France on lockdown: What public services are open and how to contact them

France on lockdown: What public services are open and how to contact them
La Poste has decreased its services to 185,000 offices throughout the coronavirus lockdown period. Photo: AFP
As France enters its fourth week of coronavirus lockdown here’s a look at what public offices are still open and how you can contact them.

Many public services closed their offices on the eve of March 16th as the French government, to stem the spread of the coronavirus epidemic in the country, announced a national lockdown would begin the following day.

It means that the majority of government offices are closed, but some essential work is still being done as they generally keep their staff on télétravail (working from home).

Some offices also keep open throughout the coronavirus lockdown period, albeit for essential purposes only and enforcing restrictive measures complying with social distancing. Several services have also reduced their opening hours.

French authorities have stressed that all errands that can be postponed or done online should be, and automatic extensions have already been granted for several things including visas and residency cards and the côntrole technique test for vehicles

Here's a list of key public services and how to contact them.

Préfectures

The country’s préfectures shut their doors on March 16th. Authorities recommend that everyone check website service-public.fr to see if their errand can be done online. 

If you need to ask an urgent question, you can call 3939 (€0.15 per minute if you call from France) or send an email through this form.

Post offices

La Poste, France’s national mail service, has limited its activity to 1,850 post offices (up from 1,600 at the beginning of the lockdown), which stay open at specific times. A list of the offices that keep open is being updated regularly and can be found on this link (an Excel document).

The post service has stressed that any visit to their offices that is not urgent must be postponed and urged people to check their list of online services to see if their errand can be done online.

Throughout the lockdown, La Poste will prioritise key services like taking out and dropping off money, dropping off automatic checks and picking up social funding. 

Other services will be maintained “when possible.” These include services like picking up registered letters, effectuating international payments through Western Union and other international services, and sending automated letters. Mail deliveries continue but have been scaled down to three days a week.

Find what post office is closest to you here and where you can pick up a package here

Pôle Emploi

France’s state offices for unemployment services will stay closed throughout the lockdown, but advisers on télétravail will respond to questions per phone or email. To get in touch, call 3949 (€0.15 per minute if you call from France) or send an email through this form.

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Tax offices

It's nearly time to do your annual tax declaration, although this year all declaration must be done online with some exceptions for those without internet access or other special needs.

READ MORE: What you need to know about filing taxes in France in 2020

France's tax office services (direction générale des finances publiques, DGFIP) are closed during the coronavirus lockdown, but you can ask for a meeting through your personal account or by calling 08 09 40 14 01.

You can also send a secure email from this link (you will need to log in first).

CAM – Assurance Maladie
 
All health insurance offices (Assurance Maladie, also known as Ameli) have closed their doors to the public, but maintain services from distance.
 
You cannot ask for a meeting online, however advisors can get in touch with you via phone to help you deal with urgent questions.
 
If you need to get in touch you can call 3646 (€0.06 per minute), however the line has been extremely busy since the beginning of the lockdown so getting through to a councillor may take some time.
 
Before calling, Assurance Maladie service asks that everyone first check if they can get their answer through their personal account.
 
You can also contact Ameli via their online chatbots or email, note however that email requests should only be about urgent personal questions. You can also check if your question has been answered in their online Q&A forum
 
Pension funds

The offices dealing with pension funds (l’Assurance retraite) are also closed, but employees working from home ensure that regular pension payments are maintained and will keep going through applications.

If you have an appointment scheduled during the lockdown period a councillor will get in touch to make arrangements to find an alternative solution.

If you need to get in touch with l’Assurance retraite you can log into your personal account and click on the box “poser une question” (ask a question). They ask clients to avoid calling or sending letters. 

If you wish to ask for your pension you can do this through the online service “demander ma retraite” (ask for my pension), which is also accessible from your personal account. 

Caf

Benefits are paid as usual and the offices known as Caf (Caisses d'allocations familial) maintain their services from a distance. Clients may meet with advisors through phone meetings or online conferences, although the character of the services offered varies between départements. You can check what services are offered in your area are through this link (click on your département and enter your postcode).

If you have an urgent question you can contact your local Caf via phone. To find the phone number click on “Ma Caf” and then “Contacter Ma Caf”.

Due to a large amount of calls since the lockdown started, the offices ask that you first check if there is an online response to your question here.`

Driving licences

For those in the process of exchanging their foreign driving licence to a French one, the offices that handles this effort in Nantes continue to process applications work throughout the lockdown.

A new driving license exchange website for British residents in France has gone live and users so far have praised it for being much less complicated than previous procedures.

Police stations

All France’s police stations that normally offer a 24 hours service remain open throughout the lockdown. Authorities recommend that anyone planning a visit to a station first call 17 in order to decide whether the visit can be done online or postponed. 

Police stations that normally offer a day-time only service have closed.

Many types of complaints can be filed online. If you want to file an official complaint about sexual violence or sexist behaviour, discrimination, illegal online behaviour, fraud or scams or alert the authorities to someone potentially being radicalised – all these can be done from the police's website.

Courts

All of the country’s courts closed on March 16th except for matters defined as “essential content.” A list of urgent matters like tribunals dealing with children, forced hospitalisation, domestic violence, and a few others will be maintained, but all sit-down sessions have been canceled when possible to prevent contagion between jurors and the public.


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