Why French Startups want to give Americans a VISA to work in Paris

Why French Startups want to give Americans a VISA to work in Paris

startup job fair pic
One of the founding principles behind the Rude Baguette was that, if given enough information, you could convince Americans (namely, Silicon Valley developers & entrepreneurs) to move to Paris to work for a French startup – I mean, take or leave the perceived business atmosphere, but as an employee, you clearly have it better than your American counterpart, and who wouldn’t want to live within spitting distance of the Eiffel Tower and eat French baguettes every day?

The problem, of course, is a question of transparency: which French startups are willing to hire with VISAs? This is a problem we’ve tried to tackle through our Paris Tech Job Fair last September, though it’s still unclear who is willing to ‘pay to play,’ as it were.

My usual answer is that startups need to raise at least a Series B in order to start thinking about hiring international employees – Venture-funded startups and VCs can correct me on this if you advise earlier or later – as the process for hiring an international employee requires a certain number of prerequisites:

  1. The job needs to require skills that cannot be satisfied by the local workforce (English-language knowledge, special technical skills in high-demand and low-supply locally)
  2. The company needs to be old enough to show a track record of growth and that they will continue to exist
  3. The company needs to “learn” how to file for a VISA ( = lawyer fees & 3 months of time)

The first restriction is generally the most difficult – it’s hard to hire a technical programmer and justify why you need the Silicon Valley guy instead of your local French programmer. Nonetheless, there seem to be ways to manage that, as many of my American programmer friends have managed to get brought over, though usually through international companies that agree to relocate the employee.

Why do French Startups want Americans?

The other side of this question is, of course, “Do French startups even want to hire international talent?” While I’m sure you’ll find a few overly nationalistic startups who reject the notion, they only underscore the need for international talent – and more importantly, an international mentality.

The French culture – both business & social – is intrinsically inward facing & nationalistic, and startups, well, aren’t.  In order to grow internationally, a startup needs to have that mindset engraved into their company culture, and an all-French team or a team of people who have never worked outside of France lack that part of their company culture.

The self-aware French founder looks to compliment his skill sets and make up for his weaknesses – that weakness is often internationalization.

How to get a job in Paris as an American?

As it has always been, for the most talented, the opportunities are endless. If you are a programmer, find a startup you like (perhaps by reading the Rude Baguette more often) and reach out to the CEO (or reach out to me and I’ll make the intro) – whether they announce it or not, venture-backed startups are always hiring, especially talented developers.

If you’re in the business development/marketing/sales/community/communications line of work, find a company that has traction in France, and see if they’ll bring you on as their American guy. This may be a job based in the states initially, or based in France, but it’s a great way to start.

Of course, Google & Microsoft will always be hiring, and, while VISAs can be a pain upon hire, if you work six months in a local office and decide you want to jump ship to the Atlantic, It will cost them less to keep you on than to headhunt someone else, so flex your power a bit.

For now, there isn’t a perfect place for foreign talent to find local startups in France – namely, because the size of the supply & demand aren’t clear; well, I say we start defining it.

Startups: drop a line in the comments section if you’d be willing to hire the right American for the right role.

Talent: drop a (short) line with your years of professional experience, focus/specialty, and a link to your LinkedIn profile.

55 Responses

  1. Lynn

    Hi — I’m a finance person with almost 15 years of experience in Corporate and Business Unit Financial Planning and Analysis at high-tech companies — with 6 years at Yahoo!, 4 years at Oracle, 2 each at HP and Photobucket.com. I relocated from the San Francisco Bay Area to Paris, France in 2011 and I have a visa to work here. I’m happy to work with both established and early-stage businesses on either a consulting or full-time basis. My LinkedIn profile is: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/lynn-segal/0/23a/275

  2. Steve

    As CEO of an industrial startup I have to look around for talent all-over (https://www.rudebaguette.com/2012/11/13/magpie-polymers-gets-its-gold-from-water/). I have successfully hired people from outside the EU and managed to get their work VISA by directly contacting the inspection du travaille, filling out the right CERFA forms and getting things like diploma’ s, proof of search within the EU, birth certificates etc etc.
    Getting the documents takes quite a while, once I have them and send them to the inspection de travaille, the green-light is given within one month. I never had to hire a lawyer or anything so in the end the hires work out no more expensive than a local hire.
    For us having an international team (10 people 5 nationalities) is clearly a very positive experience and one of the strengths of our company.

  3. Davide

    At Feeligo we hired our business developer and second full-time employee with a visa, and would definitely do it again. When you have the right guy, you can and should find a way around the administrative issues!

