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I'm hoping someone can give me some guidance regarding visas/business permits.

I run my own home-based ecommerce business. I'm currently in the States, but the business is portable - I make and sell the products at home, and ship them to people. I own a home in France, and would like to eventually move there, or at least stay there for long periods of time, and continue running this business.

My question: where do I start with the paperwork? A visa de long séjour isn't right, because I will be working in France. Do I try to get the business registered first, then take care of the residency paperwork? Something else?

I am trying to figure all this out on my own as well, but if anyone could point me in the right direction, that would be much appreciated.
 

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First step should be to consult the French consulate website for the consulate covering your area of residence. Different consulates have different ways of dealing with "entrepreneur visas" depending (I suppose) on the precise nature of your business.

Some consulate sites have you apply for a long-stay visitor visa (for one year) and then you set up your business when you get to France and change your status to one of a "commerçant" or something similar. I've seen procedures on other consulate websites where you can apply directly for a carte commerçant. But I suspect that you need to work with the consulate and that it may depend on the current size and scale of the business and precisely the statut it comes under in France.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Some consulate sites have you apply for a long-stay visitor visa (for one year) and then you set up your business when you get to France and change your status to one of a "commerçant" or something similar. I've seen procedures on other consulate websites where you can apply directly for a carte commerçant. But I suspect that you need to work with the consulate and that it may depend on the current size and scale of the business and precisely the statut it comes under in France.
Bev

This situation quite mirrors my own. That is, I have an existing business in the US through which I provide services to US clients that I will continue to provide from France. Can you tell me which US consular sites describe the carte commerçant you mentioned above? I can't find any reference to it on the Boston French Consulate site and I'd like to be informed, even if Boston eventually tells me to apply for commerçant status in France.

I have one other question that I'd love some general advice on if possible. It's about having US clients while working from France. At present, my clients send me US dollar checks that I deposit in my US bank. They could do a direct deposit once we're in France. I receive a 1099 from each client for tax purposes and fill out my US taxes.

However, I believe it's normal in France to deduct the cotisations regularly and taxes (at year end) directly from one's business account.

  1. Should I set up a business-only current account into which I deposit "earnings" so that it will be clear which account holds my taxable income?
  2. Should I also create a separate personal checking account that we might use to bring over non-earnings related funds? For example, when we sell our US house, we'll have a fair bit of money in our US account. I wouldn't want it to be viewed as earnings.

Or will I need to do something else entirely? Anything you can recommend would be very happily received.

Thanks.

Ray
 

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Bev

This situation quite mirrors my own. That is, I have an existing business in the US through which I provide services to US clients that I will continue to provide from France. Can you tell me which US consular sites describe the carte commerçant you mentioned above? I can't find any reference to it on the Boston French Consulate site and I'd like to be informed, even if Boston eventually tells me to apply for commerçant status in France.
Have to confess that the only reference I've seen on a consulate website to the carte commerçante was one of the consulates in the Caribbean. I had looked into a carte commerçante back when I was having my immigration problems (around 1995) but hadn't heard much about it since. Someone here on the forum said that they were told they should apply for a carte commerçante - through the consulate somewhere in the Caribbean or something. It's the only reference I've heard to that in years, so I'm not really sure what to tell you.

I have one other question that I'd love some general advice on if possible. It's about having US clients while working from France. At present, my clients send me US dollar checks that I deposit in my US bank. They could do a direct deposit once we're in France. I receive a 1099 from each client for tax purposes and fill out my US taxes.

However, I believe it's normal in France to deduct the cotisations regularly and taxes (at year end) directly from one's business account.
Um, once you are resident in France you will need to establish some form of French entity for your business. Anything from AE to SAS will do, but you have to establish some sort of entity, depending on what you're doing, what level of revenue you have (and, of course, what your visa status is). Then, you have the distinct "pleasure" of filing both US and French taxes..... read on.

[*]Should I set up a business-only current account into which I deposit "earnings" so that it will be clear which account holds my taxable income?
Depending on what sort of business entity you operate under, you may be required to set up a "business account" in the name of the business entity before you can start doing business in France. Depends a bit on whether your French entity will pay its own taxes or if you are going to do something like an AE, where it doesn't matter.

[*]Should I also create a separate personal checking account that we might use to bring over non-earnings related funds? For example, when we sell our US house, we'll have a fair bit of money in our US account. I wouldn't want it to be viewed as earnings.

Or will I need to do something else entirely? Anything you can recommend would be very happily received.
For both US and French tax purposes, you must declare your worldwide income to the tax authorities. Your business will be considered (by the US) as your "employer" so that you can use the $92K (roughly) Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (form 2555) - but exactly how you calculate the excludible income varies a bit depending on the type of business entity you have.

