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1. GOVERNMENT CONTACTS AND HELPFUL LINKS

Ministries or Agencies involved in the visa and permit process:

  • Ministry of Interior

  • Office Français de l'Immigration et de l'Intégration (French Bureau of Immigration and Integration)

  • External websites:


    2. BUSINESS VISITORS

    Business Visitor of Fewer Than 90 Days

    Foreign nationals may come to France under business visitor status if their stay in France is for fewer than 90 days and their activity in France is limited to business visitor activity. 

    A business visitor may attend meetings, prospect for business, and negotiate agreements. This activity may be carried out for his or her own personal account or in the name of his or her foreign employer. However, this activity may not be carried out in the name of a French business or create value for French business. 

    There are two types of classifications for business visitors:

    1. The Schengen visa for short-term business visits

    2. Visa-free entry for third-country nationals who are exempt from the visa requirement by treaty or bilateral agreement with the third country national's home country (e.g., United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, Mexico). It should be noted that these foreign nationals do not need a visa to enter France as long as their assignment within the Schengen space1 does not exceed 90 days over any 180-day period and their activity is limited to authorized business visitor activity.

    They should remain on the home country payroll, not be subordinated to the management of the host entity in France, and not carry out any productive work in France.

    Tasks that clearly fit into allowed business visitor activity include attending meetings, seminars, and negotiations; visiting sites; and exploring business opportunities.

    If the consulate believes the activity in France requires a work permit, it will refuse the business visa application and require the third-country national to apply for a work permit with the labor authorities before visa issuance.

    3. INTRACOMPANY TRANSFER (salarié en mission) FOR ASSIGNMENT LIMITED IN TIME2

    Foreign employees who are assigned to France for a temporary period by a foreign affiliate of the French host company may qualify under this category and be exempted from labor market testing.

    The assignee must meet the following criteria:

  • Minimum annual gross salary threshold referring to 150 percent of the French annual minimum wage (SMIC)3 

  • Employment within the group of at least three months before applying for the intracompany transfer

  • Foreign entity must have a real and significant business activity abroad

  • Assignment in France must be temporary: initial period of three years maximum that can be renewed in certain cases

  • There are three classifications under the salarié en mission process:

  • The short-term assignment (less than three months)

  • The secondment assignment

  • The local hire status

  • In any case, the assignee must return to his or her home country once the assignment is completed (the intracompany transfer process does not allow settlement in France on a permanent basis and therefore will not lead to a long-term residence permit).

    A. Short-Term Assignment

    A short-term assignment is considered to have a duration of less than three months. Work permit requests of less than three months that otherwise respond to the intracompany transfer criteria will lead to the issuance of 12-month work authorizations. Visas with multiple entries may also be issued. This authorization and the visa allow the beneficiary to undertake missions of up to three months per semester (half-year) during a year, instead of having to request an authorization for each short-term assignment. Nationals of Australia, Brazil, South Korea, United States, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, and Venezuela traveling to France to work for a period of less than three months do not need to obtain a visa as long as they have their work permit with them on arrival in France. 

    B. Secondment Assignment

    This type of work permit is appropriate for an assignee who will remain on his or her home country payroll while the assignee is sent to a French host entity for a temporary assignment (three months to three years) and with tasks limited in scope. The purpose of the assignment is to provide either expertise or assistance on a specific project to the French host entity, or to receive training needed for a project in the home country. It is also appropriate for intracompany rotational programs. 

    The employee on a secondment assignment status must NOT fill a permanent position of the company in France (i.e., a position that ordinarily should be filled by a local hire of the company in France).

    The foreign assignee brings his or her expertise and provides assistance to the host company. He or she can participate in the activity of the host company within the limited scope of his or her specific assistance to the host company.

    C. Local Hire Status

    Under local hire status, the foreign employee signs a work contract with the French affiliate of at least three months' duration and for an initial period of up to three years, renewable at the authorities' discretion. He or she can manage local employees. 

    Process and Processing Time

    The French administration takes six to eight weeks to process an intracompany transfer work permit application. If the secondment is to last less than three months, the application is usually processed in about four weeks. The exact processing time depends on the workload and staffing of the local labor authorities. 

