Expat Advice

How to get your Carte Vitale

When I first thought about writing this article I honestly debated writing:


Why? Because the administration system in France is a huge headache. It took me two years to get my carte vitale and I nearly turned grey doing it. However, if you live here you need to get your carte vitale (health card).

So…let me tell you these vital steps to follow to a) save yourself a LOT of time and b) help you successfully get your carte vitale without too much trouble. Before even starting the process however, you must understand that it takes 6 to 12 months to get your health card. But hey, let’s make it closer to 6 than 12.

1. Update about the Carte Vitale: (added October 2018)

Major new laws were passed in 2016, which now means it is easier for foreigners to apply for state healthcare in France. As the Expat Assure blog explains “The Protection Maladie Universelle (PUMA) now grants all residents in France, including expats, easier access to healthcare in France as long as they have lived in the country for three consecutive months on a “stable and regular basis” and will continue to do so for at least 183 days per year in the future.

The requirements for expats and residents in France to qualify for healthcare are now more simplified, as healthcare access will now be an automatic right of all residents (including in overseas territories of France). However, the PUMA system is still new, and despite it seeming a lot simpler for expats, it will be likely to undergo some teething problems for a while.”

However, the good news is, you don’t have to have three months of payslips anymore to be able to apply!

2. Contacting CPAM

To contact the assurance maladie call 36 46 from Monday to Friday between 8.30am and 5.30pm. Make sure you know the department you live in (92, 75, 94 for example) and that you have your social security number close at hand, you’ll need it to get the information you require! When you call 36 46 you’ll be connected with an adviser. You will need to ask them what documents you need to send to be able to start the carte vitale process. It’s important that you type your correct department when the automated message asks you. Why? Because different office’s require different documents…some are more strict than others.

See original image
Carte Vitale (Image Credit – Ameli.fr)

HERE’S A TIP – If you are lucky enough to live INSIDE Paris you will be offered the possibility of speaking to an adviser who speaks English. If you live in the suburbs, you unfortunately do not have this possibility. If you do live in the suburbs and are nervous about speaking to the adviser in French, ask a friend or colleague to call on your behalf. All you need to do when you first call is find out which documents you need to send to YOUR specific health office so they will usually agree to give this information to your friend or colleague.

3. Now what do I do?

SO, after you know which documents you need to send and you have been here for three months consecutively log on to ameli.fr to find out where your nearest health office is. Click on vous êtes assuré, then in the top, left hand corner you will see a tab named Votre caisse. After clicking on this tab you’ll be asked for your postal code which will lead you to a page with the office’s contact details. You will find the office’s address and phone number. This is where you need to send your documents. You can also go directly to your nearest health office to drop off the documents, however some offices insist that documents are sent by post.

4. How do I send my documents?

Go in Person

The best way is to find your nearest office (you can do this using ameli.fr) and drop the documents off in person. To find your nearest office, go onto ameli.fr and click on VOUS ETES ASSURE(E), on the next page that appears you will see VOTRE CAISSE in a blue tab in the top left hand corner. Click on this and enter your post code. The next page that appears will tell you which caisse to go to and give you their opening hours and contact details.

Send the documents by post

However you can also send your documents. If you choose to do this you MUST send them par lettre recommandé avec avis de reception, this means that if the office doesn’t receive your  documents they will be sent back to you. It also means that if they do receive them, you will get a copy of the note they signed, confirming the reception of your letter. KEEP THIS. Office’s often lose or misplace documents. This little piece of paper proves you sent the documents and when they received them, so it can be very useful.

Sending something par lettre recommandé is of course, like most things in France, not very straightforward. Even now, I often get confused about how to attach it to my letter and how to correctly fill it in. You must ASK. The people at the post office have always been really helpful when I’ve asked, probably because I flutter my eyelids and play the damsel in distress card but that’s beside the point. It is always better to ask and get help, than do it wrong and end up wasting money on a letter that, if done incorrectly, will most probably go astray.

5. The Waiting Game

After you have sent all your documents to your local office, you simply have to wait. If any documents are missing then you will receive a letter asking you to send the missing document(s). Letters from the assurance maladie take a long time to get to you (on average 10 to 14 days after it was written) so don’t waste any time, send the missing document(s) as soon as possible.

