For members


How to claim the cost of language or driving lessons from the French government

If you're an employee in France the government has earmarked €800 a year for you to spend on training - which can include further professional development, language classes for foreigners or driving lessons. Here's how to claim them.

How to claim the cost of language or driving lessons from the French government
Photo: Georges Gobet/AFP

Who gets it?

Every person working as an employee in France has their own compte personnel de formation (CPF), with access to money earmarked for professional training – you need only a social security number to access it.

The system was first created in 2015, but initially had a very low take-up. So in 2019 the government launched an app to allow everyone to create an online account and claim their training allowance. The scheme has been heavily backed by President Emmanuel Macron, who is concerned that some French workers lack the training and professional skills to compete in the international market.

Since then take-up has been very good – in fact possibly too good, by the end of 2021 the system is forecast to have paid out €12 billion, which will leave a €3 billion hole in the budget. For the moment it’s still running and paying out though, so now is a good time to get your training in.

What do you get?

The government abandoned the previous points-based system on January 1st 2019. Today, the CPF ‘currency’ is in euros.

This means that each worker’s CPF account receives an annual budget, which they can use to apply for professional training. The amount of money transferred into the account depends on the person’s professional situation.

Full-time workers get €500 a year (unskilled workers get €800), if you don’t use the full amount one year it can be carried over, but the account has a maximum ceiling of €5,000 (€8,000 for unskilled workers).

For part-time workers, the amount of money given each year will be proportionally calculated from the number of hours they worked. 

READ ALSO Five reasons to start your own business in France

What can you use it for?

The money in the account can be used to finance any work-related training approved by the CPF, which is relevant to the employee’s work.

These are the main types of training included in the system:

  • Extra qualification (like a diploma or professional title)
  • Skills training
  • Skills assessment
  • Driver’s licence, both the theory and the practical test
  • Setting up a business
  • Training needed for people volunteering or working in civil service

For foreigners working in France, French language courses are accepted and if you need to drive for your work you can claim the cost of driving lessons and tests (a big plus to people caught up in licence swap issues who end up needing to take the very expensive French driving test).

What’s the app like?

The app provides each employee with an overview of their rights, as well as a platform where they can apply for training programs.

You can find it in the app store called Mon CFP, once downloaded you create an account with your personal details and your social security number (which can find on your carte vitale or payslip).

Once the account is created, you head to the ‘mon compte‘ section which will tell you your available budget for training.

You then select the type of training you want, whether you’re interested in in-person or online courses and the location and see what the options are.  

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For members


How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting France

Ever wondered how to avoid paying exorbitant roaming fees when travelling in France? There are ways to keep your internet access while avoiding being hit by a big bill.

How to avoid huge 'roaming' phone bills while visiting France

Travelling without access to the internet is almost impossible these days. We use our phones for mapping applications, contacting the Airbnb, even scanning the QR code for the restaurant menu.

If you’re lucky enough to have a phone registered in an EU country than you don’t need to worry, thanks to the EU’s cap on charges for people travelling, but non-Europeans need to be careful with their phone use abroad.

First things first, if you are looking to avoid roaming charges, be sure to go into your settings and turn off “data roaming.” Do it right before your plane lands or your train arrives – you don’t want to risk the phone company in your home country starting the clock on ‘one day of roaming fees’ without knowing it.

But these days travelling without internet access can be difficult and annoying, especially as a growing number of tourist attractions require booking in advance online, while restaurants often display their menus on a QR code.

So here are some techniques to keep the bills low.

Check your phone company’s roaming plan

Before leaving home, check to see what your phone plan offers for pre-paid roaming deals.

For Brits, if you have a phone plan with “Three” for example, you can ask about their “Go Roam” plan for add-on allowance. You can choose to pay monthly or as you go. Vodafone offers eight day and 15 day passes that are available for £1 a day.

For Americans, T-Mobile offers you to add an “international pass” which will charge you $5 per day. Verizon and AT&T’s roaming plans will charge you $10 per day. For AT&T, you are automatically opted into this as soon as your phone tries to access data abroad.

These all allow you to retain your normal phone number and plan.

Beware that these prices are only available if you sign up in advance, otherwise you will likely be facing a much bigger bill for using mobile data in France. 

Buy a pre-paid SIM card

However, if you are travelling for a longer period of time it might work out cheaper to turn off your phone data and buy a pre-paid SIM card in France.

In order to get a pre-paid SIM card, you will need your passport or proof of identity (drivers’ licences do not count).

Keep in mind that you will not be able to use your normal phone number with the new SIM card in, but will be able to access your internet enabled messaging services, like WhatsApp, Facebook and iMessage. Your phone will need to be ‘unlocked’ (ask your carrier about whether yours is) in order to put a new SIM card in.

Here are some of the plans you can choose from:

Orange Holiday

This is one of France’s largest and most reputable telephone companies. The “Orange Holiday” SIM card exists specifically for tourists. At €39.99, you will get a SIM card that will enable you to make and receive calls and texts from a French phone number. You will have unlimited calls and texts within Europe, as well as two hours of calls and 1000 texts outside of Europe (for messaging people at home, for example). You will also have access to 30GB of data in Europe. 

The initial plan is valid for 14 days, and begins as soon as you begin calling, texting, or surfing the web. In order to get this SIM card, you can go into any Orange store and request it. Some supermarkets and airport kiosks might also carry this SIM card.


SFR is another well-known French phone company. Their pre-paid SIM card is called “La Carte,” and they offer several different options based on how much internet, calling, and texting you want access to. The basic plan is for 30 days and starts at €9.99 a month, which includes a €10 credit. Once the card is in your cellphone, you can add on a top-up option as needed.

You can buy this SIM card either online or in an SFR store. 

La Poste Mobile

This is the French phone company that operates in conjunction to the post office. What is especially convenient about this SIM card is that you should be able to get it at any post office in France. Plans range from €5 to €30 based on the number of days and the amount of calling, texting, and internet you are looking for. 

Bouygues Telecom

Finally, Bouygues Telecom also has some offers for prepaid SIM cards. Their plan, the “My European SIM” is especially made for tourists. It costs €39.90 and allows you unlimited calling and texting in France and Europe. The plan offers 20Gb of data. You can plan ahead for your trip by ordering this card online, but you can only activate it once you arrive in France.

The card actually comes along with a tourist guide (offered in 10 languages) and a map of Paris Metro.


Though buying a pre-paid SIM card is a very useful option for visitors spending a decent amount of time in France, it is important to be sure you are buying a pre-paid SIM, rather than accidentally signing up for a monthly plan.

Some mobile phone carriers offer very affordable monthly plans, which might look appealing to tourists. However, these plans will continue charging you after your vacation has ended, and many involve complex processes, including sending a registered cancellation letter (in French), in order to cancel the plan.

UK contracts

If you have a UK-registered mobile phone, check your plan carefully before travelling. Before Brexit, Brits benefited from the EU cap on roaming charges, but this no longer applies.

Some phone companies have announced the return of roaming charges, while others have not, or only apply roaming charges only on certain contracts.

In short, check before you set off and don’t assume that because you have never been charged extra before, you won’t be this time.