What are the main work and business permit categories used by companies to transfer skilled staff?
In 2007, the French legislature created a new category of work authorisation designed to facilitate temporary intra-group transfers of assignees, called intra-group transfer authorisations. There are two subcategories of intra-group transfer authorisation: one where the assignee has only an employment contract with the home employer and one where the assignee has an employment contract with the home employer and the host entity simultaneously.
The reforms of 7 March 2016 and 2 November 2016 modified the nomenclature, but not the basic aspects of these two intra-group work authorisations. The intra-group transfer seconded worker (home employment contract only) category is now called the ICT intra-group posted worker category and the intra-group transfer (simultaneous home and host contract) category is now called the talent passport intra-group salaried worker category.
To qualify for this type of work authorisation, the assignee must:
- receive sufficient resources or the salary amount indicated in the collective bargaining agreement for ICT intra-group posted workers, or €2,700 for intra-group salaried workers;
- have at least three months (or six months for ICT intra-group workers) of seniority with an entity of the assigning group (consequently, this category is therefore not suitable for new hires);
- be performing a function for his or her home employer within a French entity of the same group for a period of no less than three months and no longer than three years for ICT intra-group posted workers; and
- have either a certificate of coverage for social security purposes or an attestation that French social security affiliation will be requested, in the visa application file.
It is also possible for a French employer to hire an individual who has no pre-existing employment relationship with another company of the same group in a salaried employee capacity. This latter category of work authorisation results in the assignee having salaried employment status under an employment contract with the French host entity. A request of this type of authorisation may be refused by the French labour authorities as the future employer should check the employment market to ascertain whether a local person could occupy the job that he or she proposes to his or her candidate. There are several other types of authorisations, notably those for corporate officers (see question 16 for investors) and highly skilled individuals (now called the salaried worker - European Blue Card) (see question 18), and several smaller categories for specific professions.
‘Work’ in France will trigger French social security liability, unless a treaty exemption applies, and the application of French labour law to a degree that will depend on the structure of the work.Procedures
What are the procedures for obtaining these permissions? At what stage can work begin?
For the intra-group types of work authorisation, which are the most frequently used categories of business work authorisation, and the salaried worker - European Blue Card category, there has been a significant simplification of procedure aimed at reducing the waiting time and the number of civil servants involved in the process (therefore freeing up a certain number of civil servants to carry out file inspections). Instead of filing the application with the French Immigration Office or the Regional Directorates for Enterprise, Competition, Labour and Employment in France (DIRECCTE) (depending upon the jurisdiction where the work will be carried out), the application is filed directly via the visa centre in the assignee’s home country, which sends the application to the French consulate. A process that previously took between six and eight weeks at best has been reduced to approximately two to three weeks. The availability of a booking date will vary depending on the visa centre and the time of year. The visa centres and French consulates may keep a passport for visa processing for anywhere from one to 10 days, depending upon the consulate, which can lead to considerable travel inconvenience unless the person has a second passport.
Upon arrival in France, the assignee will have to request a French residence permit from the competent French police authorities. The assignee may begin work upon his or her arrival in France.Period of stay
What are the general maximum (and minimum) periods of stay granted under the main categories for company transfers?
The residence card for the ICT type of work authorisation is capped at three years. The residence card for the salaried worker type of work authorisation is valid for four years, but is renewable for as long as necessary. A request for change of immigration category to a category with a local employment contract is now possible under the new regulations.Processing time
How long does it typically take to process the main categories?
For ICT and salaried worker categories, which are processed directly by the consulate without first filing the application with the local labour authorities in France, the procedure has been reduced from around six to eight weeks to approximately two weeks. For most other main types of work authorisation, the process generally takes between eight and 12 weeks.Staff benefits
Is it necessary to obtain any benefits or facilities for staff to secure a work permit?
Proof of social security coverage in France is now a prerequisite for obtaining work authorisation in the ICT and salaried worker categories. Proof of such coverage (French or that of another country, depending upon whether the assignee has a certificate of coverage under a multilateral or bilateral social security agreement (ie, a treaty exemption) and the scope of risks that are covered by that agreement) will be required upon renewal of work and residence authorisations.Assessment criteria
Do the immigration authorities follow objective criteria, or do they exercise discretion according to subjective criteria?
The immigration authorities do apply objective criteria, notably concerning minimum salary and seniority. More subjective criteria, such as the level of ‘assimilation’ to French culture and French language ability, only come into play in requests for naturalisation or 10-year card requests.High net worth individuals and investors
Is there a special route for high net worth individuals or investors?
Persons who can demonstrate the ability to offer a direct economic contribution for an amount of €300,000 may be eligible for a talent passport - business investor.
A foreign investor who will also be a corporate officer of the business he or she creates or invests in may solicit a talent passport - new business or talent passport - corporate officer. Indeed, when an assignee is to hold a corporate officer position (chairperson or general manager of a corporation, or representative manager of a branch) in France, the person is not subject to a ‘work authorisation’ as such (this activity is not analysed as salaried ‘work’ by the immigration authorities - although it may be considered as salaried work by the social security or labour authorities, depending on the type of post, the type of entity and whether the person will also be on the board of directors, if relevant). If the corporate officer will not reside in France, there is no immigration formality to undertake with the competent authorities in France (the declaration of the activity has been eliminated). If the assignee is to reside in France, the procedure begins with a filing with the French consulate having jurisdiction over his or her country of residence or nationality, although the file is examined and decided upon by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Once approved, the assignee obtains a visa in his or her passport and may enter France to obtain a residence card for corporate officers. The card is valid for four years, and is renewable indefinitely for as long as the person holds the corporate position. Certain consulates grant a ‘high talent and competence’ status for such applicants, as opposed to the classic corporate officer status.
