How to Get Your Securité Sociale & Carte Vitale in France

How to Get Your Securité Sociale & Carte Vitale in France

Once you’ve lived in France for three months and established residency, you’re eligible for French national health coverage — Woohoo! But to reap all the benefits, you’ll first need a numero de securité sociale and a carte Vitale.

I write mainly about the immigration process for American spouses of French citizens — but eligibility for securité sociale health benefits no longer relies on being married to a French person (this status used to be called “Ayant Droit).

Starting January 1, 2016 France put in place a universal system of healthcare called Protection Universelle Maladie (or PUMA) for anyone who works or lives in France. Now everyone who is here for three months or longer and has a proper visa can get a carte Vitale. So I requested my securité sociale benefits as a resident and not as my French husband’s wife. Here’s how I did it.

BEFORE WE START

A few helpful things to know before beginning this process:

  • Sécurité Sociale is the French healthcare system and your numero de sécurité sociale is your ID number only for the healthcare system. (Not to be confused with how your American social security number is used.) You’ll use this at the doctor’s office, dentist, when buying glasses and for other health-related expenses.
  • Carte Vitale is a physical card with a chip in it that you use to pay and identify yourself for healthcare. It has your photo on it as well.
  • This whole process is in French, so if your language skills aren’t good, you’ll likely need someone to help you — either your partner, a good friend or someone you hire.
  • Ameli.fr is the website portal for the French health insurance program.
  • CPAM stands for Caisse Primaire d’Assurances Maladie, and is the local department level of the national health insurance adminstration.
  • Unless you are already working in France, you’ll need to live here for three months to establish residency before you apply.
  • You need a French bank account in your name. It is possible to get a sécurité sociale number without one, but you can’t get paid back without one so there’s no point.
  • If you have a job, your company HR department can also likely help you with this process.

THE APPLICATION FORM

First step is to fill out the health benefits application form – formulaires 736 Demande d’ouverture des droits à l’assurance maladie.

Let’s go over each section.

SECTION A: Your personal info
This is pretty straightforward identifying information, but there are a couple lines that could be confusing.
  • The second point asks for your sécurité sociale number, if you have one. You obviously don’t since you’re reading this article, so leave it blank. This form is used for everyone applying for PUMA including people who may already have a number but are changing their status.
  • The third point asks if you have a numero d’allocataire, which is another ID number used for social welfare benefits. You probably don’t have this — just leave it blank.

SECTION B: Your employment status
If you have a job, check the first box and put your title and type of contract. If not, check “sans activité” and move on.

SECTION C: Swearing you filled out your own form
Date and sign (as long as it’s actually you of course). Don’t forget order for dates is DD/MM/YYYY here in Europe.

***TIP: If you don’t have a printer, you can go to a CPAM information point (borne multiservices) and print there.

SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS

You need to send a number of documents along with the application form. You can find all the details in French on the second page of the application form, but here it is in plain English:

  • A copy of your passport
  • A copy of your visa long séjour valant comme titre de séjour (VLS-TS) — or titre de séjour or carte de séjour or carte de résident depending on what status you have.
  • Birth certificate with apostille. The added apostille means it is certified or authenticated, and this was an extra I had to ask for specifically when I ordered my birth certificate. We did not get the birth certificate translated, we sent it in English. I’ve read that sometimes they ask for a translation later, but they didn’t for me. I also believe they sent it back to us after.
  • If you have a job, you need to send a copy of your employment contract or last payslip.
  • Proof you have lived in France more than three months. This could be a copy of your lease, or three successive energy, phone, internet or water bills in your name, or an attestation d’hébergement from your spouse (or whoever owns the home you live in) saying you live with them. I used the attestation since I didn’t have a job at the time and none of the bills were in my name. If you go that route, also send in a lease or three successive bills in your spouse’s name, as well as a copy of their ID to be safe.
  • Your relevé d’identité bancaire (RIB) so you can get reimbursed. This is your French banking account routing information and should include the IBAN number.

***TIP: If you have questions, contact your LOCAL caisse (department office) that handles where you live (mine is Caisse d’assurance maladie de Paris). If you call the global number it charges you by the minute. There is an international number also if you aren’t in France.

