Becoming French, how to live and work in France, means you stay up to date with local news, like this chic Parisian woman reading a copy of Le Parisien at a bistro table (left). An airplane on the runway seen through the window of another plane (right).

Making Magique & Janellie

During my recent visit to the U.S., my sister told everyone that I live in Paris just to marvel at their reactions.

“Just stick a dagger in my heart, why don’t you,” came the response from a cosmetics salesman. “I’d give anything to live in Paris…” It garnered me bonus points in San Francisco’s chic boutiques and even scored us a table at an impossible-to-book restaurant. “My sister’s just in from Paris… hoping you might have something for us at eight?” Pas de problème.

Becoming French, how to live and work in France, means you take leisurely strolls along the banks of the River Seine lined by Haussmannian apartment buildings.


Every expat who lives here knows the feeling. Why? Because Paris is the culmination of our romantic dreams, the city upon which we project our fantasies of a life well lived. We’re the lucky ones who’ve somehow pulled it off. But how?

Becoming French, how to live and work in France, means you take leisurely strolls through the cities various parks, which are beautiful in the fall as the leaves of the trees glow gold.


For every foreigner living in Paris – upwards of 310,000 according to the Marie de Paris – there are as many tales of how we achieved it. But there are commonalities that could help you realize your own Parisian dreams. Here are some facts about living and working in France for anyone seriously contemplating la vie en rose.

Becoming French, how to live and work in France, means you take the metro everywhere, especially when it rains.


Tourist visa. First, the easy – albeit not totally legal – way to “live” in France. When traveling to France from most countries, you will receive a 90-day tourist visa upon arrival. This entitles you to stay legally for up to three months but not to work or receive any social benefits (including healthcare). Before your 90 days are up, travel to another non-European Union country, get a passport stamp, and come back to France where you’ll be issued another tourist visa. I know people (who shall remain nameless) who’ve managed to live in Paris this way for years. Trouble is, you cannot be legally employed here. Independent wealth – or income from your home country – is kind of a prerequisite.

The love locks on the bridge straddling the River Seine in Paris.

Sara Berger

Visa de long séjour. For those willing and able to live in France without working or studying, you can apply for a long stay visa and then a carte de séjour once you’re here. Be warned: This is not for the faint of heart. It requires proof of financial resources, private medical insurance, police clearance and massive documentation. The process begins at your local French consulate and continues on French soil at the Prefecture de Police. The good news is that navigating this process will give you true insight into the French psyche (not to mention its byzantine bureaucracy and those who staff it). But if you’re planning a longer stay to, say, start a business or take a sabbatical, this is the way to go. Let the bureaucratic battles begin!

An apartment building in Paris (left) and one of the stone bridges that cross the River Seine (right).

Darice & Making Magique

Student visa. “I came as a student and never left…” It’s a common refrain among expats and remains one of the best ways to get here then figure out a way to stay. How? You must be accepted to a school in France (or an exchange program through your university) and demonstrate a financial guarantee of about $600 a month. Then it’s mostly up to your program to obtain the visa for you. The upside here is that in addition to living here legally, student visa holders can apply for temporary work permits to be employed for a number of hours per week. Remember what they say about a “foot in the door?” A temporary position has at least the possibility of leading to gainful employment – and the coveted work visa that comes along with it.

Living and working in Paris means you take leisurely strolls though the city's parks, which are beautiful in the fall, when the leaves are golden.

brunotto [Still very busy…]

Work visa. Ah, the French work visa, the holy grail of living and working in France. Sought by many but secured only by a lucky few, this is perhaps the toughest route to living in France long-term. Why? Competition. EU residents (and the countless native English-speakers among them) have an automatic legal right to work in France. So for a French (or international) company to hire you, they will have to prove to the government why you are better qualified for the job than a French national or an EU citizen. It’s a tough case to make – and an expensive one. A better bet is to get hired in the U.S. and get transferred to France. That way, your employer gets the work visa for you.

