This country-specific Q&A provides an overview of Corporate Immigration laws and regulations applicable in France.
What are the relevant government entities relating to immigration in your jurisdiction?
The main administrations involved in immigration procedures are the following:
French Labour Office: in charge of processing work permits and validation of training agreements
French Consulate: in charge of processing long term and short-term visas
OFII (immigration office): in charge of welcoming foreign nationals subject to specific immigration procedure (medical examination, French language training, etc.)
Prefectures: they represent the government at a local level. They oversee the processing of the residence permits
What are the options available for sponsor-based employment in your jurisdiction and timelines involved in securing a work permit?
Talent Passport Visa (Highly skilled employees, Employee on Assignment, Qualified Employees, Employees of an innovative company) – 2 to 3 weeks upon submission of the long stay visa application
ICT Visa – 2 to 3 weeks upon submission of the long stay visa application
Employee, Temporary worker (International provision of services) – 2 months to obtain the work permit and an additional 3 weeks to obtain the long-term visa
What are the primary options available for unsponsored work and investment in your jurisdiction?
Talent Passport “Business Investor” visa and residence permit
Talent Passport “Company Director” visa and residence permit
Talent Passport “New Businesses” visa and residence permit
Talent Passport “Innovative Business project” visa and residence permit
Entrepreneur/ self-employed visa and residence permit
What are the requirements for becoming a sponsor of employment-based migrants and what are the role and reporting duties of sponsors?
There is no sponsorship in France. Any French company can hire or receive on secondment foreign employees as long as they have a document (work authorization, long stay visa, residence permit) allowing them to work in France.
However, companies employing foreign workers in France must be duly registered with the Trade Register.
Employers must also stay current with social security payment for all of their employees and be able to provide attestations from the URSSAF – the Organization for Collection of Social Security and Family Benefit Contributions.
There are no annual reporting requirements. Still, the employer must comply with employment law regulation.
Are applications filed electronically, or paper base? Is a physical visa/work permit document issued or is an electronic approval issued?
Visa applications at the French consulate are paper base.
Most of the residence permit applications are now filed electronically since the implementation of digitalisation and the entry into force of online portals.
The work permit approval is a digitalized document issued by the dedicated online platform.
However, the biometric residence permit remains a separate paper in the format of a plastic card. Fingerprints are taken at the local administration.
Is an in-person attendance/interview required as part of the visa/work permit application process? Is an individual required to enrol their biometrics (digital photo, fingerprint scan) as part of the visa/work permit process?
An in-person attendance is required both at the French Consulate abroad for the filing of the visa application and at the local authority (Prefecture) for the withdrawal of the residence permit.
The individuals are required to enrol their biometrics both at the French Consulate abroad and the local authority (Prefecture).
What persons qualify as dependants? Can dependants work based on their dependant visa status? Are there any restrictions?
There are different categories of dependants based on the immigration status of the main applicant.
Are qualified as dependants for Talent Passport Family, ICT posted worker, married spouse (including same sex spouse) and children under 18.
Are qualified as dependants of French nationals, married spouse or partner linked with a civil union partnership (PACS or equivalent).
Spouse, children (under 21), ascendants could qualify as dependants of EU national in France and obtain a residence permit.
Dependant residence permit grants right to work in France.
Dependants of EU national have the right to work in France only if the EU national has a professional activity in France.
What is the general time frame and processes for obtaining permanent residence and citizenship for sponsored and unsponsored business-related immigration?
The main eligibility criteria for both permanent residence and citizenship is based on the length of regular stay in France – usually 5 years, proof of sufficient knowledge of French and proof of sufficient financial means.
After a five-year residence, a ten-year residence card can be applied for. After this 10-year residence card, a permanent residence is granted.
The usual time processing is 3 to 4 months.
The processing time for citizenship application is up 24 months.
The French administration has recently implemented online process aiming at reducing the processing time and the cumbersome process.
What productive type activities can a business visitor undertake and for how long?
Basically, business trips are those in which the employee will be engaged in business meetings and discussions only, and will not engage in any hands-on, productive work of any kind.
For example, participation in meetings, conferences, or events of a commercial, industrial, or professional nature.
Participation in ad hoc meetings, meeting with clients, short observation missions (data collection on projects).
Business travels are temporary by nature and limited by the 90 days over 180-day authorization of stay rule in the Schengen area.
Can remote work be carried out from your country?
French immigration law remains silent on remote working for foreigners.
Therefore, in absence of governing rules on remote work, a work authorization should be applied for.
Are there any productive work / revenue generating activities that can be carried out as a visitor and without the need for a work permit? If so, what activities and for how long?
Certain types of work and activities do not require a visa or work authorisation because they are exempt based on specific regulations.
