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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’re 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.

If you need 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.

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 is a thirteen-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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24 thoughts on “Apply for carte Vitale in 3 steps”

  1. I have received my temporary social security number 5 years ago. Still waiting for a permanent number and the card.
    Does anyone knows of a lawyer who speaks English and can help me.
    They refuse to give me appointments or talk to me.
    I am in Tours
    Thanks everone

  2. I sent my paperwork went to Marseille in very late December 2022 and received my permanent numéro de sécurité sociale on March 13, 2023. There was a 3 week delay on my part because they asked for my marriage license via mail but I was out of town. Today I called the 3646 number to get help with my Ameli account and had that set up in no time. According the lovely lady helping me at 3646, I will get the paper form to send in for my Carte Vitale in the next two or three days. (I was unable to upload my photo to my application online.) It was much faster than I expected. I think finding a médecin traitant in Aix will be harder.

    • Congrats Gina, that was super fast!
      Thank you for your feedback, it’s very reassuring for people living around Marseille!
      Regarding a médecin traitant, start your search today and ask around (you could start asking your local pharmacy, see if they can recommend someone).
      Good luck Gina and keep us posted!

          • I am a little worried that something has gone wrong. Today I received a letter, same letterhead as all other written correspondence. But this time it contains my maiden name and instead of the 3646 number to call for help, it sends me to 3422. I called the latter number and told the woman that I was concerned that suddenly my name was changed to my maiden name (Mon nom ou celui de mon ayant droit:) and that it could pose problems since ALL my documents are written with my married name and none of them have my maiden name. The woman insisted this was how it is in France and that all communications with Sécurité Sociale would be with my maiden name. However, the four prior letters have my married name. I understand French fine, even on the phone, so I am sure this is what she told me. A local friend has hers in her married name. The only difference is, although we are both American, I was born in France and have a French birth certificate. I am not a French citizen. Am I in big trouble here?

          • Hi Gina,
            Don’t worry, this is exactly the way it works for women in France (or anyone who changes name really). Your maiden name stays your name forever for French administration.
            This is an issue for most American women as the only name that French administration will refer to is the one from your birth certificate.
            I’m not sure why your American friend is able to use her married name with CPAM but most women don’t.
            Make sure you carry one document with both your maiden name and your married name on it (marriage certificate) to be able to prove your ID.
            I will write an article about this shortly. It was weird for me as well to suddenly have official French documents with my birth name on them, when I have been using my married name for almost 30 years!

  3. This is tremendously helpful – thank you!

    One question – I am a French national (although I’ve never lived in France), my kids are citizens too and my marriage is registered with the French government (& noted in my livre de famille). We are moving to France for the first time ever (likely not forever, but who knows!). You mentioned that French nationals and their spouses qualify for the French health care system immediately. Do you know if this means that we can start the paperwork and application process prior to actually landing in France?

    Many thanks!

    • Hi Maureen,

      I’m sorry but it was actually an oversight on my part and I removed that sentence from the article. As a French National, you still have to be living in France for 3 months before you can apply for Assurance Maladie, unless you work in France. Are you going to be working in France?

  4. Excellent details on the process, but your timeline doesn’t seem realistic from what I’ve experienced and other expats I know have been through. Especially this: “After you applied, you can expect to receive a temporary social security number in around three weeks.” I delivered my meticulously assembled dossier to the CPAM office here in Paris on Dec. 10, 2021. My good friends delivered their documents the same place, the same way — in person — a week before. Neither of us has heard a word from CPAM; no temporary number, no acknowledgement our paperwork had been received nor any questions/requests for additional information and documents. Should we do anything or just wait it out? I’m saving my feuille de soins and paying out of pocket for doctor visits and medications and wondering when my coverage starts — on receipt of my application or when I get my attestation de droits. Thanks for all you write about!

    • Hi Valerie,
      Delays have been getting even longer with covid. I’ll update my article to reflect that.
      You are doing the right thing by saving your feuilles de soins. You can try calling CPAM around the end of January to try to get an update.
      That said, if your friends experience the same delays, then there is not much you can do other than waiting it out…:-(
      I would really appreciate if you could send me your timeline once it’s over so I have a better idea of the time it takes.
      Thank you for your valuable feedback Valerie! Have a great day!

    • Hi Valerie,

      Have you received your temporary social security number yet? Because I am planning on applying for my wife and child as well in early March 😖

      Hi Nathalie,

      Thank you very much for the guideline, really helped me a lot in finding the necessary forms, especially for the English ones! 🙏With regards to the IBAN information for my wife’s application, do you think the CPAM can accept my bank identity (not a joint account)? If they need a specific one in the name of my wife, she actually has opened a WISE account with IBAN. However there is no “official” bank detail, all I got is just an account detail that I can screenshot from its app. Do you think that the WISE account is acceptable (as long as there is a reference to IBAN)? Thank you 🙏🙏

      • Hi Eldo,

        I am really not sure that CPAM will accept a Wise account for your wife. Many French institutions only accept French IBAN.
        I think it’s safer to attach your own RIB to her application. For the long term, I advise that she opens a French bank account in her own name.
        Good luck Eldo!

  5. Hello! Thank God for you. Applying for the Assurance Maladie. Our first month in France we lived a friend. Then we have a lease for the next 7 months to prove domicile. Do we have to supply the form that my friend would fill out for being in her home for a month? Or will our lease, despite not starting until a month after our arrival be accepted (and does our lease need to be translated?)? And, if my friend does have to fill out form, none of us can figure out how to get it to print out. Thank you!

    • Hi Laura!
      You cannot apply to Assurance Maladie before you have been in France for three months unless you are married to a French national or you are on a work visa. Do you qualify for the three-month exemption?

      • as of January 23 we will have been here for 3 months. 1 month with a friend, and the following 7 months on a lease. We arrived October 23, and started our lease december 1. thank you!

  6. Excellent article, and from what I’ve seen so far, all your articles are excellent! My Carte Vitale took TWO years. Why?
    Because I’m near Nice, the fonctionnaires have a working knowledge of English, and don’t always require translated documents. In my case, my NY birth certificate had my birthdate in all digits: (Feb 4) 2/4/19xx. But even though I wrote a letter explaining my birthdate was February 4, they read my birthdate as April 2 (European style). I had to correct them. Then a couple months later when I got my Attestation de Droits de Santé, I saw they again had the wrong birthdate of April 2, so I had to correct them again. Finally, I get a letter saying I have a Carte Vitale. Except I noticed the digits in my numéro de Sécu were wrong… again, the digits were based on the April 2 date! Ugh. So I finally sent them a translation of my New York birth certificate and the error was fixed (3 times in all). All’s good!

    • French bureaucracy can be overwhelming at times to say the least. I am glad you figured it out Janice! One thing I learned is to not give up and try calling again until you find the person who will do what it takes to fix the issue. I also try to pause and celebrate once I get things sorted out before moving on to the next step 🙂


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