Mandatory health insurance

What should I remember?

Updated August 2020    4-minutes read

Updated August 2020    4-min read

Health insurance is mandatory in France and understanding it works can be quite a pickle, even for French citizens! Don’t worry though, we’ll walk you through what’s essential: how can you apply, how much is it, what does it cover…

We will also introduce you to the Carte Vitale and explain why you should always carry it with you 😊

Here is a quick recap’ of what you need to remember:

  • Registration to the French Healthcare is mandatory if you are staying more than 3 months.
  • Registration is free. Once registered, you will receive a ‘Carte Vitale‘, a physical card with a chip in it that you use to identify yourself for healthcare.
  • Registration is done online, application is available in English, Spanish and French. A tutorial has also been translated in Mandarin and Arabic.
Online registration
Health Insurance

How does it work? How can I apply?

Healthcare in France

France has a universal healthcare system. It’s managed by the Ministry of Health and supplemented by private insurers. Health insurance is mandatory for all citizens, whether they’re employed or not.

France also requires all foreigners or long-term visitors (more than 3 months) to have health coverage. This coverage provides access to the typical health insurance that all French citizens receive. EU citizens may opt for the European health insurance card instead.

Mandatory vs complementary health insurance

The mandatory health insurance, administered through the French Social Security office, covers up to 70% of services for all typical health care needs, including general practitioners, hospitals, dentists, and pharmacy costs.

To pay for additional services like chiropractors or long-term care at private hospitals, or to cover the remaining 30% of the basic care, you can purchase private insurance: that’s the complementary health insurance.

How can I apply?

Mandatory health insurance is free and registration is done online, via a website dedicated to international students that is available in both French and English.

Registration is done in two steps, you will first get a temporary certificate. The processing of your file may take time (more than a month) but don’t worry, you will be covered from the moment you receive your temporary certificate.

Carte Vitale and social security number

Once you have registered for French health insurance, you will receive a “social security number” and a “carte vitale”. What are those, you may ask?

• Your “social security number” is your ID number for the healthcare system. It proves that you are registered to the French mandatory health insurance and that your health care expenses are covered, up to 70%. Your “social security number” will be frequently requested by the French administration (e.g. if you decide to sign up for complementary health insurance).

• Your “Carte Vitale” is a physical card with a chip in it that you use to identify yourself for healthcare. It has your photo on it as well. You’ll use this at your GP’s office, dentist, when buying glasses and for other health-related expenses.

Download our documentation

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