When you arrive in France, one of the first things you will want to do is to apply for a social security number.
If you are coming to do an employed or self-employed job then this is part-and-parcel of your set-up formalities; otherwise, for example if you are a retiree or early-retiree, you need to apply to your local Caisse primaire d’assurance maladie (Cpam), which you can do with a paper form or sometimes online.
Cpam is your local state health insurance body.
Once you have a social security number you can also apply for a carte Vitale, which simplifies your healthcare reimbursements in the state system.
How to apply for a social security number in France?
If you are not applying via work, then you need to complete a form and send it to your local Cpam (state health insurance offices).
Usually you need to print this off, fill it in and post it, or take it to the Cpam offices, though it is worth contacting them in advance to see if an email or online process is possible, and to check the documents required.
Their number is 3646 and they are generally open between 8:30 and 17:30. There is also a Cpam English-speaking helpline on 09 76 77 36 46 (Monday to Friday).
What documents do I need to apply for a social security number?
Generally, you will need to provide copies of the following:
- Passport or national identity card (if you are French)
- French bank account details
- Residency card if you are a non-EU foreign citizen
- birth certificate
- Evidence of work status such as work contract or payslip
- Or if you are not working, proof of stable life in France such as the three last electricity bills
How to get a carte Vitale
Once you have obtained your social security number (you will at first be given a temporary number before your permanent one is issued later on), you can use it to apply for a carte Vitale.
Visit this site to create an Ameli account, which stands for ‘Assurance maladie en ligne’ and is the website for the network of Cpams
This is where you will manage your carte Vitale request and later track reimbursements for medical costs.
To create your Ameli account, you must register your name, date of birth, social security number and postcode which indicates which Cpam region you belong to.
Once you have created an account, click on my account (mon compte) > my procedures (mes démarches) > my carte Vitale (ma carte Vitale) > order my carte Vitale (commander ma carte Vitale).
In this section you will be prompted to declare the beneficiary (you).
Ensure that all of your personal information is correct and upload a digital passport style photo of yourself as well as a scan of an ID document. The documents must be in jpg or pdf format.
The system will ask you to validate all the information you entered before allowing you to file your request.
Can I order my carte Vitale on my phone?
If you already have your social security number, it is possible to order your carte Vitale on your smartphone through the Ameli app which you can download from the App Store or Google Play.
The process is the same regardless of the platform you use.
Explainer: Paying to see a doctor or health specialist in France