Ninety days after you obtain your profession liberale visa, assuming you have done everything correctly after that momentous day at the prefecture, you will have a number of new documents to present to the Prefecture for your follow-up visit.
Chief among those “correctly done things” is a visit to URSSAF within 24-72 hours after you obtain your visa. I went to the office near the BnF right when it opened, and completed my appointment within 20 minutes. I showed her my recipisse designating my new status, as well as answered some basic questions regarding where I lived and which specific classification I was looking for.
URSSAF is in charge of social security contributions, among many other things, and feeds out its information to other agencies, including RSI, INSEE, CIPAV, Ram, and the Ministry of Finance. In turn all these agencies will start flooding your mailbox, asking you to send them follow-up documents. This is a dizzying number of acronyms so let me start with the easy one first, and perhaps the most important.
INSEE is the Institute de la statistique et des études economiques and is responsible for issuing you a national identification number, which you will need now that you are formally entering French society. It’s similar to the American “social security number,” though your French one is oddly longer but easier to decode.
RSI is the Régime Social des Indépendants and is a mutuel – it’s a subassociation of URSSAF (which, by the way is Unions de Recouvrement des Cotisations de Sécurité Sociale et d’Allocations Familales). Without taking you too far into the woods of unnecessary and redundant and overlapping French agencies, RSI serves as a “mutuel” for health insurance and pays the difference between what the national health insurance pays and what you owe.
Ram is a partner agency of RSI that works with small business owners and artisans. They are, in my case, responsible for issuing my Carte Vitale, which is what you use to pick up meds at the pharmacie and for all your medical visits.
Finally, there is CIPAV (still with me?) – Caisse Interprofessionelle de prévoyance et d’assurance vieillesse. They are in charge of your pension, and no, you cannot opt out of contributing.
If you end up getting employees (I have absolutely zero intention of doing so, given the draconian anti-business laws in this country) you will also need to know about one of the huge mutuels, like Malakoff-Mederic, for example, who would handle health care, insurance, and retirement for your employees.
The Ministry of Finance, of course, handles your taxes and they have a very distinctive looking envelope. As I was writing I turned to a colleague at my coworking space and told her, “Nothing good ever comes in this envelope!” She laughed in agreement. They want to know what space, if any, in your home is going to be dedicated to your work. I maxed that out.
Registering at URSSAF after you obtain your visa will trigger letters from all of these places. Don’t worry, you don’t need to register individually! You’ll also get schedules of future billing – membership ain’t free.
You will also need to bring your first 3-5 invoices from your new professional life, proving you’ve already started working. My agent raised her eyebrows at the four invoices I handed her. “Not bad!” she said in French and smiled. I reminded her that she was the agent who had approved my first long term visitor renewal, back in 2014. “It’s a long way!” she said. My nod didn’t convey just how much I agreed with her sentiment.
And finally, you’ll need to show them your shiny new French bank account dedicated solely to your new business. If you aren’t well advised, when you go to open one you’ll ask for a professional account and pay all the fees that come with that designation. Both my accountant and my attorney advised me to get a simple personal account and dedicate it to my business, which I did.
I have been extremely satisfied with Societe Generale, but by way of auditioning a new bank (and giving myself more options), I opened an account at BNP Paribas. With the recent implementation of FATCA and my US citizenship, this was anything but a smooth ride, but I’ll talk about that in another article.
So bring them most of this documentation (they don’t care about your CIPAV stuff, for example, but as I’ve said in previous posts, bring the second folder with all the “just in case they ask” material), along with “the usual,” i.e. your lease, renter’s insurance, passport, and recipisse.
Your agent at the prefecture will double-check all your paperwork, and then cross-check it with your file from 90 days before.
They will then print another recipisse and have you sign in two boxes in the application for your physical carte. Processing time is about 10 weeks at the moment. I got a July 13th pickup date from an April 21st appointment. And, thankfully I always keep all my paperwork that I’ve ever done for French immigration, as I have to bring the original police report I received when I lost my last card. And I get to pay extra (16€) for losing that card, despite having paid over 100€ to pay for the card in the first place. Remember, this is France, not Germany. 🙂
It’s sinking in. I work in France, legally. I’m on the long road to citizenship which comes with paying taxes here. I know that all these acronyms and agencies can be scary and intimidating, but honestly, it’s also a great filter to separate the dreamers from the doers. Those who want to be here will laugh through this process because a little (or a lot) of paper shouldn’t stand between you and your dreams.
Featured image comes from the Australasian Mine Safety Journal, under creative commons usage.