Citizens of the European Economic Area do not need a permit to work, be self-employed or create a company in France. Other people must request a work permit at the same time as the residence permit. If you have a temporary residence permit in France which does not allow you to work, you can apply to change it. This is generally easier than starting from scratch. Go directly to the foreign persons’ desk at the Prefecture of the departement where you live.
If you are already a student in France
You are entitled to work if you have a student’s resident’s permit from a recognised business school or university. Foreign students cannot work more than 884 hours a year in their spare time (no more than 19.5 hours a week). However, during the holidays, they can work full time.
All students who do not come from an EEA country need a temporary work permit. You can get this document from a branch of the French Labour Office (DDTEFP).
An internship is not considered as a job and therefore does not require any specific permit, as you keep your student status. An agreement signed by the company, your university and you will define the type of assignment, the training and the work conditions of the internship (working hours, place and pay).
Interns in companies must receive some sort of pay if their internship lasts over 2 months. This pay covers part of the costs of transport and meals. Doing an internship in France has two advantages: you acquire work experience and you get to know new people. And if you want to stay in France after finishing university, an internship may well lead to your first proper job.
You can work for a worthy cause by becoming a volunteer in a French association. You might not be paid, but it is a worthwhile experience. You will be helping people in need and improving your French at the same time.