    The process is as follows (for assignments of 90 days or more): The company sends the work permit application to the French Immigration Office (OFII), which coordinates further processing with the local labor authorities (DIRECCTE). Once approved, the DIRECCTE transfers the case to the OFII for the visa approval process. Once processed, the OFII sends the visa approval to the French consulate having jurisdiction over the residence address abroad. Then the foreign employee receives an appointment to file his or her visa application. Processing time may vary from one consulate to another, but it usually takes one to 10 business days for issuance of the visa. The long-term visa is valid for three months, allowing the foreign employee to apply for a 3-year residence permit once in France.

    The foreign employee is authorized to start working in France upon his or her entry into France with the long-term visa. In the three months following his or her entry into France, the employee must attend a medical exam at the OFII and apply for a residence permit at the local Prefecture. The residence permit to be obtained is a three-year combined residence and work permit. 

    If there is no bilateral agreement between France and the home country on social security matters, the host entity must register the assignee with the French social security authorities and make contributions.4 

    Family

    The intracompany transfer allows the foreign employee to come to France with his or her family (spouse and children). The spouse of an intracompany transferee, for a period of at least six months, is issued a long-term visa and then a "private and family life" (vie privée et familiale) residence permit, allowing him or her to hold a professional occupation while in France.5 When the assignment of the employee on assignment is less than six months, the spouse receives visitor (visiteur) status, which does not permit him or her to work.

    4. SKILLS AND TALENTS PERMIT

    This combined residence and work permit6 is available for third-country nationals whose exceptional skills render them capable of making a lasting and significant contribution to the economic development and influence of France through a specific project for a range of disciplines, including scientific, cultural, intellectual, humanitarian, and athletic fields, under criteria that are issued annually by a national commission. 

    The skills and talents permit allows the holder to engage in any professional activity related to his or her project for an initial period of three years. The permit is renewable in three-year increments as long as the thirdcountry national continues to meet the criteria. A foreign national may apply for a skills and talents work and residence permit to hold a salaried position; to exercise a commercial, industrial, or artisanal profession; or to exercise an independent profession (e.g., self-employment, artists, writers, athletes).

    The current qualification criteria are:

  • The applicant must submit a credible professional project meeting the criteria set forth by the National Commission.

  • The applicant must supply proof that he or she is in every way capable of carrying out this project.

  • The application will be accepted or rejected based on:

  • - the project's interest/quality7

    - the applicant's motivation/commitment

    - the applicant's skills and qualifications

    - the means to carry out the project.

    Eligible persons may include:

  • University graduates

  • Qualified professionals with a minimum of three to five years of professional experience in the field in which they apply for the visa, regardless of their level of education

  • Investors in an economic project (minimum investment of 300,000 euros or proof of capacity to create at least two sustainable jobs in France (of which one may be occupied by the applicant)

  • Independent professionals such as artists, authors, athletes

  • Senior managers and high-level executives employed by a French company.

  • Third-Country National Nominated CEO of a French Affiliate

    Under the skills and talents (Compétences et Talents) resident permit category, the third-country CEO is issued a three-year permit that will allow him or her to be the chief executive officer of the French affiliate and perform any other related professional activity. 

    The visa application should include documents in support of the intracompany transfer of a manager appointed to the board of directors of the French affiliate of a multi-national group. There are two criteria:

  • Prior employment in the group of at least six months

  • Annual salary of at least 300 percent of the French minimum wage8

  • IMPORTANT: A federal criminal record clearance certificate, issued within three months of the application date, must be provided when filing the visa application. 

    Processing Time

    The skills and talents application is filed at the French consulate abroad for foreigners not residing in France. There is a minimum processing time of one month. The visa is granted for a three-month period and authorizes the foreign national to apply for a residence permit. Once the visa is issued, the visa holder can enter France and start performing his or her professional activity in the framework of the project. He or she will then have to apply for the skills and talents residence permit at the local Prefecture and attend a medical exam at the OFII. 

    Family

    The Skills and Talents process allows the visa holder to come to France with his or her immediate family (spouse and children). A visa application for the family members must be filed at the same time as the Skills and Talents visa application. Should the project last six months or more, the spouse must obtain a long-term visa and then a private and family life (vie privée et familiale) residence permit9 valid for one year, renewable, which allows pursuit of a professional occupation while in France. When the project is less than six months, the spouse is issued visitor (visiteur) status, which does not permit him or her to work. 

