employer risks one year in prison: €3,000 fine and 1 year’s imprisonment (Article L8256-1 Labour Code);
  • An employer who employs an illegal employee risks a fine of €15,000 and 5 years’ imprisonment as a private individual. The penalty is increased to 10 years and a fine of €100,000 when the offence is committed in an organised gang (Article L8256-2 Labour Code).

Employing a foreigner in a professional category, profession or geographical area other than those mentioned on the work permit is punishable by a fine of €1,500 (Article L8256-3 Labour Code).

Reference texts:

  • Article L8252-2 of the Labour Code
  • Article L8256-3 of the Labour Code
  • Article L8251-1 of the Labour Code
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