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How Can I Change My Student Visa to a Work Visa in France?

If you are currently studying in France, you may be contemplating staying once you graduate to live, work, and travel. After all, you have already chosen one of the most vibrant and exciting places to study, so it makes sense that you would want to kickstart your career in France too. Not only does France boast a rich culture, wonderful food, unbeatable architecture, easy access to the rest of the EU, and one of the best rail networks in the world, it also has a thriving economy which is attracting considerable foreign direct investment. In this article, we will look at immigration options for international students in France who would like to stay to live and work once they graduate.

As A Non-EEA National, Can I Stay In France To Work Once I Graduate?

If you have completed, or are due to complete a higher-level course of study in France, you may be able to stay once you graduate for a temporary period to find work. This option is not available to those of short courses of study. Eligible graduates will be able to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit, or APS (which stands for ‘Autorisation Provisioire de Séjour’). The APS permit is typically granted for one year and allows holders to remain in France to look for work.

According to the Government website (as translated from French), “A temporary residence permit lasting 12 months, non-renewable, may be issued to certain foreign students and researchers wishing to complete their training with a first professional experience or justifying a business creation project in a field corresponding to their training”.

The APS permit also allows graduates to work part-time while they are looking for full-time permanent employment. The current rules mean that APS permit holders can work for the same number of hours as when studying, i.e. up to 964 hours per year; “In accordance with the provisions of article R 5221-26 of the labour code, the foreign beneficiary of an APS “student looking for a job and/or justifying a business creation project” is authorized, until the conclusion of the contract corresponding to his first professional experience or until the creation of the company in the field of his training, to exercise a salaried activity within the limit of 964 hours”.

APS applicants should bear in mind they will not be able to extend the visa once it expires, however, they will be able to apply for a work permit if they find suitable employment.

Who Is Eligible For An APS Permit In France?

The APS is not available to all graduates. In order to apply for an APS, you must have:

  • A degree categorized as level 1 by the CGE (Conference of Grandes Ecoles) (equivalent to a 5-years studies course)
  • a Licence Professionelle (Professional License)
  • a Master’s degree (or equivalent)
  • a Master’s of Science (MSc)

The permit is also available to those who plan to start their own company in France after they graduate.

How Can I Apply For An APS Permit As An International Student In France?

To apply for a temporary residence permit, you will need to contact your local prefecture office. It is always important that you submit your application for an APS permit before your current study visa expires. Failure to apply before your visa expires may risk you becoming an overstayer. This, in turn, may risk your APS visa application being declined. As such, try to apply as early as possible.

If you have not yet completed your studies and your visa is due to expire, you should speak to your local prefecture two weeks before it expires to request a “récépissé de prolongation de droit au séjour en qualité d’étudiant” (extension of right of residence as student receipt). This will ensure that you are not classed as having overstayed, and can stay to apply for your APS. To acquire this extension, you will need to provide a letter from your education provider, which explains when you will complete your course. If you have already completed your course of study, you can apply for your APS immediately (as long as you do this before your visa expires).

Your local prefecture will provide you with the necessary application forms and explain which documents you will need to provide in order to secure your APS. The process can be completed online or using a paper form depending on the process in your prefecture; for example, the Rhone prefecture, it is possible to apply online.

Along with your application, you may need to provide:

  • Proof of nationality (e.g. your passport)
  • Proof of address dated less than six months:
  • Electricity bill (or gas, water, landline telephone, internet access); or: rental lease of less than six months or receipt of rent (if tenant); or housing tax;
  • Residence permit, and proof of residence if the address of their CNI or residence permit is no longer up to date.
  • Three recent identity photographs
  • Proof of payment of the tax on the residence permit and stamp duty
  • Student residence card or student mobility program valid or long-stay visa
  • Degree diploma at least equivalent to the master’s or level I diplomas stamped by the Conférence des grandes écoles or;
  • A professional license diploma obtained during the year in a higher education establishment
  • Proof of your business creation plans

This list is not exhaustive, hence you should check with your prefecture precisely which documents and evidence they will need from you.

Final Words

If you have a higher level qualification, as outlined above, you may have the chance to stay in France longer to find suitable work. This can be used to launch your new career once you have completed your studies. We wish you the very best of luck with your studies and with finding employment in France once you have graduated.

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