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French paperwork 101-justificatif

France is the land of paperwork. Justificatifs and attestations are parts of the landscape. This guide describes in details the documents you need when you live in France.

Let’s start with some vocabulary.

Justificatif, attestation and certificat

Un justificatif, une attestation and a certificat are documents used to prove that a fact is true, like who you are or where you live. Un justificatif is a document that is not created to prove that fact. For instance, an electricity bill is a proof of where you live but its first purpose is to bill you for your energy usage. You can therefore use your electricity bill as a justificatif de domicile.

On the contrary, une attestation is a document which sole purpose is to prove a specific fact, like for instance that your house is insured. As an example, attestation titulaire de contrat is the name of the document your electricity provider gives you to prove that you have a contract with them. As a matter of fact, you can use your attestation titulaire de contrat as a justificatif de domicile…have I lost you yet? Examples of attestation are: attestation d’assurance scolaire (school insurance) and attestation d’hébergement (accommodation).

Thirdly, a certificat proves a specific fact but, unlike the attestation, it is an official document signed by an official entity like a university, a doctor or a company. Examples of certificats are: certificat de scolarité (school certificate) or certificat de travail (work certificate).

Now to complicate things further, you might be familiar with attestation de vaccination certifiée for covid-19. It means that the document is an attestation that have been certified with two QR codes.

Justificatif de domicile

Justificatif de domicile is definitely one of the most required French documents. You need to provide a justificatif de domicile to:

A justificatif de domicile is a proof of address and you can use either one of the following documents:

  • quittance de loyer (rent receipt) issued in the past 3 months
  • facture d’eau, d’électricité, de gaz ou de téléphone (water, electricity, gas, or phone bill) issued in the past 3 months
  • attestation d’assurance (insurance policy) issued in the past 3 months
  • dernier avis d’imposition (last tax return)

If you live at someone else’s place, you should provide:

  • attestation d’hébergement (proof of accommodation) signed by the person where you stay. Print a proof of accommodation online for free.
  • justificatif de domicile (proof of address) of the person where you stay, issued in the past 3 months
  • vérification de l’identité (proof of ID) of the person where you stay : passport, French ID

Justificatif de ressources

You can provide any proof of your financial resources as justificatif de ressources. You need to provide a justificatif de ressources to apply for:

Use any document that shows you have financial means, like for instance:

  • paychecks
  • employment contract
  • tax statements

RIB ou relevé d’identité bancaire

A RIB contains your French bank account identification details. You can find RIBs inside your checkbook when you need one or you can print a RIB from your online bank account. A RIB displays the following information:

  • IBAN (International Bank Account Number)
  • BIC (Bank Identifier Code) also called a SWIFT number
  • your name and address

You need to provide your IBAN and BIC/SWIFT numbers when you transfer money from your Wise bank account into your French bank account.

It is very common in France to give your RIB to institutions (La Caf, EDF, CPAM, Mutuelle…) so they can take money directly from your account. When renting a place, your landlord might give you his RIB so you can wire your rent directly into his bank account.

Here’s what my RIB looks like:

RIB contains the details of your French bank account

Attestation de quotient familial

Some French family services ask you to provide your quotient familial. This is the case for:

  • cantine (school cafeteria)
  • centre aéré (day camp)
  • crèches (preschool)

Quotient familial is an amount in euros. Its calculation is based on

  • how much you earn
  • the number of dependents in your household
  • the aids and benefits you receive

Quotient familial reflects your niveau de vie (standard of living).

The higher your quotient familial is, the more you pay for services like cantine (school cafeteria). You need to be an allocataire (benefit recipient) of la Caf (Caisse d’Allocations Familiales) to get your quotient familial (and to claim family benefits). You can get an attestation de quotient familial (proof of quotient familial) on your CAF mon compte (my account) area.

Attestion de quotient familial is a justificatif you need to provide when your kids go to the school cafeteria (cantine).

Quotient familial is re-calculated twice a year (in January and April). La Caf automatically updates your quotient familial every time your situation changes: change of job, divorce, marriage, new baby.

Les impôts (French taxes) also use Quotient familial but it is not the same amount as the quotient familial from la Caf. The calculation for taxes is slightly different and it is calculated only once a year.

Carte Vitale

close-up photo of a carte vitale

Carte Vitale is the French health insurance card for people registered with Assurance Maladie (French Healthcare System). As an American in France, you can enter the French health system after your first 3 months in France. Read Carte Vitale FAQ to know more about carte Vitale.

Acte de naissance (Birth certificate)

You need to provide a birth certificate when you get married, PACSed or divorced in France. Read How to order a U.S. birth certificate online if you need a birth certificate.

Revenu fiscal de référence (Fiscal revenue benchmark)

Revenu fiscal de référence is a number that reflects all the income from French sources for an entire household. It includes non taxable resources. You can find it on your Avis d’Impôt (tax statement), along with nombre de parts (household composition). You need to provide your revenu de référence to determine the amount of aids you can get, like energy saving aids when renovating a house for instance.

French government also uses revenu fiscal de référence to determine if you qualify for some social benefits like bourse des collèges (middle school scholarship). You can be exempted from paying some local taxes if your revenu fiscal de référence is very low.

Attestation d’assurance scolaire (School insurance)

In theory, school insurance is not mandatory for your child as long as he/she does not go to cantine (school cafeteria), garderie (after school programs) or any extracurricular activity. In reality, most children enrolled in a French school have to provide an attestation d’assurance scolaire at the beginning of the school year. This applies to écoles primaires (primary schools), collèges (middle school) and lycées (high schools).

Assurance scolaire covers:

  1. Responsabilité civile (liability insurance) to cover the cost of injuries caused by your child.
  2. Garantie accidents corporels (corporal injury insurance) to cover injuries incurred by your child.

If you already have a home insurance, there are good chances that it includes liability insurance for your children. The price of school insurance is pretty low (around 15€ a year) and you can purchase it from any insurer or from student-parents organizations.

A Cerfa is an official French fill-out form

What’s a Cerfa?

Cerfa is an official French fill-out form. You will certainly have to fill out many Cerfas in your French life. Every Cerfa is identified by a five-digit ID number followed by a two-digit number for the revision.

A Cerfa is comprised of an ID and a revision number
A Cerfa form has two parts, an ID number followed by a revision number

There are hundreds of Cerfas and here’s a couple of situations when you’ll need a Cerfa:

  • Cerfa 10798*04 for an attestation d’accueil (certificate of staying with a friend or relative)
  • Cerfa 12753*03 to apply for French citizenship

Some online services can generate a Cerfa form for you. For instance this online questionnaire from Service Public automatically fills out Cerfa 13750*07 to register your car.

Now that you’re more familiar with French paperwork, how about you learn the 6 most useful French official websites.

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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