  4. Anne Onymous

    Why American people want to work in Paris ? Salary are clearly lower … and stock options plan too (than US startup) !

    • Confused potential candidate

      This is a point that concerns me.

      I am an american educated software engineer from a very good university, with 3 years experience in new development (building efficient engines in C/C++ from the ground up and bringing them to production). I have lived in France for many summers, and am actually living in Paris now (have been for 2 months, will be for 3 more at least).
      I am good at what I do, and I have the ability to interface with people very well (a talent sorely lacking in far too many people in our field).
      In the states, I can make $80,000 or more without much searching and even turned down such an offer before deciding to vacation in Paris for a while…. and that’s base pay. Bonuses, 401k, etc. is all piled on top of that. I can be quite picky in the states about where I want to work, how often I’d like to work from home, the kind of work I want to do, and the pay I expect to receive.

      I would like to work in the EU (specifically the Netherlands), but I do not see competitive pay offered. Everywhere I look, it seems I would be taking a paycut and ON TOP of that I would have to pay exorbitant taxes compared to the states.
      Can anybody elaborate on why the pay is not as enticing? Or perhaps I’m just looking in the wrong places? Especially given the taxes I would have to subtract?

    • Liam Boogar

      As an American, never forget that in countries like France, your taxes include social security & other social benefits. That may sound like a Socialist ponzi scheme, but think about how much you pay for private health care each year vs. what you’d pay here.

      Taxes in one country do not cover you for the same things as in other countries.

      -Liam Boogar
      Editor @ Rude Baguette

    • Confused potential candidate



      In reading this, the large ones seem to be college tuition, childcare, paid leaves you wouldn’t normally get in the states, cheaper healthcare, and healthy pensions for retirement.

      In the states, 401k and IRA amount to a nice retirement if you max to the same rate you’d be taxed. The others mostly seem relevant only if you have children. College tuition would have been nice, as that was a pretty penny.The article says affordable housing, but I think it lies.

      I will keep digging though. I really want it to be worthwhile, as Amsterdam is a winter wonderland that is just beautiful. Happy, fun people too. Which is more pronounced after spending time in Paris. French social norms take some serious getting used to 😀

      Thank you for the reply, and I enjoyed the post!

  5. Chris Schiffhauer

    Hi, I am a lead/senior .NET and iOS developer, US citizen/ who has lived 5 years in France, am fully fluent in French, and wish to relocate to Paris to continue my career. I have done business in Paris for years and am well-versed and at home in French professional and cultural contexts.

    Here is my LinkedIn profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/chrisschiffhauer. You can contact me through Twitter @PaulyGlott or by email at [email protected].

  6. Carole Granade

    I am a French American citizen who, after 15 years in San Francisco (9 of them as the Director to the French American Chamber of Commerce there), moved to Lyon, France. I’d love to offer my skills and knowledge to a French promising company, Paris is OK if part time offsite is possible, Lyon highly preferred.

  7. Ciaran Nagle (@CaseStudyGlobal)

    I am a marketing and sales guy with a specialism in content marketing.
    I speak French quite well and would love to help a French company make it internationally.

  8. Skyler Shaw

    I am an American in Paris. I am currently working for an aerospace company in the United States but am looking for a job in the startup community here. I am 29 years old with a background in aerospace management, skydiving product design, and data analysis. I speak English, Italian, and am preparing for the diplôme d’études en langue française (DELF) exam. Feel free to contact me if you’d like more information. Thank you Liam for opening up this forum!

  9. Rob Stewart

    I am a recent American graduate, fluent in French, Italian and Spanish, and have experience starting and running a company, in finance, and in social media. As a jack-of-all-trades with knowledge of the American market, I am looking to make a permanent move to Paris ASAP. I would love to work for a startup, but would be happy to make the move for any company.

    If visa sponsorship is impractical, the French-American Chamber of Commerce runs a visa sponsorship program for “CDD” positions http://goo.gl/LFVCch that could get me (and most young American professionals) to Paris within 10 weeks.

    Please feel free to contact me at [email protected]. Here is my LinkedIn page for more information http://www.linkedin.com/in/robkstewart.

    Many thanks to Liam for tackling this tricky issue!

  10. Nic'O
  11. Tyson
  12. Joshua Voydik

    Hi Liam! My professional experience includes both business and technical skills. Having studied tech entrepreneurship, I co-founded a successful marketing company, ran my own software business, and currently work as a solutions consultant for engineers in high tech in regards to software and 3D printing. I have been programming for over a year, and have worked internationally. Thank you!

    Josh Voydik

  13. Inquisitive Escargo

    Firstly, Liam thanks for this interesting post.