WHERE TO SEND IT

You have to mail all of these documents in, it is not possible to do it via email. It is also possible to apply in person at your local CPAM office.

If you go the mail route, you must send everything to your LOCAL CPAM office. Click here and then put your zip code into the pop up to find yours.

If you live in Paris, this is the address: Assurance Maladie de Paris, 75948 PARIS CEDEX 19


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TIMING

You can expect to receive a temporary number first and relatively quickly — mine came in three weeks. You can use this immediately to get reimbursements, but you will have pay in advance and do everything manually on paper (using une feuille de soins). You can not set up a personal Ameli account with this number.

2-6 months after applying you can expect to receive your permanent number. I got mine about 3.5 months later. Now you can open an Ameli account and request your physical carte Vitale.

NOTE: I have heard that you will get a number quicker if you have a job because your employer sends a letter to the caisse saying you work for them and requesting the number. This could be an expat legend, but I got my permanent number just a few weeks after starting a job, so I’m inclined to believe it.

GETTING YOUR CARTE VITALE

You have two options for requesting your carte Vitale once you have a permanent number.

  1. When they send you the permanent number, they will include a paper form for you to fill out, attach a photo to and send back to request your carte Vitale.
  2. Open an Ameli account, then wait for your temporary access code to come in the mail (yes, they have to mail it to you). Once you have access to your account you can upload a picture for the card and request it directly in the portal.

It took me about a month to get my carte in the mail.

NOTE: Before you get your physical card you can still get reimbursed but you have to mail in a form (une feuille de soins), while with the carte Vitale it is automatic.

FINAL STEPS

You can also order a carte européenne d’assurance maladie (European health insurance card) through your Ameli account as well. This is useful for if you travel in the EU and ever get sick.

To be reimbursed the full amount possible, you’ll need to declare a médecin traitant (a.k.a. a general practitioner or primary care doctor). For helping finding one check out this article.

And finally, if you have additional health insurance (a mutuelle) through work or private coverage, you need to link that in your Amelie account as well.


Did this article help you obtain your securité sociale? Please say thank you by buying me a coffee to help keep the blog going!



38 thoughts on “How to Get Your Securité Sociale & Carte Vitale in France”

  • I just dived into all of this as I’m still preparing to move back with my US husband. I read tought that if a french resident can prove he/she is hosted, has no resources, is coming back from expatriation and not vacation, it could avoid having to wait 3 month to be eligible for a few social help. But I don’t if a foreign spouse would have the same eligibility.

  • Quick question: Did you get something from the prefecture for your spouse’s attestation or did you just have him write and sign a simple statement and send with ID and/or L’acte du Mariage? Big thanks for this blog!!! xx

  • Thank you for this clear and well written article. There is one further point, however, that I would ask you to clarify. Is the carte vitale free of charge (apart from the taxes one pays to the French government) or is there an additional premium? I have a very good coverage from my former employer at a very reasonable cost, but I need to pay everything up front and request reimbursement. It would be nice for once when asked for my carte vitale to actually take the real thing, rather than my credit card, out of my wallet. My current coverage is considered secondary, so I would still be able to claim reimbursement on the portion not covered by the French.

    • Hi Jef — yes it is free to get the securite sociale and the carte vitale. Once you have coverage, the percentage that is covered depends on your age, income, what service it is and whether you have declared a primary care doctor. If you have a “mutuelle” (additional private French insurance, often through work) you can connect that coverage to your securite sociale on the ameli portal, so your other insurance company can see what wasn’t covered by securite sociale. This helps streamline the process.

      • I wanted to thank you again for the clear directions you gave. My attestation de droits à l’assurance maladie arrived in the post without any further ado after my first application. The approval took about 4 1/2 months, slightly longer than the two-three weeks I have read on some sites, but it is now choses faites. Best wish for 2019.

  • Thank you so much for taking the time to put this together. In my experience (recently PACing and changing my drivers licence) administration in France is very good at telling you which documents you are missing from any application rather than advising you what you need! This has saved me hours of research and dead ends. I’ll be sharing this link with many expat friends. I’ll come back and share the timelines. Just hope it all goes through before Brexit!!!!

