Of course, as with most bureaucracy in France, just when you think you have it all under your hat, it changes! Ah yes, they like to keep us on our toes. The CAF is known for its difficult processes and its quite frustrating dealing with them if French is not your first language, but some improvements have been made this year and interaction via the CAF website is becoming easier. A welcome improvement for many expats!
For those of you, who are new to the CAF, please take a look at my previous blog post to get the Ten Things you Need to Know but a brief reminder first.
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.
The Changes – to mention just a few …
Booking a meeting with the CAF
If you have a difficult file and wish to visit with the CAF, you will need to call them and ask for an appointment. This is sometimes extremely difficult as they really don’t give out appointments easily. However, you can ring them up and ask for a technicien to call you back to discuss your file and they will get back to you with 72 hours. However, do be near to your phone as they often don’t call back twice!
TIP: Once you get the technician on the phone ensure you ask all your questions and ask for them to keep you informed of your file. Get the technicians name if you can so that if you need to call back you can mention his or her name. If you have a complicated file, always ask for a technician to call you back.
Access to child benefits is revenue tested
This was the ‘big’ change of 2015 in that the allocations familiales (family allowance benefits) became revenue tested. Up until this date, you had access to this benefit if you had 2 or more children, no matter what your earnings were. This had to change at some time and this happened in July of this year.
A reminder that the CAF calculate your benefits for 2015 based on your earnings in 2013 so this somewhat complicates the issue if you are new to France and have no tax declarations.
TIP: remember when you make your application; ensure to fill in their Cerfa form declaration de resources to give them your 2013 earnings (from your country of origin). As we coming up to a new year, start preparing your 2014 earnings declaration that you can upload to their website if you already have a CAF number. This will be the base for your 2016 allocations.
If you have been living in France for more than one year, you must make a tax declaration, even if you consider you are not susceptible to paying tax and fill in the cerfa form with 0 if necessary. Without this information, they cannot calculate your allocation and your file will not be validated.
Earnings levels for access to Allocations Familales
See the table below from the CAF website to help you understand the allocation and the earnings levels:
Creating your own confidential code on the www.caf.fr website
Receiving a confidential code was a real headache (and I speak from experience) so this is one piece of news that is great. Once you have your CAF number, you can go straight to the website at www.caf.fr and enter your post code, CAF number & month & year of birth and you will be invited to create an 8 digit code.
TIP: you cannot use identical numbers, your social security number, date of birth or telephone numbers for security reasons, so be inventive!!
‘La CAF me demande’ section in your account is active
Another section that has been added to the top left hand side of the panel in ‘mon compte’ that is really useful. You can now communicate with the CAF via their website. They will let you know what documents they are waiting for and you can upload them and or leave a written message for them.
TIP: Be sure that you update your mobile number with them so that if you lose or forget your password, they will actually send you the password via text. Major time saving for communicating with the CAF here!
New benefit PreParE for children born after 31st December 2014
This PreParE takes effect from the birth of your first child, on the condition that the child has been born or adopted after 31/12/2014. To have a full understanding of this benefit and its general conditions for allocation, consult their page here.
This benefit is really to help parents who have considerably reduced or stopped their professional activity to raise their children. For any children born before this date, you should consult the CLCA on the CAF website.
The PreParE has many rules of attribution and you have to of course meet the general requirements for claiming benefits in France as well as the following:
• Your child must be less than 3 years old
• You must have stopped working or reduced your hours to part-time
• You must have contributed to a retirement fund for a minimum of 8 trimesters in:
• The last 2 years (for first child)
• The last 4 years (for the second child)
• The last 5 years (for more than 2 children)
I hope you found this information useful. In my Survival Guide to Claiming Benefits in France, you will find a good overview of how to start the process of claiming your benefits in France and gain some insight on the traps to avoid.
FrenchEntrée contributor Tracy Leonetti is a French red-tape expert with over 20 years of experience helping people deal with french administrative problems. Both for people moving to France or already living in France, Tracy provides invaluable help with child benefit payments, small business set up, car registrations, utilities set up , healthcare registration, to name just a few.