Whether you are moving to France with young children, studying in France, or retiring to France with a low household income—there may be certain CAF benefits in France that you are eligible to claim. Signing up for the CAF and applying for benefits might seem complicated, especially for non French-speaking residents, but the process is generally quite straightforward and once your account has been validated, your benefits will be paid directly to your account each month. It’s also worth noting that if you are resident in France and haven’t yet claimed your family allowance, it can sometimes be back paid up to two years.
Ready to join the almost 11 million beneficiaries of the CAF in France? Here’s what you need to know to get started.
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. If you are resident in France, especially if you have children or have a low household income, there is a good chance that you will be eligible for some kind of support.
2. How can I contact the CAF?
The best way to get general information is via their main website here which has a comprehensive guide to all the available benefits and eligibility criteria. You can also simulate your situation before you start the process to see if you are eligible, and download all the necessary 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! The CAF can be found in most towns and they often have smaller branches with limited opening hours in villages.
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 services does the CAF provide?
The CAF website details all the different services they provide, but here is a list of the main services:
• 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 or revenu de solidarité active)
4. How do I find out if I’m eligible for CAF benefits?
The best way to find out whether or not you are entitled to any support from the CAF is to run a simulation, which can be done online here. You don’t need to create an account in order to run a simulation, but you will need to enter personal information such as your postcode, income, and personal situation.
The simulations (in French only) will talk you through the main criteria for eligibility for each different benefit type, after which you can enter your details and receive an assessment of whether or not you may be able to claim benefits and how much you may be able to receive. Note that this is only a 5. simulation – there is no guarantee that you will receive the benefits until you actually apply.
5. What is a Numéro d’Allocataire and do I still need one?
Prior to this year, when you applied for any CAF benefits, you would have been given a numéro d’allocataire, a 7 digit number that was necessary for all your communications with the CAF, either by phone or post. You would also have been given a Code Confidential to go along with this number.
From October 2021, this process has now been simplified and you can instead use your numéro de sécurité sociale (your social security number, found on your Carte Vitale) to access your online account. It is also possible to connect your CAF account to your France Connect account, using the same log-in details as for your Ameli.fr (healthcare) account and tax account.
If you still have a numéro d’allocataire, you can now change this to access your online account using your social security number and a new password.
6. How do I apply for CAF benefits?
Applying for CAF benefits or ‘faire une demande de prestation’ can be done online here. You will need to create an account if you are not already a beneficiary (allocataire) or sign into your account if you are. All benefits can now be applied for online. You will need to fill in the relevant application and then submit your ‘dossier‘ including all the relevant documents proving your income and personal situation. Most of these documents can now be sent in digital form via email – there is no longer the need to send them in via registered post as was previously the case.
If you need help filling in the forms, there is also a digital assistance chat box on some pages, as well as information boxes pointing out common mistakes and questions.
The application processing time (délais de traitement) is typically between 10 and 30 days.
Expect to be asked for the following documents:
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 and/or Carte de séjour
• Recent Proof of Address (e.g. an electricity bill)
• Birth certificates with affiliation for every member of the family
• Social Security attestation
• Tax documents (Avis d’impostion)
• Appropriate CERFA document
• Your Bank RIB
7. How do I make an appointment with the CAF?
Most CAF offices have an appointment system in place and you can access this online. Go to ‘Mon Compte’ > ‘Contacter ma Caf’ > Demander un rendez-vous. There are options for phone appointments (where a representative will call you at the assigned time) or in-person appointments at your local CAF office. Since the Covid pandemic, the online system has gotten better and it is now possible to get answers to many questions and send justifications via email and messages. In person appointments are typically only reserved for those already registered as CAF beneficiaries.
8. What is the PAJE?
Developed in 2004 the PAJE (Prestations d’accueil de jeune enfant) is available to all families expecting a baby or adopting a baby.
The PAJE includes (stated benefits are based on babies born from 2021 up until March 2022):
• A pre-birth payment (or adoption) (la prime à la naissance ou à l’adoption): Paid at the end of the 7th month of pregnancy to help with the initial expenses. This amounts to €948.27 for one child, given in one payment, or €1,896.52 for an adopted baby. This depends on your income.
• A basic allowance (l’allocation de base): 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 €171,91.
• The CMG Service (complément de libre choix du mode de garde) helps parents to finance registered child minders (Assistante Maternelle), home carers or the facilities of a registered crèche. The CAF may 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.
You can download the brochure detailing 2021 benefits here.
9. What is the Allocations Familiales & how can I apply?
There are almost 5 million families receiving Family Allowance (allocations familiales) 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 in France?
Since 2015, family allowance has been income tested. There are three brackets of income, with varying ‘plafonds‘ (thresholds) of revenue and monthly benefits decreasing accordingly. The first threshold is €69,933 for a two-child household. The table below shows the current monthly payments as of 2021 for the first income bracket. You can see the full breakdown of payment amounts here.
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, it is possible to claim up to 2 years in back payments.
||NUMBER OF CHILDREN||||ALLOCATION AMOUNT||
|For 2 children||132,08|
|For 3 children||301,30|
|Per additional child||169,22|
When your child reaches the age of 14 you will receive a higher payment of €66,04 per month. This is for the third child onwards.
•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.