Australian Working Holidayers in France: Right to Work Lost?
Update: This situation has now been resolved. Australian working holiday visa holders in France now once again receive automatic work authorisation.
Australia and France have had a reciprocal working holiday visa agreement for the past two decades. As part of this arrangement, French citizens aged 18-35 years old may come to Australia and work during their stay. In return, France offers the “Young traveller” (working holiday) visa to Australians aged 18-35.
There are numerous benefits of holding a working holiday visa. The main ones are that you can live in the destination country for a year, undertake short-term study and also work in the country to help fund your extended holiday. The main condition is that any study or work should be “incidental to the holiday” and not the main purpose for travelling.
As the holder of a French working holiday visa (“visa vacances-travail” in French), you are generally entitled to undertake secondary employment in France while your visa remains valid.
Indeed, the French government’s official France-Visas website says:
This programme allows you to visit France for a period of more than three months with the right to work, so as to supplement your financial resources on site.
This is a long-stay visa containing the statement: “Vacances-travail” (Working holiday). Its duration is one year and may not be extended, unless otherwise stipulated. It will entitle you to undertake paid employment on a secondary basis, without prior approval from the French Administration. France-Visas website
Australian and Russian citizens excluded from working on a working holiday visa?
There is no mention on the France-Visas website that Australians with a “Vacances-travail” visa are excluded from this automatic right to work in France.
But after applying for a working holiday visa and arriving in France, an Australian citizen recently discovered that another official French government website states the following (we’ve translated it roughly from French to English):
Foreigners with a working holiday visa automatically benefit from work authorisation, except Australian or Russian citizens. Service-Public.fr website
If this is correct, it would theoretically mean that Australians who hold a French working holiday visa no longer receive an automatic right to work in France as part of this. They would therefore need to apply separately for “l’autorisation de travail” (a work permit) from the French government after arriving in France and finding a job, or otherwise might not be permitted to work in the country at all.
What’s involved in applying for a French work permit
The French government’s Service-Public.fr website contains information in French about the steps involved in applying for a “l’autorisation de travail” (work authorisation).
This is a fairly complex process. To summarise, it requires you to be offered a job in a field with a labour shortage and with a minimum salary. The visa holder’s employer is required to pay a fee and the French government could take up to two months to decide whether to accept your application.
This is quite prohibitive for a working holiday visa holder who is simply looking for temporary work to help fund their holiday. It is unlikely that most employers would be prepared to deal with all this bureaucracy just to employ a backpacker for potentially only a few months (and no longer than a year, which is the maximum validity of this visa).
Is this a mistake or misunderstanding?
It seems very strange that only Australian and Russian working holiday visa holders would be excluded from receiving an automatic right to work in France during their stay. Why would Australia be lumped in with Russia on this?
If this is indeed the case, it certainly is not within the spirit of the reciprocal working holiday visa agreement between Australia and France. The Australian government does not impose a similar restriction on French backpackers.
That said, the various French government web pages provide conflicting information. So, while this could have been a recent rule change, it could also be a website error.
Working Holidays for Aussies attempted to contact the French embassy in Canberra, as well as the Australian embassy in Paris, to seek clarification. Neither embassy responded to our questions, so we’re still not really sure.
Until we learn more about what’s going on here, all we can really do is quote some of our Working Holidays for Aussies readers who’ve commented on our French working holiday visa guide.
This is what the reader who originally brought this issue to our attention wrote in December 2022:
So, I have a young traveler working visa and arrived in France. I received a job offer, but now the employer is quoting “If you have a “Working Holiday visa”, you are automatically granted with a work permit, unless you are Russian or Australian”.
Unfortunately this seems to be the case as after much searching it is on the French government website https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F35602/4?idFicheParent=F2728#4
I would really appreciate your comments on this please.
So the visa gives the right to work in France, but not the work permit?
And the employer must apply for this?
It also seems very unusual to group exception countries as being “Australia and Russia”?
I’m wondering if it has anything to do with the phrase “secondary employment” which the visa stipulates? Perhaps this has a particular job definition that I couldn’t find? Kate B, 1 December 2022
Another reader commented:
Not sure if this is helpful, but I had a friend who just got back from a year in France at the start of January (under a working holiday visa) and he told me he was never asked for a work permit, word for word what he texted me when I asked whether he needed a work permit: “Hey, no technically I didn’t need anything but a copy of the visa in my passport (employers send it to the employment office and it’s a strangely lax situation).” Karlo, 27 January 2023
UPDATE: On 8 March 2023, another reader posted this comment on our French working holiday visa guide:
In regards to Australians needing an additional work permit for a Working Holiday Visa – I contacted the Australian embassy in France and they confirmed it was a mistake on the French website (after contacting the French authorities). NO additional work authorisation is needed if you have the WHV and an Australian passport 🙂
This was confirmed by another reader:
Can confirm too, my friend contacted the French Service-public department who told her there was no need for a work permit for Australians on the “Visa vacances-travail” Bea, 9 March 2023
We hope that the latter commenters are correct, and that this is indeed all one big misunderstanding!
If you’ve had any experience with this potential rule change, please let us know in the comments below!
While best efforts are made to keep this information updated, we do not guarantee its accuracy. If you spot an error, would like to suggest new information to be added or simply have a question, please let us know in the comments and we’ll endeavour to respond or update the article as quickly as possible!