    5. EUROPEAN BLUE CARD 

    The qualifying criteria for the Blue Card are in accordance with the criteria stated in the European Union (EU) directive: 

    (1) Employment contract with a duration of one year or more

    (2) 1.5 times the average salary of reference (to be determined by the Minister of Interior on an annual basis)10

    (3) A three-year higher education diploma or equivalent knowledge through five years of experience 

    The qualifying third-country national is issued a joint residence and work permit for the length of employment, with a maximum validity of three years. 

    This permit is renewable. The accompanying spouse is issued a private and family life permit, which authorizes work. This latter work permit can be renewed annually for as long as the main applicant has a valid Blue Card permit.

    The Blue Card may also be issued to a third-country national who already holds a Blue Card issued by another EU Member State, and wants to accept employment in France after 18 months of residence under the initial Blue Card. The application is made within one month of arrival in France. The applicant need not present a long-term French visa.

    The Blue Card permit is issued without labor market testing.

    The Blue Card holder and his or her spouse may qualify for the EU long-term resident permit after five years of residence under the Blue Card in the EU, of which only the last two years need be in France.

    The French authorities have up to 90 days to adjudicate the Blue Card application and up to six months to adjudicate the accompanying spouse residence permit.

    The advantages of the Blue Card include:

  • it does not require an intra-group prior employment

  • renewal may be easier 

  • mobility within EU is facilitated

  • acquisition of long-term resident status is facilitated

  • qualifying criteria are very precise (leaving less room for discretion of the government)

  • 6. COMMON-LAW LOCAL HIRE WORK PERMIT

    The common-law local hire work permit is intended for a foreigner residing abroad who is to be on the French payroll or perform tasks that are of a local (or management) nature. The appropriate category of the labor administration's authorization to work is referred to as the Introduction authorization, or local hire work permit.

    Recent Ministry of Interior instructions require the labor authorities to apply the regulations in a restrictive manner and to proceed with greater scrutiny of common-law local hire work permit applications, for the purpose of reducing the number of foreigners legally working in France. As a consequence, the work permit in the framework of Introduction is subject to a labor market test evidencing that the required workers are not available in France. The labor authorities expect the French entity sponsoring the work permit application to show advertisement of the job offer during a reasonable duration (at least two months). It is highly recommended that the job offer be advertised on the French government job center (Pôle Emploi).

    The work permit application must include evidence of the advertisement, a copy of resumes submitted by local candidates, and an attestation stating the reasons why the local candidates' profiles did not match the employer's expectations for the proposed job. The work permit application must include the reasons for hiring the foreigner instead of a local candidate. 

    There is an official list of positions for which candidates on the French labor market are in shortage. Should the job proposed to the foreigner be listed, the work permit application will not be subject to prior advertisement on the French market.

    Processing Time

    The French administration takes eight to 12 weeks to process local-hire work permits. The exact processing time depends on the workload and staffing of the local labor authorities. The work permit application is filed with them. Once they approve it, the labor authorities (DIRECCTE) transfer the case to the OFII for the visa approval process. Once processed, the OFII sends the visa approval to the French consulate having jurisdiction over the residence address abroad. Then the foreign employee receives an appointment to file his or her visa application. The processing time may vary from one consulate to another but it usually takes one to 10 days to receive the visa, which is a 12-month work visa (visa long séjour dispensant de titre de séjour/VLS-TS) under local hire status, with no separate residence permit needed for the first year of residence in France. The foreigner may start working upon his or her entry into France with the long-term visa. 

    The foreign national must attend a medical exam with the OFII in the three months following his or her arrival in France to validate the work visa. Three months before the expiration date of the 12-month visa, he or she must apply for a 12-month residence permit under local hire status (salarié), renewable each year. After five years in France under local hire status, he or she may apply for a 10-year residence card. 

    Family

    In the framework of the common-law local hire process, family members are not automatically authorized to enter France. The family is subject to the family reunification procedure (regroupement familial), which requires the principal to have resided in France for at least 18 months before applying, and to demonstrate adequate financial resources and housing to support family members. 

    Under the common-law local hire process, the foreign worker must be placed under the French social security scheme.

    7. SECONDMENT IN THE FRAMEWORK OF AN INTERNATIONAL SERVICE AGREEMENT

    Third-country nationals may be assigned by their foreign employer to a work site of a French company in the framework of an international service agreement between the French company and the employer abroad.11

    The agreement must be for a fixed-scope service. The labor authorities will scrutinize the service agreement very closely and will deny the work permit if they determine that the agreement is for provision of labor rather than provision of service.12 

    The foreign assignee remains on the foreign payroll and under the supervision of his or her employer while on assignment to France. 

