Status of the Artist and International Collaboration

In the context of international collaboration, we must respect the differences in the status of artists that vary from country to country. An artist conducting his/her activities abroad can thus be faced with issues arising from a different conception of artistic activities than that he/she is accustomed to in his/her country of origin.

We will show you what can go wrong in such situations on the following example of Czech-French collaboration project.


An opera singer from Lyon is interested in a six-month engagement at the National Theatre in Prague. The theatre would prefer engaging the singer as an independent contractor on the basis of a contract to create and perform the role in question and to grant a licence for future exploitation of the role and performances. What should be taken into account in this case?

There comes a clash, because artists in France (artistes du spectacle) are allowed to carry out artistic activities only as employees, i.e. not freely and independently as self-employed persons in the Czech Republic. At the same time, virtually all music, theatre and dance professionals are considered artists. With the exception of a situation where a particular artist’s activity is listed in a public register, the artistic status is defined firmly by law and the artist cannot influence it in any way. This regime applies not only to long-term employment at brick-and-mortar theatres but also to short-term engagements, for instance at festivals.

However, this “compulsory employee” status allows artists in France to benefit from the unemployment insurance scheme. The insurance covers even a period between two artistic engagements (intermittent du spectacle), provided that the artist proves that he/she has worked for a certain minimum period, which is currently set at 507 hours, in one calendar year. The number of employers is irrelevant.

The hours of work performed under an employment contract abroad are partially included in the required minimum of hours worked, while the hours of work performed under a contract concluded with the artist as an independent contractor (contract for work, licensing agreement, etc.) are not taken into account.

For the opera singer performing briefly in the Czech Republic this means that he could make a contract with the Czech theatre legally as an independent contractor, but he would not be able to add the hours worked under such contract to the hours registered in the French social security scheme. If he did not work for the sufficient number of hours  in France, he might not reach the required minimum of hours and might not be eligible for the unemployment benefits when in need.

An employment contract with the Czech theatre, though for such a limited period, may entail bigger administrative burden and costs, but the French singer will definitely benefit from such arrangement. The Czech theatre should, therefore, be accommodating and meet his requests. If the singer entered into an employment contract with the Czech theatre, the number of hours worked would be added to his records in the social security scheme in France. For the purpose of recording and proving the hours worked, the U1 form (Pôle emploi) is used, which is submitted to French authorities after the completion of a collaboration engagement. Further information about the U1 form and its use are available here.

And what about artists from other EU countries working in France?

The statutory employee status of artists applies to foreign artists working in France only partially (but applies fully to artists from countries outside the European Economic Area). Artists who work in their home country (not necessarily just the EU countries) as self-employed persons and participate in cultural production originating in any of the EU countries may stay in the self-employment regime even in France under certain conditions.

As the European Court of Justice ruled in 2006, the compulsory employee status of artists in France restricts the freedom of movement of economically active persons. As a result, a Czech (or another European) independent artist would theoretically be entitled to pursue his/her activities in France as a self-employed person and even issue an invoice for such work. Unfortunately, French organisers are often not aware of this possibility and require employment contracts in these situations.

Should you have any further questions regarding this topic, do not hesitate to contact French information portal MobiCulture. Other points of contact include ARTCENA in relation to theatre, street art and circus, IRMA in relation to music, and CN D in relation to dance.

We will be grateful for any support and feedback from artists and other persons engaged in culture (please send an e-mail to Infopoint mobility editors to the address: