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June 20, 2024

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France Golden Visa: Explained by Immigration Experts

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France Golden Visa: Explained by Immigration Experts

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Does France Have a Golden Visa Program?

A lot of our clients reach out to us with this question. In reality, the answer is no - France does not have a Golden Visa program specifically designed in the same way as some other EU countries like Portugal, Spain, Greece, and Italy, where investment in real estate or other sectors of the economy leads directly to residency. However, the term “golden visa” is used as a marketing term that applies to some of the French visa and residency programs that provide similar benefits to talented or financially independent foreigners in France. 

France offers other types of residency programs that attract foreign nationals, including investors, but these are not officially called "Golden Visas." While the benefits are quite similar and could lead to citizenship in the long run.

In general, France has 3 main residency programs to captivate skilled, entrepreneurial and wealthy individuals interested in living in France. These include the Talent Passport Visa for Business Investor, the Tech Visa for Founders (aka Talent Passport Visa for Business Start-Up), and the Visa for Financially Independent Persons or Passive Income Visa (Visa Visiteur and Carte de Séjour). Some of these programs fall under the French Talent Passport category, which is somewhat analogous to a Golden Visa but has quicker processing times, often granting full residency status within about 3 months. France aims to invite foreigners who can actively contribute to its economy and society, rather than just allowing investment in passive options like real estate or government bonds.

France Golden Visa Alternatives

Talent Passport Visa for Business Investor

For foreign investors from non-EU, non-EEA, or non-Swiss nations who aim to contribute to the French economy and relocate to France, the Talent Passport ‘Business Investor’, a multi-year residence permit, is specifically designed to facilitate this. The permit not only simplifies the immigration process but also offers a variety of benefits, including extended stay options, the ability to bring family members, and the ability to apply for French citizenship after 5 years. 

Requirements

This type of residency can be achieved through one of the following investment methods:      

  • personal direct investment in a new or existing business;
  • investing through a company under your control;
  • holding a minimum of 30% shareholding in a company. 

Applicants must fulfill several criteria to qualify, including the creation or preservation of jobs within 4 years of their investment and an initial investment of at least €300,000 in either fixed tangible or intangible assets.

The investments must be direct, such as share capital investments, reinvested earnings, or loans between affiliated companies, excluding purely financial investments. 

This permit is particularly aimed at fostering significant economic contributions and enhancing job opportunities in France. It is renewable every four years, contingent on the continued satisfaction of the investment commitments and the nature and duration of the ongoing projects.

Application

If you reside outside of France and are seeking to apply for the "Talent Passport" as a business investor, you should start your application process through the French consular authorities in your country of residence. Begin by submitting your application for a "Talent Passport" long-stay visa on the France-visas official website. Once you arrive in France, you will need to complete your residence permit application via a dedicated online platform. After submitting your application, you will be able to monitor its status, respond to any additional requests for information, and receive updates directly through your online account.

For those already residing in France under a different type of residence permit, you should apply for a status change through the same online platform, ensuring you can prove your eligibility for the "Talent Passport."

The application process should be initiated no more than 3 months prior to your planned date of arrival in France, or 3 months before your current residence permit expires if you are already in the country.

The required documentation can be found on the official France-visas website, where you can also download a checklist of necessary documents for the "Talent Passport" residence permit application.

Regarding fees, there is a €200 tax payable to the French Immigration and Citizenship Office (OFII) upon issuance of the permit, along with a €25 stamp duty. Additionally, the long-stay visa costs €99.

For renewals, ensure you apply within 3 months prior to the expiration of your current permit, providing evidence that you continue to meet the eligibility requirements, including ongoing investment activities or new investment plans.

For those seeking a "Talent Passport – Family" permit for their spouse and dependent children, similar application processes and fees apply. This permit will enable them to reside and work in France as long as your residence permit remains valid. The cost of the spouse's residence permit is €225, plus €99 per visa for each family member.

Tech Visa for Founders

The French Tech Visa for Founders targets start-up founders from countries outside the European Union, European Economic Area, and Switzerland (excluding Algerian nationals). It is designed for individuals who plan to establish and grow their innovative ventures in France. 

Requirements

To qualify for this visa, founders must meet the following requirements:

  1. Innovative Project. The founder must present a viable economic project that is innovative and planned to be developed in France.
  2. Recognition by a Public Body. The project must be acknowledged by a French public entity, such as state agencies, local authorities, public institutions, or state-owned companies.
  3. Financial Sustainability. The founder needs to demonstrate sufficient financial resources, with an income at least equivalent to the French minimum wage (€21,203.00  as of January 1, 2024).

The length of time this permit remains valid varies based on the type, specifics, and planned length of the project proposed. It can be extended up to a maximum of 4 years and is renewable.

