FAQ section

What are the first procedures when starting a business in the Bay Area?

Each area or city has its own requirements. To give you an idea let's take San Francisco as an example. To start up your business in San Francisco, seven procedures are necessary:

1. Choosing a location
2. Selecting the type of business
3. Obtaining a Federal Employer Identification Number
4. Checking the status of existing business names
5. Registration of the business
6. DBA filing and Fictitious Name Registration
7. Obtaining other permits and licenses

What should I do prior to moving my business?

6 months - 1 year before moving day

  • Select office space
  • Identify major tenant improvement needs
  • Set budget
  • Choose the moving day
  • Obtain necessary permits
  • Start contracting for major tenant improvements
  • Order new phone number
  • Order new fax number

3 - 6 months before moving day

  • Design office space
  • Assign office space
  • Furniture
  • Hire professional movers
  • Evaluate server room needs
  • Evaluate computer network needs
  • Order change of address labels
  • Order signage for new location
  • Identify phone system requirements
  • Order phone lines
  • Order Internet access
  • Arrange for trash disposal
  • Set up cleaning service

1 - 3 months before moving day

  • Get business insurance quote for new space
  • Arrange for copier move or buy new equipment
  • Order security system
  • Order keys and access cards
  • Arrange for coffee/water service
  • Send change of address to all vendors
  • Send change of address to all clients
  • Send change of address to all subscriptions
  • Notify all lessors of equipment moving
  • Order checks with new address
  • Order long distance service
  • Transfer 800 numbers or order new numbers
  • Sell/donate old equipment and furniture

1 day - 1 month before moving

  • Contact building management at origin and destination to define building moving procedures and schedule moving times
  • Provide movers with above information
  • Obtain all required certificates of insurance
  • Install phone lines
  • Assign new phone numbers and extensions
  • Order new stationery and business cards
  • Identify closest overnight drop-off boxes
  • Order bin for purging
  • Purge old and obsolete materials
  • Create new office extension directory
  • Create new office layout map
  • Create new fax cover sheet
  • Notify Post Office of change of address
  • Update website with new information
  • Obtain packing boxes from moving company
  • Back up computers
  • Pack up desks and personal spaces
  • Pack up common areas
  • Tag furniture to be moved
  • Tag all wall items and store them in one place
  • Distribute new keys and access cards
  • Empty, defrost and clean refrigerator
  • Code new office space on a map for movers

Moving day

  • Post coded space maps in office for movers
  • Move plants

I just moved, do I need to notify USCIS?

In a recent major policy change, anyone living in the U.S. who is not a U.S. citizen must report every change of address to USCIS within 10 days of the move on Form AR-11.

For proof of due diligence, it is strongly recommended that the form be sent using Certified Mail with Return Receipt cards. Please note that if you have a case pending with USCIS, the Form AR-11 does not also change your address for your case. You should contact your legal counsel and notify the service center handling your case separately.

Please visit the following website for further information:

How do I define the type of structure for my company?

When organizing a new business, one of the most important decisions to be made is choosing the structure of a business. Factors influencing your decision about your business organization include: legal restrictions, liabilities assumed, type of business operation, earnings distribution, capital needs, number of employees, tax advantages or disadvantages, length of business operation.

The characteristics of sole proprietorshippartnership and corporation are as following.

Sole Proprietorship

This is the easiest and least costly way to start a business. A sole proprietorship can be formed simply by finding a location and opening the door for business. There are likely to be fees to obtain business name registration, a fictitious name certificate and other necessary licenses. Attorney's fees for starting the business will be less than the other business forms because less preparation of documents is required and the owner has absolute authority over all business decisions.

Sole proprietors are in complete control and may make decisions as they see fit within the parameters of the law. Sole proprietors receive all income generated by the business to keep or reinvest.

This solution is comparable to the creation in France of an individual business in which the individual trader will be indefinitely responsible. Sole proprietors have unlimited liability and are legally responsible for all debts against the business. Their business and personal assets are at risk.

Individuals seeking sole proprietorship may be at a disadvantage in raising funds and are often limited to using funds from personal savings or consumer loans.


Partnership involves the association of two or several persons, who have the quality of co-proprietorship, with the intention of carry out activities aimed at achieving a lucrative goal. The associates can conclude a "partnership agreement" that determines the functional regulations of the partnership. Two types of partnerships exist: a "general partnership" and a "limited partnership."

A "general partnership" can be formed simply by an oral agreement between two or more persons, but a legal partnership agreement drawn up by an attorney is highly recommended.

Every associate of a "general partnership" participates in the management and has the same rights, obligations, and power. Their responsibility is unlimited as for the debts of the partnership and creditors will be able to carry out garnishment acts on their personal goods.

The "limited partnership" must have at least one associate ("general partner") that is in charge of the management and of which the responsibility is unlimited, as well as associates ("limited partners") that do not take active party to the control and the direction of the partnership. Their responsibility is limited according to their provision in capital.


The corporate structure is usually the most complex and more costly to organize than the other two business structures. Control depends on stock ownership. Persons with the largest stock ownership control the corporation instead of the total number of shareholders. With control of stock shares or 51 percent of stock, a person or group is able to make policy decisions. Control is exercised through regular board of directors' meetings and annual stockholders' meetings.

Records must be kept to document decisions made by the board of directors. Small, closely held corporations can operate more informally, but record keeping cannot be eliminated entirely. Officers of a corporation can be liable to stockholders for improper actions. Liability is generally limited to stock ownership, except where fraud is involved.

To get details about types of business, please refer to the following websitehttp://www.ss.ca.gov/business/

How do I register a business?

Obtaining a Federal Employer Identification Number

An Employer Identification Number is a nine-digit number used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to identify a business entity. In general, employer I.D. numbers are needed if a business has employees, has a qualified retirement plan, or operates as a corporation or partnership. This is also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number or Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN).

To obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Fresno, California office of the Internal Revenue Service, fill out an SS4 form ("Application for Federal Employer Identification Number") and have it processed by phone, fax or mail.

To get details about Federal Employer Identification Number, please visit: http://www.irs.gov/businesses/index.html

Checking current existence of business name

Check to make sure that the business name(s) you wish to use for your business is not currently registered with the City and County of San Francisco. This can be verified online.

Please visit the website of the City and County of San Francisco:

Registration of the business

A "San Francisco business" is defined as any entity (individual, sole proprietor, independent contractor, partnership, corporation, etc.) which is "engaged in activity or caused to be engaged in activity within San Francisco for seven or more days in a year with the object of gain, benefit or advantage, whether direct or indirect, to the entity or to another or to others." All such entities (including non-profit organizations and individuals working from home) based in San Francisco, or based elsewhere but conducting such activities in San Francisco, are required to register with the City through the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector for a Business Registration Certificate, as stated in Article 12A of the San Francisco Business and Tax Regulations Code.

Business Registration Certificates are issued on an annual basis and are valid for the City's fiscal year calendar, beginning on July 1st, and ending June 30th of the following year.

New business owners must register for their initial certificate within 15 days of conducting business.

Existing business owners must renew their registration each year by the deadline of February 28 (or February 29 during leap years) for the upcoming fiscal year starting July 1.

Please visit the website of the city and county of San Francisco:

DBA filing and Fictitious Name Registration

Name recognition is crucial to a company's success. Therefore, it is important to make the name you choose official. Name acknowledgement is achieved when the business name is used in all transactions, from marketing and sales to collecting money. Many business owners choose a name other than their given personal name in order to establish name recognition and to identify goods sold or services provided. Unless you operate a corporation or LLC, you will not be able to receive money or hold a business bank account under a business name until you have filed and, when applicable, published what is commonly referred to as a DBA.

A business that operates under any name other than its owner's personal name, or the name that was filed with the state, is legally required to file a DBA "doing business as" statement. The DBA statement may also be referred to as a fictitious business name, trade name or assumed name. In the case of corporations or LLCs, the statement can be used to inform the public of the previous legal company name that existed. With sole proprietorships, a DBA statement informs the public of the owner's personal name or the name under which they are conducting business.

To proceed with DBA Filing, please refer to the following website:

Obtaining other Permits and Licenses

Certain types of businesses require additional permits and licenses from the local, state or federal government (permits and/or licenses from departments of Health, Fire and/or Police Departments, Seller's Permit, building permits, etc.).

  • Special licenses

Many businesses do not require a state license because the requirements are very specialized. To define whether you need one or not, call the Small Business Help-Line at 1-800-303-6600. Please note that the Office of Small Business is a source for licensing information only. It does not issue licenses. There are over 50 state departments, bureaus, and offices that issue over 500 licenses and permits, as well as register professionals and businesses. Telephone numbers for the relevant issuing agency should be listed in the white pages of the telephone book under State Government Offices. Contact the bureau in charge of licensing your type of business and ask for an application to be sent. Fees vary from bureau to bureau. A written or oral examination is required for some professions before a license can be issued. Some licenses have educational or experience requirements.

  • Seller's permit

If you intend to sell or lease goods, you'll need to obtain a Seller's Permit before you open your business. Call or visit the State Board of Equalization to determine if your business requires a Seller's Permit.

To obtain a Seller's Permit:

  • You must operate your business from a physical location (a mail drop is not acceptable.)
  • Be ready to begin sales within 30 days of application.
  • Be prepared to estimate monthly sales.

For details about Permits and Licenses, visit the following websites:

Legal questions: 10 legal tips

By François Laugier, Sarah H. Borrey from RMKB and Eve Chaurand-Fraser

   1. No collaboration without contract

Never collaborate with anyone or hire an independent contractor without a written contract (no matter how rudimentary). Be sure to describe in detail the deliverables and tie payments directly to deliverables, not according to a timeline. The last thing you want is for a deliverable to slip, but you're still locked into paying for it in February.

   2. Make sure you own the IP

Always make contractors sign an invention assignment and confidentiality agreement.

   3. Know who you're dealing with

Is that a software engineer from a company? An independent contractor? Where is he/she based? It could make a big difference in the sad event of a legal dispute (see # 5).

   4. On whose behalf?

When signing a contract, make sure it is clear that you are doing so on behalf of your business entity, not in your own name. And the same goes for the other party.

   5. Protect your IP

Make sure that your most fundamental IP development is performed by someone upon whom you can enforce a contract. Know that it can be extremely difficult and/or costly (if at all possible) to enforce a contract if that person is located overseas.

   6. Always read every word of a contract

We've all done it - just signed a contract without bothering to read any of it, let alone the small print. But don't! Always always read a contract - whether you have a lawyer or not - and do not sign anything you don't fully understand. "I didn't read it" or "I didn't understand it" will almost never protect you. Here's a handy tip: if you receive contracts that are overwhelming, try returning them and asking for a two-page agreement. You'll be surprised how often this works, even with large companies. It has also been known for companies to sneak onerous provisions into seemingly standard agreements like NDAs. You have been warned!

   7. Make sure every contract has an "out" clause

No matter how excited you are about that new client, you never know when you might want out, so you should always be able to terminate the contract under terms that are acceptable to you. A termination for convenience (with notice) is the ideal provision.

   8. Actuals, not percentages

Never promise a percentage of your company's capital, or there will almost always be ambiguity over the number of shares that serve as the basis for the percentage. If and when your company becomes successful, that ambiguity could result in a costly dispute. Always commit to a number of shares, not a percentage.

   9. Missing appendix

Make sure you have negotiated the "schedules" or "appendices" to a contract before you sign it. Too many times, contracts get signed with their essential terms missing, as the contract refers to terms contained in schedules or appendices that are nowhere to be found.

   10. Going global

If you're not quite ready for a physical presence overseas, you can at least make a start by registering trademarks, patents and copyrights in your target foreign locations.

Legal aspects

A. Tax

When you own a business, paying taxes becomes even more of a chore. As a business owner, you become an agent of the government, collecting and submitting taxes due from yourself, your corporation and your employees.

Payroll Taxes

  • Withholding taxes

Employers are responsible for withholding taxes from employees' paychecks, sending them to the proper government agencies, and other employer tax obligations. The major employer paid taxes (FICA, federal unemployment, and state unemployment taxes) will be explained later in this section.

  • Social Security and Medicare Taxes

The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) provides for a federal system of old-age, survivors, disability, and hospital insurance. The first three are financed by the social security tax, while hospital insurance is financed by the Medicare tax. To learn more about the five major benefits covered by Social Security taxes (retirement, disability, family benefits, survivors and Medicare), please refer to the Social Security Administration's Web site.

Employers must withhold social security and Medicare taxes from employees' wages and pay a matching amount. These taxes have different rates and only the social security tax has a wage base limit. There is no wage base limit for Medicare tax - all covered wages are subject to Medicare tax.

  • Federal Unemployment Tax 

The Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA), together with state unemployment systems, provides for payments of unemployment compensation to workers who have lost their jobs. Most employers pay both a federal and a state unemployment tax. Only the employer pays a FUTA tax. It is not deducted from the employee's wages.

Generally, employers can take a credit against FUTA tax for amounts paid into state unemployment funds. This credit cannot be more than 5.4% of taxable wages. Those entitled to the maximum 5.4% credit have an effective FUTA tax rate of 0.8% after the credit. The IRS has tests to determine whether a particular business must pay FUTA tax.

  • State Unemployment Tax 

State unemployment taxes are also paid by the employer and are not deducted from the employee's wages. Each state has a different rate and different wage limits from which the taxes are calculated.

  • Federal Income Tax

Different business structures (sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or limited liability company) have different income tax requirements regarding filing dates, forms required, and tax rates and calculations. The IRS lists the various business taxes and forms required for each legal structure.

Federal income tax is a pay-as-you-go tax. Business owners generally pay income taxes in quarterly estimated income tax payments. For more information on estimated income tax payments, refer to IRS Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax.

  • State Income Tax

In addition to federal income tax, business owners also have to pay state income tax. In fact, business owners in California are among the most highly taxed in the US, making them less competitive in business and industry.

  • Self-employment Tax

Self-employment tax is a social security and Medicare tax for individuals who work for themselves, similar to social security and Medicare taxes withheld from the pay of wage earners. Social security benefits are available to self-employed persons just as they are to wage earners. Like federal income tax, self-employment taxes are paid through quarterly estimated tax payments. For more detailed information on self-employment tax, refer to IRS Publication 533, Self-employment Tax.

Other taxes

  • Use tax

Use tax is a type of excise tax levied in the United States. It is assessed upon "tax free" tangible personal property purchased by a resident of the state for use, storage or consumption of goods in that state (not for resale), regardless of where the purchase took place. The use tax is typically assessed at the same rate as the sales tax that would have been owed (if any) had the same goods been purchased in the state of residence. Typical "tax free" purchases that require payment of use tax include those done while traveling (for things carried or sent home), through mail order, or purchases via telephone or internet.

  • Sales tax

A sales tax is a state or locality imposed percentage tax on the selling or renting of certain property or services. The fraction of the total taxes collected as sales tax typically varies form about 25% to 50% of government revenue. Nearly all sales taxes have a large list of goods and services, varying from state to state, that the tax is not collected on. Because the tax is collected from the customer, it is a consumption tax. In the United States, it is nearly always explicitly added on and not included in the price. If a person purchases property from an out-of-state seller, sales tax is not due, but rather the customer may owe a so-called use tax. For example, if a person purchases a computer from a local brick-and-mortar retail store, the store will charge the state's sales tax. However, if that person purchases a computer over the internet or from an out-of-state mail-order seller, sales tax may not apply to the sale, but the person could possibly owe a use tax on the purchase. Because of exclusions on what is taxed and not taxed the typical consumer will pay on average about 1/3 of the listed sales tax on all his/her expenditures, i.e. a 7.5% tax will collect on average about 2.5% of a persons income. The sales tax revenues are typically split into several fractions going to the state, schools, counties, cities, public transit and possibly other jurisdictions. The size and split of these fractions vary significantly from state to state except in the states that do not have a sales tax. Additional taxes like Hotel tax, Rental car use fee, etc. that are really disguised sales taxes are imposed typically on non voting visitors to a given location.

