New four-year French Tech Visa will fast-track foreign start-up talent

18 Jan 2017

French identity papers. Image: Gaelfphoto/Shutterstock

France has revealed its latest play in luring greater numbers of foreign tech entrepreneurs, with a new four-year French Tech Visa that will speed up the moving process for the techies and their families.

With Britain now exiting the EU, the remaining nations are quietly battling it out to be the continent’s top location for incoming foreign tech talent from countries like the US, India and China, and now France has revealed its latest attempt to win them over.

Expanding upon the French Tech Ticket revealed in 2015, the French Tech Visa is a simple idea whereby foreign tech talent will be able to apply for a four-year visa for France through a fast-track process, avoiding many of the bureaucratic pitfalls.

Will allow families to come, too

Orchestrated by the French Ministry for the Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs, the visa will prioritise foreign start-up and scale-up founders and employees; those joining a French start-up or scale-up; and investors and business angels.

Other benefits of the visa include the fact that no work permit is required for any work performed as an employee, and, importantly for those with families, those granted a visa will also see their spouse gain a residence permit for full, standard employment in France.

While the fate of the UK’s place economically in Europe remains to be seen, this new visa does not apply to citizens from the European Economic Area and Switzerland, who do not need to get one.

The previous French Tech Ticket scheme remains in place for foreign tech talent to join an accelerator of 70 international start-ups with additional financial backing.

Timely ahead of presidential elections

Speaking to TechCrunch at CES this month, France’s Minister of State for Digital Affairs, Axelle Lemaire, said that 200 such applicants to the French Tech Ticket are expected to arrive this month, largely from the US.

While not launched just yet, the new visa’s timing coincides with the final few months of the term of incumbent French president François Hollande, with an election due to take place on 7 May.

One of the candidates expected to be a major challenger for the presidency is National Front’s Marine Le Pen, who is campaigning for France to leave the EU and greater restrictions on its national borders.

“It would be completely counter-historic and paradoxical to let the goods and merchandises and data travel freely, but not the people,” Lemaire said.

“There might be a political divide in the months to come, but you know where my government sits on that question.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic