Living in France For Members

French bureaucracy: The essential documents you'll always need in France

The Local France
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French bureaucracy: The essential documents you'll always need in France
Photo: Mactrunk/Depositphotos"

French bureaucracy is notoriously difficult to navigate but organising your life in France will be made much simpler if you have the essential documents close to hand.


Applying for healthcare, jobs, apartments, driving licenses, French nationality and residency permits in France or indeed if you are getting married can seem like a never-ending uphill struggle, given the amount of paperwork you have to gather together.
But there are ways to make life easier. 
"Being prepared is key," Tracy Leonetti, a relocation and paperwork expert in France told The Local. 
"This is really about people's time. If they want a seamless transition into their dream life - which is why most people come to France - they need the paperwork. 
"This is a process oriented country and you need to tick the boxes and give the authorities what they want," she added. 
And if you can gather together the following documents (or at least photocopies of them), then organizing your life in France and getting what you need should be a lot easier.


(Let us know if we have missed any)
1. The basics
Passport/proof of identity
It might be obvious but you will need your passport or a national identity card if your country issues them for almost everything you do in France. And make sure you have plenty of photocopies.
Visa (for non-EU citizens)
As with your passport, make sure you have your visa on hand and life will made a lot simpler. 
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Photo: AFP
Proof of address
For pretty much anything you apply for in France, whether a driving license or indeed nationality, you'll need to prove your address. Thankfully there are a few documents to choose from.
These include your rental agreement (attestation d’hébergement), property deeds (if you own your own home) or gas and electricity bills. Home insurance contracts can also be used.
You can also use a landline phone bill (but not one for a mobile phone). 
Birth certificate 
In your home country it's very likely that you haven't had any use for this little document throughout your adult life. But in France you will no doubt need it.
It's absolutely necessary to have a copy of your birth certificate in order to get your health insurance sorted (among other things). And if your one of the few people who carries yours around it's possible that even that version won't meet the standards of the French authorities. 
In order to be valid, you'll need one issued in the past three months and translated into French by a certified translator which should set you back by about 50 euros. 
To find and contact a translator, CLICK HERE (for Paris) and CLICK HERE (for the rest of France).
Marriage/divorce certificate
The same goes for marriage/divorce certificates. Not only will you need an original copy but also a certified translation. 
Certificate of language level
This is crucial when it comes to applying for citizenship in France and can be gained by taking the official language test at an approved test centre.
2. Job-related
Declaration Unique d'Embauche (D.U.E)
In France, you'll receive two separate documents when you are employed by a company and one of these is your Declaration Unique d'Embauche (D.U.E).
Essentially this document registers your employment with URSSAF, the organisation that handles employee and employer social security contributions. And it's important for you to have a copy because you'll need it to apply for healthcare. 
If you haven't received one, just drop HR a line -- they'll have one on file for you. 
Job contract
Here we come to the second work-related document you'll need to provide when carrying out pretty much any kind of admin process in France. 
Your job contract needs to be in French and it's helpful if you have the original as well as a photocopy.  
Staying with the theme of work, it's crucial to keep pay slips, especially if you're flathunting. The dossier you'll put together in the hope of convincing a landlord you will be a trusty tenent will probably need copies of at least three payslips to go with your job contract.
We advise holding on to all the previous six months payslips as well as the first one you received from your current employer.  
3. Financial
Bank details 
Often you'll be asked to provide a RIB or relevé d’identité bancaire. 
Handily, French banks tend to be on top of this and will give you a few copies when you sign up with them and more when you need them. You can also print them off at certain bank machines.
The RIB contains all your account details, from your account number to sort code, as well as your Bank Identifier Code (BIC) and International Bank Account Number (IBAN). 
Photo: Background of euro bills/Depositphotos
Bank statements 
For many applications, you'll need more from your bank than the RIB. 
Bank statements are among the documents most commonly asked for, including citizenship applications and flat hunting, so make sure you can access them easily and have at least six months worth. 
Tax returns for previous three years (Avis d'imposition de revenues)
You'll need your tax returns when applying for loans and buying property in France and also to prove that have been a resident in France when it comes to applying for residency permits, nationality or driving licenses.
Proof that you have paid your taxe d'habitation can also be used for proof of residence.


As with all the financial documents needed for application processes in France, it's wise to have as many as possible on hand. 
4. Health
European Health Insurance Card 
The European Health Insurance Card gives you access to medically necessary, state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in any of the 28 EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, under the same conditions and at the same cost (free in some countries) as people insured in that country.
Have this with you and you won't need to stress out if your carte vitale is taking longer to arrive than expected. 
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Photo: gioiak2/Depositphotos
Medical documents
Make sure you pack your medical records so that your new French doctor will be completely up-to-date with your history. In some cases, it might be worth having a copy translated. 
And don't forget your private health insurance documents (if you have them). 
Once you're settled in France, it's also advisable to make copies of your "mutuelle" which is top-up health insurance . You'll often be asked to show this when you go to the pharmacy and also when applying for some residency permits.


5. Children 
When applying for citizenship you may need to provide a school certificate of attendance (certificat de scolarité) for your children for the most recent year.  
Photo: AFP
Vaccination documents for the children
It's important to have them on hand as proof when enrolling them in school. 
6. Driving
Make sure you have your driving licence (you'll need to show your old one when you apply for a new one in France), any car registration and insurance documents. 
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7. Attestation de mairie
When you arrive in France, particularly if you've moved to a rural area, it's a good idea to introduce yourself to your town hall, says Tracy Leonetti. 
"It's good practice and sometimes you'll receive an attestation acknowledging that you live there," she said. "This can come in handy later down the line as proof of when you arrived in France."
"While not all town halls will give out attestations, it will work in your favour to make them aware of your presence even if just to say hello," she said. 
8. 'Certificate of good conduct'
If you're applying for for citizenship in France, you'll likely need to provide a criminal records check (or Extrait de casier judiciaire) or "certificate of good conduct" whichyou can obtain through the ministry of justice.
10. Passport photos
Not really a document but necessary for almost every administrative process. You will need a lot.
If we have missed any important documents, please lt us know.


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