  • Electronic Waste Recycling Fee

The Electronic Waste Recycling Fee is imposed on the consumer and collected by the retailer, at the time of the retail sale or lease of certain new or refurbished televisions, computer monitors, laptop computers, and other devices. This fee is administered by the Electronic Waste Recycling Fee Section.

  • Environmental Fees 

Environmental Fees includes the Ballast Water Management Fee; Hazardous Substances Programs; and Occupational Lead Poisoning Prevention Fee.

  • Excise Taxes

 Excise Taxes include the Alcoholic Beverage Tax; Alternative Cigarette Tax Stamp Program (ACTS); California Cigarette and Tobacco Products Licensing Act of 2003; California Tire Fee; Cigarette & Tobacco Products Taxes; Emergency Telephone Users Surcharge; Energy Resources Surcharge; Integrated Waste Management Fee; Natural Gas Surcharge; and Tax on Insurers.

  • Fuel Taxes

 Fuel Taxes include the Aircraft Jet Fuel Tax; Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Fee; Diesel Fuel Tax; International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA); Interstate User Diesel Fuel Tax; Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax; Oil Spill Response, Prevention and Administration Fees; Underground Storage Tank Maintenance Fee; and the Use Fuel Tax.

To get details about Federal Taxes, please refer to the following site: http://www.irs.gov

To get details about State Taxes, please refer to the following website: http://taxes.ca.gov/

To find out more about taxes applicable to businesses in San Francisco and see the San Francisco government website: 

B. Non-disclosure agreement (NDA)

A Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), also called a confidential disclosure agreement (CDA), confidentiality agreement or secrecy agreement, is a legal contract between at least two parties, which outlines confidential materials that the parties wish to share with one another for certain purposes, but wish to restrict from generalized use. In other words, it is a contract through which the parties agree not to disclose information covered by the agreement. A NDA creates a confidential relationship between the parties.

NDAs can be used to protect any type of intellectual property or trade secret. As such, an NDA can protect non-public business information, know-how, patent-pending inventions, unpatented yet patentable inventions, unpatentable ideas, or copyrighted software. For instance, a script for a high-profile film that is still in production could be the subject of an NDA.

NDAs are commonly signed when two companies or individuals are considering doing business together and need to understand the technology or processes used in one another's businesses solely for the purpose of evaluating the potential business relationship. NDAs can be "mutual", meaning both parties are restricted in their use of the materials provided, or they can only restrict a single party.

It is also possible for an employee to sign an NDA or NDA-like agreement with a company at the time of hiring. In fact, some employment agreements will include a clause restricting "confidential information" in general.

For a template of Non-Disclosure Agreement: http://www.mironov.com/documents/Mutual_NDA_template.doc

C. Business Laws

Complying with business laws and regulations can be a burden on small businesses. The SBA.gov website resources are designed to provide legal and regulatory information to America's small businesses.

Laws and regulations affect every aspect of business strategy. As a result, topics covered on the website range from the most basic and crucial, such as choosing a business structure and so on. The website also acts as a gateway to federal, state and local information that affects small businesses. One of the main reasons why small businesses fail is because they do not seek legal help at critical development stages. It is imperative, therefore, to learn more about the legal aspects of starting and running a business.

To get details about Business Laws, please refer to the following site: http://www.sba.gov/businesslaw/index.html

Financing aspects

While poor management is cited most frequently as the reason business fail, inadequate or ill-timed financing is another major reason. Whether you're starting a business or expanding one, sufficient ready capital is essential. But simply having sufficient financing is not enough; knowledge and planning are required to manage it well. These qualities ensure that entrepreneurs avoid common mistakes like securing the wrong type of financing, miscalculating the amount required, or underestimating the cost of borrowing money.

There are two types of financing: equity and debt financing. When looking for money, you must consider your company's debt-to-equity ratio - the relation between dollars you've borrowed and dollars you've invested in your business. The more money that owners have invested in their business, the easier it is for the owner to attract financing.

If your firm has a high ratio of equity to debt, you should probably seek debt financing. However, if your company has a high proportion of debt to equity, experts advise that you should increase your ownership capital (equity investment) for additional funds. In this manner, you won't be over-leveraged to the point of jeopardizing your company's survival.

Equity financing

Most small or growth-stage businesses use limited equity financing. As with debt financing, additional equity often comes from non-professional investors such as friends, relatives, employees, customers, or industry colleagues. However, the most common source of professional equity funding comes from venture capitalists. These are institutional risk takers and may be groups of wealthy individuals, government-assisted sources, or major financial institutions. Most specialize in one or a few closely related industries. The high-tech industry of California's Silicon Valley is a well-known example of capitalist investing.

