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How to start a business in France as a foreigner?

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The French economy is the seventh largest globally and the third largest in Europe. If you're thinking of setting up and starting a legal business in France, then this article is for you. Read on to learn more about the financial market and the permits you'll need.

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Mugambi M.
Apr 18, 23 · min read
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Getting started - the basics

In France, anyone can open a business. You DO NOT need to reside there or be a European Union citizen to get a permit. Even if you live and work outside Europe, you can still open a legal corporation residence and get started in France.

Visa considerations

Before registration, you must show that your planned activity will be profitable and be prepared to invest 30,000 EUR in your new French company to get a permit. If your field of work is regulated, you must also fulfil specific requirements. You'll need a minimum of 5 years of professional work experience or a master's degree.

If you can demonstrate all of this, a long-stay "passport talent" visa, valid for 4 years, will be given to you. This is equivalent to a (VLS/TS) residence permit.

Choose your business structure

The typical corporate structures available in France are listed below. You must decide which one suits your new enterprise best:

EURL - A single individual owns it and runs it as a limited liability single shareholder in France.

SARL - A French limited company or LLC company.

SAS - A Simplified Stock Company, ideal for those that don't want to become residents of France.

Branch - Extend your existing company and register your new enterprise as a subsidiary in France.

Set your By-laws

After you set up your structure, you need to file your by-laws in France. To do this, you have to use either a reasonably priced registered company creation agent based in France or a lawyer.

These are the several categories that you can use to start your commercial activity in France:

  • Industrial or commercial
  • Independent or freelance professional.
  • Trades/artisan
  • Agriculture

Each of these categories have their own requirements and registration centres, which are linked to the specific area in which you wish to work. These centres are:

  • Centre de Formalités des Entreprises (CFE)
  • Chambre des Métiers et de l’Artisanat (CMA)
  • Chambre d’Agriculture (CA)

You'll need to notify these centres whenever you move into a new market. Therefore, you need to clearly understand what your business activity is and what it aims to become over time.

Setting up a French business bank account

Due to the strict money laundering laws in this European nation, financial institutions can be very selective about which companies are permitted to open a bank account. Always be ready to provide your financial plan and respond to any bank manager's inquiries.

Apart from the Branch structure, the minimum starting share capital for your enterprise, regardless of its structure, is €1. However, banks in France generally require evidence that you have more money available before they permit companies to open an account.

Legal publicity for your new business

A quirky French custom requires you to inform the media when you launch your enterprise. To formally and publicly introduce your firm to the corporate world, you're required to print a public announcement in an official newspaper such as Le Parisien, Les Echos, or a corporate publication.

Starting your company

Your corporate entity must be registered with the national directory. This is done through INSEE, which receives copies of your registration documents. The Greffe du Tribunal de Commerce, the tax office, the Centre des Impôts, the Social Security Office (URSSAF), the Caisses Sociales, and Inspection du Travail will all need to receive your papers.

Similarly, you'll need to notify the CFE to ensure that you're making the correct pension and labour payments to any local employees. To prove that you are a resident, you'll need to complete a form, and provide a legal copy of every director's or shareholder's passport, as well as two recent utility invoices.

You can use a business such as SeDomicilier, which has professional consultants who can help you set up your business with ease.

Once all of your papers have been sent to all the appropriate government departments your application will receive all the official stamps that permit incorporation of your company in France. Registration can take up to 2 weeks after you have set up your bank account. VAT registration can also take up to 2 weeks.


Once registered, you will receive the Extrait Kbis permit, which has a unique 14-digit SIRET registration number. This permit number is your corporate ID. You must write this on all official documents and tax invoices relating to your enterprise.

The SIRET is a nine-digit number on top of a five-digit identification number that is unique to your corporate entity. Additionally, you will have an APE or NAF code that designates the primary work of your corporate entity.

Once the Kbis permit comes through you can begin trading. The French tax office will send your enterprise a legal welcome letter, including the tax inspector's VAT number and contact information.

How to get your taxes right?

French tax law and accounting can be challenging when you're from a different country. Here's how to make sure you don't fall foul of the French tax authorities.
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1. Keep accurate records

This may sound obvious, but you need to keep accurate records of everything you've bought and sold as part of your enterprise. You'll also require accurate payroll records.

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Become an entrepreneur with HelloPrimo.

A team of experts will get you the answers you need to get started with your business.

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