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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey all - my wife and I are both retired from the US military, and we're really wanting to live out our retirement years on a mountainside in Haute-Savoie.

Ideally, we'd like to purchase a Chalet to manage, and have our two young children attend a local school.

We're planning to move this summer or fall, but we're VERY confused with what we should be planning.

Any advice from folks that have "been there, done that" would be appreciated.

Cheers
Chalet Dreamer
 

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Well, unless one of you has an EU nationality up their sleeve, your first order of business is going to be getting yourself a visa that will allow you to work (or set up a business for yourselves).

Normally, retirees would get a "visitor" visa and have to renew that every year, showing that you have your pension plus a paid up health insurance policy. But if you've got young children, you may want to pursue a different sort of visa - perhaps something like a competences et talents (for which you need a business plan) or you can ask the consulate about how to get what's called a "carte commerçante" which isn't a visa, but rather a type of residence permit.

Getting set up in business in France can be a long and somewhat complicated process. Key to the process is establishing what sort of business entity you need to set up so that you are properly registered for social insurances and VAT. It will help immensely if you have a reasonable level of French, because most of the paperwork will have to be completed in French.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Hi Chalet Dreamer. I don't have a chalet business in the 74 but I have extensive business experience in France/Switzerland. I have a few observations for you.
Pros: Beautiful area.
Cons: You will need Visas. You will need fluent French. You will need €2M minimum. Even with fluent French, your €2M will buy you an enourmous headache of red tape, hard work and stress which would be such a shame.
I see you are in Germany. I strongly suggest that, if you have German, you would be faaaar better off in Southern Germany/ Schweiz than in France for a thousand reasons that I am happy to share if you wish. In any case, please consider renting in your chosen area(s) for at least a year before saddling yourself with anything that cannot be easily undone. A business in France is a complicated cage to escape from. Take your time, find the right spot and live with it before chaining yourself to ANYTHING, however encouraging the agents may be. Best of luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Hi Bev,

Thanks for the reply - a couple of followups:

Well, unless one of you has an EU nationality up their sleeve, your first order of business is going to be getting yourself a visa that will allow you to work (or set up a business for yourselves).
No - no EU nationality, however, we think it may be easier if we had a French national (i.e., one of our friends/buisness partners) 'establish' a corporation, and have that entity then 'hire' us as employees/advisors...If I understand correctly, the company can then request work visas.


Normally, retirees would get a "visitor" visa and have to renew that every year, showing that you have your pension plus a paid up health insurance policy. But if you've got young children, you may want to pursue a different sort of visa - perhaps something like a competences et talents (for which you need a business plan) or you can ask the consulate about how to get what's called a "carte commerçante" which isn't a visa, but rather a type of residence permit.
If our buisness plans don't work out, and we still wish to buy a home in France to live in most of the year, can our children attend local schools? Is that something we'd have to pay for, or is it included in the taxes we'd pay?

Getting set up in business in France can be a long and somewhat complicated process. Key to the process is establishing what sort of business entity you need to set up so that you are properly registered for social insurances and VAT. It will help immensely if you have a reasonable level of French, because most of the paperwork will have to be completed in French.
Cheers,
Bev
Again, thanks for the response, looking forward to any insights you have.

Chalet Dreamer
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Hi Chalet Dreamer. I don't have a chalet business in the 74 but I have extensive business experience in France/Switzerland. I have a few observations for you.
Pros: Beautiful area.
Cons: You will need Visas. You will need fluent French. You will need €2M minimum. Even with fluent French, your €2M will buy you an enourmous headache of red tape, hard work and stress which would be such a shame.
I see you are in Germany. I strongly suggest that, if you have German, you would be faaaar better off in Southern Germany/ Schweiz than in France for a thousand reasons that I am happy to share if you wish. In any case, please consider renting in your chosen area(s) for at least a year before saddling yourself with anything that cannot be easily undone. A business in France is a complicated cage to escape from. Take your time, find the right spot and live with it before chaining yourself to ANYTHING, however encouraging the agents may be. Best of luck!
Hi DiNola,

My French is much more proficient than my German; that said, I'd be interested to hear more about your reasons for avoiding France...from a buisness perspective, we've considered the other side of the mountains in French speaking Switzerland or even across the way into Italy, but believe we'd prefer France.