Application

To apply for the French Tech Visa for Founders, follow these critical steps under this category:

Step 1: Engagement with French Tech Ecosystem

Apply to Partner Incubators or Accelerators: Start by applying to one or several of the French Tech Visa partner incubators or accelerators. This can be done through their regular selection processes.

Alternative Support: Alternatively, secure the backing of two members from the French Tech ecosystem, such as research organizations, laboratories, qualified individuals, or companies. Each supporter must provide a letter of support.

Step 2: Recognition of Innovation

Submit Documentation: Once selected by an incubator, accelerator, or upon receiving support from two ecosystem actors, proceed to validate the innovative nature of your project. This is done by applying at the dedicated portal.

Approval from DRIEETS IDF: The project must be recognized by the DRIEETS IDF (Direction générale interdépartementale de l’économie, de l’emploi, du travail et des solidarités Ile-de-France). Upon their approval, you will receive an acknowledgement letter from the Ministry of the Economy.

Step 3: Official Acknowledgement

Receive Official Letter: Following your submission, DRIEETS IDF will issue an official letter acknowledging the innovative nature of your project.

Step 4: Application for Visa or Residence Permit

Application for Long Stay Visa: If residing outside France, include the official letter with your application for a long-stay visa marked “Talent Passport – innovative economic project” at the French consulate in your home country.

Application for Residence Permit: If you are already in France with a residence permit, apply for a change to a “Talent Passport – innovative economic project” through this portal. This application will be processed by the Prefecture in your area of residence.

When the permit is issued, applicants are required to pay a tax of €200 to the French Immigration and Citizenship Office (Office français de l’immigration et de l’intégration – OFII). Additionally, there is a stamp duty of €25 on residence permits. Including these fees, the total administrative cost amounts to €225. Furthermore, the long-stay visa that allows entry into France is priced at €99. 

Passive Income Visa (Visa Visiteur and Carte de Séjour) 

The Passive Income Visa, also known as the Visa for Financially Independent Person ( "Visa Visiteur" and "Carte de Séjour"), is designed for non-EU nationals who wish to reside in a country without engaging in professional activity there. This permit allows you to reside in France for over 3 months without the right to work. It requires proof of sufficient financial resources and is valid for up to 1 year, with the possibility of renewal. 

Requirements

If you are a non-European or non-Algerian foreigner, you will need a long-stay visa that serves as a residence permit, specifically the Visa Visiteur. You must pledge not to engage in any professional activity in France and demonstrate that you have enough resources to sustain yourself throughout your stay. The minimum required income for a single person is €1,398.70 per month (we recommend showing at least €3,000), calculated on a yearly basis. These resources can come from your own income, such as annuities, pensions, or real estate earnings, or can be supported by a family member. Proof of these resources can be shown through bank statements, bonds, or financial guarantees from individuals with credible financial standings. The assessment of your resources also considers your living situation and may include financial guarantees from trustworthy relatives. However, family allowances are not considered valid financial support for this purpose.

Moreover, you need to have an address in France (i.e., buy or rent a property). 

Eligibility for this visa may include additional scenarios for different types of individuals, such as:

  • Being a non-EU financial independent person (you can also include your family members); 
  • Being a dependent parent of children who are legally residing in France,
  • Being in a civil partnership, specifically a Civil Solidarity Pact, with less than one year of cohabitation,
  • Religious figures, like priests or imams, who are entering France to perform their duties.

However, be aware that the issuance of your residence card can be denied by the prefecture for several reasons, including:

  • Failure to comply with a directive to leave French territory,
  • Engaging in forgery or using false documents,
  • Committing crimes such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, procurement, providing substandard work or living conditions,
  • Acts of violence against officials, public servants, or security personnel.

Application

When applying for the Passive Income Visa (Visa Visiteur and Carte de Séjour), the process is initiated online through the official platform for residence permits, ideally between four months and two months before your existing residence document expires. The application process will be as below:

  1. Initial Visa Application (Visa Visiteur). The process typically spans 1-2 months and is handled by the French Consulate in your country of residency or citizenship. Within the first two months after receiving your visa, you need to enter France and apply to the OFII to validate the Visa Visiteur and convert it into a residence permit, a process that takes approximately 2 days.
  2. Medical Examination. Within three to four months of arrival, you will be invited to undergo a mandatory medical examination at the OFII.
  3. Residence Permit Card Issuance. Around 2-3 months before your visa expires, you will be assisted in submitting the necessary documentation to the OFII to obtain your temporary residence permit card.

