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MONEY

EXPLAINED: How to receive CAF payments in France

France has a strong social security system that offers financial help to a wide range of groups including students, pensioners and families. One of its main organs is La CAF - a confusing but effective body tasked with issuing welfare payments - here's how they work and how to apply.

The RSA is one of many French CAF payments that you may be eligible for.
The RSA is one of many French CAF payments that you may be eligible for. (Photo by FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP)

La CAF (Caisse d’allocations familiales) is a French publicly-funded organisation in charge of issuing payments to families, students, disabled people, those on low incomes and some other groups.

There are dozens of different kinds of financial aid available depending on your situation. 

But the crucial point is that you have to apply for these – they don’t just magically appear if you meet the criteria.

To receive CAF payments, your income must be below a certain amount – this can vary depending on a number of factors: what kind of aid you are applying for; how many people live in your household; how many people you care for; where you live; how much you pay in rent; and many others. 

You must be living in France and possess a visa or titre de séjour (unless you are a national of another EU country, such as Ireland) to be eligible to receive CAF payments. You must also have a French social security number and have filed a tax declaration in France or abroad in the financial year before applying. 

Payments are sent monthly and typically fall just short of €200 – again though, this amount can vary depending on your personal situation. 

There are many different benefits depending on your situation, but here is a guide to some of the most common:

Help with rent

Aide personnalisée au logement (APL) is a monthly payment designed to help make rent more affordable. If you are sub-tenant, you must be less than 30-years-old. 

You do not need a formal rental contract to receive this payment, which is why it is popular among students who often struggle to provide the necessary guarantors or proof of income necessary to get one. However, you do need at least a signed ‘attestation de loyer‘ from your landlord (or from the tenant if you are sub-letting) which carries less legal weight. 

Payments are made into your bank account, rather than going to the property owner. 

To qualify, you must be renting a somewhere that meets certain criteria of ‘decency and living conditions‘. The amount you are paid depends on your income, how many people you live with and the number of children under your care.

A single person in the countryside for example would receive a maximum of €239.21 per month, while a couple with a child in Paris could receive €399.19 with an additional €57.91 for each extra child. 

Other housing benefits payments include: the Allocation de logement familial or ALF (which is targeted more specifically at families) and the Allocation de logement social or ALS (which is designed for people living in social housing). 

Help for parents 

Allocations familiales are payments designed to help people caring for two or more people under 20-years-old. 

The amount paid out depends on the annual income of the couple or single person caring for the children/teenagers, and increases once the second-born child passes the age of 14. 

The upper annual earning limit of a couple or single person with two children hoping to benefit from this payment is €93,212. 

Other common financial aid options designed to help families include: the prime de naissance (a one-off birth bonus designed to help with initial expenses that come with having a baby); the prime à l’adoption (a one-off payment for those who adopt someone under the age of 20); the allocation de base,  which is a monthly payment of up to €184.62 per child to help with education; and the PAJE (which is a payment specifically designed to help families care for a child under the age of three). 

You can apply to receive multiple different payments to support your family through CAF at the same time. 

Help for workers

The Revenu de solidarité active (RSA) is a top-up benefit chiefly designed to help low-paid or part-time workers in France. Its purpose is to incentivise employment over solely living off social security payments, by topping up income. 

You must be over 25 and earning below a fixed amount to receive this payment. If you are aged 18-25, you must apply for an RSA jeune. If you are pregnant or already have a child under your care, no limit applies. 

A single person with no children can receive up to €565.34 per month. This amount increases if you are applying as a couple or if you are looking after children. 

If you are eligible to receive RSA payments, you are probably also eligible for a prime d’activité which is also designed to compliment income from work. 

Help for pensioners

There is an equivalent top-up benefit for pensioners on a low income, known as the Allocation de solidarité aux personnes âgées or  ASPA but it is not administered through CAF. You can apply for these payments via your caisse de retraite or local mairie

You must be at least 65-years-old to receive these payments although mothers with three children and disabled people can sometimes access it earlier. 

If you come from a non-EU country, you must hold a ten-year titre de séjour that gives you the right to work (even though you are retired). 

You cannot access these payments if your pre-tax income exceeds €1402.22 per month (for couples) or €903.20 per month (for single people). 

Help for the disabled

The Allocation aux adultes handicapés (Aah) is a payment aimed at supporting disabled people living in France. 

The amount received depends on your level of disability, whether or not you are temporarily or permanently disabled and your income (including pension payments and payments you may be receiving in compensation for an accident). 

If you are hospitalised or resident of a specialised care home, the amount of money you receive may be reduced. 

While payments are made through CAF, requests to receive Aah must be made through your closest Maison départementale des personnes handicapées. The process can take around 4 months. 

At most, recipients of Aah payments can receive €903.60 per month. 

Other benefits related to disability and available via CAF include: the allocation d’éducation de l’enfant handicapé, which is aimed at supporting care for disabled children and the allocation journalière du proche aidant, designed to support those who look after disabled family members, partners or housemates (for free). 

