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CARTE VITALE

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 ameli.fr – 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 impots.gouv.fr website.

Benefits

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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FRANCE EXPLAINED

Reader Question: Is it possible to fast-track French paperwork?

Whether it's waiting for an appointment or anxiously tracking the progress of your application, most foreigners in France have wondered at some point whether it is possible to fast-track their French paperwork.

Reader Question: Is it possible to fast-track French paperwork?

You might have heard of France’s ‘fast-track citizenship’ for over 1,000 foreign-born frontline workers during the height of the pandemic or perhaps stories of other EU countries that offer faster and simpler residency in exchange for investment.

You might even have seen companies offering to ‘speed up’ paperwork for you.

Unfortunately we’re here to tell you that there is no secret ‘fast lane’ where everything is dealt with speedily, even if you were willing to pay for it.

There are, however, some things that you can do to make sure your paperwork is dealt with as fast as possible.

Be sure you are applying in the correct category 

One sure way to encounter delays is to apply for the wrong thing, so it’s really worth taking the time to do your research in advance into the different types of residency cards and visas.

If you apply for a visa or residency card type that you’re not eligible for, it’s likely that your application will simply be rejected and you will have to start all over again.

We have a guide to the different visa types HERE.

Another way to save yourself an annual admin task is to go straight onto a multi-year visa, such as the ‘passeport talent‘ which lasts for four years.

You might think that this is only available to high earners, but there are several other situations in which you might qualify. For instance, researchers, artists and those with ‘international reputation’ can qualify too.

READ MORE: Talent passport: The little-known French visa that could make moving to France a lot easier

Have a complete dossier

This might seem obvious, but a common hang-up with French administrative processes is simply not having all of the correct documents – all residency and visa applications have a list of the required documents and you should make sure that you have everything that is needed ahead of either submitting your application or heading in for your appointment. 

The documents should be up-to-date (as recent as possible – usually best to aim for within the last month or two, though your specific procedure might specify a timeline). Each document should have the same full name and the same address listed.

Consistency is key – for example, if you are applying for a new titre de séjour and you bring in a copy of your proof of health insurance (Attestation de droits – assurance maladie), but the address listed is out of date, you could risk being turned away or told to come back.

Pay attention to the details too – if you need new identity card photos, the ones you took a year ago will likely be out of date (even if your appearance has not changed).

Always bring copies of your passport, current visa or residency permit, as well as any required paperwork. Most of the time, you’ll be asked to show proof of your current address – it does not hurt to have multiple ways of demonstrating this (eg a phone bill and an electricity bill).

Bringing the wrong documents, those with mismatched information, or missing key forms will prolong the process, as you will need to make a new appointment and start the process over again. Having your documents ready to go in an organised fashion can save you lots of time!

Go in person, if possible.

In France, it is often faster to do administrative processes in person. If you are worried about your French, consider asking a friend to come along.

If an in-person option is not available, then a phone call is your next best bet.

France is gradually putting more procedures online, but the old-fashioned way of speaking to a real person is almost always most efficient, especially if you have situation-specific questions. Surprisingly, your local tax office might be one of the most welcoming places to pop in and ask a question.

READ MORE: Reader question: How can I challenge my French tax bill?

Seek expert help if your situation is complex or irregular.

If your situation is out of the ordinary, you might want to consider legal or professional assistance to be sure you are following the correct path.

However, keep in mind that even with expert assistance, you will still need to file the documents yourself at the end of the day. A lawyer can help you be sure that your dossier is correctly filled out and prepared, but they cannot make French bureaucracy work faster, unfortunately.

Citizenship

We said there is no fast-track, but French citizenship is the exception (sort of).

If you’re applying through residency, French citizenship can normally be requested after five years, but the ‘period of residency’ requirement can be reduced to two years for those who successfully completed two years of study in a French institution of higher learning or if you have rendered “important services to France” (as was the case for the essential workers listed above).

If you marry a French citizen, you can apply for citizenship through marriage after four years of marriage.

And if you join the French Foreign Legion and are wounded on active service you can apply for citizenship before the minimum five year period – although this seems a slightly extreme way to avoid waiting times.

READ MORE: Am I eligible for French citizenship?

Once you have applied, there is unfortunately no way to fast-track the process, and the average time between submitting your application and being naturalised is 18 months to two years. 

Zen

But ultimately, it might be better to accept that French admin tasks usually take a long time – and processing times can vary quite dramatically between different areas. 

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