Cheers
Chalet Dreamer
 

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Hi Bev,

Thanks for the reply - a couple of followups:



No - no EU nationality, however, we think it may be easier if we had a French national (i.e., one of our friends/buisness partners) 'establish' a corporation, and have that entity then 'hire' us as employees/advisors...If I understand correctly, the company can then request work visas.



Chalet Dreamer
Oh my - my advice would be don't even consider going down this route. Establishing a business whereby salaried staff are employed will involve massive legal and financial implications for the gérant (your friend or business partner). Also, I'm sure Bev will be along to explain about the further implications regarding visas, but I think one of the conditions for a French company to apply for a visa for a non-European is that there is no-one French able to fill the position. To apply to register as a business in France the Préfecture run all sorts of checks and using someone as an umbrella to essentially run the business with them having no involvement would soon be unearthed and all sorts of dooh-dah will hit the fan.

Also most chalets serve drinks or food. To do this, you have to attend a 2 day 'formation' for the French hygiene qualification (in French of course) and if you are cooking food to serve, since 2011 one of the regulations is that one of the kitchen staff must either be suitably qualified with a French qualification (CAP, BEP, BTS) or have held a similar position in France for at least 3 years.
 

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No - no EU nationality, however, we think it may be easier if we had a French national (i.e., one of our friends/buisness partners) 'establish' a corporation, and have that entity then 'hire' us as employees/advisors...If I understand correctly, the company can then request work visas.
As Garonne has already explained, this probably won't work. In order for a French business to hire foreigners, they need to go through a process with the Ministry of Labor that usually involves lawyers and does indeed require the employer to demonstrate that they have attempted to find someone with the proper qualifications in France or among European job seekers already able to live and work in France without a visa. (This usually involves posting the job at Pole Emploi for a period of time, and believe me, they would have plenty of applicants locally for that sort of job.)

If you are currently living in Germany - and have been for 5 years or more, you may want to look into the requirements for the Carte de résident de longue durée - CE, which I believe would give you the right to work in France. Details are here: Carte de "résident de longue durée - CE" - Service-public.fr

If our buisness plans don't work out, and we still wish to buy a home in France to live in most of the year, can our children attend local schools? Is that something we'd have to pay for, or is it included in the taxes we'd pay?
If you can qualify for a long-stay visa for France, then your children can attend the public schools. Owning property in France does not give you any sort of an "in" as far as visas are concerned, though.

For a work visa, you need sponsorship of an employer who has gotten authorization to hire a foreigner. For a visitor visa, you need a "reason" for coming to France, adequate income to assure that you won't be tempted to work "under the table" and health insurance for all the family members that meets the consulates criteria for a visa.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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No - no EU nationality, however, we think it may be easier if we had a French national (i.e., one of our friends/buisness partners) 'establish' a corporation, and have that entity then 'hire' us as employees/advisors...If I understand correctly, the company can then request work visas.
I can tell you this will absolutely not work in Switzerland. As a non-EU you -may- be able to start a business that guarantees employment for the local market and then you -may- be able to get you a visa. But really, there you are talking about millions of CHFs for a slight chance to get a visa.

Generally, buying a home does not give you resident rights. And in Switzerland there are limits to non-resident property purchases, especially in ski resorts and particularly for non-EUs.

I'd cross Switzerland off your list.

Of the three countries, German is probably the friendliest to US citizens, but more so in "desired" fields like IT, science, etc.
 

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Well Chalet Dreamer, there is some good advice on offer here. In Europe today, good advice often consists of damage limitation rather than the business possibilities to exploit. Wierd times.
You wanted to know a little more about the fiscal implications and business life in France were you to base your project here. In general, the French administration is unbelievably heavy and restrictive for taxation, social security and red tape to the self employed. I believe that France's deserves it's reputation for business unfriendliness.
You will hear good things about the healthcare and social protection for the poor, but if you are thinking about buying a ski chalet in I, F, CH or D you are not poor, and this puts you in a special segment of French fiscal bracket where the bills may outweigh your income and you can't do much about it. Most self employed immigrants I have met who have made large capital investments work to survive (at best), rather than achieve a comfortable lifestyle. You can do better elsewhere with your resources these days.
After considering your plans in a little more detail, deliberately not forgetting that we are talking of €$CHf millions in investment, my instinct would be to scour the net for specific, first hand accounts of people who have done what you are planning. This will tell you a great deal. Whatever you decide to do in this investment bracket, particularly as non-EU citizens, it would be wise to employ an international tax consultant before you sign anything.
 
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