A good number of families moving here with young children often don’t realise that they have the option to claim certain CAF benefits in France. You may have heard of the famous CAF and, in fact, you may even be in the middle of claiming some of your benefits right now or perhaps you have just received yet another letter from them asking for what you think is the same information.
Sometimes people just hear the word CAF and the stress factor kicks in. It is renowned to be a complicated office to deal with and the applications are often complex for non French-speaking residents. On a positive note, once you have your file validated with the CAF, you receive your benefits each month and everything generally runs smoothly. Also, for the family allowance, under certain conditions, you can get up to 2 years back pay! Isn’t that a good incentive? As I point out to many of my customers, there are almost 11 million beneficiaries of the CAF. If they made it through the process, so can you! The idea here is give you an overview of some of their services and give you answers to some of the frequent questions that I get asked in order that you can take that first step and make your claim.
1. What is the CAF?
The CAF stands for ‘Caisse des Allocations Familiales’ and it is the government body that helps families by offering different services and benefits going from early childhood, crèche, halte garderies, education, holidays, family allowances, pregnancy benefits & housing benefits. Many of these benefits are revenue tested, some are not.
2. How can I contact the CAF?
The best way to get general information is via their main website www.caf.fr which gives lots of really good detailed facts. You can also simulate your situation before you start a process to see if you would have access to the benefit and download all the application forms. Unfortunately, although the information is great, it’s all in French so make sure you have your google translate page open or ask for help! You can also find the application forms. The CAF can be found in most towns and they have smaller opening times for villages.
I have found the easiest way is to find your administrative numbers (and not just for the CAF) is via the service public website. Where you can type in any area code and get the number you need. For example type in ‘CAF 06’ for the Alpes Maritimes, ‘CAF 75’ for Paris, ‘CAF 13’ for Bouches-de-Rhone etc.
3. What is a Numéro d’Allocataire?
When you apply for any of the benefits when you come to France, you will need to provide a certain number of documents along with your application. They will send you CAF number by post. It’s a 7 digit number. This number is necessary for all your communications with the CAF, either by phone or post.
4. What is a Code Confidentiel and how do I get one?
If you want to get updates on your file and easy access to the CAF via telephone you will need your confidential code. Unfortunately I find that in most cases, you don’t receive a confidential code until your CAF file is validated and that can take some time depending on what benefit you are applying for. In the meantime you will need to go through the CAF call centre system as a ‘non-allocataire’ until you get this code. However, once you have the confidential code, you can go to mon compte on the main CAF page and access your personal file which shows your latest payments, emails and access to CAF statements that may be needed for the school.
5. Can I just go and see the CAF?
For those CAF offices that have no appointment system in place, you can queue to speak to an advisor. This requires patience as you may need to wait some time. Since September 2014 many of the CAF offices have put in place an appointment system to avoid the queues. Whilst this is effective in reducing the queueing, it is now more complicated to actually get to see someone at the CAF. Previously even if your French was limited you could walk into one of the offices, wait your turn and speak with someone. Now you need to go via the call system and when your French is not quite up to speed it’s often difficult to be understood by the CAF operator and it can be quite stressful.
6. What services does the CAF provide
On the main page of the CAF website at www.caf.fr you will find a list of all the different services they provide. We don’t have the space to go into detail of all the benefits but the website is actually very good. Unfortunately it is all in French! Here is a list of the main services they provide:
• Services for young children (PAJE)
• Family Allowance (allocations familiales)
• School Grants (allocation de rentrée scolaire)
• Housing Benefits (allocation logement)
• Moving Grant (la prime de déménagement)
• Supplementary Benefits (RSA)
7. What is the PAJE?
Developed in 2004 the PAJE (Prestations d’accueil de jeune enfant) aims to simplify the lives of its beneficiaries. When you first arrive in France, it is advisable that you organise a meeting with your local CAF office to discuss your options.
The PAJE contains:
• A pre-birth payment (or adoption): Paid at the end of the 7th month of pregnancy to help with the initial expenses. This amounts to €923,08 for one child, given in one payment. This depends on your income.
• A basic allowance: This is means-tested and paid every month up to the month preceding the 3rd birthday of your child. The amount allocated depends on your resources but the full amount is €184,62.
• A free choice of activity benefit (CLCA): This is designed for families whereby one parent ceases or significantly reduces their professional activity to take care of the new baby. For the first born child, the allowance is limited to 6 months, for the second child and onwards, it can be paid until the month preceding the 3rd birthday. Amounts are from €145,63 to €390,52 depending on the amount of time worked.
• The COLCA is an additional allowance for parents with 3 children or more. The amount is higher than the CLCA, detailed above. However it stops in the month preceding the first birthday of the child.
• The CMG Service helps parents to finance registered child minders (Assistante Maternelle), home carers or the facilities of a registered crèche. The daily rate if you directly employ the services of a home carer (Assistante Maternelle) is €47,65 (as of 1st January 2014). The CAF could pay a portion of the cost of the carer and the social charges (cotisations). This allocation depends on your revenues so it may be a partial payment.
8. How do I apply for the benefits?
Whether you already have a CAF number numero d’allocataire or not, you can do a simulation of your rights and / or download the appropriate PDF document at the links below.
Once you have completed the document and gathered all the necessary supporting documents, you should send your file to the appropriate CAF office. I would suggest that you send any documents by registered post lettre recommandé avec avis de reception.
9. What is the Allocations Familiales & how can I apply?
There are almost 5 million families receiving Family Allowance in France.
The conditions that need to be met are:
• Families have to have a minimum of two children under the age of 20.
• You must have an address* and
• You must have valid identification papers i.e. passport for Europeans, relevant carte de séjour for non-Europeans
*If you have no official address you have to be registered with the CCAS (centre communal action sociale).
10.How much is the Family Allowance?
See the table below for the current amounts. My customers love this bit! If you meet the conditions for the attribution of the Family Allowance and can prove that you have been living in France as a legal resident for the past two years, they will provide up to 2 years in back payments. That’s a nice incentive isn’t it?
||NUMBER OF CHILDREN||||ALLOCATION AMOUNT||
|For 2 children||129,35|
|For 3 children||295,05|
|For 4 children||460,77|
|Per additional child||165,72|
When your child reaches the age of 14 you will receive a higher payment of €64,67 per month. This is for the third child onwards.
Note: The Government is changing the system. See the changes implemented on July 2015 (among other modifications, child benefits are now income tested).
Documents to provide when you apply:
Depending on which benefit you are applying for the list can be different but, as a base, you should have at the least the following documents to hand that you will need to add to depending on the benefit you are applying for:
• Passport or Carte de séjour
• Recent Proof of Address (EDF)
• Birth certificates with affiliation for every member of the family
• Social Security attestation
• Tax documents (Avis d’impostion)
• Appropriate CERFA document
• Bank RIB
Lastly, when it concerns French bureaucracy, I tell my customers to go by the rule ‘more is better’!
•With thanks to Tracy Leonetti, LBS “Your Paperwork Specialist in France”
The information in this article is provided for informational purposes and does not constitute legal, professional or financial advice. We encourage you seek the advice of a relevant professional before acting on any of this information. Any hyperlinks to other resources on the Internet are provided as sources and assistance and are not intended as an endorsement.