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? Here you will find everything you always wanted to know about the French social security system (but were afraid to ask).

 

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Health coverage: an essential and compulsory requirement

French law requires all individuals residing in France to have health insurance that will cover medical expenses (doctor visits, prescription medication, hospitalisation, etc.).

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Choose which health coverage best suits your situation

Learn how to apply for a health coverage that best suits your situation.

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The French social security system: how does it work?

How does the French social security work? What is covered? What other options are there?

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Useful information

Health related information you will need in France: how to find a doctor, health glossary, emergency phone numbers, etc.

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French law requires all individuals living in France to have health insurance

This health insurance covers medical expenses, such as doctor visits, prescription medication, hospitalisation, surgery, etc.

Your age and conditions of your stay in France will determine which of these following requirements is applicable for you. You either must:

  • Join the French social security system (Sécurité Sociale, commonly known as “la Sécu”) to be covered by health insurance, or;
  • Remain affiliated to the social security system of your previous country of residence (make sure it will cover your medical expenses in France), or;
  • Take out a health insurance in France, or;
  • Take out a health insurance in your country of residence.  

It is compulsory that you arrive in France with civil liability insurance and healthcare covering repatriation

We strongly advise you to take out a private insurance for the 4-month period following your arrival while completing the French social security application. Check with the insurance company the terms and conditions of the coverage you have chosen. Make sure that your insurance guarantees repatriation and that you are covered by a civil liability insurance. If you are coming to France for a stay of over 3 months, you can choose later on the health coverage that best suits your needs and situation.   

Type of insurances

For students, interns, PhD students holding a scholarship and their family members (spouse and/or children):

PhD students and researchers with a French employment contract and their families:

In short

  • You must have a health coverage that covers medical expenses, repatriation and a civil liability insurance from the first day you arrive in France;
  • This insurance should preferably be French;
  • If you must or decide to join the French social security system (depending on your situation), take into account that the process may take a few months. You will have to submit the required documents as soon as possible. The sooner you apply, the sooner your medical expenses will be covered. We strongly recommend you to take out a private insurance for the 4-month period following your arrival.

Please note

Before undertaking any procedure by yourself, we strongly advise you to contact your institution.

If you are a researcher and are accompanied by your family, please inform your institution.

Please note: Before coming to France, check with your health insurance company or the social security system of your country of residence if your healthcare expenses will be covered during your entire stay in France. If so, administrative procedures may be easier.


1. You are coming to France to complete a Bachelor's or Master’s degree

Nationals or residents of a European Economic Area member state or Switzerland

Please note: If you are a resident but not a national of one of the above-mentioned countries and are travelling to Denmark or the United Kingdom, you will not be able to benefit from the provisions listed below.

  • Prior to your arrival, you must request your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and/or the S1 form from your local health insurance fund.
  • One of the above-mentioned documents will allow you to enrol at a member institution of Université Paris-Saclay and be exempt from the compulsory health insurance of the student social security scheme.
  • Once in France, your medical expenses will be covered under the same terms and conditions as those insured under the French social security system. Should you require any further information or seek reimbursement, please contact the International relations department of the CPAM (Caisse Primaire Assurance Maladie) of your place of residence. Download the explanatory note. You can also wait until you return to your country of habitual residence to seek reimbursement from your health insurance fund.
  • If you do not have the EHIC or the S1 form, you will have to be covered by the student social security scheme in order to benefit from health coverage. More information about the student scheme.

If you are staying in France for at least one year, it is strongly advisable to be covered by the student social security scheme.

In any case, don't forget to take out a supplementary health insurance to access full reimbursement. 

Non-EEA or Swiss nationals

You are a national of a country that has signed a bilateral Social Security Convention with France:

To find out if your country of origin has signed a Social Security Convention with France, please visit the website of the Centre of European and International Liaisons for Social Security (Cleiss). If a convention has been signed, check the conditions that allow you to remain affiliated to your current health insurance scheme. 

In any case, don't forget to take out a supplementary health insurance to access full reimbursement. 