6. Photo time for your Carte Vitale!

Once they have all your documents you will receive the final letter, which asks you to send a passport photo back to the office. The rules for an “acceptable” photo are very strict, you’re not even allowed to wear earrings. It’s over the top, it’s unnecessary, but it’s the rules. Do your photo according to the strict rules and you will soon after (usually within on
e month) receive your card and your official social security number. Et viola!! Hooray! Open the champagne, you have your health card! 

See original image

7. Don’t forget when you receive your card you need to go online and print out a “declaration de choix du medecin traitant”. You will not be reimbursed if you go to any or different doctors. You must go to the GP you declared to assurance maladie. Click here to print a declaration, fill it in and send it back to your health office. Do this as soon as possible when you receive your card.

Important things to remember:

  • With a temporary social security number, given to you with your new job/school, you can apply for the carte vitale.
  • 36 46 is NOT a free so call from a landline and you will be charged at a normal rate. This is important as you could be on the phone for a long time
  • Do follow up calls. Call the assurance maladie hotline every so often just to get an update on your application. This is crucial as they may have forgotten to send you a letter or not gotten a response to the “urgent” email they sent. This happened to me and I lost months because of it. Call them regularly, I’d say call about once a month.
  • Of course you have to be legally in the country to apply. Either as an EU citizen or as a citizen with a residency visa/permit.
  • Get your birth certificated translated into French by a verified translator. If the translator is not verified, the translation will not be accepted. Check out this website if you’re looking for a verified translator in Paris http://www.cetiecap.com/
  • When you call to ask which documents to send, make sure you ask if you need to send copies or the original. I lost SO MUCH TIME over this because I didn’t realise they needed an ORIGINAL birth certificate. Save yourself time and unnecessary stress, ask them. They won’t just tell you unfortunately, they presume you already know. OF COURSE, WE TOTALLY UNDERSTAND FRENCH ADMINISTRATION THAT EVEN THE FRENCH DON’T UNDERSTAND!
  • If I haven’t answered your question, check out Expat Assure’s blog on the same topic. It’s full of very useful information!

Last but not least, if you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me via email at mylifelivingabroad@gmail.com. I’ve been through this process and I know how confusing it can be, just trust me when I say, it’s all worth it in the end!



  • Kavya malewar

    Haha, your art was very informative and funnY as well. IT truly iS frustrating if you don’t speak freNch.
    Been there, doing that!

  • Ian Hanson

    If I don’t live in France but only visit for 4/5 months Of the year? can I get a carte vitale? I have owned a house in Herault for 29 years.

  • John

    im in loop right now i am living in france for 5 years. i dont have proof like bank impot internet bill etc. Because i dont have address i am working in a family as a home cleaner and a babysitter i ask my employer if they can give me habergement but they refuse. so i decided to leave. Now my new employer wanted to declare me in cesu but cesu is asking for a security social number and as what i see in your blog
    “Of course you have to be legally in the country to apply. Either as an EU citizen or as a citizen with a residency visa/permit.”

    so im stuck, security social asking for carte se jour and to get a carte sejour i need security social.

    any suggestion? thank you so much have a great day.

    • My Life Living Abroad

      Hi John, your situation is quite specific and unfortunately I think that you are a bit stuck! You cannot get a social security number without your last three months payslips, and if you don’t have payslips you have to prove you have lived here for the last 5 years. Sadly if you have no documents to prove you have lived here for a certain amount of time, you won’t be able to apply.

    • Kutzi

      Hi, this comment is old but maybe it can help others who read this now, as me: if you dont have an address cause youre not renting yourself or whatever, in france you can get registered (domicilation) in the local Croix Rough or the town hall (maire). You can get your post to there and this will be considered as your official address.
      Second, for EU citizin – if you still dont have the carta vital and need a social number for a job, but you do have another european health insurance, you can give this insurace card to your emplyer and with this they can legaly register you and you get anther code (which is not the perminent social number but valid for a legal work contract, being doing this for long time) .
      From my understanding from the Ameli website if you’ve been in France for at least 3 months, you can also ask for the carta viral as a job seeker, or if you resident in France and worked before in another EU country, in the Ameli homepage down you can choose english and then you have the difftent states when you can ask for the carta vital and which documents you will need to show.
      For a bank account you can get a Nickel bank acount which is a virtual bank and you can open an account in almost every tabac shop with just an ID and 20€/year, if you dont have an ID, you can open an account in Post with a passport for 60€/year. So in your situation I would have tried to get a domicilation+bank account and get register and the pole emploi website as a job seeker and try to apply to the carta vital with that.

