French bureaucracy is terrible and I’m here to help make your life easier. As an international student, there are a few daunting administrative procedures you must go through after arriving in France. These include:
- Opening a Bank Account
- Setting up Electricity
- CAF (Housing Allowance)
- Setting up a Mobile Plan
- AMELI (Health Insurance)
opening a bank account
Opening a bank account as an international student is fairly simple but be prepared for long waits depending on the bank you’ve chosen and the time you’ve applied. Some of the main banks for students include:
- Société Générale
- BNP Paribas
- Crédit Agricole
The first two are more popular amongst students. Though you have the option to apply online, as international students it is quite difficult, and the bank will require you to finish the process in person. Generally, there are two types of cards you can receive as a student, the VISA Electron and the VISA Classic.
Though both are withdrawal and payment cards, the VISA Electron cannot be in a negative balance aka overdraft. The withdrawal and payment limits are also lower than the VISA Classic card. Often times, students receive the VISA Electron but depending on the bank and your advisor, there is the possibility to get the VISA Classic.
If your school offers to help with the process, be prepared to wait longer than expected as the advisors facilitate all new students. I know students who’ve waited 2 months before they received their card, so be weary of this prior to opening an account with the school.
Once your account has been opened, you’ll receive an IBAN/RIB, which is your account number. This will be used for any transactions that require a direct debit.
THINGS TO NOTE:
- Some banks do not facilitate same-day transfer even if it’s from savings to your regular account.
- There are weekly and monthly caps that can only be increased on a month-to-month basis.
- Depositing funds over €500 requires a declaration of source of income. (depends on the bank)
setting up electricity
Unless your rent includes electricity, chances are you’ll have to sign up for your own electricity bill. You can sign up online or by phone, but the process is fairly simple and, in a day, or two you’ll have your own contract. Unfortunately, you won’t have the opportunity to choose your own electricity provider, but the main ones are:
THINGS TO NOTE:
- Bills are sent every 2 months
- Besides consumption, it includes a monthly subscription fee and taxes which usually accounts for most of the bill
- Expect to pay around €40 – €60. This is an average and is based on your personal consumption, especially during winter
caf (HOUSING ALLOWANCE)
CAF is a housing allowance paid by the French government to those who qualify for it. International students are applicable to receive CAF regardless of their accommodation situation. (i.e. living alone, colocation, student residence)
In order to qualify for CAF, you must have:
- Valid student visa and OFII (residence permit)
- Low income: less than €12,000 per year.
- Qualified Housing: the accommodation you choose must be applicable to receive CAF.
- French bank account (IBAN)
THINGS TO NOTE:
- It is very important to verify your housing with your landlord, before signing your lease.
- Income declared to CAF must be two years prior. If you apply in 2020, then you declare your income from 2018.
- Payments from CAF always start from the following month:
Example: If your lease starts in August, and you apply in September, then you receive aid from October. If you apply in August, then you receive aid from September.
- Apply for CAF online, as soon as you sign your lease and open your bank account. CAF does not backdate payments if you apply late.
- If your school offers to help with the procedure, apply online then submit the documents via your school
- Complete the simulation to know your expected payment
- Do not depend on CAF as a source of income as it is very unpredictable and can stop at any time for different reasons.
- If you live in a colocation, then every member of the house must qualify and apply for CAF in order for you to receive it.
setting up a mobile plan
There are many mobile phone providers in France costing as little as €10 per month. These include:
- Bouygues Telecom
Most students opt for Free or Sosh as they offer good value for money. However, Sosh offers better mobile coverage as it’s operated by Orange which is the leading provider in France.
To apply for a mobile plan, you can either apply online or in person. Plans range from €10 to €50 based on the mobile operator and amount of data chosen. For instance, you can get 100GB for €16 per month with Sosh. You may not need all this data, but it’s always good to have it.
ameli (health insurance)
As a foreign student, it is obligatory that you sign up for health insurance in France. This allows reimbursement of any health costs during your stay and usually covers around 75% of the bill. Once you apply and your application is verified, you’ll receive a temporary number and certificate. This certificate and a treatment form can be used for reimbursements till you receive your permanent number. Once you’ve received it, you can then apply for a Carte Vitale which eliminates the need for the form, and you’ll receive your reimbursement within a week.
THINGS TO NOTE:
- Some doctors may not require the form and once you present the certificate, you’ll only pay 25% of the costs
- It can take 5+ months to receive your permanent number
If you’d like to know the documents required for each of these procedures, then click here.
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