I’ve written in the past about changing addresses here in France. In the United States whether you are dealing with the bank or the government, you simply assert that you have moved and give the new address. In France, you must prove you have moved. Some years ago I moved from my favorite address in Paris, in the 2nd, to my current quiet neighborhood in the 19th, and didn’t realize that my address change for my business would trigger a change for my SIRET.
What’s a SIRET?
A SIRET is a 14 digit number that identifies your particular French business. It is made up of your SIREN and NIC. The SIREN (Système d’Identification du Répertoire des ENtreprises) is nine digits and is permanent and cannot be changed. The SIRET (Système d’Identification du Répertoire des ETablissements), however, depends on the number of establishments you have. Each one will have a different SIRET. Solopreneurs like myself just have one.
In 2016, when I first established my French business at my address in the 2nd, the NIC (Numéro Interne de Classement) which accompanied my SIREN was the identifier for the only “establishment” (location) of my company. But when I moved to the 19th in 2018, the system “closed” the SIRET tied to the address in the 2nd and assigned a new one for my “new establishment” in the 19th. The old number still appears in submenus in my URSSAF dashboard, for example, but for all intents and purposes I use my new SIRET and my new SIRET only when dealing with French bureaucracy.
When do you use a SIRET?
Your SIRET and APE (Activite Principale de l’enterprise) should be listed at the bottom of every invoice you send. If companies in France want to make sure you’re legitimate and in good standing, they can look up your SIREN for free on Societe (if you can’t get enough of these acronyms, I’ve got an article from when I first started my French business where you can score a few more).
Interestingly, the US equivalent to the SIREN, the EIN (Employer ID Number) is also 9 digits. But it doesn’t change if you move. Further, unless you are a publicly traded company, you won’t be listed in the free national directory. However, you can easily search by name (and for free) on the Secretary of State website of the state that the company is incorporated in. This search will give you the same type of information available on the Societe search here in France.
Learn as you go
The longer I live here in France, the more I see that I’ve learned about business practices the same way that I did in the US: by trial and error. Native speakers don’t instinctively know how to start or maintain a business just because they speak the language. So, be patient with yourself and continue upgrading your French so these aspects of your life in France become easier (at least in one way) or you’ll at least possess the ability to read the answers you find in Google.
Photo by form PxHere