Eight online services which make dealing with French bureaucracy easier

From booking medical appointments to paying your taxes, dealing with the historically difficult French bureaucratic machine has arguably never been easier than it is today - when you can do much of it online.

Eight online services which make dealing with French bureaucracy easier
Photo: Chris Delmas | AFP

Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of the services you can access online.

Apply for a French driving licence

The rules on driving licences vary depending on where your original licence is from. Britons in France have a special post-Brexit process to deal with – more on that here – and if you’re American it’s even more complicated … you can find the full details here.

Importantly, the process is now handled entirely online by the Agence nationale des titres sécurisés (ANTS) service. It also deals with the vehicle registration process – including the all-important carte grise.

Get a carte vitale

The green carte vitale is your key to French health care. Have one and you’re in the system – you literally are a 14-digit number.

It also contains all the information you need to reimburse healthcare costs and cover you in the event of hospitalisation. You can apply or renew your card via the Assurance Maladie website – you will be asked to enter your postcode to access the appropriate departmental office.

READ ALSO: How to create an Ameli account

Book a medical appointment

You can book appointments with your GP, ophthalmologists and other medical professionals, via the Doctolib website. You can even book an appointment for a Covid-19 vaccination using the site, or through the equally useful Vitemadose website – which connects to the Doctolib site.

Pass sanitaire / EU Covid Certificate

If you have been vaccinated against Covid-19 in France you should have received a document bearing a QR code. 

Once you have the certificate, you can then either print it out or scan it into the French TousAntiCovid app and this creates the pass sanitaire (health pass) which – following President Macron’s July 12th announcement – you will need for a whole range of cultural, sporting and personal activities.

If you don’t have one of these certificates, perhaps because you were one of the earlier tranche of people to be vaccinated, here is what to do.

Pay your taxes

You can make annual tax declarations by setting up a personal account on the the website.


The Caisse d’allocations familiales (CAF) is the body charged with administering a range of benefits, including family allowance, and housing benefits. The CAF online portal allows families living in France to access the benefits they are entitled to.

Get a visa

If you need a visa to enter or stay here for an extended period, France’s Visa Wizard is your friend. Not only will it help you find out if you need one, it will guide you through the entire application process.

Carte de séjour 

A hot topic, particularly for British people in France, who should by now have applied for their Brexit Withdrawal Agreement cartes de séjour (residence permit). These documents are proof of your right to live and work in France. 

If, however, you are a Briton living in France and have not yet applied for your carte, the website for applications is still open – despite the fact the deadline has passed.

For people of other nationalities, foreign students at French universities and Britons coming to France after January 1, 2021, the processes are different again. 

For students, you will find information here.

For foreign nationals living and working in France, the information is here.

You can even access more than 900 public and other services online, using a single user ID and passcode combination – as long as you have a French social security number – via the FranceConnect service.

READ ALSO: What is France Connect and how could it make your life simpler?

Of course, some may say this switch online is not altogether a good thing, that we have lost a little of the personal touch along the way. But those who have fought the old bureaucracy and lost may find it easier to handle when the computer says no, rather than the administrator…

Member comments

  1. Ameli requires you to have a social security number in order to create an account, so won’t work for most new arrivals to France to get their Carte Vitale.

    Doctolib is a great site and I used this to book vaccinations but not all doctors use it. Ours does not.

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Volunteering in France: What are the rules and do I need a special visa?

Looking to give back to the community in France? Here is what you need to know about volunteering in France and the rules for doing so.

Volunteering in France: What are the rules and do I need a special visa?

In France, there is a distinction between the terms benevolat and volontariat.


Those looking to do occasional volunteering – perhaps helping out at a soup kitchen a few times a month – are considered to be bénévoles.

These are non-contractual volunteers who assist an organisation based on their spare time and availability. The French government does not give this type of volunteering any legal status or protection – the work is unpaid and it is not full-time. These activities are seen as part of one’s vie privée (private life).

That means that if you are already in France and want to do this type of work you would not need to change your status, even if you are on a visitor visa that stipulates you are not allowed to work.

If you’re coming to France and you want to do this type of work, you don’t need a special visa, you would just enter on the visa type that suits your status – perhaps a study visa or visitor visa.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What type of French visa do you need?


In contrast, being a volontaire is a contractual commitment. While being a volontaire is different from being an employee, it is still seen by the French government as contractual and exclusive. Volunteers typically receive some form of stipend or living allowance – though not a salary.

The volunteer agrees formally to join a mission for a specified amount of time and will usually be expected to turn up at agreed times. The volunteer can break the contract, though they may need to give some form of notice before doing so.

If you are coming to France in an explicitly religious capacity (ie as a missionary or priest), you may qualify for a visitor’s visa if you can provide official documentation that you would be exercising your religious duties in France. This visitor’s visa would not give you the right to work, however. 

If you are looking to do volunteer tourism – or voluntourism – while visiting France, keep in mind that there may be language barriers and while there are English-language NGOs operating throughout the country, charitable organisations may not be able to offer you the hours that best fit the timeline of your vacation. Try reaching out ahead of your trip to see if it would be feasible.

Volunteer residency permit

The Titre de Voluntariat is a temporary residency permit specifically for non-EU nationals who want to volunteer in an official, contractual status with a French NGO (ie be a voluntariat).

The volunteer’s day-to-day job should involve some social or humanitarian purpose. 

The NGO must, according to the French government, be recognised for serving the public interest. This is defined as being “aimed either at promoting the autonomy and protection of individuals; strengthening social cohesion; preventing or correcting the effects of social exclusion or carrying out solidarity actions in favour of disadvantaged persons residing on French territory.”

What are the rules of this permit and how can I apply?

The key thing about this permit is that you must already have a long-stay visa (meaning one that allows you to enter and stay in France for more than three months).

The permit is basically for people who are already in France, perhaps doing some informal voluntary work, and then get a contract as a voluntariat with a charity organisation.

Keep in mind that sometimes people are rejected because the French state judges the capacity of the host organisation to host volunteers and it sets quotas for the number of foreigners who can hold this permit.

The organisation must certify that they have agreed to host you, and they must be authorised by the French government to accept volunteers. 

In order to apply, you must also already have a volunteer contract in place, which you will need to provide as part of your application. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to get a visitor visa for France

Your application must also include an agreement to leave the country once your contract has ended.

As for the permit itself, it is only issued for the timeline of the volunteer’s contract. Thus, if your mission is only nine months, then that is how long your residency permit will be good for too.

The residency permit is issued by the préfecture for the département where the host organisation is located. 

You can find more information on the French government website (in French) here.