French Entrepreneur Visa

Overview

This visa route permits overseas individuals to obtain a temporary residence card that allows the applicant to stay in France, for an initial period of 1 year, to exercise a professional activity (i.e. setting up a business or working for a company as an employee). This article will focus on overseas individuals who wish to establish a business. There are no requirements for the business in question to be of a particular type, only that it is economically viable. This visa route leads to Permanent Residence in France and French citizenship, if desired.

Eligibility

The visa requires you to:

· Prove that you are able to set up an economically viable business (Article L313-10, Code for the Entry and Stay of Foreigners and the Right to Asylum (“The Code”)).
· Prove that you are able to pay yourself the equivalent of the minimum legal wage in France for a full-time worker. In accordance with the French Office for National Statistics (Insee), as of 1 January 2020, this equates to £1,539.42 per month or £18,473.04 per year.

Documents You Will Need

Specific Documents

You will need to provide:

· supporting documents attesting to your ability to carry out your planned business activity (i.e. degrees/diplomas, professional qualifications, employment certificates, etc.);
· a criminal record certificate from the country in which you are a national;
· a completed “retailer, crafts person, manufacturer” form;
· a written presentation of your project, your business plan and a multi-annual estimated budget;
· a letter of guarantee from a French-based credit institution or approved insurance company or proof of a credit balance from an account opened in your name at a French-based credit institution; and
· if starting a company under French law, a copy of the commercial lease agreement stating the business activity or of the sub-lease contract stating the activity and where possible authorization from the owner of the premises, or any other documents regarding the business premises and copy of the draft articles of association with a draft breakdown of share capital.

General Documents

You will need to provide:

· a signed and dated application form;
· a valid travel document issued less than 10 years ago, containing at least two blank pages and at least three months longer than the expiry date of the visa requested (i.e. at least 1 year left to run);
· France-Visas receipt;
· a passport-sized ID photograph; and
· if you are not a national of your country of residence, proof that you are legally resident in that country (e.g. residence permit).

Can I bring my family members?

You are able to bring your spouse and any children under 18 years of age into France under the “family reunification” route. However, you must have been living in France for a period of at least 18 months (Article L411-1, The Code), so you will not be able to bring your dependents to France during the initial visa term.

You must also have sufficient financial resources and housing to support your family members. Generally, this amount is fixed at an amount at least equal to the minimum monthly gross salary (i.e. £1,539.42 per month) and at most equal to this salary increased by one fifth (i.e. £1,847.30 per month) (Article L411-5, The Code).

Application Process

STEP 1 – Complete the long-stay visa application form marked “Entrepreneur/independent professional” and submit with the requisite documents to the French consulate in the country where you reside. The processing time for a long-stay visa varies depending on the specifics of a particular application; however, typically this process takes 15-20 days.

STEP 2 – Receive your entry visa.

STEP 3 – Arrive in France. You must validate your visa online via the OFII dedicated online platform within 3 months of arrival. In order to do this you will need:

· a valid email address;
· your visa information;
· your date of arrival in France;
· your address in France; and
· your card details for the online payment of the fee for issuing your residence permit.

STEP 4 – Receive your temporary residence permit.

Pathway to Permanent Residence

STAGE 1 – 2 months before the expiry of your temporary residence permit you must submit a renewal application. In order to meet the requirements, you must produce documents showing that you continue to meet the conditions for eligibility for which the temporary permit was granted (see above). If the conditions are met, you will be granted a 4-year visa extension.

STAGE 2 – After 5 years of uninterrupted residence, you can obtain a long-term residence card marked “Long-Term Residence CE”, this is equivalent to Permanent Residence (PR). You must have obtained comprehensive health insurance cover and continue to be compliant with the conditions for initial eligibility and sufficient financial and housing resources (above) (Article L314-8, The Code). You must also meet the requirements for knowledge of French language (Level A2) (Article L314-2, The Code). This residence card is renewable indefinitely and are issued for 10 years.

STAGE 3 – After 5 years of continuous and uninterrupted residence and you have received the residence card above, you may apply for French citizenship (Article 21-17 French Civil Code). As at Stage 2, you must have comprehensive health insurance cover and continue to show that you are able to meet the requirement for financial and housing resources. You must also speak French to level B1 and show your assimilation into French culture (you will be required to display this at an “assimilation interview” where the interview itself is conducted in French) (Article 21-24 French Civil Code). The processing time for French citizenship can be up to 18 months.

N.B. Your dependents can also apply for PR after 3 years of uninterrupted residence (Article L314-9, The Code). They may then apply for French citizenship after 5 years as above at Stage 3.

Visa Fees

Main Applicant

· The fee for the initial entry visa is €99. You must also pay a fee of €200 to French Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII) for issuing your temporary residence permit. In addition, you must also pay stamp duty of €25 on top of the fee for issuing your temporary residence permit.
· There is an additional administrative fee of €225 for the extension application and a further €225 for the application for the PR card.
· The application for French citizenship costs €55.

Dependents

· The fee for the initial entry visa for both spouse or child (under the age of 19) is €99. The fee payable to OFII for issuing the residence permit is €269 (incl. stamp duty) for a spouse and €139 for a child (incl. stamp duty);
· the additional administrative fee for the renewal for both a spouse and for a child is €269 (incl. stamp duty);
· the fee for the PR card is €180; and
· the application for French citizenship is €55.

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