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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For members


What is the EU’s ‘single permit’ for third-country nationals and can I get one?

In 2020, 2.7 million non-EU citizens were issued a so-called "single permit" to both reside and work in the EU. But what is the single permit, how does it work and what could change in the future?

What is the EU's 'single permit' for third-country nationals and can I get one?

Among the recent proposals made by the European Commission to simplify the procedures for the entry and residence of non-EU nationals in the European Union, there is the reform of the ‘single permit’.

In 2020, 2.7 million non-EU citizens were issued a ‘single permit’ to both reside and work in the EU, according to the European statistics agency Eurostat. Five countries together issued 75% of the total, with France topping the list (940,000 permits issued), followed by Italy (345,000), Germany (302,000), Spain (275,000) and Portugal (170,000).

Seven in 10 single permits were granted for family and employment reasons (34 and 36 percent respectively) and just less than 10 percent for education purposes.

But what is this permit and how does it work?

What is the EU single permit?

The EU single permit is an administrative act that grants non-EU citizens both a work and residence permit for an EU member state with a single application.

It was designed to simplify access for people moving to the EU for work. It also aims to ensure that permit holders are treated equally to the citizens of the country where they live when it comes to working conditions, education and training, recognition of qualifications, freedom of association, tax benefits, access to goods and services, including housing and advice services.

Equal conditions also concern social security, including the portability of pension benefits. This means that non-EU citizens or their survivors who reside in a non-EU country and derive rights from single permit holders are entitled to receive pensions for old age, invalidity and death in the same way as EU citizens.

The single permit directive applies in 25 of the 27 EU countries, as Ireland and Denmark have opted out of all EU laws affecting ‘third country nationals’.

Who can apply for a single permit?

The directive covers non-EU nationals who apply to reside in an EU country for work or who are already resident in the EU for other purposes but have the right to access the labour market (for instance, students or family members of a citizen of the country of application).

As a general rule, these rules do not apply to long-term residents or non-EU family members of EU citizens who exercise the free movement rights or have free movement rights in the EU under separate laws, as their rights are already covered by separate laws.

It also does not apply to posted workers, seasonal workers, intra-corporate transferees, beneficiaries of temporary protection, refugees, self-employed workers and seafarers or people working on board of EU ships, as they are not considered part of the labour market of the EU country where they are based.

Each country can determine whether the application should be made by the non-EU national or the employer or either of them.

Applications from the individual are required for the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden. For Bulgaria and Italy it is the employer who has to apply, while applications are accepted from either the recipient or the employer for Austria, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain.

How long does it take to process the application?

The EU directive says the competent authority must decide on the application within 4 months from the date it was lodged. Only in exceptional circumstances the deadline can be longer.

Where no decision is taken within the time limit, national law determines the outcome. In some EU countries (including France, Italy and Spain) this is a tacit rejection while in others it is a tacit approval.

If the application is incomplete, the authority should notify the applicant in writing specifying which additional information is needed, and the time count should be suspended until these are received.

In case of rejection, the authority must provide the reasons and there is a possibility to appeal.

How does it work in practice?

Although the intention of the directive was to simplify the procedure and guarantee more rights, things always get complicated when it’s 25 countries turning rules into reality.

A 2019 report of the European Commission on how this law was working in practice showed that the directive “failed to address some of the issues it proposed to solve”.

The Commission had received several complaints and launched legal action against some member states.

Complaints concerned in particular excessive processing times by the relevant authorities, too high fees, problems with the recognition of qualifications and the lack of equal treatment in several areas, especially social security.

Only 13 countries allowed the transfer of pensions to non-EU countries. In France, invalidity and death pensions are not exportable to non-EU states. Problems were identified also in Bulgaria, the Netherlands and Slovenia.

In Italy single permit holders were excluded from certain types of family benefits and it was the EU Court of Justice that ruled, in September 2021, that single permit holders are entitled to a childbirth and maternity allowances as provided by Italian laws. The EU Court also rules that Italy and the Netherlands were charging too high fees.

Sweden restricts social security benefits for people living in the country for less than one year and takes too long to process single permit applications, according to the report.

Generally the report found that authorities were not providing sufficient information to the pubic about the permit and associated rights.

What will change?

As part of a package of measures to make working and moving in the EU country easier for non-EU nationals announced at the end of April, the European Commission has proposed some changes to improve the situation.

The Commission has suggested shortening the deadline for member states to issue a decision ensuring that the 4 month limit covers the issuing of visas and the labour market test (to prove there are no suitable candidates in the local market).

Under the proposal, fees should be proportionate and candidates should be able to submit the application both in the member state of destination and from a third country.

In addition, permit holders should be able to change employer during the permit’s validity, and the permit should not be withdrawn in case of unemployment for at least 3 months. These measures should reduce vulnerability to labour exploitation, the Commission says.

The Commission also suggests member states should introduce penalties against employers who do no respect equality principles especially with regard to working conditions, freedom of association and affiliation and access to social security benefits.

These proposals have to be approved by the European Parliament and Council and can be modified before becoming law.