France is going all in to help its startups compete globally for talent (feat. the new French Tech Visa for Employees)


Talent is the hottest issue for startups today. What is the problem in France and how serious is it really?

The good news is that the French Tech ecosystem is experiencing a massive growth surge: More startups are raising bigger amounts of money, faster. To keep this momentum going, our startups will have to hire thousands over the coming years.

  • Just look at the last two companies to make it into our Pass French Tech program: Alan (created in 2016) was just 14 in January 2018. Today they have 75 employees, hiring an additional 110 people in 2019. Meero (created in 2016) already has 450 people, hiring 550 more people in 2019.
Following their recent funding round of €40 million, Alan is hiring an additional 110 people in 2019.
  • Let’s add to that the number of hires that startups yet to be born will need to get their prototypes off the ground. According to INSEE, business creation is hitting record highs: French entrepreneurs set up new companies last quarter at the fastest pace since 2010.

Unfortunately, challenges in hiring risk stunting the rapid global development of our startups. The shortage in product managers, sales, marketing and engineering is the source of this bottleneck. With the race for talent getting even more competitive, the GAFAM — in France and elsewhere — are raising salaries, making it even harder for our startups to compete.

Yikes. So, what’s the game plan for France?

We aim to build one of the richest and most diverse startup talent pools in the world, right here in France. In the long term, French government is investing 15 billion EUR to upskill the nation via the Plan Investissement Compétences. We are also experimenting with initiatives like the Grande École du Numérique or French Tech Springboard to cultivate tech talent from diverse backgrounds.

But for today, our startups need us to go fast and make bolder moves. With Brexit and Trump’s conservative immigration policy making foreign tech talent feel less welcome, we want to be ready to help thousands in the tech industry choose France.

To make this happen, under the patronage of our Secretary of State for Digital Affairs Mounir Mahjoubi, we teamed up with the French Directorate for Companies and the Ministry of Interior Affairs to rethink tech immigration policy and design what is — probably — the most open Startup Employee Visa in the world.

I hate to break it to you, but some other countries already have Startup Employee Visas. What’s the big deal here?

Simply put: Not all startup employee visas are created equal. As of March 1st, France has the only startup employee visa in the world that checks all the boxes below:

  • The French Tech Visa is diploma agnostic.Almost every startup visa scheme in the world has diploma requirements. Ours does not. We understand that your stellar back-end developer may have taught herself to code straight out of highschool, or that your new sales executive has a degree in History, not an MBA.
  • It automatically extends the visa to the employee’s spouse and minor dependent children. No (wo)man is an island, after all.
  • It takes in consideration our startups’ time. Unlike many other work visa schemes, you do not have to first justify that you have spent months looking for someone in your country to fill the role. The fast-track component of the French Tech Visa also means that your employees are a priority in the waiting line. Your startup is scaling fast and every day counts. We get that.
  • It is valid for four years — and renewable. It’s worth mentioning that those four years are not tied to a single employer. If things don’t work out in the first company, they can shift to another French startup or — hey why not — create their own company in France. What happens if after five years should they decide to make France their permanent base? They can ask for citizenship, of course.
  • It is free. As an example: In the US, an H-1B Visa will cost your company up to $5000, not counting filing and immigration lawyer fees (often, another $1500 to $3000). The French Tech Visa itself will cost you $0, filing fees amounting to roughly €368 and does not require a lawyer to prepare a petition.
  • The process is identical regardless of what nationality you have, or what country you’re applying from. Whether you’re coming from Manila or San Francisco, the evaluation process is the same.*
  • Bonus for Pass French Tech startups (Our 100+ fastest growing companies): We will also be offering soft landing support for their foreign employees at our new “Welcome to French Tech” helpdesk at our HQ at Station F, operated by our partners Business France. This summer, similar versions of this in-person service open across other startup clusters in France, a.k.a. the French Tech Capitals.

*Note: Ok, it’s a tad bit different for Algeria since a specific agreement exists between both our countries.

What companies qualify for the French Tech Visa for Employees?

First things first, the company needs to be registered in France and have a SIRET number, a 14 digit number referring to your business location.

Then, if the company checks one of the following conditions, they qualify to use the French Tech Visa for Employees:

  • Has the “Young Innovative Enterprise (JEI)” status. (FYI this is a package of tax credits and social contribution exemptions we offer to our R&D-heavy startups)
  • Received specific state funding* for innovation within the last 5 years
  • Backed by a French VC*
  • Part of a cohort of a partner Accelerator/Incubator*

Our current estimates put the number of startups that qualify at over 10,000.

*Note: To seal the deal, we compiled all the names of the funds, VCs, accelerators/incubators and even startup studios that qualify etched into the Ministerial Order. We intend to update this list several times a year.

How does it work?

Step 1. Go to our online platform and type in your company’s SIRET number, contact details and upload just one document that shows you check the eligibility criteria (see above).

Step 2. If your company qualifies, within a couple of days (or — during the surge period — weeks) you will get a very administrative-looking certificate in Times New Roman signed by yours truly via email.

Step 3. When your future employee applies for a Visa at the French Consulate, all he/she needs to do is follow the usual long-stay visa and residence permit “Passeport Talent” application procedure. Then, in the dossier, slip in a printed version of the certificate to activate the special perks of the French Tech Visa.

More information is available on welcometofrance.com. The latter also covers a wide range of info on settling in in France: (ex. social security, taxes, finding international schools for kids, etc.) If you don’t find what you need on the site, the helpdesk can answer your questions within 3 business days.

Wait a minute — you’re talking about French policy and bureaucracy here. Things can’t possibly be that simple and open.

We’re not 100% there yet but, as you may have heard, France is changing — fast.


Special thanks go to our #squad for making this happen: the French Directorate for Companies at the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Interior Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Business France, BPI and the lovely folks from beta.gouv.fr