Venture capitalists are often seen as deep-pocketed financial gurus looking for start-ups in which to invest their money, but they most often prefer three-to-five-year old companies with the potential to become major regional or national concerns and return higher-than-average profits to their shareholders. Venture capitalists may scrutinize thousands of potential investments annually, and only invest in a handful. The possibility of a public stock offering is critical to venture capitalists. Quality management, a competitive or innovative advantage, and industry growth are also major concerns.

Different venture capitalists have different approaches to management of the business in which they invest. They generally prefer to influence a business passively, but will react when a business does not perform as expected and may insist on changes in management or strategy. Relinquishing some of the decision-making and some of the potential for profits are the main disadvantages of equity financing. You may contact these investors directly, although they typically make their investments through referrals.

Debt financing

There are many sources for debt financing: banks, savings and loans, commercial finance companies, and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) are the most common. State and local governments have developed many programs in recent years to encourage the growth of small businesses in recognition of their positive effects on the economy. Family members, friends, and former associates are all potential sources, especially when capital requirements are smaller.

Traditionally, banks have been the major source of small business funding. Their main role has been as a short-term lender offering demand loans, seasonal lines of credit, and single-purpose loans for machinery and equipment. Banks historically have been reluctant to offer long-term loans to small firms.

The SBA guaranteed lending program encourages banks and non-bank lenders to make long-term loans to small firms by reducing their risk and leveraging the funds they have available. The SBA's programs have been an integral part of the success stories of thousands of firms nationally.

In addition to equity considerations, lenders commonly require the borrower's personal guarantees in case of default. This ensures that the borrower has a sufficient personal interest at stake to give paramount attention to the business. For most borrowers this is a burden, but also a necessity.

To get information about financing, please visit: http://www.entrepreneur.com/startingabusiness/gettingfinancing/index.html

For calculation tools for business (e.g starting costs, cash flow, etc.) and business plan, visit: http://www.bplans.com/contentkit/index.cfm?s=tools&affiliate=sba

Credit financing

In addition to the financing methods highlighted hereabove, those seeking to start and fund a business can look to credit cards as an alternative option. A credit card is a great financial tool. It can be more convenient to use and carry than cash, and it offers valuable consumer protections under federal law. At the same time, it's a big responsibility. If you don't use it carefully, you may owe more than you can repay, damage your credit rating, and create credit problems for yourself and your business that can be difficult to fix.

Here is some important information that may help you determine whether you're ready for credit financing, what to look for when you select a company to do business with, and how to use your credit card responsibly.

Establishing a credit history

To establish credit, consider applying for a secured credit card. It requires that you open and maintain a bank account or other asset account at a financial institution as security for your line of credit. Your credit line will be a percentage of your deposit, typically from 50 to 100 percent. Application and processing fees are not uncommon for secured credit cards. In addition, secured credit cards usually carry higher interest rates than traditional non-secured cards.

Selecting a creditor

Fees, charges, and benefits vary among credit card issuers. When you choose a credit card, shop around. Compare these important features:

Annual percentage year (APR)

The APR is a measure of the cost of credit, expressed as a yearly interest rate. Check out the "periodic rate," too. That's the rate the issuer applies to your outstanding balance to figure the finance charge for each billing period. If the card offers a very low introductory rate, find out what the rate will be after the initial period. Ask about other limitations on the initial rate. For example, is it only for balance transfers, and not regular purchases? Be aware that some companies have high penalty rates. For example, if you're late paying your bill, your rate may increase significantly. Ask when the company may apply a penalty rate to your account.

Grace period

This is the time between the date of a purchase and the date interest starts being charged on that purchase. If your card has a standard grace period, you have an opportunity to avoid finance charges by paying your current balance in full. Some issuers allow a grace period for new purchases even if you don't pay your balance in full every month. If there is no grace period, the issuer imposes a finance charge from the date you use your card, or from the date each transaction is posted to your account.

Annual fees

Many credit card issuers charge an annual fee for granting you credit.

Transaction fees on other charges

Some issuers charge a fee if you use the card to get a cash advance, if you fail to make a payment on time, or if you exceed your credit limit. Some may charge a flat fee every month whether you use the card or not.

Customer service and other benefits

Many issuers have 24-hour toll-free numbers and hotlines. In addition, they may offer other benefits, such as insurance, credit card protection, discounts, rebates, and special merchandise offers.

Credit card use and account types

While a credit card makes it easy to buy something now and pay for it later, you can lose track of how much you've spent by the time the bill arrives if you accounting is not precise. Moreover, if you do not pay your bill in full, you will have to pay finance charges on the unpaid balance. Additionally, if you continue to demand credit while carrying an outstanding balance, the existing debt can snowball. Failure to repay debt will tarnish your credit report, which will then incur a heavy impact upon your business. Three different account agreement types exist to choose from:

Revolving agreement

In a revolving agreement, the account owner pays in full each month or chooses to make a partial payment based on the outstanding balance. Banks typically issue credit cards based on a revolving credit plan.

Charge agreement

In a charge agreement, the account owner promises to pay the full balance each month, so that there are no interest charges. Charge cards and charge accounts with local businesses often require repayment on this basis.

Installing agreement

A consumer signs a contract to repay a fixed amount of credit in equal payments over a specific period of time. Automobiles, furniture, and major appliances often are financed this way. Personal loans usually are paid back in installments, too.

