(Editor’s note: This post, the first of two, on renewing the Profession Liberale Visa appeared originally on The American in Paris. It’s reposted here with permission.)
I always tell readers of The American in Paris that getting a visa is usually much more challenging than renewing one, for the simple reason that for the former you are trying to prove to the French that something is at least plausible (this business will work, I am enrolled in this school, I am in a relationship with this person). For the latter you are simply offering evidence that their original judgment was correct.
I remember how I felt in 2017 when I got a four-year card for the first time. After three years of building my entire travel schedule for each year around a renewal, the idea of not seeing the immigration office for four years was a dream. I said so at the time.
I’d like to say this post was four years in the making, but that isn’t true. This is just the soonest I could write to tell you about a renewal. And there’s too much to say.
Below are a few key facts you should know about renewing your Profession Liberale Visa.
One Year Probation
All of us, when originally applying, are given a one-year visa (what attracts a lot of people to Passeport Talent is that it gives you a four-year card to start). With Prof Lib, the French are using the “trust but verify” mentality: Can you actually do what you said you could do in your original business plan?
Now, there’s nothing published on the Internet from the French government about this (one of the many reasons this blog exists in the first place, to fill a gap of information), but if you don’t have a good first year, you are only going to get a one-year renewal and are effectively on a sort of probation. What does a “good first year” mean?
The French expectation is that your Prof Lib business do at least the SMIC, which at the time of this post is 1,269 euros per month, or 15,228 euros per year. For those who don’t know, SMIC is the nationally-established minimum wage.
The thinking in the French bureaucracy is, if you’re going to bother to start your own business, you should at least make the minimum wage.
Now, this doesn’t mean that if you have a “bad” first year, that you’ll lose your visa status. If it’s very bad, you might. Meaning, if you only bring in something like 2,000 euros for the whole year, the French will consider this essentially a scammy method for you to stay in France. Without a wonderful explanation about how new clients are just around the corner, or that you have had a major personal/professional issue, you will not get a renewal and will have to leave the country in 60 days.
But if it’s anything north of say, 12,000 euros for the year, you have a decent chance of at least getting a one-year card, with the expectation that you make it above the SMIC the following year. If it’s significantly above the SMIC, let’s say at 22,000 euros per year or more, you have a good chance of getting a four-year card on your first renewal, as I did.
Renewing the four-year card
Renewing the Four-Year Card follows the exact same process as obtaining it in the first place. Your main evidence, apart from the usual proof of address, renter’s insurance, etc. will be your tax forms* and invoices. The tax forms will be a shorthand for the health of your business and the person looking over your dossier can see in an instant your top-line revenue and your take-home profit.
Many small businesses in France had an off year in 2020 (understandably) and it seems the authorities have been willing to give a pass on that year to pretty much everyone, as long as in 2021 there was an increase in revenues compared to 2020. That, and there’s a through-line narrative from your previous years as well.
One reason I have seen people not get a four-year card for a few years was a lack of diversity of clients. If you only have one whale client and no others, the French consider your business very fragile. This doesn’t mean you need to have dozens; you just can’t have only one or two and expect them to necessarily sign off on a four-year card.
The big difference for me this time from 2017 was that instead of going to the big Paris prefecture I had come to know through two different visa classifications and three renewals, I would be going to Melun because of my recent move to the Seine-et-Marne department (77). It would be a completely new experience for me, but that experience turned out to only differ in Covid-19 restriction pushing a security guard out front to forbid entry to any people not already cleared on a list.
About the author:
Singaporean-born American Stephen Heiner lived in Paris from 2013 to 2021 after living in Asia and the United States for most of his life. While he has an undergraduate degree in literature, he also has an MBA, and he’s very much the man who enjoys studying financial statements as much as he enjoys reading essays by G.K. Chesterton or James Howard Kunstler.
He visits his family in the U.S. and Singapore each year, but in the meantime enjoys his dream city, which he finally had a chance to move to after selling a company he built over a number of years.
You can find him on twitter and instagram @stephenheiner.
You can also follow his immigration journey on The American in Paris blog, where Stephen also offers consulting to those interested in relocating to, and/or making a life in, France.
You can read more of Stephen’s work here in Dispatches’ archives,