New regulations have been issued on how to become an 'artisan' in France for those relocating from within the European Community.
The regulations seek to implement a European directive dating from 2005 on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications in order to give greater freedom to establish a business in any country in the EU.
The new framework makes a distinction between those professions where access is restricted by an appropriate qualification or experience, and those where there are no restrictions on exercising the business activity in France
Where the artisanal activity is not ‘regulated’, then no major formalities are required, other than to register with the local Chambre de Metiers.
This requirement to register the business applies to whatever type of business structure that is adopted, whether auto-entrepreneur, micro-entreprise or limited company.
In relation to 'regulated' business activities, then the requirement is for a relevant professional qualification, or at least two years experience during the past 10 years.
If the activity is regulated in your home country then a certificate is also required confirming that you are entitled to exercise the activity in your country.
These documents normally need to be translated into French and certified by a qualified and registered translator, although, strictly speaking, under EU regulations this is not obligatory.
The Chambre de Metiers is granted the right to examine the qualification in detail to establish whether the level of competence established by it is sufficient to give access to the profession in France, as occurs with even a French national seeking to register as an artisan.
The new regulations make no mention of any language requirement, although the commercial reality of things is that few expats who relocate to France to run their own business are unlikely to be able to do so successfully without at least a reasonable knowledge of the language.
In practice, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that the local Chambres do vary substantially in their approach to the verification of qualifications and experience, in many instances with very little verification taking place at all, notably in relation to the building professions.
Part of the problem in contained in the original legislation dating from 1996 on access to regulated artisanal professions, where it provides that the activities can be carried out by a person not holding the relevant qualifications or experience, provided it occurs under the permanent and direct control and of a person who is qualified.
However, in the absence of such a supervisory structure, then where registration takes place without the access requirements having been met it may not be possible to obtain professional indemnity insurance, or the insurer may refuse to pay out in the event of a claim on the policy. The Chambre de Metiers have the right to request evidence of professional insurance cover at the time of business registration.
Prior to 2010, those registering as an auto-entrepreneur were exempt from the need to demonstrate relevant qualifications or experience, but following pressure from the artisanal trade associations, the access requirements have been reinstated, although not for those who registered before 2010.
The main artisanal professions that are regulated in France are: hairdresser, taxi driver, ambulance operator, MOT technician, car repairs, construction, repairs and renovation of buildings, plumber, heating engineer, electrician, gas installer, chimney sweep, baker, butcher, fishmonger, ice cream maker, and blacksmith.
As can be seen from the above list, contrary to popular belief, the term ‘artisan’ is not restricted to the building profession, but covers most professions involved in the 'production, transformation, repair or delivery of a service relevant to a trade'.
You can read more in our comprehensive guides to Starting a Business in France and Starting a Micro Business in France