By Chris Ward Johnson
Summary: Searching for jobs in France can be time consuming. And, as with so many things in France, there is a set bureaucratic procedure which you must follow.
Most foreigners moving to France will either have a job ready and waiting for them or will be 'non-employed' - retired, househusband/wife, student or similar.
However, the moment may come when you lose your job and you find yourself in the position of having to look for work in France. And, as with so many things in France, there is a set bureaucratic procedure which you must follow.
Your first step is to register as a job seeker and as unemployed - two different things here, dealt with by two different organisations.
The ANPE is the organisation which will tell you what jobs are available; the ASSEDIC is the organisation which will pay you unemployment benefit (should you be entitled to it) and help you with training and re-training.
You have to begin by registering with the ASSEDIC - telephone them, don't go in person or you'll spend hours twiddling your thumbs as you wait. Even ASSEDIC themselves say not to visit but to telephone. The number is 0811 01 01 XX where XX is the number of your Department (so if you live in the Gard you call 0811 01 01 30, the Herault 0811 01 01 34 and so on).
You can complete the registration process over the telephone, and you will need your French National Insurance Number, as printed on your Carte Vitale. If you don't have a French NI number you can still register but you'll automatically be refused any unemployment benefit.
The ASSEDIC will then post you your 'Dossier', a thick bundle of papers filled with useful information, including your personal registration numbers and codes which you can use to access the ASSEDIC website, http://www.assedic.fr. You need to declare your (un)employment status with ASSEDIC every month and can even do this over the Internet - very handy if you're on holiday in the Bahamas at the time.
Armed with these papers you can now visit the ANPE - the number and address of your local office will be included in the papers from ASSEDIC. You must visit the ANPE at least once, to prove how serious you are in your search for work; if you're unemployed for an extended period you'll have to return for further meetings.
Don't be surprised to find that your 'local' ANPE office isn't the one nearest to where you live - mine was 50 kilometres from home, despite there being another (with the same postal code as my house) just 20 kilometres away.
When you visit the ANPE they will expect you to have filled in the forms sent by the ASSEDIC, including an extended 'CV' - it requires details of your education, work experience and details of what you're looking for in the future.
The ANPE visit can actually be very useful; being forced to produce a CV in French and discuss your needs with a real French person can be very motivating, as well as making you really think about what you want to do.
The ANPE will also be able to point you towards many training and re-training schemes on offer, either nationally or in your region. After all this, you will be able to access the ANPE website, http://www.anpe.fr where you can register and search for jobs by type and area. Anyone can use this facility, although some require you to contact the ANPE office for details and they'll only pass on contact information to registered job seekers.
But, if you're thinking of jumping ship, the ANPE website could give you a useful insight into what's available in your region and/or speciality. Do note, many job adverts will specify that you need specific qualifications to be e.g. a Chef or a Florist, and many people won't recognise 'foreign' qualifications - even if European Union law requires them to do so. Job contracts come in several different varieties; CDIs and CDDs for Contrats de Duree Indetermine (non time-limited contracts) and Contrats de Duree Determine (fixed-term contracts) and then a variety of apprenticeship, solidarity and other contracts - for which there will be specific age and/or other conditions, including the period of unemployment necessary to qualify.
Once you have a job, there's one final hurdle to overcome - your official medical test. You will be summoned for this shortly after your new status has been signalled by your employer, and will be called to see an official doctor. The medical exam is fairly standard and routine - do you smoke, how much do you weigh, can you touch your toes? What may be more difficult for some people is the sight test, which is increasingly being computerised in many departments. You sit with your forehead pressed against the plastic surround of a computer screen looking at lines from an optician's chart while a voice asks you to press a button if you can see a certain letter or number. This may be difficult for those without a good mastery of the French language since the questions come thick and fast, and if you hesitate the machine assumes you can't see the character concerned - even if your eyesight is fine.
First Published: Oct 02, 2005