    The length of the assignment should be specified when applying for the work permit under this status. The foreign assignee must leave France once his or her assignment is accomplished. A copy of the service agreement must be submitted to the French authorities processing the work permit application.

    Processing Time

    The French administration takes eight to 12 weeks to process a work permit application in the framework of an international service agreement for more than 90 days. The exact processing time depends on the workload and staffing of the local labor authorities. The work permit application is filed with the local labor authorities (DIRECCTE). Once approved, DIRECCTE transfers the case to the OFII for the visa approval process. Once processed, the OFII sends the visa approval to the French consulate having jurisdiction over the residence abroad. Then the foreign employee receives an appointment to file his or her visa application. The processing time may vary from one consulate to another but it usually takes one to 10 days to receive the visa, which is a 12-month work visa (visa long séjour dispensant de titre de séjour/ VLS-TS) under temporary worker status, with no separate residence permit needed for the first year of residence in France. The foreigner may start working upon his or her entry in France with the long-term visa. 

    He or she must attend a medical exam with the OFII in the three months following his or her arrival in France to validate the work visa. Three months before the expiration date of the 12-month visa, he or she must apply for a 12-month residence permit under temporary worker status (travailleur temporaire), renewable each year. Any extension beyond the initial work permit is at the discretion of the labor authorities. The employer in such cases must demonstrate the need to extend the initial work permit in the framework of the international service agreement. 

    Work permit applications for fewer than 90 days are processed in two to four weeks, and even less in case of urgency. Documents required for such applications are simplified. Nationals of Australia, Brazil, South Korea, United States, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, and Venezuela, traveling to France to work for a period of less than three months, do not need to obtain a visa as long as they have their work permits with them on arrival in France.

    Family

    For a secondment assignment process in the framework of an international service agreement, family members are not automatically authorized to come in France. The family is subject to the family reunification procedure (regroupement familial). This process requires the principal to have resided in France for at least 18 months before applying and to demonstrate adequate financial resources and housing to support family members. 

    If there is a bilateral agreement between France and the home country on social security matters, the assignee can be maintained on the social security scheme of the country of employment. If not, the host entity must register the assignee with the French social security authorities and make contributions. The employer may opt for an exemption from contributions to the French general retirement scheme.

    VII. Trainees

    The following are to be considered foreign trainees coming to France:13

    1. Those who carry out training in a business, within the framework of a training program organized in their home country14 that leads to validate a diploma or professional qualification 

    2. Those who are employees of a business abroad and take training provided by a professional organization15

    To come to France under trainee status, the requirements include: 

  • A tri-party agreement must be signed between the employer abroad (or professional training organization), the trainee, and the French host company (or French training organization approved by the Prefecture). This agreement includes the following requirements: 

  • - The training must aim to ensure the practical application of the trainee's theoretical knowledge; 

    - The host company (or training organization) must have a formal training program and must assign tasks and responsibilities directly correlated to the qualifications and skills developed by the training; 

    - The managers charged with coordinating the training at the host company (or training organization) must approve the educational objectives and include this in the tri-party agreement;

    - Both the trainee and the employer must subscribe to civil liability insurance with any insurance company of their choice; and

    - The trainee must prepare a report on his or her training, submitted to the head of the department of professional training at both the host and home company (or training organization).

    The initial duration of the training cannot exceed six months for the trainee coming within the framework of a training program for a professional training (1 above). 

    For the employee of a business abroad coming to take training in a professional organization or within a French host entity (2 above), the initial duration cannot exceed 12 months, renewable one time for a maximum duration of 18 months. 

    The training agreement must be sent to the labor authorities for prior review and approval. The processing time for approval from the labor authorities is 30 days, although they recommend submitting the training agreement at least two months before the beginning of the training.16

    Once approved, should the training last more than three months, the foreign trainee must submit a long-term visa application at the French consulate having jurisdiction over his or her residence abroad. Under a recent regulation, the trainee now receives a long-term visa in the trainee category, valid for the duration of the training up to 12 months, with no separate residence permit required in the first year in France.17

    The trainee must demonstrate sufficient financial means of support for the duration of his or her training.18

    9. GOVERNMENT FEES

    The duration of the assignment or work contract determines the government fees to be paid to the OFII by the employer once the work permit has been granted. 

