Is there an idiot's guide to getting set up in France?

I bet I’m not the first person to start a post by saying ‘Please help! I’m feeling completely overwhelmed!’

I’m so grateful to everyone for the trove of information and shared experiences on this website, which have been immensely helpful. However, after countless hours of consulting the interwebs and looking for advisors over the past few months, I’m still unsure about how to proceed.

Can anyone help guide me through the initial steps regarding AE registration and tax/social set-up, please? I’ve been pointed to the tax office, URSSAF, CERFA and a whole lot of other acronyms… I guess my main question is what to do first (especially as I’ve read cautionary tales about doing things in the wrong order or duplicating things). I’m not stupid, I’m used to admin and form-filling, and I even speak some French, but I’m struggling here.

I need to register as a micro-entrepreneur to carry on my existing self-employment over here, register with the French tax authorities (if that’s a separate thing?), and do the necessary to enter the French social systems and get a carte vitale for myself and my partner (who doesn’t currently earn an income).

If there’s anyone out there (@anon27586881??) who would be willing to talk me through a few things over the phone, I’d be happy to pay for your time. I’m sure once I get the basics sorted I’ll be fine, but it’s pretty daunting to tackle all this alone - especially as I’m keen to do it right.

Thanks so much!

Hi Niki
There are plenty of handholding services out there, although some are better than others so you need to be a bit careful. I suggest you look at - Valérie is right on the ball about everything to do with micro entrepreneur and will make sure everything is set up correctly.

You are right, there is a lot to get your head round and it takes time, but it will all make sense in the end. In the meanwhile, as you say it’s important to get things right.

PS you wouldn’t want to talk to me anyway - @Issy has just told me on another thread that I’m nasty. Hence I’m afraid not feeling as forthcoming and well disposed towards Survive France as I usually do. But maybe @Issy will step in with some helpful advice?




You aren’t in the least nasty. You go to great lengths to be helpful and to give accurate, clearly set out and dispassionate advice and comment on a huge portfolio of issues, reassuring but also cautioning with care not to encourage recklessness.

A model of propriety and good sense with a very human touch. I’m sure 99% will agree. So cheer up, you are amongst friends who would criticise if criticism were due.


@NousFous, what is the nature of your business?
We were in a similar state, so approached the local Chambre de Commerce. Our business is in the realm of the Chambre de Metiers et Artisanats, they told us. They also gave us the contact details for the CMA, and checked in with ys a couple if weeks later to see if we had successfully made contact.
The CMA held a one-day seminar to give a high-level view of what neeed to be done, and took bookings for their Stage a Prealabke d’Installation. That was a 5 day series of presentations about hiw to start a business, or take over an existing one.
At the end of the SPI, they took under their wings all those that were not operating as a Societé. They acted as a single point of contact for CFE, GREFFE, etc.
I don’t know if Aveyron is particularly special, or if all departments are so helpful.
Valerie will cost you €99 to answer your questions for a year. It helps to know what questions you need to ask :wink:

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That’s certainly been my impression of @anon27586881 so far, based on many contributions I’ve read, which is why I mentioned her!
@anon27586881 I’m sorry to have caught you on a bad day, and appreciate your helpful reply. I’ll have a look at the website you’ve suggested.

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@Magwych I’m an HR consultant (personnel, as it used to be called in friendlier times), which I believe comes under the ‘profession liberale’ category.

Many thanks for your reply and suggestions. I’ve been self-employed for many years and can easily conduct my business remotely via phone and email, so it’s a question of transferring it here officially rather than establishing a new enterprise, but I’ll definitely find out whether my local Chambre de Commerce might be able to help. I have a list of questions…!

Create it and manage it with regards quarterly returns. Its all you really need

Its fairy new - so the creation bit I haven’t been through but the rest of the site is more user friendly than what went before. Its the official “proper” site

Once its registered the process “manages” itself - you fill out the odd form they send you - mainly Health and the odd taxman form - you do the quarterly returns. But its pretty painless once you get through the forms - the forms are “fun” - but after that your CV will arrive in 6 months’ish.


:hugs: :hugs:

Thanks for the link, @chrisell - that’s great. And it does look fairly user-friendly :slightly_smiling_face:

Definitely no need to pay anyone. Loads of free advice online and via the CCI.


And loads of good advice to be found on survive France too. Whether or not Anna feels ‘kindly disposed’ or otherwise!!!

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Be aware that you setting up a micro entreprise won’t automatically give your partner any rights. You may need a separate plan for this.


The UK gov’t has just issued this, which is clearly written (one thing I do miss about the UK is clear official guidance; France does so love pages of convoluted text)

The order of action should usually be 1) sort out business 2) register with your local CPAM 3) deal with tax authorities


Just a thought… I reckon getting a Health Insurance in place (without delay) is important… since the unexpected does happen … some folk are uninsured for months and months (trying to get a CV) and it can prove very expensive paying out up-front for everything …

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Many thanks, @JaneJones and @Stella :slightly_smiling_face:
Jane, the link you gave led me to Ameli’s website, which looks useful for noobs like me… I might give their helpline a ring next week.

Ameli will merely point you back to URSAFF with regards your Carte Vitale. You will need Ameli and their links for your partner.

You have health cover the moment your application for AE goes in - that’ll generate a Social Security number - the card makes it simpler but once you have a Social Security number you are in the system - you have to claim back but that’s the only difference/advantage of a CV in itself.

It is simplest to register yourself as an AE - then deal with your partner. If they have income of any form its not as important - and in theory after 3 months they have entitlement anyway - but it ticks a box on the form to say you’re the partner of a working person (you don’t need to be married or PAC’s) and makes life easier if you are working and they register as partner of a working person - in general always find a nice box to tick - tick a box everyone is happy.


Ah, brilliant! Thanks @chrisell, I’m starting to see a path through the fog…

This is exactly what I was hoping for: an idea of the best order in which to tackle everything. I’m so grateful to everyone who’s taken time contributing to this thread so far :kissing_heart:

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I feel your pain. I’ve been asking similar questions and getting more and more confused for about two years, despite being reasonably intelligent (I run my own limited company in the UK). But, finally, I’ve been given through other resources two highly recommended contacts who I’m hoping can help me. I see lots of postings saying you don’t need to pay anyone, but I’d rather do that and not have the hassle and fear of getting things wrong. I’ll let you know how I get on. If you want to know who I’m speaking to, drop me a message. :slight_smile:

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The other way to look at it is that by doing it yourself it is a really good learning experience. It forces you to cope with the vocabulary, get to understand how things work here, and even meet some useful local people. If someone else sets you up, you can then live in a self contained bubble for years. Or until you hit a problem and then won’t have the experience to call on.

So frustrating, time consuming and can drive you nuts. But worth trying to go solo in my opinion. And maybe you won’t get everything right the first time, but the French are not obdurate about reopening issues.