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French Company Registration

04 Jun 2020

French Company Registration – Which Form to Choose

To register a limited liability company in France, you must first determine which company form you would like to choose.

Indeed, French law provides for three types of limited liability companies:

  • a SARL (“société à responsabilité limitée”), which a simple to operate however a little rigid form of French ltd;
  • a SAS (“société par actions simplifiée”), which is a more flexible limited liability company the bylaws of which may be customized to suit specific shareholders’ needs and which may, subject to certain conditions, issue corporate finance instruments (such as convertible bonds, warrants, preferred shares, whereas an SARL may not issue most of these instruments); and
  • a SA (“société anonyme”) which requires at least 7 shareholders to be incorporated.

Our French business lawyers will help you choose the most appropriate French limited liability company form for your business needs in France.

French Company Registration - Share Capital

The minimum amount of share capital required by French law for the incorporation of a SARL is 1€. We recommend however to our clients to provide for an initial share capital of 5 000€ to 10 000€, in order to have more credibility with banks and public authorities on setting up the company. The share capital must be deposited in a bank.

French Company Registration - Constitutive Documents

The following documents must be prepared, signed and submitted (in original) to the Commercial Court for the incorporation of the company: 

  • Bylaws of the company;
  • Decision of the shareholder appointing the director(s) of the company (if not appointed in the bylaws);
  • Affidavit to be signed by the future director(s) of the company ascertaining identity of both parents and absence of criminal record;
  • Affidavit regarding the amount of share capital of the company and the identity of the shareholders, to be signed by the director(s).

Our lawyers prepare and provide you with the above documents, customized to your specific needs, together with a free translation thereof in English.

French Company Registration - Bank Account

The share capital of the company must be deposited in a French bank. Please note that commercial banks in France are reluctant to open a bank account when the shareholders and directors of the company are not French residents.

Our lawyers guarantee the opening of bank account to enable you to deposit the share capital of the company and, once it is incorporated, to enable the company to normally carry business in France.

French Company Registration - Domiciliation (virtual office)

The company must have a registered office. To this effect, a lease agreement or a domiciliation (virtual office) agreement with a French domiciliating (virtual office) provider must be entered into. A copy of the lease / virtual office agreement must be submitted to the Commercial Court as part of the documents which are required for the incorporation of the company.

It should be noted that French law does not allow lawyers or any person other than a domiciliating company (which must be registered as such with the Préfecture and have a specific registration number which is verified by the Commercial Court) to provide virtual office services.

French Company Registration - Required Documents and Information 

  • For the projected director(s) of the SARL: a copy of ID/passport of the director(s) and a recent utility bill (dated less than 3 months) indicating his/her/their address; name, date and place of birth of both parents (mother and father);
  • For all shareholders: copy of ID/passport and recent utility bill; if the shareholder is a company, a copy of a recent (dated less than 3 months) certificate of incorporation or certificate of good standing or equivalent, with a translation in French;
  • Projected name for the company (our verifications in respect of the availability of such name will be limited to an identical search in the data base of French companies and French and Community trademarks);
  • A description of the activity which the company is planning to carry out in France;
  • Any other information which you may deem appropriate for the purposes of the incorporation of the company.

Please note that the above list of documents and information is preliminary only, and that additional information may be required depending on the specifics of the case.

French Company Registration - Time Frame

Company registration - as from submission of the required documents to the court - generally takes 2 to 3 days.

Obtaining a VAT number upon French Company Registration 

VAT number is delivered automatically on incorporation of the company. 

French Company Registration - Commercial / Operational bank account

The company must have an operational bank account.

Our French business lawyers may assist with the opening of a bank account with a commercial bank once the company is incorporated.

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