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LIVING IN FRANCE

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

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.

French bureaucracy: The essential documents you'll always need in France
Photo: Mactrunk/Depositphotos
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. 
 
 
Brits seeking permanent residency in France told 'come back after Brexit'
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.  
 
Payslips
 
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. 
 
Healthcare in France: a beginner's guide
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. 
 
Question: Can Paris really ban petrol cars by 2030?
Photo: AFP
 
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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LIVING IN FRANCE

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer's here and the time is right for national celebrations, traffic jams, strikes, Paris beaches, and ... changing the rules for new boilers.

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer holidays

The holiday season in France officially begins on Thursday, July 7th, as this is the date when school’s out for the summer. The weekend immediately after the end of the school year is expected to be a busy one on the roads and the railways as families start heading off on vacation.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer

Strikes

But it wouldn’t really be summer in France without a few strikes – airport employees at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will walk out on July 1st, while SNCF rail staff will strike on July 6th. Meanwhile Ryanair employees at Paris, Marseille and Toulouse airports will strike on yet-to-be-confirmed dates in July.

READ ALSO How strikes and staff shortages will affect summer in France

Parliamentary fireworks?

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne will present the government’s new programme in parliament on July 5th – this is expected to be a tricky day for the Macron government, not only does it not have the parliamentary majority that it needs to pass legislation like the new package of financial aid to help householders deal with the cost-of-living crisis, but opposition parties have indicated that they will table a motion of no confidence against Borne.

Parliament usually breaks for the summer at the end of July, but a special extended session to allow legislation to be passed means that MPs won’t get to go on holiday until at least August 9th. 

Fête nationale

July 14th is a public holiday in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille which was the symbolic start of the French Revolution. As usual, towns and cities will host parades and fireworks – with the biggest military parade taking place on the Champs-Elysées in Paris – and many stores will remain closed.

As the national holiday falls on a Thursday this year, many French workers will take the opportunity to faire le pont.

Festival season really kicks in

You know summer’s here when France gets festival fever, with events in towns and cities across the country. You can find our pick of the summer celebrations here.

Paris Plages

The capital’s popular urban beaches return on July 9th on the banks of the Seine and beside the Bassin de la Villette in northern Paris, bringing taste of the seaside to the capital with swimming spots, desk chairs, beach games and entertainment.  

Summer sales end 

Summer sales across most of the country end on July 19th – unless you live in Alpes-Maritimes, when they run from July 6th to August 2nd, or the island of Corsica (July 13th to August 9th).

Tour de France

The Tour de France cycle race sets off on July 1st from Copenhagen and finishes up on the Champs-Elysée in Paris on July 24th.

New boilers

From July 1st, 2022, new equipment installed for heating or hot water in residential or professional buildings, must comply with a greenhouse gas emissions ceiling of 300 gCO2eq/KWh PCI. 

That’s a technical way of saying oil or coal-fired boilers can no longer be installed. Nor can any other type of boiler that exceeds the ceiling.

As per a decree published in the Journal Officiel in January, existing appliances can continue to be used, maintained and repaired, but financial aid of up to €11,000 is planned to encourage their replacement. 

Bike helmets

New standards for motorbike helmets come into effect from July 1st. Riders do not need to change their current helmets, but the “ECE 22.05” standard can no longer be issued – and all helmets sold must adhere to a new, more stringent “ECE 22.06” standards from July 2024

New cars

From July 6th new car models must be equipped with a black box that record driving parameters such as speed, acceleration or braking phases, wearing (or not) of a seat belt, indicator use, the force of the collision or engine speed, in case of accidents.

New cars II

From July 1st, the ecological bonus for anyone who buys an electric vehicle drops by €1,000, while rechargeable hybrids will be excluded from the aid system, “which will be reserved for electric vehicles whose CO2 emission rate is less than or equal to 20g/km”.

What’s in a name?

Historically, the French have been quite restrictive on the use of family names – remember the concern over the use of birth names on Covid vaccine documents? – but it becomes easier for an adult to choose to bear the name of his mother, his father, or both by a simple declaration to the civil status. All you have to do is declare your choice by form at the town hall of your home or place of birth.

Eco loans

In concert with the new boiler rules, a zero-interest loan of up to €30,000 to finance energy-saving renovations can be combined with MaPrimeRénov’, a subsidy for financing the same work, under certain conditions, from July 1st.

Rent rules

Non-professional private landlords advertising properties for rent must, from July 1st, include specific information about the property on the ad, including the size of the property in square metres, the area of town in which the property is in, the monthly rent and any supplements, whether the property is in a rent-control area, and the security deposit required. Further information, including the full list of requirements for any ad, is available here.

Perfume ban

More perfumes are to be added to a banned list for products used by children, such as soap-making kits, cosmetic sets, shampoos, or sweet-making games, or toys that have an aroma.

Atranol, chloroatranol (extracts of oak moss containing tannins), and methyl carbonate heptin, which smells like violets, will be banned from July 5th, because of their possible allergenic effects.

Furthermore, 71 new allergenic fragrances – including camphor, menthol, vanilin, eucalyptus spp. leaf oil, rose flower oil, lavendula officinalis, turpentine – will be added to the list of ingredients that must be clearly indicated on a toy or on an attached label.

Ticket resto limits

The increased ticket resto limit ended on June 30th, so from July 1st employees who receive the restaurant vouchers will once again be limited to spending €19 per day in restaurants, cafés and bars. The limit was increased to €38 during the pandemic, when workers were working from home.

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