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I'm looking at the Carte de commerçant étranger, a French long stay visa for those who are able to make their own business/living in France. I'm wondering if anyone on here has ever done this, how did you do it? What kind of questions did they ask you that you think they would ask anyone? How was the département in renewing your visa? I mean, I have heard horror stories about immigrants interacting with the département and I know that it takes five years to qualify for permanent residency and citizenship.

So, if anyone has any details, please let me know. :)

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I have no personal experience with this but you can find some details here. In principle, you should be asked to show that your business is viable and will generate enough income for you. You also need to show that it will obey all applicable laws, that you have enough money to start it and a place to run the business from (e.g. if it's a shop, you can't just say “I want to run a shop”, you need a rental contract for a suitable commercial property) and all the required qualifications/diplomas (for regulated professions).

Once in France, you will need to deal with all the formalities to start a business (depending on where you come from, you might find that's a little more bureaucratic than what you are used to) and go to the préfecture to turn your visa in a temporary residence permit. You have to do that within two months of entering France.

This permit (carte de séjour) is typically valid for one year and replaces the visa (it's one year from the date you applied, so when you get it it will already be several months old). The site is not really clear on what you need to renew it after the first year, you should make an appointment well in advance and will be informed of the documents you need to bring, which will depend on your status.

The treatment you can expect will depend a lot on where you are in France. Some préfectures are overloaded/understaffed and/or generally unpleasant to deal with (the ones I have some experience with are OK but I have read that some préfectures around Paris, like Bobigny, are really horrible).

  • Is there a different process to get a lease in France for non-residents who aren't also non-EU nationals? Also, what do you know about the Val d'Oise département? I think I'd like to live in Pontoise. Also, do you know if web design is a regulated position in France? I'm quite curious. :) – JessicaSideways Jun 29 '14 at 10:03
  • @JessicaSideways I don't really know about any of this but I am pretty sure that webdesign is not regulated. The lease question could be a good follow-up question, maybe someone else will be able to answer it. – Gala Jun 29 '14 at 11:50
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The way some préfectures (what you call "département", département being the area "ruled" by the préfecture) deal with immigrants is essentially a question of what kind of immigrants we are talking about. As a female Caucasian from the US you will find everyone nice and helpful in any préfecture. Getting permanent residency will be easy if you have a job. Webdesign is not a regulated position in France but unemployment is high at the moment and there's no shortage of webdesigners.

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    But the OP does not want to get a job, otherwise she would not go for a “Carte de commerçant étranger” ! I'm afraid this is more a comment than an actual answer to the question. – Gala Jun 29 '14 at 18:58
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    Also, your opinion on the préfecture is a bit simplistic in several ways. See e.g. jeparleamericain.com/2012/05/20/small-victories – Gala Jun 29 '14 at 19:05
  • Merci, Laure and Gala. Gala is right in that the immigration programme I am working towards is based on self-employment. I figure this is the best way to immigrate to France because I want to run my own business anyway. – JessicaSideways Jun 30 '14 at 1:33
  • @Gala Unemployment concerns self employed people as well as those seeking employment in a company. When competition is high it means less work for everyone, even for those who are self employed. – Laure Jun 30 '14 at 6:15
  • @Gala You might think it simplistic but it's something I know from the inside having lived in France all my life, so my point of view is based on hundreds of cases and not a few examples. – Laure Jun 30 '14 at 6:16

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