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Health coverage and insurances

Settling in a new country raises a lot of questions. What should you do in case of illness? How can you obtain health coverage services in France? Read more to learn everything you need to know about the French health coverage system.

International students must make an appointment with the SHS (student health services) when they arrive in France. Click below to mak an appointment or visit the SHS page on the website to get more information.

Make an appointment online

Our partner health insurance companies for international students

The International Welcome desk has partnerships with companies offering additionnal health insurances and civil liability insurances to facilitate administrative procedures for international students and PhD students. If you purchase an insurance with one of our partners below, you will be put in contact with a specific French- or English-speaking officer and be able to purchase an insurance online before or upon arrival:

Expat&Co MGEN Heyme
Visit the website Visit the website Visit the website (use the discount code UPSACLAY-10)

Health coverage is mandatory for any person living in France and covers medical costs such as a doctor's appointment, medicine, surgery, hospital, etc.

Depending on your age and the conditions of your stay (work contract, scholarship, duration of the stay...), you will either have to:

  • Register for the French social security (also called "la Sécu") to benefit from health insurance
  • Keep your registration with the health organism in your home country (check that you are covered in France)
  • Purchase a private health insurance in France
  • Purchase a private health insurance in your home country


Important elements to keep in mind

  • You must have a health insurance covering medical expenses, hospital and surgery, repatriation insurance and civil liability insurance as soon as you arrive in France, on the first day.
  • This insurance should be purchased in France if possible.
  • If you choose afterwards to register for the French social security (depending on your situation), please note that it can take a few months. You will have to send quickly the required documents. The sooner you send the information, the sooner your health expenses will be covered. This is why we recommend you purchase a private incurance for the 4 first months in France.

Please note: Before starting to complete any of these procedures, we advise you to contact the receiving institution.

Researchers: if your spouse and/or children are coming with you to France, inform the staff members receiving you when you arrive.

You should arrive in France with a health insurance already covering medical expenses and repatriation, as well as a civil liability insurance.

Whatever country you come from, we strongly recommend you purchase a private insurance for the first few months after your arrival (4 months), as registration to social security can take several weeks. Check with your insurance company what your insurance includes (in particular regarding repatriation and civil liability). If you are coming to France for more than 3 months, you will then be able to choose the best health coverage depending on your needs.

PhD students, researchers and families: the FnAK (Alfred Kastler National Foundation) offers an insurance adapted to your needs. For more information, visit the FnAK website.

Reimbursment of health expenses

If you are affiliated to the French social security system, you will be expected to pay the consultation fees at the end of your GP's or specialist's appointment. If you have not yet received your carte Vitale (see example), the doctor will hand you a form called feuille de soins (see example). You should send this form to your health insurance fund (CPAM) to seek reimbursement. If you already have your carte Vitale and have transmitted your bank details (RIB) to your CPAM, you have no additional administrative procedures to undertake: your fees will be automatically reimbursed via transfer to your bank account.

Please note that the French social security only reimburses a portion of your medical expenses. Reimbursement rates vary depending on the type of treatment and doctor, but are usually around 60% to 70% of the total fee. Pharmaceuticals are reimbursed at a rate of 15% to 65%, depending on the product.

Since Social Security only reimburses a portion of the total cost, we strongly recommend you to take out a supplementary health insurance, called a mutuelle, especially if you have children or if you have special healthcare needs. This insurance can help pay some of the healthcare costs that the Social Security doesn't cover and avoid onerous expenses. For more information about the mutuelle, read the section "supplementary health insurance" below.

Choosing a primary doctor

To access maximum reimbursement, you are required to register a general practitioner through your health insurance fund (CPAM). You will receive a déclaration de médecin traitant (see example). The GP of your choice will fill out a form that you will need to send by mail to your CPAM. General practitioners can charge different rates. You will obtain fuller reimbursement if you choose a ‘sector-1’ GP that charges official rates. The rates charged by your doctor are listed in the annuaire santé.

