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WORKING IN FRANCE

How to get the government to pay for your French classes

Learning French is pretty crucial if you live in France, and French classes can be expensive - but you could get the government to pay. Here's how.

French language class
French classes can be expensive. Photo: Patrick Baz/AFP

If you are working in France, then you are entitled to Mon Compte Formation – which is an annual budget for training and professional development.

It was introduced back in 2015 under François Hollande’s government but in 2019 an app was created. The online application process was simplified and the scheme’s popularity soared. 

It is open to salaried employees who work at least half a week, and since 2018 has also been open to self-employed people who are registered in France.

The money is credited to your own training account (not your bank account, so you can’t spend it on wine instead) and it’s up to you to decide what course you want to spend it on.

You could do courses to improve your workplace skills or courses on becoming an entrepreneur or running a business, but if you’re not French you can also take French language courses.

How to register

First you need to set up an account on the Mon Compte Formation website here or on the app – Mon CPF. Do make sure you’re on the official government site, as there have been quite a few scams linked to this scheme.

The account asks for basic personal info, plus your work and education history. You will need your social security number, which if you are working, you can find on your payslip.

Once registered, head to the ‘Droits’ section on the app or website to check how much money is in your training budget. 

Unskilled full-time workers get €800 a year while skilled full-time workers get €500 a year, with pro-rota allowances for part-timers. You can carry your allowance over for one year if you have your eye on an expensive course.

When you know how much you have to spend, head to the ‘Recherche’ section to find a course. You can search by subject (français étranger for French classes for foreigners) and set your location to find courses near you.

You can only use this budget for approved providers, so you will have to pick a language class from the list on the website, but in the big cities there is plenty of choice and quite a few language schools are now signed up to the scheme.

If you find a course that is slightly more expensive than your allowance then there is the option to use your CPF budget and pay the rest yourself.

Once you find a course that looks right for you, and is within your budget, then click on ‘submit dossier’ – this bit is surprisingly easy, just fill out the online form with your details and click submit. 

The next stage is that CPF contacts the language school that you have chosen so you will hear from them, either by phone or email, asking you to confirm the course.

Once you have confirmed this with the school, the status of your dossier on the CPF website moves from ‘pending’ to ‘approved’ and your total available training budget reduces by however much you have spent.

After that it’s between you and the language school to arrange times, dates etc for classes.

Other ways to learn for free

The training budget is only open to people who are working, but there are some other ways to learn French for free.

Unemployed

If you’re unemployed and registered with the Pôle emploi (French unemployment office) then you could be entitled to French courses if it would improve your prospects of getting a job. Ask your Pôle emploi agent what is available to you.

Language exchange

If you can’t afford professional classes there are other ways to learn, and one of the best is through language exchange. As a native English speaker you have a valuable skill to offer, and there are lots of exchange programmes where you buddy up with a French person and help them with their English, while they do the same for your French.

Search online for language exchanges near you, or try the app Meetup. Exchange sessions are usually free, but if you’re meeting in a café you will be expected to order something to eat or drink. 

If there are no exchanges near you, why not set up your own informal exchange with French friends or neighbours who want to improve their English?

Cheaper classes

If none of these work for you, there are options to get classes that are not free, but are still cheaper than language schools.

Once of these is classes through your local mairie. These tend to be during the day, so are often not suitable if you are working, but offer cut-price classes.

Ask at your local mairie if this on on offer and when the next sign-up date is – in big cities places go fast so be poised to sign up as soon as the next enrolment session opens.

The other option is the Université Pour Tous programme, which offers classes in the community in a variety of subjects, including French as a foreign language. Search online for your local Université Pour Tous and see what classes it offers.

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For members

WORKING IN FRANCE

EXPLAINED: Why it just became a little easier to be self-employed in France

Life might be a bit easier for self-employed workers in France now that a new law has gone into effect. Here are the details.

EXPLAINED: Why it just became a little easier to be self-employed in France

Over three million people are considered “self-employed” in France, and their lives might have become a bit easier now that the “law in favor of independent professional activity” has officially come into force. 

Voted on in February 2022 under Macron’s first mandate, the law, which came into effect on May 15th, seeks to create a simpler and, above all, more protective legal, fiscal and social environment for “artisans, shopkeepers, micro-entrepreneurs and people of liberal professions.”

Who exactly does the changes cover?

The changes could impact France’s three million “travailleurs independents” which includes all kinds of self-employed workers working in many different professions.

The one self-employed status in France probably most familiar to readers is micro-entrepreneur but many kinds of small business owners and contractors are also considered travailleurs independents.

Now, here are the changes worth knowing about:

A better protection and separation of personal assets

One of the most important changes this law will bring is a more clear separation between personal and professional assets. As of May 15th, those registered as ‘self-employed’ (micro-entrepeneur/ entreprise individuelle) will see their personal and professional assets automatically separated. This means that should there be professional financial constraints, particularly involving creditors, the self-employed person’s personal assets will be more protected from being seized if the individual runs  into problems. This includes places of residence, personal vehicles, and movable assets. 

However, Assembly rapporteur Marie-Christine Verdier-Jouclas warned previously: “We should not expect miracles, because the most important creditors, including banks, will continue to require special securities on certain assets of entrepreneurs, including their personal property.”

Minister of Small and Medium Enterprises, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said: “We expect banking institutions to take all responsibility in the implementation of this reform. We will be very vigilant.”

It will be easier to claim the unemployment benefit for the self-employed

Self-employed people will now have an easier time claiming the “allowance of independent workers” (L’allocation pour les travailleurs indépendants) which is essentially an unemployment benefit specifically directed at the self-employed.

Now, they must simply be able to show that they have involuntarily lost employment – meaning the activity they were performing as a self-employed person is no longer viable. Previously, self-employed workers were required to be going through the legal process of “receivership or judicial liquidation” to claim this allowance. Now, a ‘cessation of activity’ can be certified by a trusted third party, such as a chartered accountant. 

In order to qualify for this benefit, self-employed workers now must prove at least €10,000 of income spanning over one of the last two years, in contrast to the previous rule that required a minimum of €10,000 on average over the last two financial years. The benefit will depend on the earnings of the worker, with the maximum amount being €800 per month, and the minimum being €600.

The benefit can be paid for up to six months (182 days), and it is not renewable. 

It will be easier access to professional training (the ‘CFP’) 

In return for the contribution to professional training (CFP) to which they are subject, self-employed workers can, under certain conditions, benefit from total or partial financing of their professional training. But for this, they must be patient. With the NAF code of their activity, they must identify the training access fund (FAF) to which they belong. To make their task easier, the legislator has listed the different FAFs on the entreprendre.service-public.fr website.

If you are wondering whether your professional activity fits into this definition, but you are not sure, you can reach out to your local Chambres du Commerce et de l’Industrie. Be advised that some fields, like practicing law, for example, cannot claim this status.

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