Company Registration

France is the 5th largest economy in the world and the 2nd largest in the Eurozone. Although France was slower than many of its EU counterparts to embrace a truly liberal business culture it has aggressively sought to attract foreign direct investment – with considerable success. This has resulted in what is now a very simple and straightforward process to register a company in France, although local advice is essential in order to ensure compliance with legal and financial regulations. 

What is the best way to register a French company?

There is no fixed pattern for company registration in France. Options range from opening a small representative office – a bureau de liaison – through to acquiring an existing company or setting up a new business from scratch. A SARL (Limited Company) or SAS (Simplified Joint Stock Company) are the most popular for overseas clients.

What is the most common type of French company incorporation?

There are four main kinds of French company incorporation:
  • business corporation – Societé Anonyme (SA)
  • limited company – SARL
  • simplified stock corporation – SAS (most common)
  • SCI – Societe Civile Immobiliere

What are the requirements for an SA company?

  • The minimum share capital is €37,000
  • the company must have at least seven shareholders
  • shareholders are liable up to the limit of their capital contribution
  • accounts must be audited in line with statutory requirements
  • top managers are treated as employees for tax and social security purposes

What are the requirements for a SARL company?

  • the minimum share capital is €1 however banks prefer the company to have at least 4000 € share capital.
  • the minimum number of shareholders is one (also called a EURL Company)
  • shareholders are liable up to the limit of their capital contribution
  • accounts must be audited in line with statutory requirements
  • top managers have more onerous tax and security rules than SA managers

What is an SAS company?

The Societé Par Actions Simplifieé (Simplified Stock Company) is a relatively new type of entity in France. It is a vehicle for creating a joint venture between a French company and a foreign partner. Previously, French companies had found it difficult to enter into joint-venture relationships with foreign companies because of the rigidity of French corporate law. However, SAS companies are increasingly finding favour with foreign investors considering France company formation, particularly in the USA, who wish to set up business in France.

What are the requirements for an SAS company?

  • the minimum share capital is €1 but banks prefer the company to have at least 4000 € share capital
  • the company must have at least one shareholder and director
  • shareholders are liable up to the limit of their capital contribution
  • there is no need for a board of directors

What is an SCI Company in France?

An SCI is similar to that of a private limited company, which has been incorporated. However, it also has a registered office/property in France which can either be rented out professionally or freely available for its shareholders; this is because it is the shares of the SCI which own the property. These shareholders own the property relative to their proportion of shares declared in the company statutes and can be resident or non-resident in France. The shareholders are liable for the debts of the SCI and if there are two (the minimum number necessary) each if responsible for 50%. It is by collective decision of all shareholders that decisions are made concerning the SCI.

🚀 7 steps to registering your French company:

Step 1 Confirm Your Details:
1.1 Company Name:
Confirm your company name. In France your company name does not have to be unique but, if you plan to trademark your company name, it will be necessary to check if this is available.
1.2 Activity:
A brief description of your company’s main activity in France, so that the commercial court can assign an activity code in order to check if this activity is regulated or not.
1.3 Directors:
Appoint your Company Director(s). In French Company Law there are no restrictions on the nationality or residency for Directors and Shareholders therefore you do not need to appoint a Director who lives in France or has French citizenship.
1.4 Company Address:
The commercial courts will need proof of address of your company in France such as an office lease or business address contract signed by your company.
Step 2 Set & Transfer Your Company Capital:
Confirmation of all company shareholders (individuals or companies) and their respective shares and capital value. You require a minimum of one company shareholder and there is no minimum share or capital value although the capital should cover your initial set ups and investments.
Each shareholder then needs to transfer their capital into a Share Capital Account and the commercial courts require evidence of your Capital Share Account and Certificate prior to registering any French company.
Step 3 Write Your Incorporation Documents:
Arrange for a legal practitioner to author all company documents such as: Memorandum & Articles of Association; Minutes of the First Board Meeting and Directors Nomination; Ultimate Beneficiary Owners Declaration; and miscellaneous documents. Directors and Shareholders will then need to follow signature instructions. In most cases, electronic signatures are accepted.
Step 4 Submit Your Dossier To The Commercial Court. In most cases, this stage can be done online. 
Step 5 Issue Your Company Registration Certificate & VAT number:
If all documentation is submitted correctly, the commercial court will issue the Company Registration Certificate (KBis) with your Company Registration Number (SIREN number) in as little as 24 hours. This document is your Ready to Trade License. Your VAT number is issued by post the tax office within two or three weeks of receipt of your KBis.
Step 6 Open A Corporate Bank Account:
Starting a business in France means opening a business bank account in France. If you are not a French resident, trying to open a bank account in France can be a complicated process. Once the bank account is opened the company capital is released and credited to the company bank account.
Step 7 Appoint a Chartered Accountant:
Upon registration, French accounting laws dictate that bookkeeping and filing obligations (VAT, annual reports) commence as soon as the new company is registered, regardless of how many transactions you initially undertake. You can do it on Reelo Platform.