The following activities do not require a work authorisation if they are for no more than 90 days (Decree n°2016-1461 of October 2016):
artists and their technical production team for film, audio-visual content and shows fashion and art models
personal and domestic service workers for an employer who is a private individual permanently based in the UK but staying in France
auditors and other experts in architecture, engineering, finance, insurance, IT and management working on assignment (article L.1261-1 of the Labor Code)
guest professors carrying out occasional teaching
taking part in sporting, cultural, artistic, and scientific events
taking part in conferences, seminars, and trade exhibitions
Also, short term work permit exemption may apply under intra EU provision of services (known also as Vander Elst Rules after the European Court of Justice ruling):
Non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals already lawfully employed in Switzerland or another EU/EEA country by an EU/EEA/Swiss company who are posted to France may be eligible for a work permit exemption in France under Vander Elst rules. This route is available to employers in the EU/EEA or Switzerland who intend to post employees to work in France for their company or to fulfil an assignment in a different company in France but on their behalf, provided that both companies are located in the EU/EEA or Switzerland.
If they are staying more than 90 days in France, they must apply for a permit called “Residence Permit – Employee of EU Service Provider”. The residence permit will be issued for the duration of the posting, which must be temporary. There is no limitation of the maximum duration of stay in France according to the law under this route, but the posting must be temporary.
Is there a remote work or nomad visa category in your jurisdiction? If not, how likely is it that this will be implemented in future?
Remote work applicable to non-EU foreigners is a recent topic generated by the Covid situation and is not yet regulated in the French immigration law.
This topic might be addressed in the coming years but there seems to be no discussion for the time being.
Remote work is a broader topic and not limited to immigration consideration as it could generate other consequences on individual taxes, social security and corporate tax.
How easy is it to switch visa categories/jobs/employer from within country? And/or if made redundant, can the individual regularise their stay in another capacity and what is the timeframe allowable?
Change of immigration status within the country is possible if the eligibility conditions from one immigration status to another are met.
However, some immigration statuses are excluded such as intern, service provider temporary worker. Thus, a return to the country of origin is needed to apply for the other appropriate visa.
When applicable, the change of status must be anticipated at least 2 to 3 months before the expiration of the initial work and residence permit.
The change of employer under the Talent Passport category is permitted and must be notified to the French local administration prior to the start date.
The change of employer under the “employee” residence permit requires the obtaining of new work authorization.
What common issues or concerns may arise for employers under business immigration in your jurisdiction?
The administrative process related to business immigration is cumbersome and lengthy.
In addition, there is a discrepancy in the management of the immigration applications depending on the local governments in charge throughout the country.
Currently, the implementation of the in country online residence permit applications is causing more damages than improvements.
Indeed, processing times are in numerous cases longer and it is very often difficult to secure a meeting with the Prefecture.
This is even more true with the circulation documents for minor children and spouse of EU nationals.
Is there a fast track process / certification that business can obtain to expedite visa / permit processing?
In France, companies do not have a privileged way to accelerate visa, work and residence permit applications for their employees. It is therefore compulsory to follow the standard process foreseen by the regulations.
What are the recent trends, both political and social (including COVID-19 pandemic), that have impacted your jurisdiction with regard to immigration policy and law? How will this shape the immigration landscape moving forward?
The immigration legislation landscape remains the same.
However, the Paris 2024 Olympics Games approaching, entailing massive foreign workers in France within the coming 2 years, may have an impact on the immigration policy.
How is the COVID-19 pandemic shaping the immigration landscape in your jurisdiction?
The COVID-19 pandemic main impact on French immigration landscape is the acceleration of the online procedures. The French government has set up an online platform for submitting applications for residence permits, work permits, naturalization, etc. In addition, certain documents such as receipts have also been made electronic and can be obtained online
Are there any anticipated changes in the immigration laws of your jurisdiction?
For the time being, there is no new legislation on immigration to come.
How do you see technology developing and evolving to support immigration process in the future?
Technology will help to digitalise processes that still have to be done face-to-face and in paper format. Also it has already been agreed at an European Level that the Schengen Visa application will be done online via a European online visa platform. This objective is set for 2025.
What are the Right to Work requirements in your jurisdiction?
Employers must perform Right to Work (RTW) checks prior to the start of work to verify that local hires and international transferees have the required work authorizations in France. Under French law, all companies are liable for any person who is working on their premises, including contractors.
RTW checks must be completed before employees on assignment arrive in France. For all other workers, RTW checks must be conducted before the signing of an employment contract.
If employees have worked in France before, employers should request copies of the work authorization documents issued by their previous employer. When hiring a foreign worker who already resides in France and holds a residence permit, a copy of the residence permit must be sent by the employer to the local administration (préfecture) that issued the residence permit at least two business days before the employee’s intended start date.
What are the types of civil and criminal penalties employers may face for non-compliance with immigration rules i.e. employing an individual who does not have the Right to Work?
