french bureaucracy For Members

Lettre recommandée: Why you need them and how to send them in France

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 16 Dec, 2022 Updated Fri 16 Dec 2022 11:04 CEST
image alt text
A woman puts an envelope into a mailbox in France. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP)

If you live in France, you will at some point have to send this type of letter - here's when you might need one and a handy tip for making it easier to write and send.


While France is gradually becoming more tech-friendly, there are still many procedures that require good, old-fashioned, non-electronic mail.

One such example is the lettre recommandée - or registered (or tracked) mail in English - and it is a very important part of administrative life in France.


Whether you are moving house, cancelling a subscription, or quitting a job, you will likely have to send one of these letters at some point. Essentially, a lettre recommandée is a registered letter that gives legal proof that a correspondence has been sent. 

There are two types of lettres recommandées in France: with or without acknowledgement of receipt.

Registered mail with acknowledgement of receipt (avec accusé de réception) gives the sender proof that the recipient has received the letter - as they must sign for it. This proof of acknowledgement of receipt is then mailed to the original sender, and it is typically yellow in colour. This option is a little bit more expensive.

Registered mail without acknowledgement of receipt (sans accusé de réception) is usually blue in colour, and it gives the same guarantee that a letter has been sent as one "with reception" but it does not give the sender an "acknowledgement of receipt" in turn. The recipient will still have to sign for it, however.

When would I need to send a lettre recommandée?

The most common situation you would need to send registered mail in France would be when cancelling a subscription or account. Many French companies, from phone providers to television and streaming packages, will ask that customers send registered mail to cancel (résilier) a subscription.

Another time you would likely need to send a lettre recommandée would be when moving house, as the tenant must give the landlord a certain amount notice before moving out. This is most often done by lettre recommandée (avec accusé de réception). Likewise if you are a landlord and you wish to sell the property, you need to inform your tenants by lettre recommandée.

If you're involved in an official process such as contesting a tax notice or requesting a government issued document like a marriage or death certificate you may do so via lettre recommandée. While in many scenarios, there are other options available, such as email or phone calls, sending registered mail can be a way to push administrative bodies to prioritise the issue at hand, as the lettre recommandée carries legal recognition.


If you are simply looking to track a letter that has been sent, you can send a "lettre suivie" which gives you the ability to ensure it has arrived at its destination. However, a lettre suivie does not give the same legal proof of sending/ receipt that a lettre recommandée offers.

The rule of thumb is that one should send a lettre recommandée with acknowledgement of receipt in any situation where they would want legal proof that the letter was indeed received by the recipient. If the issue is taken to court, this can provide proof that the sender gave sufficient notice or contest an accusation that the sender failed to correspond with the recipient on the topic at hand.

READ MORE: Bedbugs, mice, and mould: How to handle infestations in your French home

How do I send a lettre recommandée?

Sending a lettre recommandée is possible both online and in person. You can go to the website for "La Poste" HERE to do so online. The website also has templates for possible situations you might be sending the letter. This is a very helpful tool for non-native French speakers, as these letters typically involve legal jargon.

You can of course also send a lettre recommandée in person. You would bring you letter with you to the postal office, and then select the option for "lettre recommandée avec accusé de reception" either at the machine or at the counter with the postal worker.

You will be given a specific stamp (timbre in French - it resembles a large sticker more-so than a traditional small stamp) that will go on the letter. You might be asked for your email address so that you receive an email when your letter is sent and delivered.

What do I write in the letter?

When writing a lettre recommandée, the contents will depend what you are using it for. As with any letter, you will need to specify the address and return-address. The sender should also specify the person or organisation the letter is addressed to at the top of the letter. You might do this by writing "A l'attention de Mme..." (to the attention of Ms...)

If using a lettre recommandée to cancel a contract or subscription, you should reference the contract number, customer reference number, or any other useful personal account information.


The lettre recommandée should also include any other relevant documents that are cited in the letter, so if you are cancelling your housing insurance for example, you might include proof that you have moved out of the accommodation. You might also include your banking information (RIB, invoice, etc) if the letter is financial in nature.

READ MORE: SIDA to IRM to RIB: Everyday French initials and acronyms to know

Typically, it is advised to keep a formal tone in a lettre recommandée. In addition to using the templates on the La Poste website, you can also find templates for lettres recommandées on several French government websites, such as



The Local 2022/12/16 11:04

Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also