You are a national of a country that has not signed a Social Security Convention with France:

  • It is compulsory that you are covered by the student social security scheme to benefit from health coverage. 
  • The amount of the student social security contribution is set at € 217 for the 2017-2018 academic year. You will pay it at the same time as the registration fees in your institution. If you hold a French government scholarship (CROUS), you will be exempted from payment upon presentation of proof of scholarship. List of required documents for the student social security scheme registration process.
  • You will be covered by the student health insurance you will have chosen at the time of your registration at your university or higher education institution. There are two student health insurance funds: the LMDE and the SMEREP.
  • Please note: the student health insurance only covers the period of the academic year (from September 1st to August 31st of the following year). If you are coming to France before the start of the academic year (i.e. in the framework of optional language courses), you will have to take out a private health insurance that will cover the period between your arrival and September 1st. ACS Assurances offers different health coverage schemes that can meet your needs. If you take out an insurance in your country of residence, make sure you understand the terms and conditions of the different offers before signing up to anything. Your insurance must guarantee repatriation and you must be covered by a civil liability insurance. Do not forget to ask for a health insurance certificate (in English or in French) to prove that you are covered during this period. 

In any case, don't forget to take out a supplementary health insurance to access full reimbursement. 


2. You are coming to France to complete a PhD. You hold a scholarship, you do not have a French employment contract, you are enrolled at a French higher education institution

You are under 28 years old

Nationals or residents of a European Economic Area member state or Switzerland

Please note: If you are a resident but not a national of one of the above-mentioned countries and are travelling to Denmark or the United Kingdom, you will not be able to benefit from the provisions listed below.

  • Prior to arrival, you must request your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and/or the S1 form from your local health insurance fund.
  • One of the above-mentioned documents will allow you to enrol at a member institution of Université Paris-Saclay and be exempt from the compulsory health insurance of the student social security scheme.
  • Once in France, your medical expenses will be covered under the same terms and conditions as those insured under the French social security system. Should you require any further information or seek reimbursement, please contact the International relations department of the CPAM (Caisse Primaire Assurance Maladie) of your place of residence. Download the explanatory note. You can also wait until you return to your country of habitual residence and seek reimbursement from your health insurance fund.
  • If you do not have the EHIC or the S1 form, you will have to be covered by the student social security scheme to benefit from health coverage. More information about the student scheme.

To facilitate reimbursement should you stay in France for at least one year, it is strongly advisable to be covered by the student social security scheme.

In any case, don't forget to take out a supplementary health insurance to access full reimbursement. 

 

Non-EEA or Swiss nationals

You are a national of a country that has signed a bilateral Social Security Convention with France

To find out if your country of origin has signed a Social Security Convention with France, please visit the website of the Centre of European and International Liaisons for Social Security (Cleiss). If a convention has been signed, check the conditions that allow you to remain affiliated to your current health insurance scheme. 

In any case, don't forget to take out a supplementary health insurance to access full reimbursement. 

You are a national of a country that has not signed a bilateral Social Security Convention with France

  • It is compulsory that you are covered by the student social security scheme to benefit from health coverage. 
  • The amount of the student social security contribution is set at € 217 for the 2017-2018 academic year. You will pay it at the same time as your institution's registration fees. If you hold a French government scholarship (CROUS), you will be exempted from the payment upon presentation of scholarship. List of required documents for the student social security scheme registration process.
  • For any reimbursement and information, you will depend on the student health insurance fund you will have chosen at the time of your registration in your university or school. There are 2 student health insurance funds: the LMDE and the SMEREP.
  • Please note: the student health insurance only covers the period of the academic year (from September 1st to August 31st of the following year). If you are coming to France before the start of the academic year (i.e. in the framework of optional language courses), you will have to take out a private health insurance that will cover the period between your arrival and September 1st. ACS Assurances offers different health coverage schemes that can meet your needs. If you take out an insurance in your country of residence, make sure you understands the terms and conditions of the different offers before signing up to anything. Your insurance must guarantee repatriation and you must be covered by a civil liability insurance. Do not forget to ask for a health insurance certificate (in English or in French) to prove that you are covered during this period. 

In any case, don't forget to take out a supplementary health insurance to access full reimbursement. 

