Setting Up Operations in France - Useful Information

"Foreign direct investment abroad allows Canadian firms to be integrated into global supply chains, be more productive and competitive, and ultimately create more and better jobs here in Canada."

Note: This document was updated in June 2014. The general information herein is provided for guidance only and should not be construed as professional advice of any kind.

The Government of Canada, through the Canadian Embassy's Trade Commissioner Service, is mandated to assist Canadian business people who wish to increase their business opportunities in France by establishing a local presence. Given the specificities of the French market and the complexity of the country's administrative processes, the purpose of this document is to provide potential investors with as much information as possible and to refer them to professional contacts.

This document is divided into two parts. The first presents websites and links to the government agencies responsible for attracting and advising foreign investors. The second section provides answers to questions frequently asked of the Trade Commissioner Service.

Important: This guide is not a substitute for the legal opinion of a lawyer, accountant or member of the French administration. You must obtain professional advice before investing in France.

France: An Advantageous Market for Canadians

In 2012, with a flow of US$ 25 Billion of foreign direct investment (FDI) in France according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), France confirms its rank as the 5th most popular country for FDI in the European Union.

France in a Few Words

The website of Canada's Centre for Intercultural Learning provides an overview of France.

For more detailed information, explore the website of France's Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs.

Investment Climate

To allow you to become familiar with France's economic situation before you invest, we have selected a number of websites:

  • The first is the website of the Embassy of Canada to France, which provides an overview of certain economic sectors (aerospace and defence; agriculture and Agri-Food, arts and cultural industries; bio-industries; environmental industries; fish and seafood products; information and communications technologies).
  • You will also find economic data on the website of France's Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. This page presents France's leading sectors and provides figures on the economic situation.
  • Finally, we suggest that you visit the website of the Invest in France Agency (IFA) for a short presentation on France's economic advantages.

As stated earlier, many Canadian companies have already chosen to invest in France. Click here to access figures on Canadian investment in France.

The Regions of France

There are 22 regions in France, each with unique assets and key sectors. Click here to access the directory of all websites of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CCIs) (French only).

Regions of France
Pays de la LoireNantes
Provence-Alpes-Côte d'AzurMarseille

You can also visit the websites [in French only] of the Regional Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CRCIs) listed below.

Setting Up Operations

Several organizations can provide information about what steps to take to set up operations in France.

  • The Invest in France Agency (IFA) helps foreign companies that wish to set up operations in France. Its website contains valuable information to help foreign companies establish themselves in France.
    The document entitled "Doing Business in France" is particularly thorough. It contains information on: Legislation (commerce, how to set up a business, the different types of companies and work contracts, industries subject to stricter regulation, etc.) Taxation (explanation of employers contributions, business taxes, potential tax benefits, etc.) Government assistance (state assistance you are entitled to as a foreign company in France.
  • Created by the government in 1996, the Agence Pour la Création d'Entreprise (APCE) [business start-up agency] exists to help anyone interested in setting up a business in France, and as such, can guide you in the process.
  • The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris (CCIP), for example, provides assistance with business creation in the Paris area. Its website (in French only) provides advice and procedures for creating a business in Paris.

We draw your attention to the following points:

  • Companies in France are structured differently than in Canada. The three most common forms of business structure are S.A. (Société Anonyme), S.A.S. (Société par Actions Simplifiées) and S.A.R.L. (Société Anonyme à Responsabilité Limitée). Each form has different advantages and regulations. For a detailed description, see the document entitled Doing Business in France, which is available on the IFA's website.
  • Note that certain production sectors are considered "sensitive" and require prior authorization for investment. These sectors are listed in the IFA document.

Hiring Employees

Employment contracts in France differ from those in Canada. The three main types of hiring are open-ended contracts (contrats à durée indéterminée or CDIs), fixed-term contracts (contrats à durée déterminée or CDDs), and interim.

The Agence pour la création d'entreprises (APCE) provides most of the information you need for hiring (in French only). The website also provides access to labour law information, notably the employer's obligations when hiring.

The mandate of the Agence Pôle Emploi is to help match employment supply and demand, and in so doing help employers hire.

For your information, on January 2014, the gross minimum wage rose to € 9,53 per hour, or €1,445.38 gross per month for a contract of 35 hours per week. The legal work week is 35 hours for a contract of 35 hours per week. The legal work week is 35 hours (after which overtime must be paid).