For more information about credit financing, please visit the following websites:

Entrepreneur. COM - The ABC's of Business Credit:

The Federal Trade Commission: www.ftc.gov

Visa information

The list below describes shortly the different types of Visa.

To obtain information regarding visa eligibility, requirements and application, please visit the U.S. Embassy in France website and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
If you are not a French citizen, please contact the U.S. Embassy in your country of citizenship.

Tourist / Business Visa

  • B1: Temporary visitor for business
  • B2: Temporary visitor for pleasure
  • B1/B2: Temporary visitor for business and pleasure

Student / Exchange Visitors Visa

Work Visa

  • H1A: Registered nurses for temporary employment
  • H1B: Persons in specialty occupations that require a college or advanced degree; artists, entertainers, athletes and fashion models of distinguished merit and ability (may include persons assisting in their performances)
  • H2A:Temporary or seasonal agricultural workers
  • H2B: Persons filling temporary jobs that cannot be filled by US citizens or residents
  • H3: Professional job trainees in an American company or in the US office of a foreign company
  • I: Representatives of foreign information media, representatives of a foreign tourist bureau, or film crew members holding professional journalism credentials and intending to work on news or non-commercial documentaries
  • L: Managers or executives of multinational corporations, transferred to the company's US office, that have a minimum of one year experience with the company
  • O: Persons of sustained national or international acclaim in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics, coming to the US to work or perform in their field of achievement
  • P: Entertainers and athletes coming for specific competitions or performances, or who are participating in a reciprocal exchange program between the US and their country. This also includes perfoming in culturally unique programs
  • Q: Participants in an international cultural exchange program for the purpose of explaining or sharing their country's culture

Treaty trader / Treaty investor Visa

  • E1/ E2:Visa for investors or traders that carry out commercial business between the United States and their home country, or that develop and direct the activities of a company in which they have invested substantial capital, provided that both countries have signed a commerce and navigation treaty, as France has with the United States.

Diplomatic Visa

  • A1/ A2: Individual traveling to the USA in the name of his or her national government to engage solely in official activities for that government

International Organizations

(To qualify for a G visa the individual concerned must be entering the United States in pursuance of official duties)

  • G1: Members of a permanent mission of a recognized government to an international organization
  • G2: Representatives of a recognized government traveling to the United States temporarily to attend meetings of a designated international organization
  • G3: Representatives of non-recognized or non-member governments
  • G4: Individual personnel who are proceeding to the United States to take up an appointment at a designated international organization, including the United Nations


  • NATO-1/NATO-2/NATO-3/NATO-4/ NATO-5: Person who is seeking admission to the United States under the applicable provision of the Agreement on the Status of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, National Representatives and International Staff, or is a member of the immediate family of an alien classified NATO-1 through NATO-5

Journalist / Media Visa

  • I: Representative of foreign press, radio, film or other information media. This includes aliens whose activities are essential to the foreign information media function; for example, media reporters, media film crews, video tape editors, and persons in similar occupations

Religious Occupations

  • R: Member of a religious denomination having a bona fide nonprofit, religious organization in the United States

Crew Members in Transit

  • C1/ D: Pilots, air hostesses, stewards, seamen or employees on board a ship whose services are required for normal operation, or crew members traveling to the United States as passengers to join vessel or aircraft

Import / Export

International trade is one of the hot industries of the new millennium. Trade exists because one group or country has a supply of a commodity or some merchandise that is in demand by another. As the world becomes more and more technologically advanced, and as we shift in subtle and not so subtle ways toward one-world modes of thought, international trade becomes more and more rewarding both in terms of profit and personal satisfaction.

France and the U.S. are long-standing, close allies. Despite occasional differences of views, as evidenced in early 2003 over Iraq, the U.S. and France work together on a broad range of trade, security and geopolitical issues. 

Import regulations

The importation of foodstuff (produits alimentaires) is strictly regulated by a number of government institutions, most prominent of which is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Meat falls under the domain of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and products such as alcohol and tobacco are controlled by the Alcohol and Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau. For the entrepreneur who is interested in exporting to the United States, he or she must be fully aware of the rules of importation lest the products be seized by the US government.

For further details about Imports and Exports, please refer to the following websites: http://www.commerce.gov

Living in the Bay

For all the informations and tips you need on settling and living in the San Francisco Bay Area check our partner's website www.lostinSF.com:

"LostinSF.com is a French-American online insider's guide to San Francisco and the Bay Area: useful addresses to settle down, favorite picks for restaurants, fashion, food & wine stores, sports & co and a cultural agenda with a selection of movies, exhibitions, concerts, shows and events.

Written by two French women who have made San Francisco their home, LostinSF.com contains useful local addresses and thoughtful commentary in French and English on all aspects of Bay Area life as well as a distinctive San Francisco Rolodex of boutiques, restaurants, services and cafés.

LostinSF.com provides ideas for outdoor and urban adventures, a selection of the best cultural events in the Bay Area (theater, movies, concerts, and exhibitions), restaurant discoveries, fascinating landmarks and history, hidden parks, and, of course, the very best design and fashion finds!

For those new to the Bay Area, LostinSF.com offers an overview of neighborhoods, tips on navigating the rental and real estate markets, ideas for English courses, driver's license pointers, options for schooling, even where to rent bicycles!"