  • Vai

    I’m pacs-ed to a french national. Recently I receivedy titre de sejour. I work from home for an American organisation as a consultant so I do have a bank account here in france and technically I will be liable to pay taxes in the coming financial year. Do you have any ideas on if I can apply for a carte vitale?

    • My Life Living Abroad

      Hi Vai, as soon as you have three months worth of payslips you can apply for the carte vitale 🙂

  • Vladimir


    This text box allows me to write only in capital letters, strange.
    I am the step where I got my temporary social security number for 3 months now and I had someone call the regularly each month to ask when i will get the permanent one (which i can use to create account on ameli.fr ) but they just said to wait more. what can i do in this situation ? is there any other organisation/institution that i can make a complaint too ? it has been over a year now for the whole process ? i also went to the doctor about 3 months ago, paid got the forms that i filled in and sent it to them but still nothing on those either.

    Best regards,

    • My Life Living Abroad

      Hi Vladimir, have you had any news on your card now? It can take a while, have you called to check on your file? Did you send all the documents in? If you haven’t sent in the documents, they won’t send you the permanent number.

  • Malcolm Morris

    Hi, I have just received a siret number to be able to start my self employed business in France the letter also states that my business started on the 2 JUly, from insee, this is all very exiting as it has been a long slog to get to this, I will have to start doing my tax etc, but in the social security no section, it reads all 0000000000000 I will need a card vitale but surly I need one to pay tax? hoe to I get one, will one arrive, not sure what to do net, i’m in department 56 Brittany

    • My Life Living Abroad

      Hi Malcolm, you shouldn’t need a social security number to pay taxes and even if they ask you for one you should be able to put in your 000 number. That number is given to you when you are working in France but don’t yet have a number, companies usually give you a temporary number but as you’re self employed you just have a zero number. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how to get a social security number when you’re self employed because you won’t have payslips. This might be able to help https://www.ameli.fr/fileadmin/user_upload/documents/Diaporama2b_bilingue.pdf

    • My Life Living Abroad

      Hi Anoop, it depends. Do you have a job here? If you are able to prove that you have a job in France and provide three months of payslips, you will be able to apply for the carte vitale.

  • John Frederick

    I am retired and just moved to France. I have an apartment and a bank account and a EDF bill. Do I have to live here 5 years before I can apply? Or is there a way to apply sooner? Thanks!

  • My Life Living Abroad

    Hi John, I do not think you have to live here for 5 years! It took me 5 years to get mine but that is not a requirement! Usually you have to show three months of payslips proving you work in France. As you are retired it is a different system. Are you from the UK? If you are you should have filled in the S1 Form from the Department for Work and Pensions (before leaving the UK). The SI Form proves that you have reached retirement age, have paid the required number of social security contributions and are receiving a state pension. Present this to your local CPAM and this will cover your health costs in France for the first three months, at which point you will be eligible for state healthcare cover under the PUMA (la protection maladie universelle) regime (formally the CMU couverture maladie universelle).

    If you didn’t do this I suggest contacting the Department for Work and Pensions in the UK.

    To register with the French healthcare system, visit your local CPAM, which you can find here: http://www.ameli.fr/assures/votre-caisse/index.php

    You will need to show the following documents to register: your passport or national ID card, proof of long-term residence in France, marriage or birth certificates if your family are to be included, proof of address in France, proof of your pension and your S1 Form.

    I hope this helps you! If you are not from the UK I’m not sure what the process is.

  • Raquel

    Hi! I have french citizenship, although I have never lived in France. I’m going to move there next year, Can I apply when I arrive there or Shoud I wait 3 months to apply to carte vitale? Do I need 3 pay-slips? I’m lost about everything! Thanks!

    • My Life Living Abroad

      Hi Raquel, if you already have French citizenship you can apply straight away. The process also changed so you do not need to wait until you have three payslips anymore. Hope that helps!

  • Genevieve Lowe

    I am french lived and worked in the u.k but also work in France for 8 yrs previous moving to England. I am now retired and visit France regularly as we have a house. I possess a européenne EHIC card and I would like to apply for a carte vitale. Along with my work pension from the U.k I also get a small pension from my previous work in France many yrs ago. Would you be able to help me and advise me how to apply for a carte vitale ?