The spouse of the assignee obtains a residence card and is therefore entitled to work as an accompanying spouse. In practice, this type of application takes between two weeks and three months to be approved, or less if the company has already been set up.
Is there a special route (including fast track) for high net worth individuals for a residence permission route into your jurisdiction?
No.Highly skilled individuals
Is there a special route for highly skilled individuals?
The talent passport EU Blue Card category applies to highly qualified employees (three-year level university diploma or five years of professional experience in the area of the post to be filled) being offered an employment contract with the French host entity, valid for at least one year (a fixed-term contract of at least one year, assuming all other requirements for use of fixed-term contracts are met, or a standard ‘indefinite-term contract’) with a gross minimum annual salary of €53,836.50 (as at July 2018).
This category of admission does not require establishing proof that no qualified candidate is available locally (similar to the former ‘high-level salaried executive’ category). It can apply regardless of the candidate’s seniority in the group or the expected duration of the assignment. This new category also grants the candidate’s spouse the right to work in France. The immigration process is similar to that discussed in question 11.
Another type of work authorisation for highly skilled individuals is that known as the talent passport for foreigners with a national or international reputation, designed for persons who have a project involving either economic development or the intellectual, cultural or scientific profile of France and the applicant’s home country. No investment is required. The high talent and competence work authorisation may be granted for many types of individuals who might also otherwise qualify for another existing category. The authorisation is valid for up to four years and the accompanying spouse is entitled to work. It is not possible to alter the nature of the project in mid-course.Ancestry and descent
Is there a special route for foreign nationals based on ancestry or descent?
There is a special route that is only applicable when requesting French nationality.Minimum salary
Is there a minimum salary requirement for the main categories for company transfers?
Each category of work authorisation has a minimum salary condition. There are often minimum salary conditions additionally imposed by an applicable collective bargaining agreement by job grade and the national minimum wage.Resident labour market test
Is there a quota system or resident labour market test?
The French visa system is not based on quotas. Moreover, there is no need to prove that there are no other candidates available on the local market for applicants under the intra-group transfer or highly skilled individuals categories, even though the person has an employment contract with the French entity.
For standard salaried employee applications, the existing requirement to verify that there are no available candidates on the local market except for students who can justify holding a provisional permit to stay thanks to a master’s degree, has been essentially maintained. Assignees whose professions are identified as being ‘difficult to staff’ are looked upon more favourably. The list of professions considered difficult to staff identifies approximately 30 professions by region.Shortage occupations
Is there a special route for shortage occupations?
The labour administration maintains a list of ‘understaffed professions’, updated periodically. An employer who wishes to hire a candidate for a profession on the list is exempt from first going through the several-week process of posting an advertisement for locally available candidates.Other eligibility requirements
Are there any other main eligibility requirements to qualify for work permission in your jurisdiction?
The intra-group types of work authorisation require a position of seniority of from three to six months within the group (see question 10).Third-party contractors
What is the process for third-party contractors to obtain work permission?
A specific type of work authorisation is appropriate for employees of a foreign entity who are assigned to France in order to perform a service agreement with a client of that employer. This work authorisation is not appropriate for either self-employed persons or persons whose work in France at the host entity would imply either having an employment relationship (subordination and control) with an affiliated entity of the foreign employer in France or with the client host entity. This determination is a matter of analysis of the facts on a case-by-case basis.
To obtain this work authorisation, documents defining the parties involved and the nature of the activity are filed in France with DIRECCTE and the immigration service. Once the request is approved, the file is sent to the consulate having jurisdiction over the person’s residence or country of origin. The consulate then issues a visa to the assignee, and family under certain conditions enabling them to enter France. Once in France, the assignee and the spouse will have to undertake a medical examination with the immigration services and register their stay (no residence permit is issued during the first year as the visa is valid for one year).
The assignee receives a temporary worker residence card in the second year and the spouse receives a visitor residence card and therefore does not have a right to work. Both the assignee and the spouse obtain a one-year residence card, which is renewable. Since this type of assignment is temporary by definition, it is difficult to obtain a renewal beyond three years, regardless of the length of the assignee’s social security certificate of coverage, if any.
As the assignee is considered as being seconded from an employment law perspective (home employment contract only, no host employment contract), the core body of French employment law provisions would apply, notably those relating to health, safety and working time (but not dismissal).
The assignee must also be paid at least the amount that would be due to the employee holding the same position under the applicable French collective bargaining agreement (to avoid social dumping) in order to qualify for this type of work authorisation. A secondment status, which implies work in France, may also result in French social security liability, depending upon whether the assignee benefits from a social security exemption under an applicable social security agreement.
One of the most frequent difficulties encountered by businesses in this case is the complexity of group service contracts. Indeed, where the service agreement is concluded between the parent company of the service provider and the parent company of the beneficiary, the service agreement (one of the key elements of the application file) is often not concluded between the company employing the assignee nor the French beneficiary company. In many cases, there are annexes mentioning the subsidiaries that may be called upon in the context of the execution of the contract, but it is sometimes necessary to draft a specific annex or assignment letter to make clear to the French authorities the commercial service link between the foreign employer and the French beneficiary.Recognition of foreign qualifications
Is an equivalency assessment or recognition of skills and qualifications required to obtain immigration permission?
All work authorisations have either minimum salary or minimum employment seniority requirements, or both. In a sense, therefore, skills and qualifications are proven by these factors. For salaried worker applications, diplomas can also be used to demonstrate the interest of a particular applicant. Moreover, certain professions, such as doctors, nurses and lawyers, are subject to additional professional guild or bar rules.