Living and working in Paris means you take leisurely strolls along the banks of the River Seine and admire the views of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Carin Olsson

On a hopeful note, Paris is home to many international agencies where English is the lingua franca, UNESCO, the OECD and the International Energy Agency (IEA) among them. They hire bi-lingual workers from all over the world with particular areas of expertise, such as economics, international affairs and development, transportation, energy, gender and much more. These agencies handle visas and permits and offer tempting packages and job security to their employees. Check their websites for current openings as turnover tends to be relatively high.

Living and working in Paris means you take leisurely strolls through the city's parks, like the Jardin du Palais Royal which is beautiful in the fall with the trees' golden leaves.


As for me? I did it the old-fashioned way – I married it. (Not a Frenchman but a Paris-bred American whose bilingualism landed him a job at an international agency). Then there’s the fairy tale I’ve heard more than a few times in Paris. “I came for a month and met my future husband in a café. That was twenty years ago…” Does it really happen? But, of course!

How about you? Dreaming of making the big move? Or perhaps you’ve already pulled it off. How did you manage it? We’d love to hear from you

Written by Paige Frost for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.


Paige Bradley Frost

Paige Bradley Frost spent nearly a decade in Paris after which she relocated to California serving as Executive Director of the nonprofit organization, Women’s Empowerment International. She has written extensively covering culture, parenting, education, travel, food and politics. Her work as been published by The New York Times Motherlode blog, Huffington Post, Forbes Travel Guides and extensively at HIP Paris.


  1. My story is pretty classic i guess. I met a man, he’s french and that’s how i ended up in France. Most people marvel at the notion of how romantic it is to meet a french man, move to France, live in France (Paris especially), but there’s really nothing romantic about this whole process when you deal with French Administration =)

    I must admit, i had an easier way compared to many others. However, things have gone wrong in many ways possible and patience have been tested, resulting in new found level of gratitude appreciating efficiency and convenience back home (Singapore).

    I thought i had fully prepared myself for anything but french administration/paper is one thing you can never prepare yourself enough.

    I applied for my company to transfer me to France. It took a year but it happened. Then we started with the procedures of application. I am on the Carte Bleue Européenne visa. My company did everything for me, even paid the fees. To be honest, i didnt even read up on the types of visa, i didnt do any research on that. I still feel i’m really luck with that, because it would have been an absolute horror if i have to find a way to France on my own – which i kind of concluded to be impossible. I did get an impression that this visa is not really common, even though this has existed since 2007, not many people in the administration have handled this. I have to of course provide many documents, and they need to be translated by a certified translator to French. The HR of my company was in constant contact with OFII and finally i got my visa approved. Then started the long process of obtaining my carte de sejour – which the sous perfecture kind of screwed up because they have never seen a Carte Bleue Européenne before( !!). They sent me for medical check, for 200 hour french class, 2 introductory Integration to France full day classes – stuffs i have to do in order to get my Carte de Sejour approved, however it turns out that i didnt have to do any of these, because for Carte Bleue Européenne visa, we are here to work like immediately, noone that i spoke to ( add on language barrier) understood what my visa comprises and the process. In the end my company’s HR had to help clarify with OFII on these and finally i got my carte de sejour, without having to go for all those things i mentioned ( but by then i had already gone for medical check up and 1 Integration class).

    If you want to feel grateful to your home country, and like your patience to be challenged, or enjoy feeling defeated by life ( by life i mean the French admin), France is a good place to start.

    Bon courage a tous

  2. Hello, I truly hope you can answer me 🙂 I love all things French! Have all my life! My home is decorasted French country, I just love everything frenche. I’m 41 years old and have two daughters 11 and 9. I would love to give them the gift of speaking fluent French without an accent and living in France. I have no idea how I can do this. Perhaps I can teachEnglish. I have no idea. Perhaps you can help me with reference to where to find Employment. This sounds very far fetched perhaps but it is something I feel must do.

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