Are you missing out on the billions of unclaimed family benefits in France?

Families in France are missing out on a total of €10 billion worth of benefits each year. French authorities intend to track them down but you should also check whether you are entitled to claim financial help.

Are you missing out on the billions of unclaimed family benefits in France?
Photo: AFP

Some €10 billion worth of benefits goes unclaimed by families in France each year, according the national family benefits agency, the CAF (Caisse des Allocations Familiales), which intends to track down the families who are missing out on potentially hundreds of euros each month.

Figures released by the CAF show that over a third (36%) of those entitled to back-to-work benefits (RSA – Revenu de Solidarité Active) do not claim them and just under a quarter (21%) who could benefit from universal health coverage (CMU – Couverture Maladie Universelle) do not.

To reduce those numbers, the CAF has been carrying out an experiment in several of its offices around France which it hopes to roll it out across the country in 2019.

Using software previously used for tracking fraudsters, it has been cross-referencing its data to find people who are entitled to benefits but haven't claimed them, and then paying them back. These families could be missing out on up to 700 euros a month.

When Sophie Foucher, a single parent got a call from her local CAF office in the Gironde department of south west France, where the scheme was launched last year, she braced herself for bad news. “I thought they were going to tell me that they had given me too much much money and ask me to pay them back,” she told France Info.

“But they didn't. Instead, they told me that I could claim more”. The 39-year-old mother of three now receives an extra €75 a month, a sum which she said  “wasn't insignificant” given her situation.

The CAF's focus used to be on tracking down fraudsters, who cost the government 4 billion a year. But not paying out benefits to families who could benefit from them also has a cost.

“People who don't claim means savings in the short term but it has a much higher social cost in the long term which is difficult to value,”  Le Telegramme newspaper commented.

Christophe Demilly head of the CAF Gironde office stressed the role benefits had in reducing poverty.

“For us, this is very important, because reducing the numbers who have a right to the benefits [but are missing out] is about fighting poverty in families, and therefore of young people and children,” he said.

So why aren't people in France claiming their family benefits?

According to Demilly, many people just don't know what benefits are available nor whether they are entitled to them.

“On top of that, there are people who are aware that they can claim, but who don't want to, because they don't want to be seen as people who need help. Others are worried about all the paperwork involved,” sad Demilly.

There are also thousands of foreigners in France who like their French counterparts are not claiming the benefits they are entitled to.

Any foreign person legally living in France with one or more dependent children is entitled to family benefits just as a French family is.

But, like their French counterparts, many who move to France miss out on the financial help they are entitled to because either they just didn't know about it or perhaps they didn't know how to claim it or speak the language well enough to do it.

“Foreigners often don't realise they have access to family benefits and it's probably the area of benefits most relevant to foreigners moving to France because they are often relocating their whole family,” Tracy Leonetti, a relocation and paperwork expert in France told The Local.

“The French love families with children which shows in the way the benefits work,” said Leonetti. 

As with other types of benefits in France, for non-Europeans access to them depends on your legal status but anyone with working and residency permits (Carte de sejour) can access benefits in the same way as French residents.
Here's our guide to help you understand the family benefits you might be entitled to in France. 


The family benefits you can claim in France... but probably didn't know about

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Garant: How the French guarantor system works for property rental

If you're looking to rent an apartment in a larger city in France, you're likely to see announcements that require a 'garant'. Here is what you need to know about finding a guarantor in France.

Garant: How the French guarantor system works for property rental

Renting in large cities in France – particularly in Paris – is a known challenge for foreigners, especially new arrivals. In the countryside, it’s a bit easier, with less competition properties, but in the big cities compiling your dossier and landing the right place can be a challenge.

One of the biggest surprises for many people is that most landlords ask for a guarantor (garant) in order to sign a lease for an apartment. It is not a legal requirement, but in competitive real estate markets, it certainly feels like one.

Though asking for a garant might feel a bit juvenile, it is quite common, and applies to a lot more people than you might realise. Here is what you need to know:

Who typically needs a guarantor?

The most common group to need guarantors are students. However, if you are a foreigner who is not employed with a CDI (indefinite contract) and if you do not make over three times your monthly rent, you will likely need a guarantor as well.

If you don’t collect your income in France (or if you don’t have an income) you will need a guarantor.

You will also likely need one if you are still in the probationary period of your CDI, or if you cannot show three months worth of pay stubs from your job yet (even if you pay meets the three times a month requirement). If you do have a CDI, you could ask your employer to sign you an attestation d’employeur which verifies your monthly income. 

