France has been a magnet for expats for ages, especially its largest city and capital, Paris. The libertine city has been a center of European painting, food, music, performance arts, and just about any other cultural pursuit you can name. France also has one of the strongest economies in Europe. If you want to move to France to take part in the French way of life (and who doesn’t), you’ll need to be granted some type of working visa. This article will walk you through the different types of visas available to Australian expats, and focus on the working holiday visa in particular.
France has a somewhat complicated visa system, and the type of visa a person should seek depends on his or her country of origin. If a person is a citizen of a European Union country, or a country in the wider European Economic Area (such as Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Norway), or Switzerland, then they don’t need a visa at all to reside or work in France. That covers a big swatch of the world and a significant population of people. That’s because all of these countries belong to the European Union and Schengen Zone, a geographic area where the member states allow free movement and economic opportunity to all citizens.
Those traveling from a country not a member of these unions and treaties can apply for the following types of visas.
- French Airport Visa: This is designed for the briefest of stays: airport layovers. Travelers can use the French Airport Visa to grant them access to the international area of a French airport while traveling between two Schengen-area countries. This visa does not permit holders from entering a Schengen country, it merely permits free movement between flights¹.
- Short-Stay Visa: The short-stay visa is the standard visa used for travelers on vacation, business trips, or those doing an internship, attending a conference, or visiting family for a short while. Short stay visa holders are permitted to reside and move freely in France for up to 90 days².
- Long-stay Visa: This visa is meant for international travelers who wish to stay in France for longer than 90 days².
- Working Holiday Visa: This article’s namesake is a visa that allows young travelers to stay in France for up to 12 months. It acts as a blend of a tourist visa and a longer term working visa. Expats can remain in the country much longer than they could with a short-stay visa, and are also allowed to seek employment for short-term gigs. The working holiday visa allows you to enter France from multiple points of entry, but is non-extendable. When your 12 months are up, you can’t renew the visa for a longer stay².
Citizens of other countries who are moving to France for an extended period of time (over a year) to work in their career field should seek a long-stay work visa. The holiday work visa allows travelers to pick up gigs to afford daily life while living in France, not for careerists. Those who seek a working visa can be sponsored by the employer that is drawing them to France. The working holiday visa allows you to enter France legally and then pick up work once you arrive. While many travelers can afford to visit France for several weeks, if they want to stay longer they’ll probably need some sort of income. The working holiday visa lets someone work while still on holiday without having to get the approval of French authorities. (They are not permitted to receive welfare or unemployment benefits during their stay.) The French government created it as a form of cultural outreach. It encourages young adults to spend an extended period of time in France, soaking up the fabulous culture, history, and seeing the famous spots, while also getting to know the French people and way of life. It’s like a study abroad program, but with gigging replacing academic study.
When you obtain a Working Holiday Visa, your passport’s visa sticker will say “holiday work”. Working Holiday Visa holders typically find work in service roles such as English language teachers, tutors, farm workers, and waiters.
Working Holiday Visas are intended for young travelers from countries that have a bilateral agreement with France. You can only apply for a working holiday visa if you are between 18 and 30 years old. (If you’re a Canadian citizen, the age range is from 18 to 35). Not everyone is allowed to take advantage of it, however. You also must hail from one of these 13 countries, who all have a bilateral working holiday visa agreement with France.
- South Korea
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
Note: While the Working Holiday visa applies to citizens of numerous countries, citizens of French overseas territories, such as New Caledonia or French Polynesia, are not allowed to receive a Working Holiday Visa.
You also must not be accompanied by a child, have a valid passport, have not already taken part in a working holiday visa program, have your return ticket purchased, be in good health, have no criminal record, and have enough money saved up to demonstrate that you can support yourself. The amount of savings varies by home country, but ranges from around €2,000-3,500³.
A Working Holiday Visa is a version of a long-stay visa, so you apply for it by submitting a request for a temporary long-stay visa. You can apply for the working holiday visa through this website. From there the additional requirements are determined by your country of origin. Go to this website to learn more about the requirements for your home country.
A Working Holiday Visa costs €99. You’ll pay this fee during your application interview. After you pay the fee, it’s wise to keep the receipt in case you need to show it to a customs official when you are at a port of entry⁴.
It takes around two weeks for a working holiday visa to be processed. That’s a pretty quick turnaround, in bureaucratic terms. It’s important to plan ahead so that your visa is granted not long before you depart on your trip, so that you’ll be able to spend the most amount of time in France possible before your 12 months are up⁵.
If you are traveling from a country that has a bilateral agreement with France to permit working holiday visas, your money will likely be in a local account in your home country, and in your home country’s currency, like Brazilian Real or Colombian Pesos. As an applicant for a Working Holiday visa, you’ll need to demonstrate that you have several thousand dollars in savings to support yourself. But you’ll have a hard time accessing that money if it’s in a local bank with few branches, and you stand to possibly lose a heft chunk of it due to the exchange rate. What is a young traveler supposed to do?
Luckily for you, there’s TransferWise. TransferWise is an online currency exchange service that allows you to convert your cash at the real, mid-market exchange rate. What does that mean? It means that you get the fairest exchange rate, the one closest to the real market rate that you can see when you search for a currency pair on Google. Many currency exchange vendors tilt the exchange rate in their favor, it’s a way to pack hidden fees into the transaction. But exchanging at the mid-market rate means you get more money in your pocket.
Even better, TransferWise offers its own bank account that specifically addresses the currency issue for travelers. Their new Borderless account allows you to withdraw cash in over 40 different currencies, and do so at the mid-market exchange rate. It also gives you banking details for multiple countries (Australia, the US, the UK, New Zealand, and the EU) rather than just the one you happened to open the account in. It’s really the ideal choice for money management for Working Holiday visa holders.
The Working Holiday Visa program is a wonderful opportunity that enables young, curious travelers without established careers to work while experiencing the splendor of France. If you have the time and are from one of the countries that has a bilateral agreement with France, you can spend a year exploring France, knowing that you’ll be permitted to earn a living while doing so. Also, keep TransferWise in mind for your money management and banking needs.
All sources accurate as of 29 April 2019
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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