The "carte vitale"

Once you have registered for the French social security system, you will receive a certificate with your personal data (attestation Vitale) and your health insurance card (carte Vitale). Keep your certificate and carte Vitale during your entire stay as you will need them in administrative procedures. You will have to bring your carte Vitale to each medical appointment and whenever you purchase prescription pharmaceuticals with an ordonnance (prescription).

You can receive medical treatment before obtaining your carte Vitale or your attestation Vitale. In this case, your doctor or health staff will hand you a form (feuille de soins). Make sure to keep it. Once you have received your attestation Vitale, send these bills for reimbursement to your CPAM. Make copies of all forms prior to sending and keep them until you are reimbursed.

Please keep in mind that you cannot pay with your carte Vitale. You will have to present your carte Vitale and pay the medical expenses. You will then be directly reimbursed via transfer in your French bank account.

Have you created an ameli account? It's a secure personal area that makes everything health-related simpler!

What is an Ameli account for?

This is a secure personal area that you can log in to from a computer, smartphone, or tablet to access all of the French health insurance system ("l'Assurance Maladie")'s online services. The ameli app is available on App Store and Google Play.
You can use it to:
•    Check your health care reimbursements;
•    Download your certificate of entitlement, which you can use if you don't have your health insurance card ("carte Vitale") on you;
•    Order a French health insurance card ("carte Vitale") or report it as lost or stolen;
•    Order a European health insurance card (EHIC);
•    Update and manage your personal information (address, phone number, email address, banking information, etc.);
•    Chat with amelibot (the French health insurance system's chatbot, which can answer all your questions and help you through your online paperwork, or email one of our caseworkers directly.
To learn more

How do I create my account?

To open an ameli account, you will need to have been issued with your permanent French Social Security number (NIR). You will then need to call 3646 (no surcharge) to get a temporary code by phone. Once your account is open, you will be able to access all of the online services, which also means you can track the production of your French health insurance card (while you are waiting for your "carte Vitale", you can download your certificate of entitlement as proof of membership in the French health insurance system to show to health care professionals, etc.)
To learn more

Updating your contact information

Your (cell and/or landline) phone numbers, mailing address, banking information, email address, and more, all need to be up-to-date so that the social security organism can keep you current on all health-related matters. If they have your current contact information, "l'Assurance Maladie" can contact you directly to offer you a range of services that are in line with your needs.

If you are having trouble registering for French health insurance coverage, please call 3646 (no surcharge) Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. You can ask for an English-speaking phone representative who can set up an appointment for you or book an appointment with the International Welcome Desk.

  • for information on news, entitlements and how to apply, reimbursements, and health
  • Your ameli account to use all of the services available through your personal account
  • The forum ameli for any general questions
  • By calling 3646 (no surcharge) Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • In person, by going to your local health insurance fund (« CPAM »)
  • En accueil de la caisse d’assurance maladie de votre lieu de résidence

Medical expenses are not entirely reimbursed by the social security's health insurance. In order to access full reimbursement, we recommend that you take out a supplementary health insurance, called mutuelle. Depending on the chosen form, the mutuelle partially or fully reimburses the portion of the healthcare expenses that the social security doesn't.

  • You are coming to France to complete a Bachelor's or Master’s degree: you can contact our partner companies (se above)
  • You are coming to France to complete a PhD, you hold a scholarship, you do not have a French employment contract and are under 28 years old: PhD students under the age of 28 who do not have a French employment contract can contact our partner companies (see above)
  • You are coming to France to complete a PhD, you hold a scholarship, you do not have a French employment contract and are 28 years old or over: PhD students who are 28 years and over and do not have a French employment contract can contact the Fondation nationale Alfred Kastler (FnAK). The FnAK has signed an agreement with ABC Assurances. For more information, please visit their website.  
  • You are a researcher or a PhD student and have a French employment contract: researchers and PhD students who have a French employment contract with a higher education and research institution will be offered a supplementary health insurance by their employer.


Civil liability insurance

This insurance covers any damage you might cause to others. Banks, student health insurances and insurance companies offer this service.

If you have already purchased an insurance for your accommodation, check if a civil liability insurance is included, as it is very often the case.