Integrating foreign talent in France: what's new?


Creation of the “Talent Passport”

The creation of a residence permit, called the “Talent Passport”, is one of the core provisions of French law of 7 March 2016 (No. 2016-274) on the rights of foreign nationals, giving full effect to its goals of simplification and attracting foreign nationals to France to help make the country more attractive to international talent.

This single residence permit identifies the categories of foreign nationals who are deemed “talented” by lawmakers and have experience and qualifications that must be recognised as well as the various facilities granted to them.

Unlike the general multi-year residence permit, the talent passport is issued upon initial entry without the prerequisite of one year of residence in France. It may also be issued to foreign nationals who are already in France.

For employed talent, the talent passport is valid for the duration of the employment contract justifying its issue, up to a maximum of four years.

The talent passport allows the holder to engage in paid work without obtaining a prior work permit from the foreign labour departments of the regional directorates for companies, competition, consumption, labour, and employment (DIRECCTE).

A specific residence permit grants facilities to the talent passport holder’s family members.

Which types of employees are eligible for a talent passport?

The talent passport combines several existing residence permits: the “Skills and Talents” permit, the “Employee on Assignment” permit, the “Artistic and Cultural Profession” permit, and the “Scientist/Researcher” permit, the “European Blue Card”, and the “Exceptional Economic Contribution” permit.

The following are eligible for a talent passport:

  • persons working as a company representative, including as paid corporate officers;
  • persons holding in a high-skill position for at least one year and providing proof that they hold a diploma granted after at least three years of higher education or have at least five years of comparable professional experience. In this case, the permit must bear the words “European Blue Card”;
  • employees coming to France on assignment between establishments of the same company or between companies of the same group and who provide proof of, in addition to at least three months of employment in the group or company, an employment contract with the company established in France;
  • internationally or nationally renowned persons who come to pursue an activity in science, literature, arts, intellectual studies, education, or sports;
  • persons who have a diploma at least equivalent to a master’s degree obtained in France;
  • graduates with at least a master’s degree or equivalent who work in a paid professional activity or have been recruited by an innovative start-up to perform functions related to the company’s research and development or to the economic, social, international, and environmental development of this project;

In this last case, the law of 10 September 2018 (No. 2018-778) and the decree of 28 February 2019 (No. 2019-152) specified how to recognise an enterprise as innovative.

An innovative enterprise either fits the definition of “innovative start-up” in the French general tax code (Art. 44 sexies 0-A) or is issued a certificate by the French Ministry of the Economy recognising this status if the enterprise meets one of the following criteria:

  • the enterprise is or has been aided during the last five years by a support structure dedicated to innovative enterprises;
  • the enterprise receives or has received in the last five years government innovation support;
  • part of the company’s capital is held by a company or an alternative investment fund whose main purpose is to finance or invest in innovative enterprises and whose shares are not listed on a stock exchange.

Enterprises and funds meeting the last two criteria appear on lists prepared by the French Ministry of the Economy. This is currently covered by two orders dated 28 February 2019 (NOR: ECOI1906051A and ECOI1906053A).

“Employee on assignment” or “Intra-corporate transfer” permit?

In order to transpose into French law the provisions of the Directive of 15 May 2014 (No. 2014/66/EU) on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals (non-EU members) in the framework of an temporary intra-corporate transfer, the law of 7 March 2016 created a multi-year residence permit bearing the words “Intra-Corporate Transfers”.

This ICT permit is granted to foreign nationals who come to France to carry out a secondment assignment between establishments of the same company or between companies of the same group either to hold a senior management position or to contribute expertise.

The foreign national must provide evidence of at least six months of employment within the group of companies in question.

This permit is issued for the duration of the planned assignment in France, up to a maximum of three years (non-renewable). The paid professional activity used to justify the issuance of the permit does not require a work permit to be issued.

French law therefore provides enterprises with two mechanisms for mobility within international companies or groups.

At first glance, the differences between the “Employee on Assignment” and “Intra-Corporate Transfer” residence permits are not obvious. However, this is a very important choice, as shown in the table below:

"Employee on Assignment" talent passport

"Intra-Corporate Transfer" residence permit

Signing of an employment contract under French law Maintained relationship with the home employer
3 months of employment within the group 6 months of employment within the group
The application can be initiated directly within EU territory The permit application must be submitted outside EU territory
Renewable 4-year residence permit Non-renewable 3-year residence permit
No waiting period between two assignments Waiting period of six months before a new secondment
Minimum salary: 1.8 SMIC (or €32,858.28) Minimum salary: SMIC and conventional minimum
No work permit in another EU country Possibility of working in another EU country where an establishment or company of the group is located
Temporary residence permit to facilitate border crossing obtained when the residence permit application is filed with the prefecture. Upon filing the residence permit application, a temporary residence permit may be obtained on request with proof of an assignment by the employer. This practice varies by prefecture.

As such, although French law should allow international talent to be attracted, the situation is still complex. Companies and their advisers must be particularly vigilant strategically and legally when organising foreign talent’s arrival in France to opt for the system offering them adequate flexibility in an increasingly globalised working world. Thus, our specialized lawyers from CMS Francis Lefebvre Avocats are at your disposal for any kind of counseling regarding foreign talent intregration in France.