You will need to submit the following supporting documentation to initiate the above mentioned process:

  • Passport pages that show your identity details, validity, and all entry stamps and visas. 
  • A current and complete copy of your birth certificate.
  • Proof of your current address that is no more than six months old.
  • A digital photo and signature, which you can obtain from an authorized photographer or booth.
  • Demonstrable financial resources of at least €16,784.32 ( we recommend showing at least €36,000) per year can be shown through bank statements, surety bonds from credible guarantors, or pension documents.
  • If you are financially dependent on another person, documentation showing the guarantor’s sufficient resources and financial responsibility, along with their identity card.
  • A declaration in writing affirming your commitment not to engage in employment in France.
  • Health insurance coverage for the entire duration of your stay.
  • Proof of an address in France. 
  • A medical certificate from the French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII), required at the time your permit is issued.
  • Proof of payment of the residence permit tax and stamp duty, totaling €225 (€200 tax and €25 stamp duty).

France Citizenship by Investment

France, unlike some countries, does not have a Citizenship by Investment program where citizenship can be acquired directly through financial investment. Alternatively, France emphasizes a pathway to citizenship through naturalization, which demands a longer-term commitment to the country and integration into its culture.

Naturalization in France is available to adults over the age of 18 who have legally resided in the country continuously for at least five years. The naturalization process involves satisfying several rigorous criteria designed to ensure that applicants are well-integrated and committed to French society. Below are the detailed requirements for naturalization in France:

  1. Language Proficiency. Applicants must demonstrate proficiency in the French language. The required level is B1 (intermediate) on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. This proficiency ensures that the applicant can effectively communicate in French and engage with the community.
  2. Cultural Understanding. A comprehensive understanding of French culture, history, and societal norms is essential. Applicants are expected to display an appreciation of French values and the principles of the French Republic, such as secularism, democracy, and the rights of the individual.
  3. Financial Stability. Applicants need to demonstrate financial independence. This is assessed through evidence of stable and sufficient income to support oneself and any dependents. The aim is to make sure that new citizens are economically self-sufficient and not a burden on the state.
  4. Clean Criminal Record. A clean criminal history is crucial. Applicants must not have any criminal convictions that resulted in imprisonment for six months or more. This criterion reflects the importance of good moral character in prospective citizens.
  5. Tax Compliance. Filing of at least one tax return in France is required. This compliance shows the applicant's adherence to French laws and contributes to their overall profile as a responsible resident.
  6. Integration into French Society. The applicant must show a genuine integration into French society, which may include factors like employment history, social connections, family ties in France, and participation in local community life.

The naturalization process culminates in an interview, conducted by a local prefecture, where the applicant must convincingly demonstrate their commitment to France and the reasons for seeking citizenship.

The French government evaluates each application comprehensively, ensuring that only candidates who are genuinely committed to the values and welfare of the nation are granted citizenship. This process underscores the belief that becoming a French citizen is not merely a procedural act but a meaningful and profound integration into French life and culture.

How Much Do I Need to Invest in France to Get Residency?

France provides several investment opportunities for investors seeking residency. These include investing a minimum of €300,000 in an existing or new company, or creating an innovative startup with a minimum investment of €22,000. Each category caters to different types of business involvement and investment scales, offering pathways to residency depending on the nature of the investment and involvement in the business. 

Can I Get Residency in France if I Buy Real Estate?

Purchasing real estate alone does not automatically qualify you for residency in France. Unlike some other countries that offer "golden visa" programs specifically linked to real estate investments, France does not have a direct real estate investment route to residency. But buying a property can be beneficial if you are applying for a long-stay visa, such as the "Visa Long Séjour valant Titre de Séjour" (VLS-TS), specifically under the "Visa Visteur" category. One of the requirements for this visa is proving that you have a stable and adequate place to live, which owning property can satisfy. 

Can I Get Residency in France if I Start a Business?

As an entrepreneur aiming to establish a business in France, you have two main residency options. First, you can apply for a temporary residence card under the "Talent Passport for Founders" category, which is suited for those planning to run their own business. Alternatively, you can opt for a multi-year residence card under the "Talent Passport for Business Investor" category, designed for entrepreneurs who can demonstrate a solid business plan with potential economic impact in France. Both options facilitate the process of setting up and operating a new business in France, providing different levels of stay and benefits, depending on your long-term goals and the nature of your business.

How Can an American Get French Citizenship?

An American can obtain French citizenship through several pathways, most commonly by naturalization, which typically requires living in France with a valid residency status for at least five years. During this period, the individual must demonstrate integration into French society, which includes speaking French fluently and understanding French culture and laws. In addition, applicants must show they have stable economic resources and a clean criminal record. Marriage to a French citizen can also facilitate the process, reducing the residency requirement to four years. Other ways include service in the French military or making exceptional contributions to France in certain capacities, which might lead to citizenship by decree. 

What is the Best Golden Visa in Europe?

