Transferring your work skills to France

by Mark Benson on May 8, 2009

Are your skills transferable?

Are your skills transferable?

The issue of transferring work skills and work qualifications to different countries around the world is a subject which crops up on a regular basis. There is a thread entitled “Just feeling down” which covers the subject of a former French national returning to their homeland after living in the US with their partner. There are many issues to consider and while the subject is centred round the accountancy sector and professional qualifications, there are many comments which will be relevant to an array of different employment sectors.

Background to the thread

In simple terms the thread was started by an expat living in the US who has obtained a Bachelor in accounting and is currently working for the Washington State as a revenue auditor. While the person in question very much enjoys their job, with an interesting angle about pay and standard of life, she is planning to move back to France with her American husband in around five years time. However, she has significant concerns regarding the ability to transfer her experience and work qualifications from the US to France.

Interestingly, even though it may be five years before the couple move back to France she has begun searching out additional qualifications and additional education courses to improve her US accountancy experience. However, the person in question appears to be a little down after researching potential moves to France and finding that there may be some difficulty in using her current experience and current qualifications to maximise her potential income in France.

The international employment market

While there is no doubt that the worldwide employment market has expanded over the last few years and given many people the opportunity to transfer their skills to different areas around the globe, there is some difficulty in acknowledging specific qualifications, especially in the financial sector.

One option which has been brought up on the thread is the potential for the lady in question to move to Canada, which already has a significant French connection, and gain specific qualifications with a French bias. The idea would be to gain more experience and a licence through the Canadian authorities which should hopefully open more doors when returning back to France.

Worldwide qualifications

The financial market is by far and away the largest worldwide employment market and as such there are significant variations in qualifications and required experience from country to country. For many years we have heard about the ongoing move to adopt an international financial reporting accounting standard but so far there has been limited success and limited movement in this area. However, it is possible to use your experience in an overseas country to maximise your potential in a different country using the “expert compatible” option.

In essence, the expert compatible option requires an additional examination to be taken which would confirm that your experience in an overseas market, such as America, is compatible and useful to many people in a different market, in this case the French market. However, there is also a feeling that simply by selling yourself as an equivalent “expert compatible” from the US you should be able to open up doors in places such as France without additional exams or qualifications.

Returning back to France

Even though the lady in question is originally a French national yet again we appear to have more criticism of the French documentation system which has attracted significant criticism over the years. Common complaints have centred upon “unhelpful embassy staff” and in this particular instance there are suggestions that key individuals are only available sporadically and many looking to renew their French papers are finding significant obstacles in their way.

This is an issue which has been highlighted on many occasions although unfortunately, at least to date, there appears to have been little progress in this particular field.

The French employment market

While it is becoming something of a cliche at the moment, the ongoing worldwide recession has impacted on many areas of employment around the world. A number of posters who have experience of the French employment market are suggesting that the five-year timescale indicated by the lady in question could turn out to be very well timed. It would appear that the French employment market is very difficult at the moment and even more difficult for the visitors from overseas.

A number of people have suggested looking towards employment with a US multinational and then trying to get a transfer to a French division. While on the surface this would be the perfect scenario, it is generally assumed that overseas transfers are seen as something of a “perk” and only available to long standing members of staff. Whether this is correct or not is open to debate but there is some substance behind the comments.

Planning ahead

While there are many issues discussed in this interesting thread there is one in particular which will attract the attention of many people looking to move overseas. The issue of planning for the future, whether weeks, months or years ahead, is something which we should all take notice of if looking to move overseas. While the five-year plan highlighted in this particular thread may work out to be perfect, if the French employment market recovers over the next five years, very few people have the opportunity to plan so far ahead.

However, even if you are planning one month, one year or 10 years ahead you need to do your homework and ensure that where possible you give yourself the best chance of transferring your employment skills to your new homeland. In those circumstances, where transferability may be difficult or in some cases impossible, a new career path may have to be considered although this is probably a worst-case scenario.


The subject of transferring your work qualifications and work experience to overseas markets is one which is ongoing and one that has attracted the attention of many people. Aside from the fact that you need to do your homework and prepare as soon as possible, there will be situations where your experience and qualifications may not be directly transferable. However, in many cases the ability to show an expert compatibility and a grasp of the local language may well be enough to at least get your foot on the employment ladder.

The heading of this particular thread says it all “Just feeling down” and highlights the potential difficulties which you may experience when looking to move overseas and transfer your employment skills. However, nothing is easy in life and in many instances there will be ways and means to maximise your potential and your income using your employment skills, but it may take some planning.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

c. nuttee August 26, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Hello, I have lived in a Paris suburb for about four years now and it has been a long process of acceptance. I have had to accept that I will never work in the same capacity that I did in the USA. For several reasons. First and foremost, the USA has a rockin economy and has 300 million open minded and flexible people in it. While France has a stagnant economy and has about 60 million people who might as well swim out to sea at age 50 because
it is all over for people over 50 or of color or foriegn here
if you want to really be part of the economic landscape. Yes, yes,
there are a few coveted jobs in international companies for foriegn people who speak perfect french and are well connected.
Or at the embassies but those jobs are few and far between. The normal american woman married to a french man ex-pat is doomed to downsizing all career aspirations. Most I have seen end up english teachers at low paying dead end jobs. A few struggle into assistant anglais positions that a precarious being a foriegner in a french system as they are low skilled and anybody can do them basically. So, although I have a masters and was employed in high paying jobs in the USA for 20 years before coming to France I have made 1000 euro a month. A friend who is an attorney has the same situation. So be prepared to learn to live on the fringe. Basically I have had to accept that I have kissed a perfectly good earning capacity in the USA goodbye. I am happy with my husband and child and nice appartment and garden but it is a heartache not to be able to help my family and earn what I used to earn.

c. nuttee


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