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1. So, let’s start at the very beginning. What is a Carte Vitale?
When you are living or working in France for more than 3 months, you are eligible for the French national health coverage. The Carte Vitale is an actual physical green coloured card with your photo, full name, French social security number and a chip. You use this card to identify yourself at every health-related occasion. For example, going to your general doctor’s office, buying new glasses, picking up medicine from a pharmacy or even your annual dentist check-up or blood test in a laboratory.
Your French social security number (numéro de sécurité sociale) is created automatically when you apply for the health insurance and then you get a Carte Vitale. They belong together.
2. How to apply?
You need to open the application form “736 Demande d’ouverture des droits à l’assurance maladie” on a computer and fill it out. After you filled out every necessary information about your situation, you have to print it and send it by post with all supporting documents attached with it to your local CPAM Office (Caisse Primaire d’Assurances Maladie is the local department level of the national health insurance administration). If you live in Lyon for example you have 3 choices (3rd, 7th, 9th district) or several others outside Lyon. Choose your local CPAM Office. Of course, you have the option to walk into one of the offices and deposit it personally, but the current sanitary restrictions might block that option.
3. How to fill it out? Let’s have a look at each section together.
A/ Your personal information (Identification du demandeur)
- Family name and first name
- French social security number. You obviously don’t have one since you’re applying now - just leave it empty.
- Social welfare benefits number (numéro d’allocataire) it is another ID number that you probably don’t have - just leave it empty.
- Date of birth (date de naissance). Don’t forget to write it in the correct form DD/MM/YYYY, place of birth (lieu de naissance)
- Nationality (nationalité): french, EU/EEE/Swiss – European Union/European Economic Area (you find the list of countries from these groups on the second page of the application form), other
- Phone number and e-mail address (courriel)
- If you don’t have a personal address yet, put down the name and address of the organization where you are staying
B/ Your employment status (Situation du demandeur au regard de l'emploi)
If you have a job in France, check the first box (Activité professionnelle) and write down your title and type of contract. If not, check the box “sans activité” and move on.
C/ Declaration of honour (Attestation sur l'honneur à compléter par le demandeur)
You swear that all information is correct, filled out by you and you will report any changes to the authorities as soon as possible.
Fait à: the city where you are applying e.g. Lyon
Le: date in the right order DD/MM/YYYY
And sign it.
4. What documents to attach? (Pièces justificatives vous devez fournir)
You find all necessary and demanded documents that you need to attach to your application on the second page of the form. I am here to guide you until the end.
- If you have French, EU or Swiss nationality: photocopy both sides of your ID card or passport
- If you are not from the EU or Swiss: photocopy of your visa long séjour or titre de séjour (VLS-TS) - or carte de séjour or carte de résident depending on what status you have, or your asylum application certificate. Anything that justifies that you can be in France.
- A certified or authenticated birth certificate with apostille. The apostille confirms the seals and signatures on the document, proving that it is a true copy of the original. I am Hungarian, so I had to get an official birth certificate from Budapest in 3 languages (Hungarian, English and French). It is not easy but doable, believe me.
- If you are currently working in France, you need to send a copy of all your employment papers, signed contract and/or last payslip.
- If you are not working, you still have to prove that you are living in France for more than 3 months. You can send the photocopy of your lease, or the last three consecutive water, electricity or internet bills in your name, or an accommodation certificate (called attestation d’hébergement) written by the person who owns the home you are staying in, saying you live with them.
- If you have children under 18 years old living with you: you need to fill out an extra application called: Le formulaire S3705 "Demande de rattachement des enfants mineurs à l'un ou aux deux parents assurés"
- Your special RIB number (Relevé d’Identité Bancaire) from your French bank account. This way the state can refund you automatically after your medical spending. Your French bank gives you your RIB document where you will be able to see your IBAN code.
5. Waiting time
Be patient. France is not known for its fast administration system but don’t worry it is in progress. First you will receive a temporary social security number in around three weeks. You can use this immediately to go to the doctor and get refunds later, but you will have pay in advance and do everything manually on paper (using une feuille de soins). You cannot yet set up a personal Ameli account with this temporary number.
In 2 to 6 months after applying you will receive your permanent social security number. Yeah! You are nearly finished. Now you can register yourself and open a personal account on ameli.fr (the official website for the French health insurance program).
You have two options now to request a Carte Vitale: on paper or electronically. When they sent you the permanent number, they also gave you a paper to fill out and to attach an ID photo and send it back by post to request your carte Vitale. The easier option is to do it online. Once you have your Ameli account you can upload a picture for the card and request it directly on the webpage. It takes about 1-2 months to get your card in the mail.
Bonus tip: European health insurance card (Carte européenne d'assurance maladie)
When you successfully went through the whole process and you have a real social security number and a Carte Vitale, in your Ameli online account in the option „Mes démarches” you can ask for free of charge a European Health Insurance Card. It is a dark blue physical card that covers your medical costs (fully or partially) when you are not in France. It is smart to think ahead and do it before the summer holidays.
We hope we could help you to understand better the Carte Vitale and its whole background.
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For those of you who are not living in France for more than 3 months, we present you our private insurance partner, PartirAssur. They are specialized in the insurance of expatriates and travellers around the world.
See you around,
The Sojoourn Team