The VIE Program: Work abroad for 1-2 years

Patricia Parnet
6 min readAug 12, 2023
Photo by Dan Freeman on Unsplash

Work at Dior, L’Oréal, Airbus, and more in Dubai, Miami, Singapore, and beyond: Unleash your global potential with the VIE Graduate Program powered by the French government (not just for French citizens)! Views are my own.

Before we go straight to the facts, please keep in mind that all details can change at any time. Therefore, please check the website of Business France regularly to stay ahead of the game:

What is a VIE?

The word “vie” means life in French and is a lovely analalogy for such a life changing experience. In reality, the three letters “VIE” actually stand for “Volontariat International en Entreprise” which roughly translates to: International Internship at Companies or simply International Internship Program. This initiative, backed by the French government, sends young adults overseas for a limited period of time with the intend to work in French companies all over the globe. So far, more than 10,000 young graduates have participated in over 212 countries.

The VIE is serious business: We’re talking about well known enterprises like L’Oréal, Cartier, Dior, Airbus, Sanofi, Total, Société Générale as well as smaller start-ups and global leaders in their niche that are probably not widely known to the general public. Apart from personl growth, a VIE will be a true booster for your CV! Just please don’t confuse it with a classic 3–6 months internship. In fact, a VIE is typically a longer assignment. Most companies offer contracts between 1 and 2 years with 2 years being the maximum length.

In true French fashion, the VIE organizers promise a bright future ahead on many levels:

I have experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life (…) and often even, I meet the love of my life, but that is not guaranteed in the contract !
Business France

Do I have to speak French for a VIE?

No — at least in many cases. While the companies are originally based in France, their offices are located all over the world. Of course, there will likely be French coworkers and maybe a lot of connection to the French headquarters, but typically, English or the local language are perfectly fine. Also, most jobs require a cover letter in English (yes, they still ask for one). Please don’t hesitate to apply if you don’t speak French, especially if the job description is in English. Give it a try!

Speaking about job descriptions: Unfortunately, many of them are still only available in French, even if French is not the main office language on site. Sometimes, it’s also the case if English is a job requirement. Luckily, there is still a good amount of VIEs with English descriptions! Here’s a friendly reminder for all companies with VIE positions to rethink this approach. Highlighting the French heritage and the European spirit, you could easily attract highly skilled and diverse applicants from many different places. A win-win, isn’t it?

📑 What are the conditions? (August 2023)

Now it becomes a little tricky. Unfortunately, VIEs are not for everyone. Since this program is heavily influenced by the French Government, you HAVE to fulfill the following criteria:

  1. You are between 18 and 29 years old. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t be older than 28 at the beginning of the program.
  2. You are an citizen of a country in the European Economic Area. This includes all 27 EU-Member States plus three countries outside of the EU. The following countries are part of the EEA: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
  3. You have a graduate degree and you are no longer a student. While there are no clear requirements, 92% of VIE participants have a Master’s degree (also known as BAC+5 in France) and many companies turned it into a requirement. If you only have a Bachelor’s degree, please don’t hesitate to apply — unless otherwise stated in the job description. If you are currently a student living in Germany, consider becoming a working student until you’re ready for a VIE.
  4. You are not originally from the country where the job is located. For example, you can’t work as a VIE in Germany if you are a German citizen. You have to go outside of your home country.
  5. You are ready to work full-time. To be more precise: part-time work, entrepreneurship, academic programs or any other paid activity is not possible.
  6. You must have a clean criminal record.
  7. You didn’t participate in a VIE in the past.
  8. Only applicable for French citizens: Again, you don’t have to be a French Citizen. But if you are French (also dual-citizenship), you have to be “in good standing as regards your country’s national service”. Please check the website of Business France for more details. If you are not French, you can safely ignore this requirement!

Again, please go to Business France for more up to date information! If you prefer to work in Germany permanently, here are great job boards for you.

How much do I earn during a VIE?

The best part: it’s paid! Yet, Business France calls it “allowance” rather than “salary”. The monthly allowance consists of a base and geographical component.

In 2023, the base salary for all global VIE participants is set at €760,57/month.

The monthly geographical allowance however depends on the country and is influenced by many aspects, including standard of living. Beyond that, allowance could differ region by region. For instance, California’s allowance would exceed that of Alabama, despite both being within the US. According to the website of Business France, this particular allowance is recalculated quarterly, so it should reflect the actual local situation throughout the program. Similar to the basic allowance, participants will receive monthly payments. Exceptions are still possible in some cases.

Here are 5 examples for total monthly allowances (base + geographical):

🇺🇸 United States (New York): 4 954,60 €

🇿🇦 South Africa: 2 089,02 €

🇦🇺 Australia (Syndey): 3 009,81 €

🇨🇱 Chile: 2 438,84 €

🇮🇹 Italy: 2 675,00 €

Check this allowance table for more details about your dream destination (French only)!

Allowance during the VIE per country or region. Version: August 2023

Most importantly: Where can I find a VIE?

It’s pretty easy and similar to any other application. You can search directly at Business France, on career pages of French companies or browse through all major job boards. LinkedIn is also a great source for VIE positions. Simply type “VIE” into the search bar and choose a country or a region. Try to be flexible and search in many different areas of the world simultaneously.

Generally, many VIE positions for the same or the following year go live during the summer. The faster, the better. Voilà!

How do I apply for a VIE?

You’ll need a CV, as always, but don’t get caught up in these 5 CV Myths. When it comes to VIEs, it is highly recommended to add a cover letter, even if it takes a lot of time and effort. We all know the struggle, but let’s face the reality: Companies send you overseas for a long period of time and since most other applicants will do it too, this shouldn’t hold you back. In many French companies, cover letters are expected as part of a complete application package and so are proofs of all certificates and achievements. Please don’t forget to add them to your application. Need help crafting a CV? Head straight to the tips for job hunting abroad.

🎨 Free CV / Resumé Template on Figma

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