Health insurance and complementary health coverage

First of all, you must check whether your circumstances entitle you to state health insurance, or whether an agreement has been signed between your home country and France.
If you are entitled to state health insurance, it is highly recommended to take out complementary health insurance, known as “mutuelle”.

Step 1 - Check whether you need to register for French state health insurance

The conditions for entitlement to French state health insurance, also known as social security, depend on your nationality, your status and your circumstances.
Registering for French state health insurance, known as "affiliation", will be compulsory, unless there is a bilateral agreement between France and your home country - but not everything is automatic!

Find out how to register depending on your status:

Step 2 - Obtain a better rate of reimbursements for your healthcare costs

This concerns you if you are registered for French state health insurance (CPAM or MGEN) or if you are a student with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or a RAMQ form

Health insurance does not cover all your medical expenses; the rate of reimbursement depends on the type of treatment.

To obtain a better rate of reimbursement for your healthcare costs, it is highly recommended to take out complementary health insurance, also called “mutuelle”.
Good to know
If you are registered with French state health insurance (CPAM or MGEN), remember to declare a referring or primary doctor to your health insurance organization; this ensures you get a better rate of reimbursement.
> Get a better rate of reimbursement by declaring a referring doctor
> Find out more about referring doctors

Step 3 - Obtain your social security number

This concerns you if you are registered for French state health insurance (CPAM or MGEN).

When you register for the first time, the French state health insurance system must give you a unique social security number; this process is called “immatriculation”.
It includes a number of checks on your civil status and your residency status, and requires you to supply a birth certificate (or equivalent document) and a valid residence permit.

The registration process can take several months, so it is important to provide all the documents requested and have them translated if necessary, so that you can obtain your permanent social security number as quickly as possible.
> How to find a sworn translator

Pending issuance of your unique (or permanent) social security number, you will be given a temporary number enabling you to be reimbursed if you have a health problem.

Step 4 - Get your health card (“carte Vitale”)

You can get a health card if you have obtained your unique (or permanent) social security number.
If you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), a RAMQ form, an Andorran form or a Monegasque form, or if you are covered by a private health insurance policy, you cannot obtain a health card.

What is the health card used for?

Your health card contains all the information required to reimburse your healthcare expenses, and enables you to be reimbursed automatically without having to send a request.
You can also use your health card to provide healthcare professionals with proof of your entitlement to French state health insurance.
So it is not compulsory, but it does make life simpler.

If you do not have one yet, you can prove your entitlement to French state health insurance by means of your certificate on which shows your (temporary or permanent) social security number, and must request reimbursements of your healthcare expenses by post.

Apply for your health card

The procedure depends on your management organization (CPAM or MGEN).
You can check which organization applies to you by looking at your health insurance certificate.

If you are registered with the CPAM, you can order your health card by filling in the printed form you will have received by post, or by creating an Ameli account and submitting it online.
> Go to the CPAM website to find out more (section on “Your first health card when you arrive in France)

If you are registered with the MGEN, you can order your health card online via your personal area, using a specific form.
> To find out more, contact your MGEN advisor or visit the MGEN website
 

Update your information and report any changes in your circumstances

Once you have submitted your application to register with the French state health insurance system, you must report any changes in your circumstances (change of address, new bank account, residence permit renewal, end of your studies or research period, etc.) and remember to check your personal details at least once a year.
If you forget, or you do not respond to the health insurance organization when it contacts you, your rights could be suspended!

It is particularly important to report any changes of address, because health insurance organizations still often write to people by printed post.

If you have already obtained your permanent social security number
Update your Ameli online account if you are registered with the CPAM or your personal area if you are registered with the MGEN.
Once your updated information has been saved in your online account, you can update your health card ("carte Vitale") at any pharmacy or at your health insurance office.

If you have a temporary social security number
Contact your health insurance organization (CPAM or MGEN) to notify it of any change, and keep track of the process of creating your permanent number.
Published on  January 7, 2021
Updated on February 7, 2022