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The family benefits you can claim

The Local, Apr 19

As a parent living in France with one or more children you may have access to many, many different kinds of family benefits out there. Here's our guide to them.

Any foreign person legally living in France with one or more dependent children is entitled to family benefits just as a French family is.

But many who move to France miss out on the financial help they are entitled to because either they just didn't know about it or perhaps they didn't know how to claim it or speak the language well enough to do it.

"Foreigners often don't realise they have access to family benefits and it's probably the area of benefits most relevant to foreigners moving to France because they are often relocating their whole family," Tracy Leonetti, a relocation and paperwork expert in France told The Local.

As with other types of benefits in France, for non-Europeans access to them depends on your legal status but anyone with working and residency permits (Carte de sejour) can access benefits in the same way as French residents.

Let's start with the CAF

The CAF stands for ‘Caisse des Allocations Familiales’ and it's essential to know this name because it's the government body that helps families by offering different services and benefits which start from early childhood, including crèche, childcare centres, education, holidays, family allowances, pregnancy benefits and housing benefits.

So even if you have a (very understandable) aversion to getting involved with yet more paperwork in France, it's definitely worth the hassle.

The amount they are worth usually changes on April 1st and you can see an overview of the 2017-2018 amounts HERE.

Many of these, though not all, are means-tested.

It's also worth noting that pregnant women should inform the CAF of their pregnancy in the first 14 weeks to ensure they benefit from the financial help available. Their doctor should complete the necessary documents for this. The sooner, the better, Leonetti said.

You might be entitled to them for longer than you think

"Child benefits" or "family benefits" start right from birth.

Some types of family benefits can continue right up until your offspring is 20 although only if the parents' earnings do not exceed 55 percent of the minimum monthly wage known as the SMIC in France, which is currently €1,480.27.

Documents

"It doesn't matter if you've only just arrived in France," said relocation expert Tracy Leonetti. "But make sure you have your documents."

With that in mind, here's a basic list of what you'll need to apply for your family benefits: Passport or Carte de séjour, recent proof of address (EDF), birth certificates with affiliation for every member of the family, social security attestation, tax documents, appropriate CERFA document and your bank RIB.

And finally, remember to be patient. You need to already have a French social security number and once you've applied, it can take three months to a year to start getting the payments (and even longer if the forms aren't filled out properly).

But it's worth hanging in there because under certain conditions it's possible to have benefits back paid for two years.

For more information on family benefits you can go to the CAF government website where you can also do an online simulation to see how much you might be entitled to.

What kinds of benefits are there?

There are many, many different kinds of benefits for families in France and they can be divided up into three categories: basic allowances, birth and early childcare allowances and special allowances.

Let's take a look at them.

Basic allowances

Child benefit (Allocations familiales)

Child benefits or family benefits (allocations familiales in French) is means-tested and can be applied for once you have two children in France.

"The French love families with children which shows in the way the benefits work," said relocation expert Tracy Leonetti.

Flat-rate allowance (Allocation forfaitaire)

Another kind of benefit called the flat-rate allowance goes to families with at least three children whose benefits will go down when one of their children turns 20 (the age limit for child benefit) and is not earning more than the monthly minimum wage.

To qualify for it, the family must be entitled to child benefit for at least three children, including the child who has reached their 20th birthday. 

Family income supplement (Complément de revenu familial)

This one is means-tested benefit which goes to families with at least three children aged three to 21.

In 2017, this came to either €169.87 or €237.89 per month, depending on income.

Birth and early childcare allowances

In 2004 the French government came up with the PAJE (Prestations d’accueil de jeune enfant) which is essentially a set of benefit that simplifies the lives of new parents in France by helping with the cost of a new child in the family.

French parents reported to name police for calling their baby Jihad

Birth/Adoption grant (Prime à la Naissance)

This means-tested allowance is paid at birth or when a child under 20 is adopted.

In 2017, the grant amounted to €927.71 for a birth and €1,855.42 for an adoption which is meant to cover the expenses related to the birth or adoption of a child.

Don't forget that if you have a mutuelle (health insurance) it often pays out a lump sum when your child is born. You'll need to contact them.

Basic allowance - (Allocation de base en cas de naissance ou en cas d'adoption)

The basic allowance helps with the child's maintenance and education expenses and is paid after the birth or adoption grant.

It is a means-tested benefit with payments starting from the date of the birth right up until the last day of the month before their third birthday.

In the case of adoption, the basic allowance is paid during the three years following the child's arrival, provided that they are under 20.

Shared child-rearing benefit - (Prestation partagée d'éducation de l'enfant - PreParE

For any children born after the end of December 2014, the PreParE (Prestation partagée d'education de l'enfant) and there are conditions for attribution of this (ie certain social contributions).

The shared child-rearing benefit allows one or both parents to reduce their working hours or stop working altogether to care for any children under three.

Supplement to free up your choice of childcare - (Complément de libre choix du mode de garde or CMG)

Called the Complément de libre choix du mode de garde or CMG in French, this supplement is paid to a couple or parent using the services of a registered childminder to help take care for a child younger than six.

And also remember to declare in your annual tax declaration what you have spent on childcare costs as it will men a reduction in your tax bill.


Special benefits

The government also provides several benefits which are designed to be used for special purposes.

Here they are.

Education allowance for a disabled child - (Allocation d'éducation de l'enfant handicapé/ AEEH)

This is called the Allocation d'éducation de l'enfant handicapé (AEEH) in French.

It's a non-means tested allowance paid to parents of a severely disabled child under 20.

In order to access it, your child needs to have a permanent disability rating of at least 80 percent if they live at home and between 50 percent and 80 percent if they have institutional care or care at home.

The amount of the allowance is currently €130.51 per month.

On top of that, children with a disability rating of at least 80 percent are eligible for an extra allowance, with the amount varying according to their needs or degree of disability. Payments range from around €97.88 to €1,107.49.

Back-to-school allowance - (Allocation de rentrée scolaire - ARS)

Anyone with a child aged between six and 18 could be eligible for this one, with the allowance going to families whose income is below a certain level.

It's paid as a lump sum in August just in time for the new school year and ranges from €365.91 to €399.48.

The Back to School allowance is paid out in August automatically if you are already receiving CAF benefits and are eligible.

Daily parental attendance allowance - (Allocation journalière de présence parentale - AJPP)

Called the Allocation journalière de présence parentale (AJPP) in French, this daily parental attendance allowance is there for anybody looking after a child under 20 and suffering from a disease or severe handicap that needs constant assistance.

You need to have to take time off work and be granted parent's attendance leave, with the amount currently set at €43.35 if the person receiving it is part of a couple and €51.51 for a single parent.

Family housing allowance - (Allocation de logement familiale - ALF)

If you need help covering your housing costs, this is the benefit you'll be after.

Payment of the allowance is based on the characteristics of the property where the family lives, with the size and condition of the home taken into account, as well as the rent paid and your income.

Moving allowance - (Prime déménagement)

The moving allowance is a means-tested benefit given to families with at least three children who are entitled to housing benefits for their new home.

And it's well worth having, with the maximum amount of the allowance €978.82 for families with 3 children, plus €81.57 for each additional child.

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