You are 28 years old or over

Nationals or residents of a European Economic Area member state or Switzerland

Please note

  • If you are a resident but not a national of one of the above-mentioned countries and are travelling to Denmark or the Unites Kingdom, you will not be able to benefit from the provisions listed below.
  • If you started your PhD before you turned 28, you can benefit from an extension of the student social security scheme from 1 to 4 years.
  • Prior to arrival, you must request your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and/or the S1 form from your local health insurance fund.
  • One of the above-mentioned documents will allow you to enrol at a member institution of Université Paris-Saclay and be exempt from the compulsory health insurance of the student social security scheme.
  • Once in France, your medical expenses will be covered under the same terms and conditions as those insured under the French social security system. Should you require any further information or seek reimbursement, please contact the International relations department of the CPAM (Caisse Primaire Assurance Maladie) of your place of residence. Download the explanatory note. You can also wait until you return to your country of habitual residence and seek reimbursement from your health insurance fund.
  • If you do not have the EHIC or the S1 form, your options are the following:

To facilitate reimbursement should you stay in France for at least one year and if you started your PhD before you turned 28, it is strongly advisable to be covered by the student social security scheme. More information about the student scheme.

In any case, don't forget to take out a supplementary health insurance to access full reimbursement. 

Non-EEA or Swiss nationals

You are a national of a country that has signed a bilateral Social Security Convention with France

To find out if your country of origin has signed a Social Security Convention with France, please visit the website of the Centre of European and International Liaisons for Social Security (Cleiss). If a convention has been signed, check the conditions that allow you to remain affiliated to your current health insurance scheme. 

In any case, don't forget to take out a supplementary health insurance to access full reimbursement. 

You are a national of a country that has not signed a bilateral Social Security Convention with France

Your options are the following:

  1. You can apply for Protection Universelle Maladie (PUMa) scheme of the social security system. You will have to join the health insurance fund (Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie – CPAM) of your place of residence. Download the list of the required documents for a PUMa application. Please note that the enrollment process may take several months. We strongly advise you to take out a private health insurance that will cover the waiting period between your arrival and the 4th month in France.
    The Fondation nationale Alfred Kastler and ACS Assurances offer different health coverage schemes to all PhD students of all ages enrolled at a French higher education institution. Do not forget to ask for a health insurance certificate (in English or in French) to prove that you are covered during this period;
  2. You can take out a health insurance in France.
  3. You can take out a health insurance in your country of habitual residence that will cover your medical expenses and repatriation. Make sure you also have a civil liability insurance. Do not forget to ask for a health insurance certificate (in English or French) to prove that you are insured.
  4. You can apply for the student social security scheme if you started your PhD before you turned 28. More information on the student scheme.

3. You are a researcher or a PhD student and have a French employment contract

Please note that the enrollment process may take several months. We strongly advise you to take out a private health insurance that will cover the waiting period. The Fondation nationale Alfred Kastler and ACS Assurances offer different health coverage schemes to all PhD students.


4. You are a researcher or a PhD student. You have a foreign employment contract and are coming to France for a short stay in order to work in one of our laboratories

Your employer must grant you a mission order (ordre de mission). With this document, he/she guarantees that you are covered during the whole period of your stay.


5. You are completing a Bachelor's, Master's or PhD degree at a foreign university and are coming to France within the framework of an exchange program or an internship

Nationals or residents of a European Economic Area member state or Switzerland

Please note: If you are a resident but not a national of one of the above-mentioned countries and are travelling to Denmark or the United Kingdom, you will not be able to benefit from the provisions listed below.

  • Prior to your arrival, you must request your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and/or the S1 form from your local health insurance fund.
  • Once in France, your medical expenses will be covered under the same terms and conditions as those insured under the French social security system. Download the explanatory note. You can also wait until you return to your country of habitual residence to seek reimbursement from your health insurance fund.
  • If you do not have the EHIC or the S1 form, you will have to take out a private health insurance in France or in your country of habitual residence. In France, ACS Assurances offers different health coverage schemes to interns coming to France. If you take out an insurance in your country of residence, make sure you understands the terms and conditions of the different offers before signing up to anything. Your insurance must guarantee repatriation and you must be covered by a civil liability insurance. Do not forget to ask for a health insurance certificate (in English or in French) to prove that you are covered during this period. 

In any case, don't forget to take out a supplementary health insurance to access full reimbursement. 

