France should stop saying “GET OUT” to talented foreigners

Let me preface this article with a bit of a disclaimer. A while ago, I published a response to the diversity debate that Michael Arrington kicked off in the Silicon Valley. I mentioned that – contrary to what one would think – France’s tech startup scene was incredibly diverse, including entrepreneurs of Moroccan, Tunisian, Israeli, Indian, Chinese and even Peruvian origin (to name a few). But diversity is not the topic of this article. It’s the administration. And while I realize that the US is far less than friendly when it comes to welcoming foreign talent into the US, France isn’t really any better.

Meet Greg.

Naturally my point of view is swayed by my own experience as an American studying/working in France as well – but let’s start off by considering the case of Greg Beuthin. Greg has a very impressive background (go on, read his Linkedin profile), speaks fluent French and English and is currently a senior project manager at ISAI-backed startup, Commerce Guys. According to an article on the company’s blog, Greg has a bit of rare know-how and has contributed to training numerous people in France. Oh, but he’s American. Which means that a few days ago, the French administration decided not to renew his work visa and to give him 30 days to leave the country. That’s just, well, RUDE!

Front National, is that you?

Sadly, this is not the first time I’m hearing this type of story. French entrepreneurs come up to me ALL THE TIME asking for help hiring an American. But it isn’t just Americans – it’s everyone. In fact, French newspaper Nouvel Observateur has a column featuring different foreign students that are refused the right to work in France despite having a French university degree and high-level jobs. Like Mehdi, a 25 year old Moroccan engineer with a French degree and work experience at Areva, who was asked to “go home.” In fact, since the beginning of the year, France has been on a bit of a mission to reduce immigration – apparently bot illegal and legal alike. But hey, I guess no country has a perfect immigration system.

L’immigration choisie.

Don’t expect things to get any better as we move closer to the 2012 French presidential elections. And while once upon France was pioneering its famous selective immigration procedures to welcome only the best migrants, seems things have now gone a little haywire. Still, there is the option of the “carte compétences et talents” which is the best-suited visa for foreign entrepreneurs. It does require showing a business plan, maintenance funds, potential to create jobs in France (duh) and is valid for a period of 3 years. While I haven’t met many people who have taken this route (which I find a bit odd given that I work with so many entrepreneurs), it is perhaps the best route to go and the visa that people have also recommended that I look into (I’ll be sure to let you all know how it goes, sure the administrative work will be fun!).

In the meantime, let’s get Greg his visa and work permit renewed, this is just ridiculous.  If you’ve had an issue with immigration in France, feel free to share your story and any advice.

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Categories: European StartUp Scene

Author:Roxanne Varza

Silicon Valley native discovering the local tech start-up and entrepreneurial scene in Paris, France.

4 Comments on “France should stop saying “GET OUT” to talented foreigners”

  1. La Micque
    December 15, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    This is completely puzzling – Greg is currently employed, but the administration won’t renew his carte de sejour? I’ve heard of cases where renewal was refused because the requestor was no longer working, or had some other change of status affecting income (like divorce), but never a case like this one.

    I suggest he find a good immigration lawyer. I’m not one, but its my understanding that he should be able to stay here while contesting the decision, and that he shouldn’t leave the country after the carte de sejour expires.

  2. December 15, 2011 at 6:46 pm #

    It is not easy for someone, who feels he should stay because he is well integrated and contributing positively economically and socially, to be told he must leave…

  3. December 16, 2011 at 9:56 am #

    Kicking people who help train people is probably not what they originally had in mind (at least I sincerely hope so!) This may just be yet another case of people losing sight of the broad goals and focusing on details. Problem is the details don’t always contribute to your end…

  4. Brad Patterson
    December 16, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

    Hear, hear.

    As a foreigner (american) who is currently employed in France and renewing their carte de séjour soon, I find it ridiculous that I’d be afraid of being rejected, and yet as in Greg’s case, it is a possibility.

    On November 27, the government announced it wanted to reduce yearly immigration from 200,000 to 180,000, a 10% decrease. As you’ve noted, it has a lot to do with Sarkosy toughening up and “fulfilling” promises of ‘handling’ the immigration issue, part of his 2007 campaign that he must vouch for in this new election. Alas, La Mique is right, this is worth appealing considering Greg’s situation (and I’ve also heard he should be able to stay in country while the appeal is in process). Bon courage !

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