Updated 10 months ago

France is a culturally rich nation and is home to a wide array of industries as well as some of the foremost companies in the world. The country is therefore well suited to those seeking to gain work experience. Whether your interests lie in the arts, beauty, science, tourism or technology, you will be sure to find a wealth of opportunities in the country. Some companies offer structured internship programs, and certain institutions specialise in organising internships. However, in many cases you will need to arm yourself with a decent share of flair and determination as well as good French skills – indeed, as you will soon realise, mastery of France is crucial.

Do you need a visa?

Nationals of the European Union, as well as nationals of other nations such as Switzerland and Norway do not need a visa to work in France, and neither do they require visas for internships. International students studying in France and holding valid student visas are also allowed to work, provided that the institutions in which they are registered participate in the national student healthcare plan. However, there are limitations regarding the number of hours that students are allowed to work in a given year. Currently students can work only up to 964 hours a year. There are specific conditions for student jobs in universities, such as coordinating social events or contributions to the promotional activities of the schools. For these activities, students can work up to 670 hours between September 1st and June 30th and up to 300 hours between July 1st and August 31st. However, the legislation tends to change and it is always a good idea for students to contact their relevant Campus France representatives or visa staff in their academic institutions. If you are a national of a country for which short-stay visas are not required, then you can travel to France to pursue an internship, provided it lasts less than 90 days. Otherwise, for internships lasting longer than 90 days, a long-stay visa will be required.

For further information on the countries requiring short-stay visas for France, you can consult the website of the French diplomatic services or the website of the consulate closest to where you currently live. You can get information on visa types and requirements by country, the requirements for long stay visas, the requirements for short stay visas. Students may want to look at the Campus France website.

If you need a visa

Short internships

If you intend to carry out an internship for less than 90 days and you come from a country for which short-stay visas are required, you will need to apply for a short-stay Schengen visa at the French Consulate in your country of residence. In certain cases, the French agency for international students, Campus France, will handle the application process. It is highly recommended to check the website or to call the consulate prior to making the application in order to check whether there are specific additional documents which are required but, in general, the following documents will be required:

  • A duly filled and signed application form
  • Your valid passport (three months’ validity following the end of your internship in France)
  • Two passport size photos (there are specific requirements for photos)
  • Proof of health insurance and special Schengen repatriation which should be valid throughout the duration of your stay in France
  • Internship agreement signed by you, your university and the company which is taking you on board
  • Proof of accommodation (hosting certificate or hotel booking)
  • Proof of sufficient funds to support yourself during your stay in the country

The application process is generally smooth, but it is always a good idea to contact the consulate to check processing times ahead of your application.

Internships lasting longer than 90 days

In general, and unlike some Anglo-Saxon countries, internships in France tend to last longer than three months, and it is likely that you will be required to apply for a long-stay visa. If this is the case, you will be issued with a visa based on the length specified in the internship agreement, which is referred to as a “Convention de Stage” in French. Upon arriving in France, you will be required to register at the French Office of Immigration and Integration (known as “OFII”) during the first three months following your arrival. You are advised to get specific information from the consulate in which you intend to apply and check the procedures for making an appointment. In general, the following documents will be requested:

  • Proof of residency in the country in which you are applying (if applicable)
  • Original passport (with three months’ validity and with at least two blank pages)
  • Long-stay visa application form (available from the website of the consulate)
  • Passport photos
  • OFII residency form
  • Processing fees
  • Your original internship agreement (or “Convention de Stage”), which is issued by the institution at which you will carry out the internship. Note that the agreement needs to be stamped by the French Labor Department (known according to its French acronym “DIRECCTE”)
  • Proof of sufficiency of funds
  • Proof of insurance

As an example, the website of the French Consulate in Los Angeles provides a detailed list of documentation as well as relevant links.

Finding an internship in France

A good mastery of French is generally very important if you wish to intern in France. Whilst you could get away in the multinationals or large corporations operating in France, you will quickly realise that being able to communicate in French is a great asset, both at work and in everyday life. It is therefore highly recommended that you brush up on your French skills prior to applying for internships or if you intend to cold-call companies to seek more informal opportunities.

Many large companies, such as Airbus, Total or Lafarge regularly welcome students for internships, and are well-versed with the process of recruiting and deploying interns. These companies advertise opportunities on their websites and can be an excellent point of entry, although the process tends to be somewhat competitive. If you are studying in an academic institution, these companies might even come to open days. For example, the leading business schools very often welcome French companies as well as international companies with operations in France to recruitment forums. It might be a good idea to reach out to your university to see whether they have contacts in France. Alternatively, you can also contact companies directly, especially if you are more interested in smaller companies or specific internships. French companies are on the lookout for interns who can speak both French and international business languages, so make sure you advertise your linguistic as well as your purely academic skills when reaching out. There are also a wealth of websites listing internship opportunities.

The process of finding an internship in France might seem daunting, especially if you are applying from abroad. However, there are many institutions which can help, starting from the French Embassy or Consulate in your country of residence. Additionally, you can also be imaginative and try to set up internship exchanges yourself – why not set up an internship opportunity in your home country and ask a fellow French student to do the same for you? In any case, the effort invested will not go unrewarded – France is an amazing country in which to live and work, and do not be surprised if a four-month internship turns into a full move to the country of Molière.

 Useful links

DIRECCTE – Directions Régionales des Entreprises, de la Concurrence, de la Consommation, du Travail et de l'Emploi
Jobs Abroad
Monster France
Go Abroad

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