    • My Life Living Abroad

      Hi Genevieve, I’m sorry I don’t know anything about that sadly. However, try joining the Expatriates in Paris facebook page, I’m sure someone in the group may have been through the same thing and could help you. Good luck!

  • Sarah Martin

    I have been living in France since April and have just had a baby here. We have revieved a bill for €8k!
    I have been trying to obtain the card vitel since I arrived.
    For my application to be processed I need a certificate of termination of health cover. (Declaration on the Honor inadmissible)
    Any idea how I would get one ?
    I’m from the uk


    • My Life Living Abroad

      Hi Sarah, apologies for the delay. I’ve never been in or heard of anyone in your situation so sadly I can’t be of much help there. However, you could join the Expatriates in Paris page, I’m sure there are a lot of other mothers in the group who could help you! Good luck!

  • Karlie


    I am a dual Canadian and Italian /EU citizen. I used to live in Canada, where I was born and now I live in Paris. I will need to get a social security number and my carte Vitale. I am also a micro auto entrepreneur, so I do not have payslips. What do I do first? It’s seems so complicated, especially if you don’t speak French (yet)

    I also need to open a bank account. In what order, do you advise I do everything?

    Many thanks!


    • My Life Living Abroad

      Hi Karlie, definitely get a bank account first, you’ll need that to do everything! Then apply for your carte vitale. Unfortunately I’ve never been an auto entrepreneur so i’m not sure how that works but you should join the Expatriates in Paris page on facebook and ask there, I’m sure someone will have the answer for you 🙂

      • Anne

        Hi! I’m Anne where I can apply carté Vitale at Paris area and what documents do I prepare to submit?thanks for reply me!

        • My Life Living Abroad

          HI Anne, you need to go on to the Ameli.fr website and find your nearest caisse maladie (if you put in your postcode it will give you the right one. For the documents, they are all listed in the blog but it could also be worth ringing your caisse maladie and asking as they can vary. If you’re based in Paris they usually have an English speaking hotline you can call

  • Mini


    My friend signed up with an agency that promises to give you a carte vitale (of course you have to pay) but online. They apply etc for you. And the first step is getting a temporary social security number online (she got it within 24 hours). They say they have official tie-ups with the CPAM/state. Can you let me know if you’ve heard of them or are they just well organised crooks? Their website, facebook page etc looks legit.

    How do we know if the temporary number she has is legitimate to apply for security sociale through ameli? The agency does the next few steps as well but I have my doubts and thought I’d double check on forums like this to be sure.

    Thank you!

    • My Life Living Abroad

      Hi there, I haven’t heard of companies like this but I know bilingual minds helps people with administrative issues such as getting your carte vitale.
      Try checking if there are any reviews online of the company? You should be able to find some user reviews, if you can’t, it’s not a good sign!
      Good luck!

  • Sylvia

    Hi, I am undecisive on the form…I don’t know if I should mark SANS ACTIVITE or put AUTRE … I do not work for a French Company. I telework for an American Company. So, I don’t know exactly which option I should choose.

  • Marzi

    Thank you this was so helpful. I got a question:
    I got my securite social number and a mail for obtaining my carte vitale. I’ll have to send them a photo and an ID either through my ameli account or by mail. However, I can’t open my ameli account for some reason. It says “Your current situation does not allow you to immediately create your ameli account.” what does this mean? My account won’t be available immediately but it will take a few days..?
    Also If I want to hand in the photo and a copy of my ID, can I put it in the envelope which was included in their mail, and go and throw it in their letterbox or do I have to send it by post?

    Thank you

    • My Life Living Abroad

      Hi Marzi. Unfortunately I’m not sure how to help you. I don’t think you can open your ameli account until you have your carte vitale number, so it makes sense to me that you cannot access it yet. I would just send the photo and a copy of your ID by post (lettre recommandé of course) and go from there. Uusually you put it in the envelope they sent, which may already be stamped and ready to go. You can of course put it straight in their letterbox if you live close enough to your nearest CPAM office.

    • My Life Living Abroad

      Hi Marzi, I am afraid I am not sure. When I sent my photo and ID it was by post. I would go on to AMELI and find out what your nearest caisse maladie is and call them. They should be able to help 🙂

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