Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Renovation Project - How to apply for your Carte Vitale in France

Renovation Project - How to apply for your Carte Vitale in France

Our S1 forms arrived in the post today (absolutely sods law, yesterday I had someone who could go to the CPAM with me, today I don’t).

So I am going to explain what a S1 is, why you need one and how you get your Carte Vitale in France.
A carte vitale is the health card that entitles you to receive health care in France, once in receipt of this card you are able to reclaim (up to) 70% of all health costs.

There are a number of ways to obtain this card depending on your circumstances; this post will apply to those, like us, that have moved to France below retirement age but not working in the conventional sense and so not paying tax.

If you are retired there is an excellent blog Living in Brittany that gives lots of advice to retirees.

But we are not retired, so we have had to work our way through the system, this is the process that we followed (please check that these guidelines are appropriate for you)

First you require your S1 form; this is sent to you from DWP (department of works and pensions) in the UK, to be entitled to an S1, your national insurance contributions must be up to date.

First tip
DO NOT claim one before you have your UK situation up to date.

Because John had closed his business down the year before he is no longer entitled to an S1, but because I had kept my business running until 2013, I completed my final tax return in the UK and requested that National Insurance sent me a final bill.

Tip number two 
It is almost impossible to pay this bill from France, the easiest way is to pay it in the UK or get somebody to pay it for you.

Once your tax and national insurance are completely up to date you will be entitled to up to a maximum of two years on your S1, John was entitled to become a dependent on mine. (If you were not self employed this process is much quicker and easier)

Once your S1 arrives (this will take up to 3 weeks) you need to visit you CPAM office (Caisse Primaire d'Assurance Maladie) if you do not know where this is then ask your estate agent or your local tourisme office.

Now you have your S1 and you know where your local office is, you will need to gather your documents, you will need your:

  • Passport
  • Birth certificates
  • Utility bills (dated within the last 3 months)
  • Proof of address in France (your house deeds or rental agreement)
  • Marriage certificate (if you are married)
  • A RIB (RelevĂ© d'IdentitĂ© Bancaire
  • Your S1 forms

Tip number three:
Take a photocopy of each document with you (this makes life so much easier) but ensure that you also take the originals!!!!!!!!
Keep a copy of your S1 forms, just in case something goes wrong

We have everything we need, and head off to sign up, this feels really exciting, we are becoming French!!!!!

We arrive at the CPAM and go into speak to the official, we have everything we require but there is a problem with our birth certificates, we have the shortened version and these are not acceptable.

The officer accepts all of the other documents and explains that we need to get our original birth certificates, but will issue a temporary card that will arrive in approx one month’s time.

When we arrive home we try to get copies of our original birth certificates and no parents have them, we then go on to the WWW.GOV.UK website, this is reasonably easy to do, but can take up to 3 weeks for your birth certificates to arrive, (they will also cost a minimum of £9.25 each) if you are registered on the GRO index and can find these details it is a lot quicker ( am registered on this, but John is not) so mine will arrive in France in a week’s time and Johns will arrive in the UK in 3 weeks)

The above should be helpful for anyone in our position, if your situation is different please check what you need to do with the CPAM office directly.

Final tip
Try to speak French with the official, even if your French is not good it is always advisable to try, or take somebody with you who can speak French

Good luck 


  1. Hope you didn't have to wait too long before you saw someone at the CPAM.

  2. Glad you had an easy time very much depends on the local office and who you see ...most are currently insisting that all english certificates are translated into french by an official translator so an extra cost and delay !

  3. In our department (79 Deux Sevres) they also require Marriage certificates to be officially translated, and the S1 runs out after 18 months. Luckily for me my husband is employed by a French company so I could get a carte vitale through him. But some friends of our have had to pay out €2500 per year to the French government to be entitled to a Carte Vitale after their S1's ran out. So it's worth thinking about what you will do when it runs out now.

  4. We were so pleased that it all went so smoothly, we have heard some real horror stories about people applying for their card vitale's.
    But we were told that if we were married, we would also require our marriage certificate translating into French, this changed within the last couple of years here