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Living in France For Members

7 handy shortcuts for French bureaucracy

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
7 handy shortcuts for French bureaucracy
Photo by VASILY MAXIMOV / AFP

France's bureaucracy is famously cumbersome - but as more and more processes move online there are an increasing number of shortcuts that will save you time when it comes to admin tasks.

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We're not going to pretend that French admin won't take up a fair chunk of your time - especially in your first year in France when you're sorting out things like residency, healthcare and banking.

But in good news, more and more processes are becoming a little more streamlined as services move online. The French government has a handy little website called Démarches simplifiées (simplified procedures) which brings together in one place the things you can do online.

There are over 1,000 procedures listed - you can find the full list here - but we've picked out seven that are particularly useful to foreigners.

Model letters 

There are many processes in France that require you to send a lettre recommandée (registered letter) - from cancelling subscriptions to moving house, quitting a job to requesting a change to working conditions or requesting work from your landlord.

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

But if French isn't your first language it can be tricky to know what to write, and which bits of formal French are required.

Helpfully, the démarches simplifié sites lists dozens of different 'model letters' - you pick the circumstance that you need, fill in the boxes with your personal details and it creates a formal letter for the occasion, whether it is resigning your job, cancelling a subscription or reminding your landlord of his/her legal responsibilities.

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There are 298 template letters in total, so you should be able to find the one you need here.

Online registered letters 

This brings us neatly to La Poste's online 'registered letter' services.

There are plenty of things that can only be done via registered letter (a former Local employee once received a letter from her electricity company telling her that they had received her letter informing them that she was moving, but could not action it as she had not sent it by registered mail. True story).

However, these days that does not have to involve printing out your letter and heading to the post office - you can now send the letter online instead.

It's basically like sending an email, but if you use the La Poste lettre recommendée service HERE your communication has the same legal status as a registered letter.

Changing address 

If you move house while in France, you will have to go through the process of notifying everyone about your change of address.

However, there is now an online one-stop-shop where you can register the change of address with around a dozen public or private organisations at the same time.

If you're already registered in French databases such as the Ameli health portal or the impots.gouv tax website, you can use the online system to change your address, or to change a phone number or email address.

The change will be registered by; energy providers Edf, Engie or ENERCOOP, the tax office, the vehicle registration office if you own a car (French driving licences don't have addresses on, so there is no need to change if you have a French licence) and social security organisations such as CPAM (health), CAF (family benefits) and the Pôle Emploi (unemployment office).

You can find it here

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One thing it does not cover, however, is a change of address on a carte de séjour, so you will have to do this separately via the préfecture, although the initial request can also be made online.  

You can also have your mail forwarded with La Poste, more info here.

Register on the electoral roll

If you become a French citizen you are entitled to vote in local, national, presidential or European elections.

However, you first need to register on the electoral roll in order to receive your voter card. Get started here.

Find local childcare options

If you've just had a baby, or you've moved to a new area with children, it can be hard knowing where to start when it comes to finding good childcare.

The Association famiale website allows you to search by location (town or postcode) and specifying the type of childcare you are looking for (crèche, home-help, nanny etc) and the dates you you need it.

It will then give you a list of places that match your needs, but you will still need to get in touch with each one directly. 

If you're in a big city and you're looking for a crèche the general advice is to get searching and sign up the second you know you're pregnant, as places can get booked up very fast. 

Find the site here.

Find a registered tradesman 

If you're hoping to take advantage of any of the French government grants for home repairs - such as the MaPrimeRenov for renovations to make your home more energy efficient of the grants for installing things like solar panels or heat pumps - you will need a government-registered professional to do the job.

You will need a Professionnel reconnu garant environnement (RGE) - this isn't a quality mark of their work (so still shop around and ask for local recommendations as you would with any other tradesman) but it means they're registered in the government database so you can use their invoice in order to claim grants or financial aid.

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This site allows you to search based on your location and the type of work you need doing.

READ MORE: GUIDE: French property grants you might be eligible for

Buy a timbre fiscal 

If you're doing admin processes such as requesting citizenship, paying taxes, renewing your carte de séjour or requesting a new one after your was lost or stolen, you will likely need to buy a 'financial stamp'.

This is basically a way of paying the government, and back in the day it involved going to the post office or tabac and buying a special stamp to the value that you owed the government, sticking it on a postcard and sending it by mail.

Things have moved on since then, and you can now buy timbre fiscale online and send a code the the government providing that you have paid.

The rise in online payments means that timbre fiscal are not as widely used as they once were, but they're still required for some things and you can buy them online here

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Comments (1)

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Mary Sankey 2023/11/01 10:10
Fabulous. This is the kind of useful knowledge that new (and sometimes not so new) residents in France need. Another article worth saving for future reference.

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