Business in France : what you need to bear in mind when starting, regardless of your status :
If you are a natural person, you can choose the status of individual entrepreneur to start a business in France. This status, which is not expensive and easy to obtain, is particularly suited to activities involving little capital, with a very small operational risk (consultancy business) and with revenues not exceeding €80,000 a year.
And what you need to do if you are a foreign company
On the other hand, if as an individual entrepreneur you do not meet the above criteria, or if you are a foreign company wishing to become established in France – because you forecast a strong growth in revenues in the short run – it is preferable to incorporate a company. Such a solution allows a full separation between the equity of the latter and that of its shareholder(s). Thus you will only be liable for up to the amount you have contributed. For individuals, the company limits among other things the mandatory charges and it preserves the company’s equity, and hence that of its partner(s) or shareholder(s).
Foreign companies may choose to establish a branch. However, this solution is nearly always very costly in regulatory terms, and it does not even secure contributions, because the branch is not a legal entity separate from the company.
Finally, they may opt for a liaison office (bureau de liaison in French), if they just need to promote their goods or services to potential clients and collect information from them. In other words, this legal form in France is relevant if the decision-making power (especially that of approving sales orders) remains in the foreign company.
EU members wishing to establish a business in France are not subject to any restrictions, Non-EU members such as Americans, Canadian and Japanese must meet a number of conditions.
Need more information?