If your income is not steady or consistent (perhaps you are a freelancer). Typically, if you use an agency during the leasing process, they will require a guarantor, especially if any of these conditions apply to you. 

It is worth noting that showing bank statements typically do not suffice – landlords are looking for proof of ongoing income, not savings.

Who can count as a guarantor?

The guarantor should be a third party, such as a parent or close relative who agrees to pay your rent if you fail to pay.

This person must fulfil all the requirements outlined above (ie earning more than three times your rent with an indefinite contract).

The other tricky part is that this person must work and live in France, and usually it’s best that they are French themselves.

However, this can pose a problem for foreigners who might not know anyone that fits that description, so thankfully there are some other options fill this requirement, like taking out a caution bancaire or using an online agency. We explained the ins-and-outs of these bellow.

What does my guarantor need to show?

The guarantor needs to put together a dossier of documents including;

  • Proof of identification (a passport or French ID card)
  • Proof of residence that is less than three months old (eg utility bills).
  • Most recent tax returns
  • Employment contract and typically three months worth of payslips
  • If they earn money via real estate, they must also provide documentation for this
  • If the person in question is retired, they must provide proof of pension (again, this must exceed your monthly rent threefold). 

So, what if I don’t have a French person who can be my guarantor? There are a few options for you:

Use an online service

There are two main online services that can act as guarantors for foreigners in France.

The first is Visale, which is accessible primarily to foreign students.

This is a programme offered via the French state through “Action Logement” and it covers up to three years of unpaid rent. You must be between 18 and 30 years old to apply, and you must hold a long-stay visa (VLS-TS) – either a student visa or a ‘talent’ one.

For students who are already citizens of a European Union country, then simply presenting a student card and a valid passport will be sufficient. It can be applied to private housing and student residences, but it is ultimately up to the landlord as to whether they will accept a tenant who uses Visale as their guarantor. The main benefit to Visale is that it is free for the user.

Visale does come with some restrictions, however. Your rent (including charges) cannot exceed €1,500 in Paris, and €1,300 in the rest of the country. In addition, the lease must be for a primary residence, and your rent should not exceed 50 percent of your total income.

Another option is GarantMe, a paid online website that can also serve as an official guarantor.

Landlords might actually prefer this service over a physical guarantor who might refuse to pay or for whatever reason not have the funds to do so. The benefit to GarantMe is that they accept a wider range of tenants for their service, but the downside is that there is a fee. The minimum payment (per year) is €150, but the fee is normally 3.5 percent of the annual rent (including charges) and it renews automatically.

The nice thing about GarantMe, is that in order to apply for the service, you basically need to create a full dossier that will be identical to what you’ll need for your apartment search anyways.

Take out a Caution Bancaire

Basically, a caution bancaire is a bank guarantee, and typically its a bit more of a last resort option because it is quite restrictive for the tenant. It involves blocking off a large sum of money to be used to pay rent if you fail to do so.

Depending on the landlord (and the bank), they might ask you to block between six months worth of rent to sometimes up to two years. This would be used as guarantee during the duration of your lease, but it takes a bit of administrative coordination and obviously requires a large sum of liquid funds.

Sometimes activating a bank guarantee can take a few weeks, and for foreigners, of course, this would require already having a French bank account. There can also be fees, depending on the bank, for using a caution bancaire, and simply closing of caution bancaire account in itself can involve fees.

The other downside to this is that not all landlords will accept it, which is why this option might be best served as a last resort.

Attempt to find an apartment that does not require a garant

This is quite difficult in Paris (and other large cities around France). It is possible sometimes if you stick to foreigner-oriented sites like NY Habitat or Paris Attitude. Another possible loophole could be to see if your insurance plan offers coverage of unpaid rent. This is quite uncommon, but could be a possible option. If you rent specifically particulier-à-particulier (meaning you do not use an agency at all) you might be able to negotiate with the landlord, or if you have a sub-lease you might not need to show proof of a guarantor.

Ultimately, however, in most cases when renting in France’s large cities, you’ll likely need a guarantor.

What should I be aware of when it comes to guarantor websites?

As mentioned previously, Visale is only for people in the 18-30 age group, so unfortunately it does not apply to everyone. It is also intended for lower income people or students, so if you are a high earner you might be rejected.

Regarding using a website like GarantMe, beware that they will charge you every year – it is not a one time fee. This will be deducted from the card you put on the site and the only way to cancel the charge will be to show proof that you have moved out (i.e. an état des lieux or letter releasing you from the obligation signed from your landlord)