The French government's official website on French law – managed by the French Secretary-General (legal and administrative information directorate)
You can search for documents by type of law – using a simple, expert or thematic search box.
General in scope and applicable to everyone, laws are enacted by the French parliament (National Assembly and Senate), promulgated by the president and published in the Journal officiel.
A type of short-lived regulation with the force of law, orders are used by the government to implement its programme.
Orders should not be used routinely and are valid only if covered by an enabling law passed by parliament. They are adopted by the cabinet (conseil des ministres) and signed by the president. They take effect only once they have been ratified by parliament.
May apply to everyone or only to named addressees (in the case of an appointment, for example). Decrees are issued by the president and prime minister.
Autonomous decrees are issued by the prime minister within the limits laid down by the constitution and on subjects not falling under the president's responsibility.
Implementing decrees (décrets d'application) say how laws are to be implemented, and are also issued by the prime minister.
The prime minister can delegate powers to ministers, prefects and mayors enabling them to issue arrêtés (sometimes referred to as ministerial, inter-ministerial, prefectorial, and municipal orders). The purpose is to define the scope of a law within their area of responsibility.
Regulation-type documents issued by independent administrative authorities, such as the CNIL (responsible for ensuring information technology does not infringe civil liberties) or the authority that regulates electronic communication and the postal system.
Deliberations (délibérations )
Decisions taken by public bodies and the analyses and discussions leading up to them. Légifrance provides access to deliberations by independent administrative authorities.
Circulars and instructions (circulaires and instructions )
Not strictly regulations, these are instructions to administrative bodies and departments within ministries on how to apply laws, decrees and other rules. Only the most important are published in the Journal officiel.
Impact studies and reports (études d’impact and rapports)
Preparatory documents produced by ministries for the prime minister or president.
An impact study must be produced for every draft law – and published along with it.
Presentation reports are submitted along with draft decrees and orders to the prime minister and president.
Issued after a consultation (of a person or body). Légifrance contains opinions issued by ministries (e.g. on a proposed extension to a collective bargain) and independent administrative authorities.
In force from 1924 to 1958, decree-laws were regulations amending or repealing legal provisions. They were adopted by the government after parliament had given it the powers to do so. Parliament also had to ratify decree-laws. Replaced by orders (ordonnances) in 1958.
* for texts before 1990, there is only a reference and copy of the first page.
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