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What is a carte Vitale and why do I need one in France?

The carte Vitale health card is very important to your life in France as it will allow you to be reimbursed by the state for healthcare costs 

The carte Vitale simplifies healthcare reimbursements in France Pic: Pixavril // Shutterstock

The carte Vitale card is key to your healthcare in France so applying for one is usually among the first jobs to do after a move to the country.

Firstly you will need to have a French social security number; once you have it you can use it to apply for your card, which will simplify your reimbursements for doctor visits, medicines, and other care.

What is a carte Vitale?

A carte Vitale is a small green credit card shaped card that is used to simplify health reimbursements in France. 

It guarantees reimbursements of the part of your healthcare costs covered by the state within five days. It contains a microchip with details of your health cover rights. 

It is swiped by your doctor and any pharmacist. 

When can I apply for my carte Vitale

Once you have applied for la Sécu (social security) you will receive a temporary social security number in the post followed by a document called an attestation de droits

You can then apply for your carte Vitale. 

Read more: How to get a social security number and carte Vitale in France

Can I get reimbursed if my carte Vitale has not been delivered? 

If your card has not yet been delivered, you will need to use the old paper reimbursement system which involves getting paper feuilles de soin from the doctor or pharmacist and sending them to your Cpam. 

It can take some time for the card to be issued depending on how efficient your Cpam/caisse is. 

Does my carte Vitale have an expiry date?

No, your carte Vitale does not have an expiry date but it is recommended that you update it annually to ensure reliable and accurate reimbursement. 

This can be done using machines in pharmacies, at some shopping centres and outside certain Cpam offices.

This is also required after notifying your Cpam of any personal changes, such as marriage, change of name, change of address etc. 

Can I order my carte Vitale online? 

Yes, you can order a carte Vitale online direct from your account at 

You will need an ID photograph in a digital format and a scan of your passport/ID card. 

You must already be registered with Cpam and have a social security number. 

If ordering the card online you should ignore the paper form Ma nouvelle carte Vitale which will be sent to you in the post. 

Do my children need a carte Vitale?

Typically children under 16 will be registered under their parents card. 

Parents can, if they wish, order a card for their children from the age of 15 onwards. 

If the parents do not register them, a form will be sent to them in the post when they enter higher education or begin working. 

How can I prove I have healthcare rights if I don’t have my card yet?

If you need a document showing you have healthcare rights while waiting for your card you can print off an attestation de droits at your Ameli account or request one on the phone at 3646. 

What happens if I lose my carte Vitale

If you lose your carte Vitale you should inform your Cpam immediately and request a replacement. 

Is there a digital version of the carte Vitale?

A digital version of the carte Vitale is currently being trialled with a view to rolling out by 2023.

Related articles 

Explainer: Paying to see a doctor or health specialist in France

How to find a doctor in France who speaks good English

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