Creating an association: How exactly do I do it?

Creating an association
One of the things France is famous for is its never-ending paperwork. This is not completely false, as creating a business can be overwhelming, especially for foreigners. Most of the information available is in French, after all.

Starting your association

One of the things France is famous for is its never-ending paperwork. This is not completely false, as creating a business can be overwhelming, especially for foreigners. Most of the information available is in French, after all. In truth, however, creating an association is relatively simple! As a matter of fact, everything you need to do is written right here:


  1. Before defining the By-laws of the association
  2. Getting the by-laws adopted
  3. Everything related to declaring the association

Before defining the By-laws of the association

Check whether the activity is regulated or not

This is an important step because if it is, you’ll have to make sure your association fulfills additional conditions. You may also be required to carry out specific procedures (application for a professional card, authorization, registration to a list or an order, etc.).
If you want to know if the activity is regulated, you should check one of the followings:

  • the ” Activities and regulated professions ” section of the AFE website,
  • professional organizations and unions,
  • the Chamber of Commerce and Industry or Chamber of Crafts (Chambre des Métiers),
  • the departmental directorate in charge of the protection of populations (DDPP), the departmental directorate in charge of social cohesion and the protection of populations (DDCSPP) or the management of companies, competition, consumption, labor, and employment (DIRECCTE) in Overseas,
  • economic action services of the prefecture.
Find an office

You can exercise your activity, or set up office in:

  • An  office that the company can either rent or buy
  • A registered business address
  • The home of one of its members
  • In a communal building
Choose a association name

As a precaution, you should always check with the INPI (National Institute of Industrial Property) that the name chosen for your company is not already used by another company or has not been the subject of a trademark deposit.

If you want to create a website, it’s also worth your time to check that the domain name is available.

Getting the by-laws adopted

Write the by-laws

The by-laws contain the rules that your association will have to follow all its life, so choose wisely!

If you just want to go for the standard model of by-laws, make sure that all the founding members read them carefully, and keep in mind that you can always tweak the by-laws so that they fit your association better.

Note: If your association revolves around economic activities, make sure it is mentioned in your by-laws. If not, you may incur legal/administrative sanctions.

Proceed to the appointment of the manager(s)

This can be done either in the by-laws or through a separate document, but in the second case, the by-laws won’t have to be modified each time the manager changes.

Thankfully, you are free to determine how you want your association to be managed. There may be one or more presidents, a board of directors, a secretary general, etc.

More often than not, the association is managed by a board of directors, which elects an office composed of a president, a treasurer, and a secretary.

Gather a constitutive general assembly (optional)

Holding a constitutive general assembly is generally not mandatory. However, there are special cases in which it is (recognized public utility association, approved hunting associations, etc.).
The founding members may, however, wish to meet in an assembly in order to discuss and agree on the association project, the content of the statutes, and the list of the members of the board of directors and from the office.
As such, holding a constitutive assembly could reinforce the cohesion of the various members of the association around the same project.

Of course, you are free to determine its operating procedures, as well as how a consensus must be reached.

Register and sign the by-laws

For an association, registering the by-laws isn’t even necessary unless they provide for real estate contributions (or other nature subject to transfer taxes), or if the founders want to prove the date of their act.
In this case, after being signed and dated, the by-laws must be registered with the tax office of the headquarters of the association.

Registration fees, which vary from case to case, may have to be paid at this time.

It’s also possible to have assets become the property of the association, as long as they’re assigned to the company’s purpose.
Thankfully, it’s always possible to include a clause in the company by-laws that would give all assets back to their original owners, if the company ever dissolves.

Something to keep in mind:
There are no real restrictions on contributions of money or assets.
However, if a building is donated to the association, then certain rules have to be followed:

  • a notarial deed has to be written and submitted to the mortgage office
  • The real estate owned by the association has to be declared (see next paragraph)
  • It has to be mentioned on the special register of the association
Write rules of procedure (optional)

Often, by-laws won’t directly have information on how the association operates on a daily basis. Instead, they’ll redirect to internal regulation, which is easier and faster to modify if necessary.
In this case, the by-laws could for example state that the management body is free to modify the internal regulation, without having to refer to the General Meeting.
It also means that you won’t have to declare modifications to the prefecture or publish them in the official journal.

Everything related to declaring the association       

Technically, it is possible for your association to exist without being declared. However, if you want to be legally able to, say, open a bank account in its name, or ask for subsidies, there’s no avoiding it.

Declare the association

You can either declare your association online with the e-creation teleservice or file it at the registry of the associations of its registered office.
The request must be made by the Cerfa form n °13973. It has to be dated, signed, and it should contain the following documents:

  • The transcript of the constituent assembly,
  • The list of the members of the board and the board of directors (cerfa form n °13971),
  • (specify a telephone number where a member of the office can be reached),
  • A copy of the by-laws of the association signed by 2 at least of the people mentioned on the list of the leaders,
  • An envelope stamped at the current rate (20 grams) with the management address of the association.

And optionally,

  • The list of member associations (cerfa form n°13969),
  • A description of the properties owned by the association (or a declaration of absence of real estate) (cerfa form n°13970).

Something to note: It is recommended to check the exact composition of the declaration file to provide with the registry associations, as variants may exist.

The registry of associations will then submit, within 5 days, a receipt of deposit of the declaration (to keep preciously).

Publish a notice of incorporation in the Official Journal

Technically, this notice must indicate the date of the declaration, the name of the prefecture where it was filed, the title and purpose of the association, and its head office. It also has to be published less than a month after the declaration was filed.

In practice though, when association creator files their declaration, the registry of associates has them fill out a request for insertion form that it sends to the Official Journals Directorate.

When it’s published, the association will be officially born.

 Register for the SIRENE directory

Generally, there is no legal obligation to register an association in the SIRENE directory. However, registration of an association is necessary in some cases:

  • If it receives (or wishes to receive) subsidies or payments from the State or local authorities, its registration must then be requested directly by mail to the INSEE regional director responsible for the headquarters department of the association.
  • If it has a lucrative activity subjecting it to commercial taxes, registration must then be requested from the CFE of the registry of the commercial court which will forward the application to INSEE.
  • If it employs one or more employees, registration in the SIRENE directory must be requested online from the URSSAF services who will forward the application to the INSEE.

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