about living and working in France
If you are from an EU country (apart from,
temporarily, Romania and Bulgaria) you need no specific authorization,
permit or visa to work in France. By law you should be treated
the same as any French citizen in the labour market.
The reality is, of course, a bit different.
Degrees, diplomas and qualifications
gained in another EU country are rarely recognized at their
value by French employers. Despite increasing EU pressure
to harmonize qualifications the gut protectionist reaction
is all too evident on the ground.
But above all you are expected to speak very
good French. Don't think that because the French are poor
English-speakers that you'll just walk into a job that requires
English: if you can't communicate fluently with fellow workers
and write reports in French you haven't a chance.
If you add to this handicap the fact that over
30% of jobs in France are reserved for Civil Servants and Local
authority workers (access by written exam only) then you'll
quickly realize that your employment prospects are limited
to teaching English or as self-employed.
up a company or declaring oneself as freelance or self-employed
used to be a nightmare in France. Recent changes in the
law have considerably eased the pain but prospective millionaires
should be warned that France remains a very business-unfriendly
in 2009 this revolutionary law (for France) has opened the
door to massive job creation among the sort of people who
would otherwise have resorted to moonlighting. Basically, it
is a self-employed status for anyone wishing to earn a
living wage or top up existing pension, dole or part-time
income. The main ingredients are: ease of use, open to
is how it works: you sign up on line through the official
can be a student, housewife, pensioner, unemployed... whatever.
You fill in the form and a few weeks later you receive your
SIRET number (reg n° that all companies or self-employed must
have) and papers for the sécurité sociale. You can now work
and invoice your employers (without VAT). Each month (or
quarter) you declare exactly how much you've earned and
off 21% or so in lieu of all social security contributions
and - if you like - income tax. If you don't earn anything
over that period you pay nothing. Accounting is
ultra-simplified with, basically, an IN and an OUT column.
drawbacks? They are many and confusing, unfortunately. For
a start you are limited in how much you can earn: turnover
of 32,000 for services and €80,000 for production (building
etc) are the limits beyond which one must transform the operation
into a regular limited company. Secondly you may not deduct
costs: this is no great deal for a translator or web designer
but for anyone with high transport or material costs it can
be crippling. Finally and most importantly, there are a hundred
and one 'professions' which are excluded from this set-up:
landscape gardener, vet, physiotherapist, speech therapist,
accountants, midwives, journalists, musicians, artists
and many more. And builders, electricians, mechanics, hairdressers,
bakers and so on have to prove that they have the required
qualifications. Back to square one.
summary it is probably fair to say that in practice the
benefits out-weigh the disadvantages. Paying tax only if
you earn is a huge advance on the old system. Being exempted
from VAT is another. Declaring oneself in a catch-all category
like 'nettoyage courant des bâtiments' (NAF
code 81.21Z) opens the doors to a lot of odd-job type work
in and around other people's property that passes muster with
Buying property in France
Although purchasing a house in France can
seem like a long drawn out bureaucratic process it is in fact a much surer
and structured procedure than in many other european countries. One is nearly
always compelled to use the services of a state-appointed notaire (public Notary)
who works for a fixed fee and more or less guarantees a fraud-free transaction.
(The notaire is not necessary if the property is owned by a property company
(a société civile immobilière - SCI) and the purchaser is buying the company).
The first stage is to find and visit the property. A second visit should be
more thorough, in the company of a knowledgeable builder if possible. Surveyors
are thin on the ground in France: builders usually give advice on the state
of a house and will, if necessary, call on an 'expert' for technical advice.
The vendor must pay an expert to certify the absence of termites, asbestos,
radon gas etc before he can sell. Once you have agreed on a price (now that
prices are on the turn you should seriously negotiate: offer up to 50% less than the asking price if you think the vendor
is not sure of his ground) the next step is a 'compromis
de vente' or 'sous-seing
privé'. This is drawn up by the notaire and signed in his presence - accompanied by the purchaser paying a 10% deposit.
This is an extremely important document: it is in fact the final sales
contract which outlines the whole transaction and the duties and obligations
of the two parties. In general, before the contract can be concluded the State
(and the vendor) must carry out a number of searches and controls: is a motorway
planned to run through the property? Has the neighbouring farmer rights on
the land for agricultural use? (possible if more than a hectare of land), has
asbestos been used in the construction? etc. For his part, the purchaser should
write into this document his 'clauses suspensives', the most important being
the raising of a mortgage. Without such a clause the purchaser will be expected
to conclude the deal just as soon as the official searches are finished.
importance of this 'mortgage' clause cannot be over-stated. Even if you haven't envisaged a mortgage for the property you should seriously consider putting
in such a clause - even for a small amount - as it is your ticket to getting
out of the contract should you need to in the three months or so following
the initial agreement. It works like this: the notaire will meet with you and
the vendor is his office: he will ask you if you intend paying cash or will
be applying for a mortgage.
one will opt for a mortgage of, say, 80% of the total cost
(less fees). You can name a specific bank or just leave
open. The notaire will then suggest a date upon which the contract
will take effect - usually two or three months ahead. This can be negotiated.
action should be to fire out a dozen or so official requests for a mortgage
so that you have at least one official 'refusal' if you ever want to get
out of the contract. Without a written refusal - on headed notepaper, signed
translated into French by a recognized translator - you could lose your
Finally the big day arrives, the notaire summons both parties to his office, checks the results of the different 'searches' and proceeds to read the whole contract aloud. Then both parties sign .. and you become - instantly - the owner with full powers of possession. Assuming, of course, that you have made arrangements for the balance of the monies to arrive at the notaire's
office in good time. No money = no deal and you lose your
deposit. Be warned!