Applying for CAF

If you still don’t know what kind of aid you could be eligible for, you can take this simulation to find out.

If after reading this piece, you have a better idea of what specific payments you could benefit from, you can create an account on caf.fr and use the simulation tools there to see how much you could receive. It is a relatively simple process but it does require a French social security number.   

Most applications for CAF payments and submissions of supporting documents are made via the caf.fr website, although in some cases, you may need to make your initial application by post. 

If you are are averse to French administration (aren’t we all), there is also a website which charges a fee to make the application for you. 

Member comments

  1. For UK Pensioners on low income application should be made by completing form Demande d’Allocation de Solidarité aux personnes ages with all required supporting documents ( last tax declaration, proof of last 3 month UK pension payments, copy Passport, copy Carte Sejour) and sent to MSA 1( Avenue Paul Doumes, 54507 Vandoeure-sur-Nancy cedex -and not as indicated in articel.

  2. It is noted on the necessary form and refevant CAF site that despite what this article says concerning the conditions an apparent further one. It states, in addition to the list, that to qualify you need to hold a carte de sejour of 10 year validity for 10 YEARS before making the application for ASPA. Whether there is a dispensation for British pensioners in France under the WA agreement I do not know ? Maybe the author of the article of someone knowledgeable can help those possibly concerned ?

  3. If applying for ASPA benefit make sure you download the latest revised Demande form with a page for your Marie to stamp before submitting. In addition to the above supporting documents a recent copy utility bill is also required to confirm your residence and your bank RIB. It is probably useful to also submit a copy of the last letter of your pension increase from The Pension Service

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TRAVEL

Driving in France: What is télépéage and how does it work?

Ever seen those drivers who avoid the queues at toll booths and driving straight through? Here's how they do it.

Driving in France: What is télépéage and how does it work?

If you’re driving on French autoroutes one of the things you need to know is that they are not free – you will have to pay regular tolls, payable at toll booths known as péage.

Usually, drivers pick up a ticket from a booth at the start of their journey, then pay the required amount at a booth at the end of it – or when they move onto a different section of autoroute – based on the distance they have travelled.

But the toll booths themselves can be busy, especially during the summer, and long queues sometimes build up.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer

This is where automated pay systems – known as télépéage – come in, especially for those who use the motorway network regularly.

As well as allowing you to pass straight through péages without stopping for payment, it’s also very useful for owners of right-hand drive vehicles, who may otherwise find that they’re sitting on the wrong side for easy and speedy payment.

Here’s how it works

Order your télépéage badge online

Click on the Bip&Go website here and follow the instructions to order a scannable personalised device (up to a maximum of two per account for private users). You will need to set up an account to arrange electronic payment of charges.

The website is available in English, French, German or Dutch.

You will need to supply bank details (IBAN number), address (for delivery), mobile phone number (to activate your account) and the vehicle’s registration details.

Your badge will be dispatched to your address within 48 hours from the opening of your online account. You can have the device sent to addresses outside France, but allow longer for it to arrive. 

If you’re in France, you can also pick up the device at one of Bip&Go’s stores, if you prefer – you will need need your bank details, proof of identity and a mobile phone.

Attach your badge 

Place your device on on the windscreen to the right of the rearview mirror. It is activated and ready to go. Then, simply, drive.

At the péage

All toll booths are equipped with the sensors that recognise that the vehicle is carrying the necessary device. At most, you will have to stop briefly for the device to be recognised and the barrier to lift.

You will also be able to drive through certain booth areas without stopping. These are indicated by an orange t symbol on the overhead signs. The maximum speed you can pass through these booths is 30kph.

Payments

Payments are processed automatically. You can monitor the amounts you have to pay on an app.

Do I need separate badges for motorway networks run by different companies?

No. The badge allows holders to travel on the entire French motorway network, no matter which company manages the motorway, and you can also use it to cross a number of toll structures in France such as the Millau Viaduct, the Tancarville Bridge or the Normandie Bridge, and pay to park in more than 450 car parks. 

Is it only valid in France?

No, with certain packages, you can also as easily travel on motorways in Spain, Portugal and Italy, and use a number of compatible car parks. You can even use them on Italian ferries.

Okay, but how much does it cost?

Subscriptions to the Bip&Go service depend on what type of service you want. A fixed price rolling subscription is €16 a year – plus toll charges – but assumes you’re a regular user of French motorways. 

A pay-as-you-go subscription is €1.70 for every month the badge is in use – plus toll charges – and carries a €10 additional fee if the badge is not used in a 12-month period.

How much are the toll charges?

They depend on the road you’re on, how far you travel along it, and the vehicle you’re driving.

Heading from Toulouse to Biarritz along the A64 will cost a total €23 in fees for a private car and if you’re driving all the way from Calais down to the Mediterranean coast expect to pay around €70 once you add up the various tolls along the way.

You can find out tariffs for autoroutes on the website of France’s official autoroute body AFSA – where you can also calculate the cost of your journey – including fuel.

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