How to Start a Business in France: A Guide for Entrepreneurs

Picture of Rowan T. Moyo, Ph.D.

Rowan T. Moyo, Ph.D.

Starting a business in France can be an exciting and rewarding venture, but it also requires careful planning and adherence to various regulations.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide for local and foreign entrepreneurs on how to start a business in France, covering the legal structures, business visas, and key considerations for setting up a company in France.

When considering starting a business in France, it is essential to understand the different legal structures available for entrepreneurs.

The choice of legal structure can have significant implications for taxation, liability, and administrative requirements. The main legal structures for starting a business in France include:

Entreprise Unipersonnelle à Responsabilité Limitée (EURL)

The EURL, or Sole Proprietorship with Limited Liability, is a popular choice for small businesses and solo entrepreneurs.

How to Start a Business in France - A Guide for Entrepreneurs 1
How to Start a Business in France: A Guide for Entrepreneurs

The EURL legal structure provides limited liability protection while allowing the business owner to operate as a sole proprietor.

Société par Actions Simplifiée Unipersonnelle (SASU)

The SASU, or Simplified Joint Stock Company with a Single Shareholder, is another option for solo entrepreneurs.

SASU offers flexibility in terms of management and decision-making while providing limited liability for the shareholder.


The Micro-Entreprise, or Micro-Enterprise, is a simplified legal structure designed for small businesses with low turnover.

It offers simplified accounting and tax obligations, making it an attractive option for entrepreneurs starting small-scale ventures.

Business Visas and Permits to Start a Business in France

Entrepreneurs from outside the European Union who wish to start a business in France must navigate the country’s business visa and permit requirements.

Understanding the various visa types and permit options is essential for ensuring compliance with immigration regulations.

Some of the key business visa types and permits include:

French Business Visa

The French Business Visa is a fundamental option for non-EU entrepreneurs intending to establish or start a business in France.

This visa allows individuals to stay in France for an extended period to develop their business activities.

It is designed to facilitate the entry and residence of foreign entrepreneurs who seek to contribute to the French economy through business ventures.

The French Business Visa provides a legal framework for non-EU entrepreneurs to engage in entrepreneurial activities, fostering innovation, job creation, and economic growth within the country.

Tech Visa for Founders

The Tech Visa for Founders is a specialised visa aimed at attracting tech entrepreneurs and startup founders to France.

This visa category is particularly tailored to meet the needs of individuals involved in the technology and startup sectors, offering streamlined procedures for obtaining residence permits and providing access to the French startup ecosystem.

By targeting tech entrepreneurs and startup founders, the Tech Visa for Founders reflects France’s commitment to fostering innovation and technological advancement, positioning the country as an attractive destination for tech-driven businesses and entrepreneurial talent.

Long-Stay Visa (Self-Employed in a Regulated Liberal Profession)

For individuals planning to work as self-employed professionals in regulated liberal professions in France, the Long-Stay Visa (Self-Employed in a Regulated Liberal Profession) is an viable option.

This visa category is particularly relevant for entrepreneurs in fields such as law, medicine, and accounting, where professional qualifications and regulatory compliance are essential to start a business in France.

By offering a pathway for self-employed professionals to establish themselves in regulated liberal professions, this visa category supports the integration of skilled professionals into the French business landscape, contributing to the diversity and expertise of the local workforce.

Navigating the business visa and permit landscape in France can be complex due to the diverse requirements and regulations associated with each visa category.

Therefore, seeking expert advice from immigration consultants or legal professionals is highly recommended to ensure compliance with the country’s immigration laws.

Immigration consultants and legal professionals can provide valuable guidance on visa application procedures, documentation requirements, and compliance with immigration regulations, thereby facilitating a smoother and more efficient process for non-EU entrepreneurs seeking to start a business in France.

The availability of business visa types and permits in France reflects the country’s commitment to attracting and supporting entrepreneurial talent from around the world.

By offering specialised visa categories such as the French Business Visa, Tech Visa for Founders, and Long-Stay Visa (Self-Employed in a Regulated Liberal Profession), France demonstrates its openness to diverse business ventures and its recognition of the valuable contributions that non-EU entrepreneurs can make to the country’s economy and innovation ecosystem.

Through informed navigation of the business visa and permit landscape, non-EU entrepreneurs can position themselves for success in establishing and starting a business in France.

Read article: 3 Things In-House Lawyers Need To Know About Corporate Governance

Key Considerations for Business Registration in France

In addition to choosing the right legal structure and understanding visa requirements, entrepreneurs looking to start a business in France must consider several key factors related to business registration and compliance. Some of these considerations include:

Tax Regime and Business Structure

The tax regime and business structure in France are closely intertwined, and the selection of the most suitable structure depends on the nature of the business and the entrepreneur’s specific goals.

For instance, the Entreprise Individuelle (Sole Proprietorship) offers simplicity in administration and taxation, making it a suitable choice for solo entrepreneurs.

On the other hand, the Société à Responsabilité Limitée (SARL) provides limited liability protection and flexibility in management and taxation, making it a popular choice for small to medium-sized businesses

Chamber of Commerce Support

The local branch of the French Chamber of Commerce plays a vital role in assisting entrepreneurs with making decisions related to business structures and tax regimes.

Entrepreneurs can benefit from seeking guidance and support from the Chamber of Commerce when setting up their businesses.

The Chamber of Commerce provides valuable resources, expertise, and networking opportunities to help entrepreneurs navigate the complexities of business establishment in France. 

Keeping Up-to-Date with Regulations

One of the toughest challenges for entrepreneurs in France is staying up-to-date with changes in regulations that may impact their businesses.

New laws are regularly enacted, and it is essential for entrepreneurs to stay informed about these changes to ensure compliance and adapt their business strategies accordingly.

What Challenges Should I Expect In The French Market As A Foreign Entrepreneur?

As a foreign entrepreneur in France, expect challenges like navigating complex bureaucracy and stringent regulatory environment, understanding local business culture and practices, language barriers, adapting to the French market’s specific consumer preferences, and complying with labour laws known for being employee-friendly.

Additionally, taxation and social security systems can be intricate, requiring careful financial planning and legal advice.

Building local networks and understanding regional market dynamics are crucial for success in the diverse and competitive French business landscape.

How Do I Navigate Employment Laws When Hiring Staff For My Business In France?

Firstly, familiarise yourself with the French Labour Code, which covers contracts, working hours, minimum wage, and termination rules. It is crucial to draft clear employment contracts in compliance with legal standards, specifying terms like salary, job description, and duration.

France mandates strong protections for employees, so ensure compliance with laws regarding employee benefits, health insurance, and mandatory contributions to social security.

Also, be aware of stringent regulations around dismissing employees, as France has strict rules against wrongful termination.

Picture of Rowan T. Moyo, Ph.D.

Rowan T. Moyo, Ph.D.

Rowan has been a Business Legal Practitioner since 2009. He has an Advanced LLM Degree in Business Law and a Professional Doctorate in Anti-Money Laundering. He has published in the areas of Money Laundering, Corporate Crime, Public Law & Policy, Sovereign Debt, Commercial Law and Foreign Direct Investment.

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