Determining the "best" golden visa in Europe largely depends on your specific needs and preferences, such as investment options, flexibility in stay requirements, ease of family inclusion, and the path to permanent residency or citizenship. Here's a brief overview of the golden visa programs in Portugal, Spain, Greece, and Italy:

Portugal

The Portuguese Golden Visa provides several investment routes: a €500,000 subscription in eligible private equity or venture capital funds, starting a business that creates at least 10 new jobs (or 8 in low-density areas), or investing €500,000 in an existing business to generate at least five new jobs for three years. Besides, contributions of €250,000 can support national heritage preservation or €500,000 can fund research and development. The visa requires only seven days of stay per year, making it very flexible for those not wishing to relocate permanently. After five years, investors can apply for permanent residency and citizenship, subject to fulfilling certain conditions like language proficiency.

Spain

The Spanish Golden Visa program requires substantial financial investment in various forms, providing a pathway to residency for non-EU nationals. To qualify, investors can choose from several investment options: a minimum of €500,000 in Spanish real estate, at least €1 million in shares of Spanish companies, €1 million in a bank deposit or investment fund, or a minimum of €2 million in Spanish treasury bonds. These investment thresholds grant the investor, and potentially their family, a residence permit, which can be renewed as long as the investment is maintained. The visa also offers freedom to travel within the Schengen Area and a route to citizenship after ten years of residency under specific conditions.

Greece

Greece offers a highly accessible Golden Visa program with an initial investment threshold of €250,000 for real estate, positioning it as one of the most affordable entry points in Europe. This investment grants investors access to the Schengen Zone and does not require a minimum stay, which is particularly appealing for those not looking to relocate permanently. The residency can be renewed every five years. However, obtaining citizenship is relatively more complex and lengthier than in Portugal and Spain, requiring a 12-year period before eligibility. Recently, changes were announced regarding the investment requirements, which will vary by region—€400,000 in certain areas and €800,000 in others. To lock in the current lower rates, investors need to make a 10% deposit by September 30th and finalize their investment by December 31, 2024, providing a window for potential investors to capitalize on the existing conditions.

Italy

The Italian government is dedicated to enhancing Italy's appeal to international investors and has introduced the Investor Visa as a demonstration of this commitment. The program offers four investment options: a €2 million investment in Italian government bonds, a €500,000 investment in an Italian limited company, a €250,000 investment in an Italian innovative startup, and a €1 million donation to philanthropic initiatives within Italy. The program not only offers a five-year residency permit, renewable as long as the investment is maintained, but also allows investors to apply for Italian citizenship after ten years of continuous residency, providing a long-term pathway for investors to integrate into Italian society.

Golden Harbors can provide expert assistance in navigating these diverse Golden Visa programs, helping you choose the one that best aligns with your investment goals and lifestyle preferences. Our team offers personalized guidance throughout the entire process, from selecting the most suitable investment option to handling all legal and administrative procedures. 

Whether you are looking for flexibility, low investment thresholds, or a straightforward route to becoming a European citizen, Golden Harbors is your dedicated partner in achieving your relocation and investment objectives.

France

Residence Benefits

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Visa-free entry

to the EU and the Schengen area countries

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Global mobility and freedom

within 3 months

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Access to EU banking system

the right to open and service accounts in reliable class A EU banks

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Global mobility and freedom

expansion, entry into the international market, filing a company in France allows you to renew a residence permit via a business for the whole family

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Return on Investment

option to buy a real estate property with potential of passive income, and the prospect of selling assets in 5 years

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Global mobility and freedom

for investors who have been in France for 5 years and have filed tax returns for the last two years

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No restrictions on dual citizenship

there is no need to renounce your existing citizenship in the future when obtaining French passport

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Global mobility and freedom

main applicant's family members (spouse, financially dependent parents and children) can apply for a residence permit as part of family reunion

France

Residence Permit

Processing Time and Terms

Enter your estimated application start date and get a clear timetable for each step

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Sign a service agreement, fill out application forms, and pay the initial service and due diligence fees.

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Sign a service agreement, fill out application forms, and pay the initial service and due diligence fees.

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we prepare the documents required for submission to the French Embassy and the French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII)

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real estate property purchase or lease in France.

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registration for a national visa "visiteur" at the Embassy of France.

visit France to register documents in OFII and register your residence permit.

There are Always Options to EXPAND YOUR BOUNDARIES! Let's Discuss Yours

Every client is unique

Every case requires an individual approach and solution. Our years of experience in the industry allow us to provide both.

We will answer all your questions and provide detailed information about the available second passport and residency programs to help you make the right choice.

Victoria

Lead Attorney at Golden Harbors

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Victoria

Lead Attorney at Golden Harbors