In the context of the French government's recent increased attention to the issue of "fraudulent secondments" of foreign workers to France, widely covered in the press, there are signs that the French labour and immigration authorities will be applying more scrutiny when treating requests for work authorisation under "secondment" ("détachement") immigration status (which concerns only nationals of States other than EU and EEA Member States and Switzerland).
This increasd scrutiny concerns two separate categories of business assignees, temporary assignees from a non-French entity of a group to a French entity of the same group (salarié en mission détaché) and temporary assignees of a foreign company to a French entity client for the performance of a commercial agreement between the two entities (détaché hors-groupe dans le cadre d'un contrat commercial), by far the two most widely used types of business immigration categories.
With respect to intra-group assignees, the local French immigraiton authorities (the "DIRECCTE") to whom work aurthorisation requests are submitted, are more vigilant with respect to processing work authorisation requests for assignees who will be physically working, even part-time, at a third-party (non-group entity) site. Although "second-level" secondment is already prohibited by the applicable regulations, no precise definition is given and thus many French companies used this intra-group secondment type of work authorisation where the assignee is to work as part of a group project delivery team, even if the work is to be performed at a client site.
The most logical alternative to this category of work authorisation would be that for assignees seconded for the performance of a commercial contract. However, the local immigration authorities are taking a more restrictive view of the type of commercial contract that can be used as support for such a work authorisation.
If the above two work authorisation categories cannot be used in a given situation due to a more restrictive treatment by the administration, under current French immigration law the main alternative categories of work authorisation would be a temporary intra-group assignment with the conclusion of a local French employment contract (salarié en mission - employeur établi en France" ) or the European Blue Card. Both, however, can prove problematic from cost and operational standpoints, insofar as the use of these categories implies treating the assignee as full-fledged employees of the French entity of the group, assuming there is one, notably in terms of inclusion in head-count for employee representation and profit-sharing purposes, and dismissal rights, thus changing the cost and operating constraints of the service delivery.
French companies providing services to clients in France using assignees from States other than Member States of the EEE and Switzerland will thus have to rapidly evaluate the cost and other consequences of using alternative routes for obtaining the necessary work authorisations so as to meet contractual obligaitons to to clients.