Apply for carte Vitale in 3 steps

Read this comprehensive guide to learn how to apply for carte Vitale in 3 steps:

  1. Apply for Assurance Maladie to get a numéro de sécurité sociale (permanent social security number)
  2. Create your Ameli account
  3. Order your carte Vitale

If you are not familiar with the French healthcare system, read Assurance Maladie (French healthcare system) first. Otherwise, let’s dive right in.

Apply for Assurance Maladie

When to apply for Assurance Maladie

When you move to France from the United States, you need to use a private health insurance for the first three months. By law, all residents in France must be covered by Assurance Maladie. Consequently, after residing in France for 3 months, you have to register with the French healthcare system. If you are on a visitor visa, make sure you read French VLS-TS visitor visa because Puma might not apply in this case.

If you work in France, your enrollment into the French healthcare system is done through your job and the three-month period does not apply to you.

To get health insurance for your first months in France, read Travel Insurance for French Visa or get the E or F plan from ACS.

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Who applies for Assurance Maladie?

French employers apply for Assurance Maladie on behalf of their new employees. Self-employed persons are automatically entered into the French healthcare system at the time they register their business.

If you don’t work, you should apply on your own. Keep reading to find out how to apply.

How to apply for Assurance Maladie?

People who don’t work should fill out a Demande d’ouverture des droits a l’Assurance Maladie form or Cerfa #15763*02 (read What’s a Cerfa? if you’re not familiar with this French type of document).

Mail the form to your local CPAM (Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie). Use the English version Application for membership in the French health care system if you prefer.

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Required documents to apply for Assurance Maladie

Here is the list of documents to send along the form:

Once you start benefiting from the French healthcare system, you have to participate in its funding. Therefore, you have to pay contributions to Urssaf (Union de recouvrement des cotisations de sécurité sociale et d’allocations familiales). Urssaf is a branch of Sécurité Sociale that collects contributions to the healthcare system.

Numéro de sécurité sociale (Social security number)

After sending your application, you will receive a temporary French social security number. Be aware that you cannot use your temporary number to create your Ameli account.

Most mutuelles let you enroll with a temporary social security number. Make sure you read How to find the best mutuelle before shopping around for a mutuelle.

Your temporary number allows you to be reimbursed for your medical expenses. Every time you go to the doctor, the pharmacy or the lab, you will receive a feuille de soins. You have to mail your feuille de soins to your local CPAM until you have a Vitale card.

Did you know?
A French social security number is very different from an American social security number. It is only used by the healthcare system and some government agencies like Pole Emploi. A French bank will not ask for it when you open an account. In France, you never provide the last four digits of your social security number to prove your identity.

The French social security number, also called a NIR (numéro d’inscription au répertoire) is a 13-digit number.

11 for males and 2 for females
2-3year you were born
4-5month you were born
6-799 (for people not born in France)
8-10country code
11-13extra code for people born at the same place on the same day

How to create an Ameli account online

An Ameli account gives you access to the details of all of your reimbursements from Assurance Maladie. You can make all your Assurance Maladie inquiries online very easily from your Ameli account.

Once you get your permanent social security number, you are ready to create your personal account on Ameli. Go to Ameli and click on Compte Ameli.

create your Ameli account after you get your carte Vitale

On the next page, click on Je crée mon compte.

screenshot of Ameli account creation

Fill out your name (maiden name if married), social security #, birthdate (dd/mm/yyyy) and zipcode. 

screenshot of fields to fill out for Ameli account creation

Click on Continuer.

Some people get an error message at this point because they need an extra code from CPAM. If you get the error message, call the CPAM English helpline (09 74 75 36 46) and they will provide an additional 4-digit passcode to create your Ameli account.

CPAM English helpline is 09 74 75 36 46 (from France) and 0033 974 75 36 46 (from other countries). Call 36 46 to reach the regular (French-speaking) CPAM.

Apply for carte Vitale

If you are not sure what a Vitale card is or how to use it, read What is carte Vitale?

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Apply for carte Vitale online

You can easily order your Vitale card from your Ameli account. Go to Mes démarches >> Commander une carte Vitale.

screeshot of carte vitale order in Ameli

You will be asked to send a picture and a proof of id. Once you do, you should receive your card by mail within two weeks.

Apply for carte Vitale by mail

If you’d rather order your card by mail, use the Ma nouvelle carte Vitale form. You should have received that form shortly after getting your permanent social security number. Make sure your personal info is correct and glue a picture where indicated. Send a copy of your ID along with your form in the provided envelope. If everything goes according to plan, you should get your card within 3 weeks.

Waiting for carte Vitale

While waiting for your Vitale card, you can check the status of your order on your Ameli account in Mes démarches >> Suivre ma commande de carte Vitale.

Use your attestation de carte Vitale (Vitale card certificate) whenever you need proof of coverage. In order to get your attestation, go to Mes démarches >> Télécharger >> Attestation de droits (download my card certificate).

screenshot of coverage certificate download on Ameli

After you received your carte Vitale

You received your card and you are now enrolled into the French healthcare system. Take a break and celebrate!

It is important that the information stored on your card stays up-to-date. Update your carte Vitale regularly, preferably once a year. Remember to update it also after you switch médecin traitant or change your mutuelle. Most pharmacies provide a borne multi-services (carte Vitale updating machine) to their customers to update their card.

Keep the piece of paper sent along with your card as it lists the information stored on your card.

Once you managed to get into the French healthcare system, you should consider getting a top-up insurance or mutuelle. If you are not sure whether you should purchase a mutuelle or not, read 4 Reasons to get a Mutuelle Santé.

When you are ready to shop for a mutuelle, read How to Find the Best Mutuelle first.


Nathalie Nahmani

About Nathalie Nahmani

Nathalie is the creator of ma French Life. She moved back to France after living in Los Angeles for 20 years. She writes practical articles to help expats in France. Nathalie lives with her family in the French Alps near Grenoble.

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28 thoughts on “Apply for carte Vitale in 3 steps”

  1. Hello,

    Thank you for your very informative article!
    One thing I continue to be confused about though, is whether a U.S birth certificate need to be less than 3 -6 months old and if it needs an apostille for the purpose of applying for social security number and carte vitale. Could you shed more light on that? If you already explained this and I somehow missed it, I apologize.

    • Hi Isabel!
      This is actually a tricky question as it depends on your local CPAM and it’s best to ask them directly. When you do, make sure you explain to them that U.S. birth certificates are not altered with life events, unlike French birth certificates.
      Sorry I can’t help more!

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