If you're filing a Schedule C, I'm told that the $92K counts against your revenue, and not your net income. (Someone who is filing Schedule C's from overseas is going to have to help here.)

If, for example, you set yourself up as an AE, then for French tax (and cotisation purposes) you simply report your revenue to the fisc (French version of the IRS) and they tax you based on certain assumptions. There is no accounting involved (also no allowance or deduction for your actual expenses!). Obviously, you don't want to do that for your US taxes, so will file a Schedule C with your US taxes.

If you set up another form of business, say an EURL, EIRL or SARL, you have the option to take the net results (figured under French accounting law) as your income on your French tax declaration, and probably would then file a Schedule C with your US tax return.

Or you can have your business pay you a salary, which is then what you'd report as your income on your US tax returns. In France, you get to deduct the employee portion of the cotisations from gross salary before you report anything to the fisc. Or you can do like we do, and we report my husband's "salary" from our SARL based on his actual draw from the company plus certain "non-obligatory" cotisations that the business pays on his behalf. Thank goodness he is an NRA and so I don't have to worry about how to report any of that stuff to the US!

Sounds like fun, no? Seriously, setting up a business here in France is tricky and somewhat complicated, particularly if you have the dual tax obligation of a US citizen. Probably more than we can really get into here on the forum.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Once you are resident in France you will need to establish some form of French entity for your business. Anything from AE to SAS will do...

If you set up another form of business, say an EURL, EIRL or SARL...
Bev

Thanks for this exquisite reply. Two quick questions and I'm done:

  • Where can I find out more about the differences between SAS, EURL, EIRL, and SARL (and what they mean)?
  • Can you recommend anyone with whom I can consult to select the most appropriate business form for me in France?
I can take answers privately or here, whichever is most convenient and appropriate.

Hope you're having a good time here in the US or that you're safely back in La Belle France!

Ray
 

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You can start doing business in France without necessarily residing there (i.e., having a carte de séjour). You can first incorporate your company, and then apply for a carte de séjour.

If you are a non-French resident and wish to manage the company personally, you will have to file a prior notification with the prefecture of the department in which you are planning to set up your business. You will not be applying for an authorization to carry business in France (but submitting a simple notification that you will do this), and the prefet must accept it and deliver an acknowledgement of receipt of this notification within a period of 15 days. This acknowledgment of receipt will be required by the commercial court for the registration of the company.

It is sometimes considered that having an already established business in or with France gives additional grounds to the prefecture to deliver a carte de séjour. Having a company in France is however not a guarantee that you will obtain a carte de séjour and the powers of the French administration in this respect are discretionary.

Regarding the documents which you must submit to obtain a carte de séjour commerçant étranger (which will enable you to not only manage a French company but also to do it from France, i.e., to stay there) they are set forth in "Arrêté du 12 septembre 2007 relatif aux documents à produire pour la délivrance de la carte de séjour temporaire autorisant l'exercice d'une activité commerciale, industrielle ou artisanale". The most important document is your business plan, in order for the préfecture to assess whether it is viable or not.

Information on all this in English, as well as on the differences between a SAS, SARL and SA, may be found on the site of French Business Law [dot] com. I would recommend that you consider incorporating a SAS (which requires very little share capital), and is very flexible in terms of management. If you are the only / majority shareholder of the French company, I would not recommend incorporating a SARL, which will cost you a lot in terms of not only taxes but also social contributions as soon as it starts generating income. A SA is much heavier in structure (at least 7 shareholders, no less than 37.000€ share capital, etc.) and therefore unnecessary.

I am wishing both of you good luck!
 

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Wow, what a lot of great information! I'm in the same situation, I have a web design business here in the US and have no problem with foreign clients here but living in France and having foreign clients (including US clients) sounds like a different animal! I'd like to move to France in the next 5 years and continue my business there working from home. Ray or Colorado do you have any tips on where I should start? I live in Tx and my French consulate is in Houston. My head is spinning! Thank you!
 

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Wow, what a lot of great information! I'm in the same situation, I have a web design business here in the US and have no problem with foreign clients here but living in France and having foreign clients (including US clients) sounds like a different animal! I'd like to move to France in the next 5 years and continue my business there working from home. Ray or Colorado do you have any tips on where I should start? I live in Tx and my French consulate is in Houston. My head is spinning! Thank you!
Talk with the consulate in Houston. Find out if they're approving Competencies & Talents Visas or if they recommend a Long Sejour Visa and setting up as an Auto Entrepreneur in France. Or something else. Each Consulate is different.

Your difficulty will be that you're not leaving for some time and things may change in the interim.

And keep reading the Forum. You'll find most everything you need here.

Best of luck.

Ray
 
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