Mandatory Contributions


The Income Tax Branch and the Tax Law Branch of the Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Employment (MINEFE) has created a French-language document entitled "La fiscalité française" ("French taxation").

The first part, which is mainly intended for a foreign audience, presents an outline of the French tax regime. The second part presents a glossary and a list of states with which France has signed an agreement to avoid double taxation. France has signed a tax agreement with Canada and protects Canadian investors against double taxation.

Social contributions

The employer pays social contributions to the Union de recouvrement des cotisations de sécurité sociale et d'allocations familiales [union for recovery of social security and family allowance contributions] (URSSAF). The URSSAF is a state-dependant collection body that is separate from the tax authorities. An employee's total cost to the employer can sometimes be almost twice the employee's net salary.

Protection of Intellectural Property Rights

France is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and a signatory of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). As such, protection of intellectual property rights in France is similar to that in other signatory countries, including Canada.

It is important to make sure your company's brand and products are protected by patents. To do so, you may hire a lawyer specializing in the protection of industrial property.

Protection of ".fr" Internet domain names must be requested from the Association Française pour le Nommage Internet en Coopération - AFNIC (French association for cooperative Internet naming).

You can protect your brand and products yourself using the services of the Institut National de la Propriété Industrielle [national institute of industrial property] (INPI) (French only) or by filing for a Europe-wide patent through the European Patent Office (EPO).

Additional Information

For a study conducted by non-governmental organizations, we are providing you with links to audit companies that have carried out a study on France.

  • KPMG compares the situation of various European countries with that of the United States.
  • PricewaterhouseCooper offers its own guide (in French only) to setting up a business in France. It explains how to set up operations, as well as the specificities of French taxation and labour law.
  • Ernst and Young publishes a yearly "barometer" (French only) on the economic situation in France.

You must pay to access some of the information on these websites.

Useful Contacts


Embassy of Canada
35 avenue Montaigne
75008 Paris
Tel.: +33 1 44 43 29 00

Agence Pôle Emploi (French only)

Ministère du Travail, de l'Emploi et du Dialogue Social (French only)
101 rue de Grenelle
75007 Paris 07
Tel.: +33 1 44 38 38 38

Préfecture de Paris et de l'Ile-de-France (French only)
Telephone switchboard: +33 1 82 52 40 00
5 rue Leblanc
75911 Paris Cedex 15

List of Canadian lawyers in France created by the Trade Commissioner Service.

Business Creation

Invest in France Agency (IFA)
In France:
77 boulevard Saint-Jacques
75680 cedex 14 Paris
Tel.: +33 1 44 87 17 17
In Canada:
20 Queen Street West, Suite 2004
Toronto, Ontario M5H 3R3

Agence pour la création d'entreprises (APCE)
14 rue Delambre
75682 Paris Cedex 14
Tel.: +33 1 42 18 58 58
Fax: +33 1 42 18 58 00

Chambre de commerce et d'industrie de Paris (CCIP) (French only)
27 avenue Friedland
75008 Paris
Tel.: +33 820 012 112

Protection of Industrial Property

Association française pour le nommage Internet en coopération (AFNIC)
Immeuble le Stephenson
1 rue Stephenson - Hall A2 - 3rd Floor
78180 Montigny-le-Bretonneux
Tel.: +33 1 39 30 83 01

Institut national pour la protection industrielle (INPI) (French only)
15 rue des Minimes
CS 50001
92677 Courbevoie Cedex
Tel.: +33 0820 210 211

European Patent Office (EPO)

  • Brussels: +32 2 274 15 90
  • Munich: +49 89 2399-0
  • The Hague: +31 70 340-2040
  • Berlin: +49 30 259 01-0
  • Vienna: +43 1 5 21 26-0

The EPO Customer Service department is available from 8:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Monday to Thursday, and from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Friday.
Tel.: 00800 80 20 20 20.


Real Estate Agencies

Century 21 (French only)
3, rue des Cévennes, Bât. D
Petite Montagne Sud - CE 1701
91017 Evry Cedex Lisses
Tel.: +33 1 69 11 12 21
Fax: +33 1 69 11 82 73

Immovision / Figaro Classifieds
Bâtiment Twins II
885 Avenue du Docteur Julien Lefèbvre
06270 Villeneuve-Loubet - France
Tel.: +33 820 420 400 / +33

Fédération nationale des agents immobiliers (FNAIM) (French only)

July 2014