Labor is a critical ressource in many industries and businesses. The dependability of labor is becoming a major concern of employers. A number of large concerns have special staff or even departments to handle these problems. In some firms this responsibility is an "add-on" for the owner or manager, whose primary concern is with the other operations of the business. However, it should nevertheless be a concern of everyone with management responsibilities. Recruitment, just as other management functions, must be goal oriented. Successful recruitment must be based upon the goals of the organization. Therefore, the development of sound organizational goals and a thorough understanding of and commitment to these goals, is a prerequisite to any recruiting activity.

Where do you find reliable employees?

Unfortunately, this common question has no certain answer for every business. Generally speaking, the great demand is for skilled and semi-skilled employees. Even in areas of high unemployment, jobs requiring certain skills are difficult to fill.

In many areas of California, the only way to fill these positions is by attracting someone who is already employed. Placing a short ad in the local paper then waiting for a response usually is not enough. Taking your chances with the first guy who walks in the door has some potential disadvantages. With current labor conditions, today's successful owner must be aggressive in labor recruitment. Let's take a look at some sources of labor and how you might reach them.

Job placement services

State employment agencies, private agencies, veterans employment, high schools, community colleges, Vo-Tech schools, and university placement services can offer specialized assistance. These sources usually have excellent information on employees and usually maintain contacts that cover large areas. They can be a great deal of help in matching job requirements with prospective employees. Many employers have found that using such services can be less costly than maintaining a personnel department. All private agencies do not charge the same rates. In any case, do not let the initial cost scare you; consider instead how much it will cost for you to not fill the position.

Newspaper Ad

Most newspaper ads are not very informative and do little to attract the eye of someone reading the ?want ad section.? The current low unemployment rate creates a competitive situation, which makes it a little tough for the employer. Most businesses are much better at selling goods and services than hiring. One of the key elements of selling is being interesting. You may have to spend a few extra dollars, but experience has shown that a well-written ad has a much greater chance of obtaining a response. Consider especially newspapers that have broad, statewide circulation. Again, the rates may be higher but consider the number of people who will be seeing your ad.

Under Californian laws, the following forms of discrimination are prohibited: race, religion, disability, age, sex, national origin and marital status.

To get details about Recruitment, please refer to the following websites:

Workers' compensation insurance

You cannot do business in the State of California without Workers' Compensation coverage. The purpose of Workers' Compensation insurance is to provide medical and disability benefits for those who suffer an occupational injury or accident.

Covered injuries

Occupational Injury is one that arises out of and in the course of employment. In the course of employment means that for the injury to be compensable, it must occur when the employee is at work, during the hours in which he is expected to be there, and while he is engaged in the work he is employed to do.

Covered accidents

Occupational Accidents must arise out of employment and are caused by poor conditions or lack of attention to the work at hand. Workers' Compensation insurance applies under the following criteria:

1. The bodily injury must be sustained by an employee included in the group of employees described in the schedule of salary classification codes.

2. The bodily injury must arise out of and in the course of employment necessary or incidental to work in a state listed in the schedule.

3. The bodily injury must occur in the United States, its territories or possessions, or Canada, and may occur elsewhere if the employee is a United States or Canadian citizen temporarily away from those places.

4. A bodily injury by accident must occur during the policy period.

5. A bodily injury by disease must be caused or aggravated by the conditions of employment. The employee's last day or last exposure to the conditions or aggravating such bodily injury by disease must occur during the policy period.

Medical benefits

Medical Benefits provide payment for the medical treatment of an injured employee. Most state statutes provide for medical benefits in both dollar amounts and duration, as specified in the declaration paper. In those states where limits are imposed, the limits may be exceeded upon the approval of the state's Workers' Compensation administrator.

Disability benefits

The purpose of disability benefits is to replace the worker's loss of income or earning capacity that results from a compensable injury. There are four classes of disability:

Temporary Total Disability

Temporary Total Disability is the most common type of disability. An employee with a temporary total disability is expected to recover from the injury and return to employment, but is unable to do any type of work while recovering. Most states pay temporary total disability benefits for the duration of the employee's disability, without a limit as to the total amount.

Permanent Total Disability

Permanent Total Disability occurs when an employee suffers an injury that leaves the employee unable to do any kind of work for the remainder of his or her life. As with a temporary total disability, the weekly benefit is a percentage of the worker's weekly wages and is subject to a minimum/maximum weekly payment. The majority of states provide permanent total disability for life.

Temporary Partial Disability

Temporary Partial Disability occurs when an employee can still do some work but is unable to earn his or her usual wage until full recovery. Compensation for a temporary partial disability is usually calculated as a percentage of the difference between the weekly wage earned during the recovery period and the weekly wage that would have been earned without any injury.

Permanent Partial Disability

Permanent Partial Disability occurs when an employee suffers an injury from which he or she will never fully recover, but the injury is such that the ability to work is only partially affected. In other words, the worker can still do some work, but his or her earning capacity is less than it would have been had no injury occurred.

Most states have developed a list of specific injuries corresponding to benefits used to compensate workers with the more common permanent partial disabilities. These lists of injuries, commonly referred to as scheduled injuries, generally include the loss or loss of use of certain specified body members, such as a hand, an arm, or a leg, and the loss of hearing or eyesight. The benefit levels for scheduled injuries vary from state to state. In 1996, for example, the maximum benefits for loss of a hand ranged from approximately $21,500 in Massachusetts to almost $192,500 in Pennsylvania.