    I’ve been offered a job with a French startup and I have 1.5+ years of work experience in the US with a MS/PhD from top universities in the US. Is there a site which lists a potentially “decent” salary that I can expect? Firms in SFO/Seattle are offering around 120K$+ per year for similar positions but the current numbers from Paris seem abysmal and I want to ensure that my ignorance about the French system is not being used against me.
    Note, in your response to one of the other commenters you indicated that the cost of insurance etc must be taken into account. But after a careful excel spreadsheet analysis, it is evident that a person would lose about 30-40KUSD per year in moving to Paris. Health insurance is typically paid for by employers in the US, in addition 401K contributions grow with the stock market conditions (unlike the french system of contributions to social security). Further, I can not get back the contributions in France when I leave (yes as much as it might not be easy to understand, I do not intend to spend all my life in France .. 4-6 years would suffice :)). Hence, any links to current compensation figures for startups would be great. I love Paris and would really hope the numbers work out.

    Any suggestions would be welcome.


    • Alejandro

      Did you get a response on this? I’d be interested in such comparative analysis as well…

    • Inquisitive Escargo

      No. I suspect the reason for salary disparity across different countries is simply owing to the lack of mobility of the workforce. There is only one logically sound reason to accept a position in Paris with the corresponding lower salary: that you place a high price on the experience of living in Europe.

    • Alan


      Well comparing US and France salaries is not that straight forward. I worked in both countries for several years in high-tech companies so I have a pretty good idea of the differences.

      In France, health insurance and retirement plans are paid by the social cotisations. This represents a fair amount of money and the employer pays 2/3 of those cotisations (42% of your gross income). For instance if a company offers you a gross income of 50keuros, the real cost for the employer will be around 71keuros. It is definitely lower for american companies.

      Once you receive your net income (gross – 22%), you don’t have to worry about saving money for retirement or health issues (we could debate on that..). In the US you usually have a copay when you see a doctor. You also need to save some money for your 401K.

      Quality food is also much cheaper in France, meaning food without GMO/hormones/corn syrup.
      Finally having 7 weeks of vacation a year is a very good incentive 🙂

      I am surprised you could not get back the french contributions for your retirement. I can get back my US social security ones when I will retire in France.

      To get an idea of salaries in France, Glassdoor should give you some good information. Problem with France is that companies don’t pay programmers that well compare to sales/mkt people..and forget about having stock-options.

    • Inquisitive Escargo

      >In France, health insurance and retirement >plans are paid by the social cotisations. This >represents a fair amount of money and the >employer pays 2/3 of those cotisations (42% >of your gross income).

      However in the US, these payments for health insurance are made by the employer. To an employee it really does not matter what the cost of doing business is for the company, does it?

      >Quality food is also much cheaper in France,

      This is what I meant by the premium you place on the experience of living here. I have no qualms admitting that the quality of life is much better in terms of arts, food and lifestyle ! 🙂

      Regarding retirement funds, unless I plan to spend my entire life in France, it costs me financially on the long term when I switch countries to anywhere else with a higher overall median income. For instance, if you were to move to the US, paying for your children’s college education would be insanely expensive if you did not have savings built up. So living in France makes it much harder to move anywhere else!

      I apologize if this sounds like a rant against living in France. It is not. I am simply trying to discuss and gain a down-to-earth analysis of the realities of what you give up and what you gain when you decide to move here. Fromage, wine, and museums are definitely things I appreciate ;). At the same time, the financial costs are definitely something that people need to understand.

  14. Rohit Ranjan

    I am looking for an Software Engineering Internship in French Startup.
    My Linkedin Id: in.linkedin.com/pub/rohit-ranjan/56/133/660/

  15. Anna Padron

    HI. I am currently looking for a position in France. I have a good knowledge of French and am fluent in English and Spanish. I have a strong background in logistics, operations, administration. Feel free to comment below if you would like me on your team or know of somewhere I’d fit in at.

  16. Kerrie McCarthy

    Terrific post! As a still learning French speaker and a product manager I’d love to know what opportunities there are in Paris. I’m a Swiss Army Knife with a knack for analysis and leadership. I’m interested in primarily B2B startups looking to grow. If anyone has suggestions on opportunities, I’d greatly appreciate the help! http://www.linkedin.com/in/kerriemccarthy/

  17. Fernando Boza

    Hi guys, My name is Fernando I’m a web designer, graphics and web designer / 3D animator living in Paris. I speak fluent English /Spanish and decent french( still improving) I have experience in many start ups. If anyone is looking for a designer of all sorts feel free to message me.


