France is Europe’s largest country and its location at the centre of the continent makes it a desirable destination for business. A skilled workforce and strong industrial base add to its attraction. Paris ranks second after Tokyo for hosting the greatest number of multinational company headquarters, with around 500 businesses making it their home city.

Covid-19 latest information

This guide is an accurate reflection of the pre-Covid-19 business environment in France. Please note that due to the current situation, some circumstances may have changed in this country. Figures and data in the guide were last updated in May 2021.


Welcome to France

Paris features alongside London, Hong Kong and New York as one of HSBC’s trading hubs. With over 10,000 employees, HSBC Continental Europe offers banking services to businesses and individuals, combining in-depth local knowledge with global expertise. That means we’re well positioned to help you take advantage of the many opportunities France can offer.

France sits at the crossroads of Europe, linking the North with the South. The country’s world-class infrastructure delivers strong connections both internally and externally, ranging from high speed rail links to busy ports and Europe’s leading business airport. Beyond pure transport, its political and cultural links with Europe, Africa and the Arab nations offer businesses opportunities for growth in Europe and further afield.

HSBC provides a comprehensive range of cross-border and financial services to suit both your personal and business needs, whether you are moving to the region, working in the area, or purely investing or doing business in France.

I look forward to seeing you here!

Jean Beunardeau Chief Executive Officer, HSBC Continental Europe

Head office address: 38 avenue Kléber, 75116 Paris


66.9 million1
543,965 sq km
Main languages
Capital city
Other major cities
Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille, Nice
Dialling code
USD45,804 per capita (2018)1
Top exports
Aircraft, machinery and transportation equipment, plastics, chemicals, pharmaceutical products, iron and steel, and beverages2
Top imports
Machinery and equipment, vehicles, crude oil, aircraft, plastics, and chemicals2
Unemployment rate
Corporation tax
Typical office hours
8.30 or 9.30am until 5.30 or 7pm, Monday to Friday
Time zone
UTC +1, but from March to October the country observes UTC +2
Emergency numbers
18 (medical emergency and fire brigade), 17 (police) and 112 (pan-European emergency services)

1 Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development, 2019
2 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), 2018
3 Trading Economics, 2021
4 Deloitte, 2019
* Map shows cities of economic significance according to the CIA, 2018

France: The crossroads of Europe


# 32

for ease of doing business (in a survey of 190 measured economies by The World Bank)

  • Desirable destination

    The largest country in Western Europe, with a population of almost 70 million, France shares borders with Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. Its purchasing power, which is already above the G7 average, is boosted annually as France is the world’s top tourist destination.

  • Well connected

    France has an enviable transport infrastructure, which is ranked ninth in the world. Significant investment in high speed rail has put the French rail network in top place among other EU countries, with similar high scores for both its road and air infrastructure. Citizens are also well-connected online, as France has one of the highest fixed broadband penetrations in the world.

  • Growing population

    Compared to many other European countries, France’s population continues to grow, both naturally and through immigration. Future growth is forecast to continue at similar rates. Education levels are high, with above average levels of GDP invested.

  • European hub

    At the crossroads between Northern Europe and the Mediterranean, the French logistics sector employs more than 1.8 million people.

  • Strong economy

    France has the seventh largest global economy and the third largest in Europe. GDP is expected to recover by around 6% in 2021, after a drop of 8.2% in 2020.

Country profile

Famous for food, fashion and romance, France is also a significant player on the global economic stage.

France plays a unique role in global trade. Bordering several key European states, the country links Northern Europe with the South. Through its colonial past and present-day overseas territories, France also has deep connections with the African continent and the Middle East. A strong historical background and sense of national pride combines with a forward-looking, ambitious economy that invests strongly in 21st Century digital communications and renewable energy.

Building on its inventive past, the French Government has announced a €10 billion investment in innovation and boasts the world’s largest digital incubator.

With a new government in place, the focus is on modernising the economy, capitalising on France’s position as a European hub and increasing its potential to attract foreign direct investment.

France boasts two of the busiest train stations in Europe – Gare du Nord railway station and Châtelet-les Halles underground station. Its rail network is the second largest in Europe and it was one of the first countries to introduce high speed trains, with the introduction of the TGV in 1981.

Read on to discover more about the dos and don’ts of doing business in France and how trading in or with the country could help boost the future growth of your business.

5 reasons to do business in France1

  1. Quality infrastructure
    France has an excellent communication and transport infrastructure, including high speed rail, international airports and ports.
  2. Low set-up costs
    The cost to set up a business in France is lower than in Germany, Japan and the UK.
  3. Highly educated population
    There are high levels of education in the country, with expenditure above the OECD average.
  4. A productive nation
    Productivity in France stands second only to the US among the G7 group of countries.
  5. Competitive system
    France boasts a competitive tax and investment regime, making it attractive to international businesses.

5 key challenges2

  1. 1

    Working in France

    EU citizens don’t require a permit to work in France, but non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens will have to apply for both a work and residency permit. The type required will depend on the nature of planned activity and the timescale for the stay.

  2. 2

    Buying property

    Fees can add around 15% to the cost of property and two types of tax are payable on residential property: land tax and local taxes. Registering commercial property can take an average of 59 days and businesses must obtain planning certificates, a cadastral certificate, a non-encumbrance certificate and mandatory environmental reports.

  3. 3

    Striking culture

    There are few restrictions on the right to strike in France - indeed striking is perfectly culturally acceptable. France comes second on the number of days lost to industrial action, with an average of 171, compared to 24 in the UK and 12 in Germany.

  4. 4


    Government authorisation is required for inward investment in specific sectors deemed vital to the French national interest. These include: energy infrastructure; transportation networks; public water supplies; electronic communication networks; public health protection; and installations vital to national security.

  5. 5


    Permits for construction can take time and effort to secure – an average of 184 days. Companies wishing to build must obtain an urbanism certificate, a building permit and a compliance certificate. Approval to open a site and connect to water and electricity works is also required.

1 Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development, 2019
2 TMF Group, 2018