Setting up a business in France by a foreigner

In 2010, immigrants accounted for 5.8% of the French population, representing almost four million people. The entrepreneurial spirit crosses borders, and many foreign expatriates are keen to set up their own business in France. In our article on the most advantageous countries in which to set up a business, we saw that, contrary to popular belief, it ‘s easy to set up a business in France. However, to optimize the creation and success of your business, there are a few administrative procedures to follow when you are an immigrant.


Regulated activities

Before starting a business, foreign entrepreneurs must check that they are entitled to operate in France, because :

  • Some activities are reserved for French or European Union nationals.
  • Some activities require qualifications, professional experience or administrative authorization.

Once the entrepreneur has checked that his business is compatible with French law, he can tackle the administrative procedures.

What are the procedures for setting up a French company by a foreigner?

Any foreigner can easily invest in a French company, and no special procedures are required. However, if the foreign entrepreneur wishes to hold a corporate office as a partner, manager or CEO, there are a number of administrative procedures to be followed. There are two possible scenarios:

1. Entrepreneur of foreign nationality legally resident in France and wishing to carry on a commercial, industrial or artisanal activity in France

What type of visa is required to hold a corporate office?

There are four types of French residence visa compatible with the exercise of a corporate mandate.

  • A 10-year residence permit (very complicated to obtain)
  • Merchant visa (information on this visa)
  • Private and family life visa (information on this visa)
  • Skills and talent visa (info on this visa)

However, a visa is not required if you are :

  • Nationals of the European Union or Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway
  • If you already hold a resident card
  • If you have a 10-year Algerian resident card
  • Carte de séjour temporaire ” vie privée et familiale ” (temporary residence permit for private and family life)

Where do I apply for a visa?

To obtain a visa, the entrepreneur must contact the prefecture of the département in which he or she wishes to start business. They must then apply for a temporary residence permit. The list of documents to be provided is given in the order of September 12, 2007.

2. Entrepreneur of foreign nationality not resident in France and wishing to carry on an industrial, commercial or artisanal activity in France

In this situation, the entrepreneur must first apply for a long-stay visa from the French diplomatic or consular authority in his or her country of origin. His or her project and resources will then be examined. Then, within two months of arriving in France, they must apply for a temporary residence permit bearing the name of their activity.

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