When hiring individuals who do not have the right to work, two major sanctions can be taken against employers. These are criminal and civil penalties.
The employment of illegal aliens is an offense punishable by 5 years’ imprisonment and a fine of € 15,000. These penalties can be doubled in the event of a repeat offense and the subsequent regularization of the irregular situation of the foreign employee cannot have the effect of eliminating the offense.
Depending on the situation, the judge can pronounce additional penalties such as the prohibition of professional activity for a period of 5 years at most or exclusion from public contracts for a period of 5 years at most or the display of the decision in the newspapers.
The employer who employed foreign workers without a work permit, may incur administrative penalties. Among these penalties there is a special contribution which is at most equal to 5000 times the hourly rate of the guaranteed minimum and in the event of a repeat offense at 15 times the same rate.
In addition, the provisions of the labor code oblige the employer to keep a personnel register. The employer must mention in this register the nationality and the type and number of the permit valid for work as well as the copies of these titles. If the control officers find faulty keeping of the personnel register: The employer incurs in addition to the penalties mentioned above, a penalty of 750 € at most.
Are there any quota and / or labour market testing requirements in your jurisdiction and if so, what do they involve?
A labour market test must be carried out when the work permit application is instructed by the common law procedure, i.e. outside of specifically exempted immigration statuses (ICT, Talent Passport, …) or if the job offered suffers from labour shortage.
The labour market testing involves the posting of a job offer with the governmental unemployment agency for at least 3 weeks (Pôle Emploi / APEC).
The work permit application submitted to the Labour office will have to enclose, among other supporting documents, an attestation delivered by the unemployment agency confirming the posting of the job offer and explanations in case the French employer received applications.
Are there quota requirements, restrictions or a cap on the numbers of foreign nationals hired per company in your jurisdiction?
There are no quotas on the number of foreign nationals allowed to work in the country.
In addition, companies do not have a cap on the number of foreign nationals they can hire.
Are there any exit procedures in your jurisdiction, if an individual is departing permanently?
There are no exit procedures explicitly required.
However, is it recommended that employers notify the prefecture of the termination of assignments.
Are there any requirements for medical certificates or vaccinations for your jurisdiction?
Foreign workers holder of a work permit marked “employee” must pass a medical examination with the Immigration Office (OFII) to validate their work permit.
Except for this specific situation immigration professional status, there is no requirement for medical certificates or vaccinations in France.
Are there any language requirements for your jurisdiction?
A level of French language is required to qualify for the 10-year residence permit: A2 level of the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
For naturalisation, a knowledge of the French language in oral and written form at least equal to level B1 of CEFR is required.
What are the government costs associated with a typical employment based visa?
Any employer located in France and hiring a non EU national is liable for paying a governmental fee. This rule also applies in case of a non EU national being seconded into a French company. [Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break]This is an employer tax to be paid to the French Office of Immigration and Integration.
The amount of the governmental fee depends both on the amount of the remuneration paid to the foreigner and the length of the stay in France.
From 12 months and more, it could reach up to 2 308.55 €
Between 3 to less than 12 months: it varies according to the level of salary within limits ranging from 50 euros to 300 euros.
Is a local contract of employment required in order to obtain a work based visa or work permit? Are there salary or other thresholds to be met?
Most of French work visas require a local employment contract, such as Talent Passport or Employee.
The work visas that need not the conclusion of a French employment contract are ICT (Intra Company Transferee) and Temporary worker when coming to France in the frame of a provision of services.
Employers must meet the required salary rates as set by the immigration law for certain categories of Talent Passport.
In any case, foreigners working in France must earn at least the French minimum wage (i.e. for August 2022 €1678,95 gross per month) and must receive the same level of remuneration fixed by the bargaining agreements in place for the same function
What are the maximum periods of stay for individuals on an employment based visa / work permit?
The limitation of the periods of stay can be driven by the nature of the contract of employment as in France employers can propose fixed term employment contracts.
In case the foreigner has an indefinite work contract there is no limitation of stay as long as she/he fulfils the requirements that have led to the issuing of the work permit.
Does your jurisdiction allow dual nationality?
France allows dual nationality and multiple nationality.
What are the most positive aspects of your immigration system compared to the rest of the world?
Here are the most positives aspects of our immigration system:
There is no quota and the employers do not need sponsorship licence.
The 2016 and 2018 Immigration Acts have introduced new immigration statuses to attract international talents with high potential: multi annual work visas, no labour market testing, no beforehand work authorization to be obtained, consular application reducing time processing (Talent Passports).
These attractive immigration statuses include an accompanying family process. The spouse is granted a right to work and has a direct access to labour market. This applies to same sex partners.
Likewise, specific measures apply to foreign students graduated in France to facilitate their employment with French employers.
Finally, specific visas have been implemented to attract start-uppers: the French tech visa.
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