Being a legal resident of France gives you access to a wide variety of benefits, including a number of childcare facilities. As an expat family, you can make use of several family entitlements by applying for child allowance, family income support, single parent allowance or housing allowance. In certain cases (mainly family allowance), you may also be entitled to claim back pay for up to two years.To take advantage of these benefits, you will need to get in touch with the Caisse D’Allocations Familiales, a government body that provides help and support to families residing across France. This offers a wide range of services including pregnancy care, early childhood, halte garderies (day care centres), crèches, education, family allowances, holidays and housing allowances. However, while some of these benefits have been revenue tested, others have not.
Some expat families with young children are not aware of the fact that they are able to claim certain allowances. Others may have the information but are deterred from applying for the benefits, as the office has a reputation for being difficult to deal with. Many of their procedures are quite complicated, especially for the non-French speaking residents. On the upside, once your application is registered and your file is validated by this office, things run quite smoothly and require almost no further intervention. You should receive your benefits on an ongoing basis without any challenges. In case you face any challenges in applying for your benefits, it is best to consult with a social worker at the local town hall (known as a Mairie). Studies show that there are currently more than 11 million people making use of these benefits.
French Social Security For Families
The family-oriented sector of the French Social Security system has been organized into a network of 103 department-level funds, with one national fund. Some benefits are managed by networks called the National Office for Family Allocations (Caisse Nationale Des Allocations Familiales or CNAF) and the Family Allocations Office (Caisse D’Allocations Familiales or CAF). Residents interested in taking advantage of the benefits offered by the government need to contact the CAF.
The list of services that this entity offers is comprehensive and includes:
• Family allowance (Allocations familiales)
• Housing benefits (Allocation logement)
• Moving grant (La prime de déménagement)
• School grants (Allocation de rentrée scolaire)
• Services for young children (Prestations d’accueil de jeune enfant or PAJE)
• Supplementary benefits
To read more about the different services offered by the CAF, visit their website. While the site is quite detailed and the information is useful, you will need a translator service if you aren’t fluent in French.
About Allocations Familiales
The family allowance fund offers specific monetary benefits to all legal residents who have children. These are mainly allocated for employees in all professions and self-employed workers in the non-agricultural sector. Under the social security code, section L 512-1, “any French or foreign person residing in France with one or more dependent children also residing in France is entitled to family benefits for those children”. These are awarded to adults acting as ongoing custodians of legitimate, illegitimate, adopted or foster chidren below the age of 21.
Currently, more than five million families living in France are recipients of the family allowance. However, not everyone can make this claim, as certain conditions must be met. This benefit is only offered to families who have:
• A minimum of two children below the age of 20
• A local address
• Valid identification papers (such as passports)
In 2015, a big change was introduced to family allowance, in that it became means tested. Before that, any resident who met the basic criteria could enjoy this benefit, regardless of their income. It is therefore essential to find out the exact amount that you are entitled to receive each month based on your situation by contacting the CAF office directly. Given below is the payment range people receive, depending on their incomes. The higher the income, the lower the payout and vice versa.
• For two children: Between €32.34 (US$38.11; £28.89) and €129.35 (US$152.44; £115.56)
• For three children: Between €73.76 (US$86.93; £65.90) and €295.05 (US$347.73; £263.60)
• For four children: Between €115.20 (US$135.77; £102.92) and €460.77 (US$543.04; £411.65)
• Per additional child: €165.72 (US$195.31; £148.05)
When you child reaches the age of 14, you are entitled to receive a higher payout of €64.67 (US$76.22; £57.78) per month. However, this amount may also vary depending on your income, so it is best to consult an expert or government official from the CAF office about this.
The way that the earnings and benefits are calculated can be very confusing for a layperson, especially an expat. Moreover, the previous year’s earnings are taken into account to determine the allowance amounts. This could pose a challenge if you are new to the country and have no prior tax declarations. In cases like this, you will be required to report your income for that period in your home country. Consulting a professional expert in this regard is highly recommended.