    For foreign employees who will work in France for 12 months or more:

    As of February 2013, the fee amount is 55 percent of the monthly salary paid to the foreign worker, with a ceiling of 2.5 times the SMIC.19

    For foreign employees who will work in France for more than three months but less than 12 months, the fee will vary with the amount of salary, as follows: 

  • €70 when the salary does not exceed the full-time monthly SMIC amount

  • €200 when the salary exceeds SMIC but is less than or equal to 1.5 times the SMIC

  • €300 when the salary exceeds 1.5 times the SMIC20

  • The foreign worker (and his or her spouse) also must pay fees at the time of either the issuance of the residence permit or at the time of the medical exam for holders of a 12-month visa. The government fees to be paid by foreign workers will be €260 or less, according to the work permit category.

    10. LEGISLATION APPLICABLE TO FOREIGN ASSIGNEES IN FRANCE

    The following aspects of French labor laws apply to all foreign assignees working in France (including secondment assignees):

    Art. L1262-4. - Employers sending foreign workers to French territory on a temporary assignment are subject to dispositions of legislations, regulations, and collective bargaining agreements applicable to the employees of companies in the same branch of activity established in France, with respect to labor laws in the following areas:

    - individual and collective liberty in work relations and the right to be on strike;

    - work hours, compensatory rest, holidays, annual vacation, leave for family events, maternity leave, paternity leave, conditions of contributions to leave for inclemency of weather;

    - minimum salary and payment of salary, including increases for overtime;

    - conditions of availability and guaranties owed to workers of companies in the business of providing temporary workers;

    - regulations concerning security, health, and hygiene at work, and medical surveillance;

    - anti-discrimination and professional equality between women and men, protection of maternity, minimum age for work, working minors, work hours and night work for young workers;

    - illegal work

    The labor authorities may require payslips from the home country to verify that the number of vacation days complies with the legal number of vacation days in France during the assignment: 2.5 days per month, for a total of 30 days per year. 



    1 The Schengen Area consists of 26 countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands (Holland), Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland. 
    2 Article L313-10 5° of the French Immigration Code (CESEDA) and Article R5221-30 of the French Labour Code. 
    3 €1430.22/month as of February 2013.
    4 Further to the August 4, 2008 Act and the January 9, 2009 Decree, foreign employees on secondment or local hire assignment in France may be exempt from paying into the French retirement scheme for three years. An exemption from payment may be requested from the social security office (CPAM) before the employee is registered with the social security office for contribution payments (URSSAF).
    5 Article L313-11 3° of the French Immigration Code (CESEDA). 
    6 Article L315-1 of the French Immigration Code (CESEDA).
    7 The project must be "of interest" to the government; i.e., the project must be in accordance with government policy in effect when the application is made.
    8 €5,1487.92/month as of February 2013. 
    9 Article L313-11 3° of the French Immigration Code (CESEDA).
    10 €52.725/year as of February 2013.
    11Article L1262-1 of the French Labour Code. 
    12 "Labor" means work. An employer pays its employees for work they provide. Work is considered to be the "means." The employer is responsible for the deployment of the means (i.e., the employer supervises the worker). By contrast, a client pays for a service or product. The service or product is the result of the "means." The client has no responsibility with respect to the means by which a service is delivered. This distinction may not be clear in common law.
    13 Article L313-7-1 and R 313-10-1 of the French Immigration Code (CESEDA).
    14 Article R313-10-1 1° of the CESEDA.
    15Article R313-10-12°of the CESEDA. The organization that places foreign trainees must be approved by the Ministry for a renewable period of three years, if they have an adequate professional organization, means, and qualifications. 
    16 Article R313-10-4 of the CESEDA.
    17 Article R311-3 10° of the French Immigration Code (CESEDA) modified by Decree no. 2011-1049, September 6, 2011. 
    18 In the framework of option 2, financial means are considered sufficient with monthly French minimum wages (SMIC), which was €1430.22/month as of February 2013, on a full time basis (article R313-10-2°B of the CESEDA).
    19 To date, the ceiling amount is €1966.55.
    20 To date, it refers to €24,570/year (1.5 times the annual SMIC).

    Karl Waheed
    Paris, France
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