  • Thank for sharing that but I still have one question. If I already put the documents in securité social in France to do carte vital and I still do not get temporary number yet but I got a job to work now and they need my number of card vital, so what I should I do?

    • Have you asked if your employer can contact the security sociale department and ask for it directly? I’ve heard this can help sped up the process. I didn’t have mine when I first stated working but got it shortly after.

  • Thank you! So helpful! Just a quick question about filling the form… How did you fill in the name line… Is it just with maiden lastname?

    • Hi Lina, it says underneath the name line to put your last name at birth (maiden name) first, then it is optional to put your “nom d’usage” (married name) ; then your first name and any additional legal names (middle, second, third)

  • Hi , interesting site I’m currently having a nightmare trying to get Carte vitale as my partner and I are early retired and not entitled to the form s1 we have had to provide 5yrs edf bills and fill in various other forms including proving our incomes and private pension . I expressed dismay that we needed to do this and not just 3 months bills as evidence but was told this was what should happen , just as in your case my conjoint is not on the bills so I will ad the letter you gave shown . Have you heard of all this complication before ?

  • I have read at the following link https://www.expatica.com/fr/healthcare/Guide-to-health-insurance-in-France_108848.html#ChangesFR that there is an age limit of 65 years on accessing/obtaining a Carte Vitale – noting that the info contained in the article says there is no age limit but further on in the article states….Expats who are living in France can apply to receive state health insurance in France under the new PUMA program if they have lived in France for less than five years, do not have paid employment, are under the national retirement age of 65 years …….

  • can i ask, my son had a carte vital when we moved here 13 years ago, after schooling he moved back to uk, however has come back ( hes now a young man 26) and we need to re new his card, do you have any advice on this ? PLEASE
    P;S; He has a job in the uk, but works from home? how do we explain this?
    thank you and kindest regards E

  • Hi

    Thanks ever so much for the infos .
    A bit of a long shot if you can help me in my situation .
    I was previously attached to my husbands card and now the new system is removing adults from synced secu accounts to give everyone a separate secu account –
    But i try to put my husband’s social secu number when i tried to create an ameli account and it didn’t work.
    Should i inquire for my own social secu number?

    Many thanks

  • really clear and helpful. Reading through the comments, I came across an age limit matter. Is there an age limit for getting coverage? The comment mentioned 65, and I’m 74. Thanks for your reply Richard H

  • Dilemma: My Husband and I have been living in France since 2002, have Cartes Vitales and since the stupid Referendum, also Cartes de Sejour. We went to CPAM to apply for an EHIC but they said there was a problem because we were listed as Migrants. We believe that we can’t get one from the UK either. Do we have no choice but to take out private insurance for a short upcoming holday – our first in 14 years!?

  • Very helpful article, thank you so much.

    Very quick question, for the birth certificate, should I end the original one or can I send a copy ?

  • Thank you for this! Like you, I’m American married to a French citizen. I sat on this issue because I was told my employer would handle it for me. Nine months later, I’ve received nothing from CPAM – not even a temp number – and I’m no longer with the employer as it was a temporary job. My employer claims to have sent off the request, but CPAM insists they have no record of me. I’m having to now apply from scratch and this is the perfect template (they don’t do a good job of telling us how to apply for this during the civics training – which I think may be on purpose, but that’s a whole other issue). Thank you so much!

  • Hi Charli,

    Thank you! What options of health insurance do you recommend for the 3 month period you have to wait until you are granted la securité social? Did you have health insurance during this time? Did you purchase an international insurance policy for 3 months before leaving the US so that you had some coverage?

    Merci!

    Margarita

  • ARGH! I’ve been in France for almost 9 years. FINALLY applied for my carte Vital. Filled out all forms correctly and provided ALL required documents.
    After three months the entire application was sent back to me with a letter asking for proof I had paid tax Habitation since my arrival and asking for tax returns. I took all this back to my local CPAM office with proof of Tax Habitation payments, and was told by a VERY (VERY) rude woman that I did not qualify; she did call the woman (CPAM office in Nantes) that had rejected my application and sent it back – and had a long conversation. No other explanation. I am going to speak with an attorney.

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