Documents To Be Provided
The paperwork you will need to submit depends on the type of benefit you are applying for. However, make sure that you have at least these basic documents with you beforehand:
• Valid passport or residence permit (Carte de sejour)
• Recent proof of address
• Birth certificate for each member in the family
• Social security attestation
• Tax documents
• Relevant CERFA papers
• Bank RIB
Dealing with French bureaucracy tends to require a lot of paperwork. Please keep in mind that you may be asked to provide any additional documents, some of which may not seem relevant to the situation. You should therefore be prepared accordingly.
Contacting The CAF
You will be able to find a CAF office in almost every city, town and village across France, although opening hours may vary, depending on their location. Find the one that is the closest to you and call them beforehand to set up a meeting. This will help make sure that you can talk to someone when arrive, and will prevent the need to stand in a long queue. The appointment system has reduced waiting times, but it has also made it harder to drop into the CAF. However, some of the offices have no appointment system in place and in such instances, you will just have to go down personally and speak with an advisor. Do allocate at least a day to this, since the waiting lines could be long and it may take a while before you get your turn.
It is best to fix an appointment with the CAF over the phone, especially if you have a difficult case and have been facing challenges in getting your benefit validated. Alternately, you can have a specialist call you back within 72 hours to discuss your situation. Most of these specialists will be able to provide all the required information and may keep you updated on the phone, if required. The only problem with this option is that if you miss the technician’s call once, they are not likely to ring you back. You will only learn about it when you follow up.
Most expats now prefer getting the information they need from the official website of the CAF. Moreover, you have the option to download the forms and run a simulation of your situation before you commence the application process. It is also a good idea to get yourself registered on the website, so that you can manage your account and make any changes if required. Once your file is validated you can request the officials to send you a confidential code (code confidentiel), which enables you to access your CAF account and files via telephone. Without the code, any calls that you make to their call center system will be unallocated (non allocataire). Once you receive the code, you can go to the mon compte (‘my account’) link on the main CAF page and get access to your personal file. However, getting this code could take a while, depending on the benefit that you are applying for.
After you put in an application for any benefits in France, you should receive a 7-digit CAF receipt number by post. This is your numero d’alloctaire, which could take anywhere from one to four weeks to arrive. Make a note of this number as you will be asked for it whenever you contact the CAF by phone, post or electronic mail. If you misplace the number and need to have it sent to you again, click on the link to access your account online and select the ‘lost beneficiary number’ option. For validation purposes, you will need to provide your postal code, full name and date of birth.
Other Family And Childcare Benefits
In 2004, French authorities developed a program aimed at providing services for young children, called prestations d’accueil de jeune enfant or PAJE. This benefit is described below.
• A pre-birth (or adoption) payment is made when your child is seven months old, to help you out with your initial expenses. The amount is approximately €925 (US$1,090; £825) per child and is given out at one time. However, this may vary according on your income.
• A means-tested basic allowance is paid out monthly for children below the age of three. The full amount is around €185 (US$218; £165) per child, but again will depend on your resources.
• A PreParE allowance has replaced the ‘free choice of activity’ (libre choix d’activité or CLCA) benefit. This has been designed for families where one parent stops working or significantly reduces their professional activities to take care of their infants or toddlers. As a parent, you can claim this allowance for up to six months for your first child. However, from the second baby onwards, it is paid until the month preceding your child’s third birthday. The amount may be anywhere between €145 (US$170; £130) and €390 (US$460; £350), depending on the amount of time you worked. To be eligible for this benefit, you should have contributed to a retirement fund for no less than eight trimesters in the last two years for the first child, four years for the second and five years for more than two children.
Childcare facilities in France are among the best in the world, which is may be why the percentage of working mothers in this country is the highest across Europe. Public childcare in France is funded by the state, and fees are calculated based on your financial situation. Even expats are given the choice between two government-aided childcare programs – Crèche Collective or Crèche Familiale.
As the name suggests, Crèche Collective is a type of pre-school setup for children between the ages of three months and three years, and includes crèches, micro crèches, stop garderies and multi-reception structures. Around eight to 10 professionals look after a group of about 30 children. These facilities must comply with the local regulations. They generally operate from 7.30am to 6.30pm. However, waiting lists at the public funded facilities are long, and most expats therefore opt for private services.
The second option, Crèche Familiale, is about getting a professional to look after your children at home. Most professionals accommodate up to four children, and the hours are a lot more flexible. To access this childcare, you have to have an approval from a local authority.
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