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France's family benefit system explained

The Local France
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France's family benefit system explained
Financial help is available for families in France Image: Sandy Millar | Unsplash

Parents with one or more children living in France may be entitled to a range of family benefits - and that includes foreigners in France. Here's a look at what benefits are available, how to claim them and how the system is getting (a little bit) simpler.


Any foreign person legally living in France with one or more dependent children is entitled to family benefits.

But many who move to France miss out on the financial help they are entitled to for a number of reasons - they maybe weren’t aware of it (and, let’s be honest, if you don’t know to ask the right questions, bureaucrats may not necessarily give you the right answers); or they don’t know how to claim it.

The government revealed recently that some €10 billion in benefits goes unclaimed every year - and announced that a simplified application system that has been tested in a number of regions will be rolled out nationwide.


As with other types of benefits in France, access to non-EU citizens depends on your legal status - but anyone with working and residency permits should be able to access benefits in the same way as French residents.

Here's our guide to the family benefits you might be entitled to in France, and where you need to go to get them. 

Caisse des Allocations Familiales (CAF) 

This is the government body that helps families by offering various services and benefits which start from early childhood, including crèches, childcare centres, education, holidays, family allowances, pregnancy benefits and housing benefits.

The amount these benefits are worth usually changes every April 1st. The current amounts are available HERE - and will be updated annually.

Many, though not all, are means-tested. 

Pregnant women should inform CAF of their pregnancy in the first 14 weeks to ensure they benefit from all the financial help available. Your doctor should complete the necessary documents for this. 

Some "family benefits" start right from birth.

Some types of family benefits can continue right up until your offspring is 20, although only if the parents' earnings do not exceed a percentage of the minimum monthly wage known as the SMIC in France, which is currently €1,709.28 before taxes (or €1,353 after taxes for a 35-hour week).

What benefits are there?

There are many kinds of benefits for families in France which can be divided into three categories: basic allowances, birth and early childcare allowances and special allowances. 

Basic allowances include family benefits (allocations familiales), the flat-rate allowance (allocation forfaitaire), and the family income supplement (complément de revenu familial)

Family benefits (allocations familiales) are means-tested and can be applied for once you have two children in France.

The flat-rate allowance (Allocation forfaitaire), meanwhile, goes to families with at least three children that will lose the benefit of part of the family allowances when one of the children reaches the age of 20 (the age limit for child benefits in France), as long as they earn no more than the minimum wage.


Birth and early childcare allowances 

In 2004 the French government introduced the Prestations d’accueil de jeune enfant (PAJE), essentially a set of benefits to help with the cost of a new child in the family - including adopted children.

The Prime à la Naissance is a means-tested one-off allowance paid in the seventh month of pregnancy to effectively help with the start-up costs of becoming a parent. It is worth up to €1,003.95 per child, based on income. 

The prime à l’adoption is a similar one-off means-tested payment paid on the adoption of a child under 20 that is worth up to €2,007.91.

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Don't forget that if you have top-up mutuelle health insurance it often pays out a lump sum when a new child is born. Contact them for further information.

The means-tested allocation de base is available from the month following the birth of a child until the month preceding his or her third birthday; or for a minimum of 12 months up to the child's 20th birthday, in the event of adoption.

Then, there’s the Prestation partagée d'éducation de l'enfant - PreParE (shared child-rearing benefit). This allows a parent to stop working or cut back to part-time in order to look after their child who is under age 3, or under age 20 if adopted. It is not means-tested and is payable from the first child.

The Complément de libre choix du mode de garde (CMG) helps with the cost of childcare for working parents who trust their children to the care of a registered childminder. The social security bill that passed through Parliament late in 2022 reforms parts of the scheme, but a decree has not been published in the Journal Officiel, so changes have yet to be implemented.

For now, then, the CMG covers up to 85 percent of the costs of a childminder, depending on your resources and the number of children you have.

Importantly, if you declare your childcare costs in your annual income tax declaration, you will receive a reduction in your tax bill.

The cost of childcare such as crèche or summer holiday clubs is also based on your income - full details here


Claiming benefits

If you’re claiming for the first time, first go to the CAF website - but you may also need to see someone in-person. In which case, you are likely to need your passport or carte de séjour, recent utility bill or similar proving your address, birth certificates with affiliation for every member of the family, social security attestation, tax documents, appropriate CERFA document and a bank RIB. 

And remember to be patient. You need to already have a French social security number and once you've applied, it can take three months to a year to start getting the payments (and even longer if the forms aren't filled out properly). But payments may be backdated for up to two years, so hang in there.

For more information on family benefits you can go to the CAF website where you can also do an online simulation to see what you could claim, and how much you might be entitled to. 


In order to continue to claim allowances, you must: 

  • declare your income each year to the Tax Office,
  • declare your income every 3 months for the Revenu de solidarité active (RSA), Prime d’activité, allocation aux adultes handicapés, and/or aide au logement.
  • respond promply if CAF requests additional information.

Be aware, there is a two-year lag on payment levels, so claimants 2023 allowances are based on their 2021 income tax declaration.

The level of benefits will remain the same throughout the year, unless you report a change in your professional or family situation (unemployment, for example, or a birth, marriage, separation, etc); or the benefits you receive are recalculated every three months, such as the RSA, Prime d’activité, allocation aux adultes handicapés or aide au logement.

Simplifying the claims process

To simplify the process of claiming benefits, the government will introduce a pre-filled declaration model, similar to income tax, which the CAF will send directly to the beneficiary. 

An extra line will be included on pay slips, mentioning a net social amount, a reference for the calculation of these social benefits. The added line will be included from April 2023.


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