French companies are identified by the administration and public bodies thanks to two numbers, the SIREN and the SIRET.
The SIREN and SIRET numbers are issued by the French Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (known in France as Institut national de la statistique et des enquêtes économiques or INSEE. It should be noted that this SIREN or SIRET identifier applies not only to commercial enterprises, but also to crafts professionals and companies, associations, professional unions or administration-related businesses.
The SIREN number
When a company is created in France, the INSEE assigns, once it is registered in the Sirene directory, a unique identifier called SIREN number (which stands for Système d'identification du répertoire des entreprises and can be translated as “Business Directory Identification System”). This unique identifier is used by all public bodies and administrative organisms in their relations with the company.
It consists of a 9-digit number that identifies the company according to the order of registration of the company in the Sirene directory.
The SIREN number remains the same throughout the life of the company and it cannot be changed. With regards to its suppression, it can only happen in the following cases:
- Death or cessation of the activity for a natural entity (such as an individual enterprise).
- Liquidation and dissolution of a legal entity.
The SIRET number
The SIRET number (which stands for Système d’Identification du Répertoire des Établissements and can be translated as “Directory of Establishments Identification System”) corresponds to the 9 digits of the SIREN number followed by 5 additional digits (called "NIC" for Numéro Interne de Classement or "Internal Number of Classification"). These last 5 digits make reference and allow to identify the head office and, if any, the different secondary establishments of a company.
Each company has only one SIREN number, but as many NICs as there are establishments, that is, as many SIRET numbers as establishments.
How to get the SIREN and SIRET numbers?
At the moment of their creation, all companies must submit a registration form via the Internet, by post or on the spot to the CFE, which sends it to the Registry of Commerce and Companies (RCS) as well as to the INSEE. Once the enterprise is effectively registered, it receives a SIREN number which, as mentioned above, is unique and allows it to be identified. Once allocated, the SIREN and SIRET numbers are registered by INSEE in a directory known as Sirene (which stands for Système d’identification du Répertoire des Entreprises et de leurs établissements and which can be translated as “Business and Establishments Directory Identification System”). As soon as the registration of a company is effective, the INSEE sends it a certificate of registration in the Sirene directory which states the following information:
- The SIREN number, which identifies the company.
- The SIRET number, which identifies each establishment of a single company.
- The APE code (activité principale exercée), which identifies the branch of activity of the company. This code is used for purely statistical matters, although it must appear in all the legal documents of the company.
It’s important to know that it's the SIREN number that authorizes the company to issue invoices (and to operate legally in a market). To obtain a SIREN and SIRET number, the company must register in the CFE of the department where its head office is located. Both its SIREN and SIRET numbers will then be mentioned on the K-bis extract of the enterprise, which is an official document certifying the legality of the company and which is obtained after its registration.
Note that a K-bis extract makes reference to the official document sent to a legal entity, whereas in the case of natural entities, it’s called K extract, although the document contains the same information and has the same legal effects.