Connexion readers have passed on advice on how to make sure a UK pension life certificate is dealt with correctly in France after reports of some people having problems.
One reader recently told us that her branch of Crédit Agricole bank would no longer ‘witness’ (sign) the certificate because it was in English, while another explained how her mairie has adopted a (for her) new process and provides a French version instead, which she sent back with the English form and a covering note.
Life certificates, also called certificate CF(N)698, are sent every two years to UK pensioners abroad aged 75 or more, and from time to time to younger pensioners, to confirm that the pension recipient is still alive and the pension is therefore still payable.
The UK pension service asks that you have the form signed by a person of ‘good standing’ in your community. The person does not need to be British.
It could be someone working in, or retired from, a ‘recognised profession’. Many people in France call in to their mairie for this to be completed.
We have not identified any specific legal change relating to an increasing difficulty in having the form witnessed but there is a common principle in French legal matters that people should understand the official documents they sign.
A Credit Agricole spokesman was not aware of a change of policy but did not think bank staff were obliged to offer the service.
The UK has been considering putting the process online rather than rely on paper forms.
Readers share more tips
Several readers have written in with further tips and experiences, including two who have now been told by the DWP that it is possible to request a French version of the life certificate form.
One said this was emailed on request by the International Pension Centre (IPC).
We have seen a copy of this French form (pictured in main image) which states, among other points, that the UK authorities must have it back within 14 weeks (three-and-a-half months) from the form’s printed issue date. Otherwise, it states, pension payments will cease until the form is received.
It adds that you have to sign it in front of your witness and present to them proof of ID, for example your passport.
The witness must then sign the form and stamp the certificate.
The form states that the witness must not be a relative and details suitable people such as mayors and local government officials, lawyers, accountants, bank staff, medical professionals and religious ministers.
We note that the form does not mention an additional requirement of the witness having known you for at least two years, and in a more than purely professional capacity, which is referred to on the government’s website.
It says if in doubt of a signatory's suitability you should ask the IPC.
One reader’s pension cut off after returning form near deadline
One reader described how his pension was temporarily cut off after he posted back the form, which was dated Monday May 29, on Tuesday September 5 (just over 14 weeks later).
He then received a pension cancellation letter dated Tuesday September 19 (16 weeks and one day after the date on the form).
The reader was upset to discover later that the pension centre had received his form on Monday September 18, as he said the stoppage for the month of September had “caused hardship” and “additional expense” in international calls to the IPC.
A recorded message on the IPC’s helpline states it ‘recently’ moved from 14 to 16 weeks for the sending period. However, in view of possible postal delays, we suggest posting the form back as soon as possible.
How to obtain proof of delivery
Another reader advised requesting a lettre suivie internationale from your French post office, to have proof of delivery.
This costs €6.45 at a post office and can also be purchased and printed online here (click documents and ajouter l’option suivi).
Pharmacy or police may help
A reader from Oise reported problems with obtaining a witness signature from Crédit Mutuel bank where it had previously been possible.
He was told they would not sign as they did not understand the contents, which he said was “understandable”.
He was then able to obtain help at a pharmacy.
A reader from Savoie had more luck at the police station after both his bank and mairie refused.
Finally, a reader in Paris said he has always taken his passport and proof of residence to his local arrondissement mairie, which provides a French certificat de vie.
“I complete the English form myself, with the mairie’s address and the name and signatory of the French certificate.
"I then sign the English form and post both forms to the pensions service.
“Presumably it would be possible to do something similar online.”