Profession liberale in France: A Comprehensive Guide for Aspiring Business Owners & Freelancers

If you’re thinking of freelancing in France, you might have heard about the “profession liberale”, you’re in for an exciting challenge as things will most certainly be different from what you know! This post will help you gain clarity on whether or not you have a French liberal profession, a regulated or unregulated one so that you can understand how they can make your dream to build a new life in France come true as a self-employed professional!

Disclaimer: This is for information only and consulting a chartered accountant is still highly recommended!

The 5 activity types in France:

France categorises businesses into six main types based on their activities, and knowing where your business falls is essential for accounting and immigration purposes. 

  •  “Les Commerçants” (Traders): This category includes shops, e-commerce, buying and selling tangible goods, and B&B services.
  • “Les Artisans & les Artistes” (Craft Professions and Artists): Experts involved in manual activities, building trades, cleaning services, and crafting articles of clothing, such as dressmakers and beauticians & also artists creating unique or limited piece of arts
  • “Les Professions Libérales” (Liberal Professions): This category covers intellectual services, coaching, consulting, programming, teaching, and providing intangible goods.
  • “Les Agriculteurs” (Farmers): Those engaged in activities such as growing plants or crops, breeding, planting, and vineyards.
  • “Agents Commerciaux” (Sales Representatives): Individuals working under a mandate to represent businesses.

What is a Profession libérale in France?

The regulated French Profession liberale

First, French law defines liberal professions as self-employed individuals who regularly provide intellectual, technical, or healthcare services while adhering to strict professional codes of conduct. These experts play a crucial role in serving clients and the public, leveraging their qualifications and ethical principles to deliver top-notch expertise.

We’ve got two teams here – the Regulated and the Non-Regulated.

The regulated profession liberale are the VIPs of the self-employed world! They’ve got legal protection and play by the book, guided by strict ethical guidelines. Their titles are prestigious and protected, given by the state.

Prominent regulated liberal professions include:

  • Medical and Paramedical Sector: Doctors, dentists, midwives, pharmacists, and veterinarians, among others.
  • Legal Sector: Lawyers, auctioneers, bailiffs, notaries, court clerks, and judicial administrators.
  • Technical Professions: Architects, land surveyors, and chartered accountants are among the key experts in this domain.

If you’re in this team, the regulated liberal professions in France, make sure to have the right diploma recognized by the French system. And hey, if your diploma’s non-EU, there could be ways to sort it out and have it recognized through ENIC NARIC or by obtaining a French or EU diploma.

The Unregulated French Liberal Professions

The unregulated French liberal professions enjoy more freedom and require less supervision. Some professionals in this category do not need specific qualifications or administrative authorizations, while others may still be subject to certain regulations.

Here are some examples of unregulated liberal professions include:

  • Consultants, computer programmers, statisticians, and designers, who provide specialised expertise in various industries.
  • Guides, writers, trainers, translators, and private teachers, enhancing communication and knowledge exchange.

Immigration impacts of being a profession liberale in France

For self-employed individuals in France, one significant advantage is that their visa doesn’t need to be sponsored by anyone or any entity. Several sponsor-free visas could apply to self-employed workers. Many people choose to request the Entrepreneur / Liberal Profession visa, however, other visa options might be a better fit depending on your situation. The Quiz below will help you figure out which is the best option in your situation.

Watch out – This visa is commonly called “Profession liberale visa” – but the visa shouldn’t be confused with the professional activity type 

Also, you should know that while you won’t need to have your business file reviewed by a specific entity before submitting your visa request when you have a liberal profession activity, you will still be required to prepare a thorough business plan, which the French Consulate will review.

The Legal and Tax Status of French Liberal Professionals

The freedom of being self-employed in France also comes with obligations and responsibilities. Navigating the legal and tax aspects is paramount for French liberal professionals.

Unregulated professions can opt for micro-entrepreneur status, even though it might not always be the best for you, benefiting from simplified tax and social security contributions if their annual turnover remains under a certain threshold. However, highly regulated activities, such as notaries, doctors, accountants, and lawyers, are ineligible for the micro-entrepreneur status.

An alternative is the “régime de la déclaration contrôlée” or “the régime réel.” Under this system, taxes and social security contributions are based on actual profits, whether operating as a sole trader or a limited company.

How to set up your business as a profession liberale

For regulated and unregulated liberal professions

Once in France, the main steps include:

  • Open a French Bank Account
  • Registering a French Liberal Profession through URSSAF (The French Social Contribution Collector) – compulsory to be compliant in France and pay your social charges
  • Consider seeking assistance from a business consultant or an accountant for registration and tax regime options.
  • Ensure that your Health Coverage and Pension Insurance is correctly done through CPAM (Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie).
  • If applicable to your profession, join your professional association and register with the pension fund.

The previously called RSI, SSI and CIPAV that were specific to some liberal professions have been suppressed since 2018 and 2020. 

Steps that mainly apply to regulated professions: 

  • Register with your professional association 

Professional bodies are institutions that bring together all the members of a given profession. They are found in regulated professions with a large liberal majority, such as lawyers, doctors, nurses, etc. Their role is to regulate the profession and represent it, particularly in dealings with public authorities. Membership of your profession’s professional body is compulsory. You need to be a member in order to practise your profession and pay the associated contributions. 

  • Register with the pension fund for your profession 

Pensions for the self-employed in France as liberal professions are governed and insured by the CNAVPL which stands for Caisse Nationale de l’Assurance Vieillesse des Professions Libérales, which itself is divided into ten sections according to branch of activity. You’ll find here the list to help you figure out the one for you: 

  • CARCDSF for dental surgeons and midwives 
  • CARMF for doctors 
  • CARPIMKO for nurses, physiotherapists, chiropodists, speech therapists and orthoptists 
  • CARPV for veterinary surgeons 
  • CAVAMAC for general insurance agents 
  • CAVEC for chartered accountants and auditors 
  • CAVOM for ministerial officers, public officials and judicial companies 
  • CAVP for pharmacists 
  • CIPAV for architects, certified architects, engineers, technicians, surveyors, experts, advisers, consultants, etc. (unregulated liberal professions most likely fall under this section of CNAVPL) 
  • CPRN for notaries 

Lawyers also have their own independent fund, the CNBF. 

  • Most regulated liberal professions should join an AGA (Association de Gestion Agréé) 

Membership of an approved management body is not compulsory but entitles you to certain tax benefits. 

An approved management centre is an organisation whose purpose is to provide industrial, commercial, craft and agricultural businesses with technical assistance in managing/preventing the economic and financial difficulties of their members, tax assistance and prevention, and training. 

In short, “les professions libérales” are not exactly the English counterpart “liberal professions”

Knowing what type of activity you have with regard to the French administration categories is essential to set up yourself for success in France. I hope this video will help you to determine whether or not you have a liberal profession and the resulting administrative procedures. And if you need assistance preparing your visa application for one of the 5 sponsor-free visas you can check out the Dream to Reality course via this link.

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