Regardless of the type of disability, all states have a waiting period during which benefits are not payable. Three days is the most common time period. The waiting period acts as a deductible and eliminates the administrative work for small claims. Note that the waiting period applies only to disability benefits. Medical benefits are immediately payable. If the disability lasts beyond a specified number of weeks, usually two or three weeks, retroactive disability benefits will be paid back to the date of the injury.

Rehabilitation Benefits

Provisions are generally made for rehabilitation and rehabilitation-related expenses, such as board, lodging, or travel. While most states specify that such rehabilitation must be funded directly by the employer or its insurer, a number of states have special funds to pay for rehabilitation costs.

Death Benefits

Death benefits are paid if a worker's death arises out of and in the course of employment. These benefits consist of a burial allowance and a weekly income benefit designed to help compensate those dependent on the lost income. These weekly wages of the deceased worker are subject to a maximum and minimum weekly benefit. A time limit often applies to such benefits, with the children's benefits usually ending at age 18 and a spouse's benefits usually ending at remarriage.

To get details about Workers' Compensation, please refer to the following websites:


The American Résumé has different standards/benchmark than the French Résumé.

Here are a few rules to observe:

  • Personal details: only your full name, address, email address and phone number are required. You must avoid irrelevant data like: date of birth/place of birth/ age/ marital status
  • Do not put on your photograph
  • At the top, mention your title and/or your career objective for instance "Project Manager - looking for a new challenge in technical support" or "Web page developer"
  • Chronological and skills resumes are both accepted
  • The length should be one page - two pages at most
  • Get straight to the point: if it does not support your job objective, cut it out
  • Be precise and clear. Avoid terms like "various responsibilities"
  • Highlight accomplishments and results
  • Use action verbs - write short phrases
  • Be precise in your starting and ending job dates and graduation dates as well
  • Mention your true English level
  • Mention your community involvement and volunteer activities

Cover letter

  • If mailing or emailing a résumé, always include a cover letter
  • Do not repeat your résumé
  • Get straight to the point
  • Align your experience with the desired qualifications
  • Close with an action statement: let the employer know that you desire further contact

The information on this site is not intended to constitute legal advice or to substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney licensed in your state.This web site is not intended to be advertising under applicable laws and ethical rules. These materials have been prepared by the French American Chamber of Commerce with the expertise of our staff and members for informational purposes only and are not legal advice. Anyone viewing the information should not act upon it without seeking professional counsel.The information contained in this website is provided only as general information which may or may not reflect the most current legal developments.

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Thank you for your support

    • AXA Rosenberg
    • Acerta Pharma
    • Affinity Hive
    • Air France
    • Alpha Omega Winery
    • Alten Calsoft Labs
    • Amcor
    • Antares International Partners
    • Arch System
    • Asteelflash
    • Atlas Wine Co
    • Axelia Partners LLC
    • Bank of the West
    • Barclais
    • Barefoods co.
    • Benefit
    • Benhamou Global Ventures
    • Boisset
    • Boston Private Bank
    • CG Roxane
    • CIC Banque Transatlantique
    • Calparrio Travel Service
    • Capgemini
    • Cathay Innovation
    • Chandon
    • Crédit Agricole
    • D'Alessio Law Group
    • Daher
    • Docusign
    • Domaine Anderson
    • E2f translations
    • EDF
    • EDHEC
    • ESI Group
    • Fabrique Délices
    • Faurecia
    • Feedly
    • Fiducial Jade
    • FollowAnalytics
    • French Tech Hub
    • French morning
    • Frenchbee
    • Fruition Sciences
    • Galaxy Desserts
    • Gameloft
    • Gracenote
    • H&A Financing
    • HM Clause
    • HP
    • INSEEC
    • Intel
    • Ivalua
    • Janson Capsules
    • La Folie
    • Le Meridien
    • Lycée Français de San Francisco
    • Maisons Marques & Domaines
    • Manzana Products
    • Mazars US LLP
    • Minerva Networks
    • Morpho N.A., Inc.
    • NextWorld Capital
    • Orange Silicon Valley
    • Parrot
    • Paul Hobbs Winery
    • Placecast
    • Planisware
    • Polsinelli
    • RMKB
    • Radiant Logic
    • Radoux Tonnelerie
    • Retail Native
    • SGP Packaging by Verallia
    • Salesforce
    • Saverglass
    • Scality
    • Sciformar
    • Sculpteo
    • Sheppard Mullin
    • Slalom Consulting
    • Socket Mobil, Inc.
    • Sofinnova
    • Sublime Skinz
    • TURO INC.
    • TV5 Monde
    • Talend
    • Total New Energies USA
    • Ubisoft
    • Upcall
    • VSG Chateau Potelle Winery
    • Vivelys
    • WI Harper Group
    • Winebid.com
    • Winston & Strawn LLP
    • Yupana LLC

Contact Us

French-American Chamber of Commerce

26 O'Farrell Street #500

San Francisco, CA 94108

Phone: (+415) 442-4717

Email: info@faccsf.com

Visit by appointment only