Carte Vitale


Imagine having your social security number, your medical insurance information, and your next of kin listed all on one automated card. This is the Carte Vitale, France’s automated social security card.

Who gets it

The Carte Vitale is available to all French citizens ages 16 and older and all foreigners who are eligible for a French social security number. How is one eligable? Read on…

How to get it

First, you have to be in France legally, either as an EU citizen, or if you’re not an EU citizen, you must be on a residency visa. You may then get a French social security number and the accompanying Carte Vitale if you have a job or are registered at a school. Normally your employer or school will help you sort out the request for a social security number, which is followed by the Carte Vitale.

If you are employed, your employer is responsible for applying for your social security number within eight days of employing you. Then you will receive your Carte Vitale. But while it’s true that your employer or school is SUPPOSED to apply for your social security number and carte vitale for you, you may have to take matters into your own hands. If this happens to you, visit the nearest CPAM (Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie) and explain your situation. They will tell you what documents you need to provide, as well what forms you need to fill out. Normally, you will then receive your social security number by mail and a few months later your carte vitale.

If you go to the doctors before you get your social security number and carte vitale, make sure to ask for a ‘feuille de soins’ and hold on to it! This will be the form you need to submit in order to be reimbursed once you receive your card. To find the CPAM nearest you, go to France’s national health insurance site and search by your postal code.

How we got it: When Sam first came over on a student exchange program, she had American travelers’ insurance. She was not in the French system until she enrolled in a French University for her master’s the following year which then allowed her to apply for a social security number and ensuing carte vitale. Brenna didn’t apply for her carte vitale until stupidly late…her employer applied for her (as they should have) when she started teaching English…but she could have gotten it when she first arrived and was enrolled in a French University for her language diploma.

How it works

When you visit your doctor you will have to pay up front. As we write this (2012), a general practitioner costs 23€. Once you pay (almost always in cash or by check), the receptionist at the doctor’s office will swipe your carte vitale and you will be reimbursed with money going directly into your bank account. Normally you will receive the reimbursement within the following 72 hours. According to the Service Public website, an adult will be reimbursed at 70% for a visit to a general practitioner.

If you do not have your carte vitale handy, or if the doctor doesn’t have the card reader, remember to ask for that feuille de soins, detailing your visit, that is signed by the doctor. The feuille de soins can be sent to CPAM by mail for a reimbursement.

Updating your Carte Vitale

Your carte vitale has no expiration date. However, it needs to be regularly updated as you go from being a student to a salaried employee, when you marry or if you have children. Updating your information can be done through the website for French health insurance, called ameli. Depending on what information you need to update, you can either do it all online, or you will complete some tasks online and the rest by mail. Generally it will take about 10 days to process every request.


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