  18. Jonathan G. Kowalski
  19. Anastasia Cofano

    Hello! I am an American woman, but proficient in both reading/writing and speaking French. If you look at my work experience, there are three things that stand out. First, I have experience within many areas, including management, sales, and customer service. Secondly, with my current job working for an international company, the sales management position I am presently in, I achieved within two months of being hired. I consistently go beyond sales targets and achieve weekly bonuses. I build very strong relationships with clients, and have a proven history of great customer service. Finally, I’ve always wanted to take my skills to a larger stage, which is why I would like to now move to France.


    LinkedIn: http://lnkd.in/bFjTcrJ

  20. Ajamu AJANI

    Madame, Monsieur,

    Etant intéressé à poursuivre ma carrière dans le commerce international, en tant que conseiller commercial, je me permets de vous contacter pour solliciter un poste dans votre compagnie.

    En effet, j’ai déjà treize années d’expérience internationale à mon actif et les qualifications nécessaires à un tel poste.

    Américain de naissance, j’ai vécu et travaillé pendant dix ans au Brésil et trois et demi en France. L’anglais est donc ma langue maternelle et je suis également polyglotte puisque je parle portugais, français et j´ai déjà commencé à étudier le chinois.

    J’ai fondé mon éducation culturelle sur la diversité grâce à mes expériences merveilleuses à l’étranger et à une approche satisfaisante du milieu des affaires et je peux mettre en pratique mes propres services de « consulting » grâce à mes 13 années d’activités au Brésil et en France. J’ai également travaillé pour différentes compagnies, parmi lesquelles : Safeway Inc., ma propre compagnie Global Links Consulting, People Coordinated Services, Xerox Business Services et City de Santa Monica. Mes diverses expériences comme chef d’équipes, négociateur immobilier, gestionnaire des stocks, conseiller commercial indépendant, professeur d’histoire/anglais, adjoint administratif, coordinateur et gestionnaire d’équipements m’ont permis d’acquérir des compétences que je souhaiterais mettre à profit dans votre entreprise.

    Ma bonne maîtrise informatique, mes atouts communicatifs et mon expérience me donnent les qualifications requises concernant le poste que vous cherchez à pourvoir.

    Je voudrais travailler au sein d’une compagnie telle que la vôtre qui offre des défis qui laisse la place aux initiatives et donne la possibilité d’un développement de carrière. Les détails de mon parcours éducatif, ceux de mon parcours au sein du monde du travail, et toutes mes qualifications sont décrits dans le curriculum vitae ci-joint.

    À votre convenance, j’apprécierais de vous rencontrer pour un entretien ou pour toutes informations supplémentaires dont vous auriez besoin. Je suis joignable a 11 984912408 ou par email à [email protected].

    Je vous prie de recevoir, Madame, Monsieur, mes salutations les plus sincères et distinguées.

    Ajamu AJANI.


  21. Jessica Davis

    I’ve worked for Google, Ralph Lauren and Helzberg Diamonds, and I would love to live in France.


  22. Trevor Bikhram

    Design consultant with a masters degree in Architecture, currently based in Rome, Italy for a project until December, seeking opportunities in Paris if possible. Email me for more info

  23. nek

    one year of experience as front end dev and interest in ux/ui design

  24. Foued Rajhi

    Looking for a job in France in the hotel industry

  25. Foued Rajhi

    I am looking for a job in frence as american . hotel industry 25 years of experience
    Speake French, English, Arabic. American citizen

  26. Kalex Rosales

    I’m looking to possibly move to France.
    Paris to be exact, I have friends there and I would like to be close to them as well as experience the culture.
    I have more than 15 yrs of working with computers, networks, AV etc.

    I’m also a certified cable tech. Worked with Cat5, Coax and Fiber optics.

    I’ve been in charge of projects building central offices, so that being said, I worked fro Servers to Desktops.
    Mac, Linux and WIndows.
    I am also familiar with both iOS and Android OS’s.

    However, I do not speak french, but I would love to learn while I’m there.

    I do speak, read, and write English and Spanish and know a little Hebrew.

    I’m trying to find work before i go and invest the little i have on this big jump.

    If you can lead me to the right direction, I will greatly appreciate it.

    Thank you,
    Kalex Rosales

  27. Lindsey Prowse

    I am a Marketing & Sales Manager experienced in leading B2B and B2C communications, marketing and business development. I currently work in the technology and Artificial Intelligence software industry.
    I have managed a number of international strategies including events management, project management, brand recognition and development, research analytics, press relations, public speaking engagements and content & operational marketing. Throughout my career, I have had experience supporting multinational Fortune 500s, international organizations and small firms.

