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Working remotely from France: What are the rules for foreigners?

Remote working from France for non-French comanies
Working from home might be technically easy, but there other things to consider/ Photo: Chris Delmas/AFP
Modern technology means that many jobs can be done from anywhere in the world with only a laptop and a decent wifi connection - but what are the rules if you are working remotely in France for a company back in your home country?

These days it is perfectly possible to be physically located in France, while working remotely for a company based in the UK, the USA or other.

It’s grown since the pandemic and is increasing popular for roles including journalism, translating, online or web services, copy-editing or online tutoring, plus a host of other roles that can be done using just a laptop and a decent wifi connection.

But while modern technology means this is increasingly practical, people doing this option need also to consider how it affects their residency, work permits and tax status.

We asked Fiona Mougenot, a lawyer and partner in the immigration specialists Expat Partners, what are the things that people need to think about.

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Digital Nomad or French resident?

You might have heard the term Digital Nomad, and some countries including Spain are even offering Digital Nomad visas to tempt people to head to under-populated areas of the country.

France does not, as yet, have a similar visa although the country is keen to attract tech workers, but Fiona says people need to be clear on their long-term aims.

A Digital Nomad is usually someone spending a short time in a country, or moving between various countries while doing some short-term tech-based work – for example food bloggers or Instagram influencers.

Fiona says: “If you are genuinely a Digital Nomad and you’re just in France for a few months that is one thing, but if you want to live in France, then you need to consider your longer-term access to French residency, maybe citizenship one day and in the shorter term healthcare and benefits.”

Working in France

So what actually counts as ‘working in France’? French visa and residency applications generally ask if you have emploi en france (employment in France).

But does that include any work done while you are physically located in France?

Not necessarily. Fiona says: “If the work that you are doing has no connection to France – it’s not a French company, the work doesn’t benefit or involve France or a French company in any way then you can legitimately claim that you are not working in France.”

There is however, a big caveat to this – do you really want to say that you’re not working in France?

Working abroad

While it may initially seem simpler to not ‘officially’ be working in France, this can have an effect on many other things such as your access to healthcare and social benefits in France, as well as your pension rights.

If you intend to stay in France in the longer term you will eventually need to apply for long-term residency and maybe even citizenship and in most cases this will require you to prove that your main base of operations is France, not the country where your employer is based.

If you are British and covered by the Withdrawal Agreement (for people resident in France before December 31st 2020) – the Withdrawal Agreement carte de séjour gives you the right to work in France.

Fiona said: “It’s complicated, this is a real grey area as most of the rules were put in place before remote working became widespread. Everyone’s circumstances are different, but when we have clients making this decision once we have pointed out to them all of the knock-on effects people almost always decide that it’s better to be officially working in France.

“Many people have a desire to avoid the French admin, which is understandable, but if you see yourself staying in France for any kind of long or medium term future it’s inevitable and if you want to do things like registering children in school or retiring in France and having access to healthcare then you will need to engage with the system.

“And if you want to apply for a 10-year residency card or citizenship one day then you need to show that your main economic base is France, if you have been declaring that your work was done elsewhere then you may find that these years don’t ‘count’ towards the five-year mandatory residence period for citizenship, for example.”

Working while visiting

If you don’t intend to make France your home, you may want to spend long periods here anyway – especially if you have a second home – and if you’re from a non-EU country then that requires a visa.

Most second-home owners who don’t intend to work will apply for a visitor visa – but does this rule out doing a few days of work remotely from your French property?

READ ALSO How to get a visitor visa for France

Visitor visas ask people to agree not to have emploi en France, but what about doing some work for your company back in the UK or the USA?

Fiona says: “Depending on the circumstances this would probably be OK, provided that your work has no connection to France or a French company. You remain a visitor in France, with all the limitations that implies such as a lack of access to the state healthcare system, while working for a company in another country.”

However there are other things to think about, including ensuring that your employer knows where you are working and agrees to it.

Fiona said: “There are other potential issues connected to this, such as whether you would be covered by insurance in case of an accident – your workplace insurance will not cover you if your employer was not aware that you were working from France.”

Living and working in France

So if you’re living in France and decide to declare your status as working, what do you need to do?

If you’re applying now for a visa you would apply for a working visa as an entrepreneur or auto-entrepreneur, depending on whether you are an employee or self-employed.

When the time comes to apply for residency, you again apply as either employed or self-employed and provide proof if necessary of your work.

Once you are officially working in France, you then gain access to the social benefits – which are generous in France – and begin paying into your French pension. This is also available to freelancers via Urssaf.

However there are still other things to think about here, such as your position with your company regarding things like insurance.

Fiona says: “Don’t be tempted to lie to your company and pretend that you’re still in the UK, if you’re based in France – they need to know as it may affect other aspects of your employment.

“As with visitors, insurance cover will not be valid if you haven’t told your company that you’re working in France, you should even tell them if you’re changing locations in France eg if you’re working from your holiday home in the country for a few days or visiting a friend and working from their home.”

Freelancers

Many of the people who do this type of work will be freelancers, working for several different companies. Most people who do this will want to set themselves up as micro-entrepreneurs (previously known as auto-entrepreneurs) in France so they can benefit from social benefits as well as applying for healthcare under self-employed status.

READ ALSO How to register yourself as a micro-entrepreneur in France

If you are declaring work that is done remotely for companies outside France, this still counts in terms of your social security contributions.

However if you are billing companies outside the EU for work done, you need to be aware of the tax rules.

Since Brexit, this of course includes the UK and your work may count as ‘digital supply to UK consumers’ making it liable to UK VAT – more details here.

Tax

Everyone living in France must file an annual tax declaration, even if all of their income comes from abroad – whether that is income from work done in another country or a pension paid by another country.

Since the subject of tax for remote workers is complicated, The Local will be speaking to tax experts for a follow-up article looking at this. If you have any questions on this issue, email them to us at [email protected] and we will ask them on your behalf.

Fiona Mougenot is a lawyer specialising in immigration law with Expat Partners.


Member comments

  1. Peter Werry
    I have now retired to France but still have Consultancy Agreement with my former Thai employer. They are remitting monies to me monthly to my French bank with the Thai income tax paid by them. I no longer have Thai bank account. So what advise does Fiona Mougenot or yourselves suggest?.
    Regards
    Peter

  2. Thanks, very useful and reassuring: all my work is online, for clients in Hong Kong, channelled through my micro-entrepreneur business that helped secure my residency under the Brexit withdrawal agreement. My accountant clarified I can receive HK income into my HK bank account (clients much prefer that), and transfer it once quarterly to my professional bank account in France – thereby saving on bank transfer costs. I report income quarterly and am paying into the health and social security system here – ready for that citizenship application. HK tax authorities have been notified I’ve moved my consultancy from HK to France. Of course, I pay more tax in France, which Thomas Piketty has taught me not to complain about!

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