Non-EEA or Swiss nationals

You are a national of a country that has signed a bilateral Social Security Convention with France

To find out if your country of origin has signed a Social Security Convention with France, please visit the website of the Centre of European and International Liaisons for Social Security (Cleiss). If a convention has been signed, check the conditions that allow you to remain affiliated to your current health insurance scheme. 

You are a national of a country that has not signed a bilateral Social Security convention with France

Check with the social security system of your country of residence or your health insurance company to find out if your medical expenses and repatriation will be covered during the period of your stay in France. Make sure you have a civil liability insurance. If it is not the case, you will have to take out a private health insurance in France or in your home country that will cover your health expenses during your entire stay in France. ACS Assurances offers different health coverage schemes to interns coming to France. Do not forget to ask for a health insurance certificate (in English or in French) to prove that you are covered during your stay in France.

In any case, don't forget to take out a supplementary health insurance to access full reimbursement. 


6. Family members of a researcher or PhD student with a passeport-talent

Your options are the following:

  • Your minor children can be registered in the general social security scheme as your dependents (ayants droits). You must request a demande de rattachement. Download the list of required documents.  
  • Your spouse and adult children, as long as they are unemployed, must join the Protection Universelle Maladie (PUMa) scheme of the social security system. They will have to request an affiliation to the health insurance fund (Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie – CPAM) of Paris. Download the list of required documents for the PUMa registration process. Please note that the registration process may take several months. It is strongly advisable to take out a private health insurance which will cover the waiting period between their arrival and the 4th month in France. The Fondation nationale Alfred Kastler, and ACS Assurances offer different health coverage schemes to all PhD students and researchers with a French employment contract and their families. If they take out an insurance in their country of residence, check with the insurance company the terms and conditions of the coverage they have chosen. Their insurance must cover repatriation and they must have a civil liability insurance. Do not forget to ask for a health insurance certificate (in English or in French) to prove that they are covered during this period;
  • If your spouse is employed, he/she will be registered in the general social security scheme by his/her employer. More information.
  • If your adult child is a student, he/she must be covered by the student social security scheme. More information on the student scheme.

In any case, don't forget to take out a supplementary health insurance to access full reimbursement. 


 

7. Family members of a PhD student benefiting from a scholarship

 

Your options are the following:

1st option:

Your spouse and adult children, provided they are unemployed, as well as your minor children, can join the Protection Universelle Maladie (PUMa) scheme of the social security system. They will have to request an affiliation to the health insurance fund (Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie – CPAM) of your place of residence. Download the list of required documents for the PUMa registration processPlease note that the registration process may take several months. We strongly advise you to take out a private health insurance which will cover the waiting period between the arrival until the end of 4th month in France. The Fondation nationale Alfred Kastler, and ACS Assurances offer different health coverage schemes to all PhD students or researchers with a French employment contract and their families.

2nd option:

Your spouse as well as your minor and/or adult children remain affiliated to the social security system of their previous country of residence (EHIC for EEA and Swiss nationals or nationals of a country that has signed a social security convention with France). Make sure it will cover their medical expenses, guarantee repatriation and that they are covered by a civil liability insurance.

3rd option:

Your spouse as well as your minor and/or adult children take out a health insurance in France. The Fondation nationale Alfred Kastler, and ACS Assurances offer different health coverage schemes to all PhD students or researchers and their families.

4th option:

Your spouse as well as your minor and/or adult children take out a health insurance in your country of residence that will cover their health expenses and repatriation. Make sure that they are covered by a civil liability insurance. Do not forget to ask for a health insurance certificate (in English or French) to prove that they are insured.

In any case, don't forget to take out a supplementary health insurance to access full reimbursement. 

Reimbursement of medical 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. More information about the mutuelle.

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. The GP of your choice will fill out a form (see example) 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 a document called the annuaire santé.

The carte vitale

Once you have joined 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.

Supplementary health insurance (mutuelle)

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: the two student health insurance funds (the SMEREP and the LMDE) offer mutuelle insurances. You can also check the offers of private insurers.
  • 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 the SMEREP,  the LMDE  or any other private insurer.
  • 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.

 

The French use the terms "Assurance Maladie", "Sécurité Sociale" and "CPAM" indifferently. All of these terms refer to the same body and the same benefits: the social security’s health insurance.  

For more information, you can check:

Emergency numbers in France