    I am proficient in French and I’ve experienced living in France for 1.5+ years. I’m an American who currently resides in the United States. I have extensive experience working for and/or with French companies.

    Please feel free to connect with me on Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/prowselindsey/

  28. Adam Maass

    I’m an experienced software guy: Java stack mostly, with a relational database backend and JSP frontend. REST, NoSQL experience as well.

    I’ve adored my times in Paris. Very simple conversational French, but I pick things up rather quickly.


  29. Nikelson Exantus

    hello I am a talented american Architecture , I studied Computer Engineering, Electromechanical Engineering and Networking Technology. I am looking for a job in paris. I have lots of experiences in construction, blueprint drafting, web builder, etc… I am willing and able to work alone or in a team, I consider myself as a leader, selfcentric, etc…

  30. Jim
  31. Silvia

    I’m Brazilian-American, fluent in English, Portuguese and French, and I have a “long-sejour” visa that allows me to work in France.
    I have 19 years of experience in Localization and Project Management (PMP-certified) and I’m looking for career and networking opportunities in the Paris area, where I’m currently living.


  32. Alessio
  33. Shelley

    I am a marketing professional with three years of experience in Brand strategy and advertising at Esurance. I have a degree in Economics from Cornell university and am fluent in French. I previously spent a year working in Paris for a company that needed help rebranding themselves to appeal to the American target. I am looking for a position in France in Marketing or Branding that would allow me to leverage my experience in a global market once again.

  34. Marie D.
  35. Adrian B.

    Hi, I’m an American social media marketing + communications professional based in NYC with 4+ years of experience in the media/tech/editorial/fashion space. I have a working knowledge of the French language and am looking to find a Paris-based startup, company or organization where my unique skill set can be put to use. Please feel free to contact me with any opportunities you think may be of interest — thanks! https://www.linkedin.com/in/adrianbrinkley

  36. Daniel Klein

    I am an Australian programmer with extensive experience in many open languages (e.g. 12+ years of PHP, 7+ years of Perl, etc.) and very minimal experience with Microsoft languages. I’ve done just about everything from HTML to e-commerce to server admin. I’m happy to work anywhere in France, whether it is Paris or regional.


  37. Darin Hennigh

    I’m a younger professional with 4+ years of software training experience and adult education in the corporate setting. I have a degree in French and a Masters in Technology, where I specialized in Career and Training Development.

    I speak French fluently and can also manage to get by in Spanish and German. I studied part of my undergraduate years in France.

  38. Jaba

    I am young professional of the Business Administration and Finance.
    My key responsibilities throughout my career have included financial management, financial analysis, cash management, financial accounting, financial reporting, and decision making across various sectors. My exemplary performance has been highly appreciated by the management.

    My areas of expertise that may be of interest to you include:

    • Interpreting Financial Information
    • Budget Management
    • Accounting Supervision
    • Financial Statements
    • Regulatory Compliance
    • Finance Operations
    • Cash Flow Management
    • Client Relationship Management
    • Cost Control
    • Reporting
    • Strategic Planning


  39. Charles Wallace

    Fortune 100 finance analyst / senior internal auditor with 3+ years large-cap global experience. Foreign exchange at Toulouse Business School in France. Previous degree in politics with foreign term in Czech Republic. CFE & CPA Candidate.

  40. David Routen

    I’m a Software Developer (full-stack) and have mostly worked with Ruby on Rails and PHP, most recently as a Lead RoR Developer managing a small team of developers and QA/Help Desk techs. I have 3+ years of experience with Ruby, Rails, PHP, JavaScript/jQuery, HTML/CSS, MySQL, Bootstrap/Foundation/Semantic UI/UI Kit, git, Subversion and experience with Python, C#, Ember.js, PHP on Trax, AJAX, JSON, SQL Server, PostgreSQL, and many more.

    I lived in Paris for six months as a student six years ago (took 3 courses in English, 3 in French), am at an intermediate fluency level in French (business French more or less), and would consider a position almost anywhere in France. If I had a choice, Paris, Strasbourg, and Lyon would be my preferences.


  41. Edward Rios

    I am currently a trainer in the Rally Software Tool for project management. I have been a CSM for the past 8 years and have been in Project Management for 10 years in the mobile, Web and back-end realms. I have worked at MySpace, Paramount, Sony, Disney and Comcast.
    I speak fluent French and English. I spent 2 years post-graduate at a French university studying the language.

  42. Dennis McDermott

    I have owned 3 restaurants in NY, sold two and recently closed the last one. I would love to move to Paris or France and get a job in the restaurant industry there……any thoughts?

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