Many families with small children who relocate to France are unaware that they have the option of claiming specific CAF benefits. You may have heard of the infamous CAF, and you may even be in the process of claiming some of your benefits right now, or you may have just received another letter from them requesting what you believe to be the same information.
The stress factor might be triggered simply by hearing the word CAF. It is well-known for being a difficult office to work with, and applications for non-French-speaking citizens are frequently challenging. On the plus side, once your file has been confirmed by the CAF, you will receive your benefits every month and everything will run smoothly. In addition, under certain circumstances, you may be eligible for up to two years of back pay for the family allowance! Isn’t that a great motivator? The CAF benefits about 11 million people, as I point out to many of my customers. You, too, can make it through the procedure if they did!
The goal is to provide you with an overview of some of their services as well as answers to some of the most often asked questions so that you can take the first step and file your claim.
1. What is the CAF?
The CAF (Caisse des Allocations Familiales) is a government agency that assists families by providing a variety of services and benefits, including early childhood education, crèches, halte garderies, schooling, holidays, family allowances, pregnancy benefits, and housing assistance. Many of these advantages are revenue-tested, while others aren’t.
2. How can I contact the CAF?
The easiest approach to gather general information is to visit their official website, www.caf.fr, which contains a wealth of useful information. You can also replicate your circumstances before starting the application procedure to check if you qualify for the benefit and download all of the necessary forms. Unfortunately, while the material is excellent, it is only available in French, so make sure you have Google Translate open or ask for assistance! The application forms are also available. The CAF can be located in most towns, and their opening hours are shorter in villages.
3. What is a Numéro d’Allocataire?
When you apply for any of the benefits when you arrive in France, you will be required to submit a particular amount of documents. CAF number will be mailed to you. It’s a seven-digit code. This number is required for all telephone and postal communications with the CAF.
4. What is a Code Confidentiel and how do I get one?
You’ll need your confidential code if you wish to get updates on your file and have simple access to the CAF over the phone. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that you won’t get a confidential code until your CAF file is approved, which can take a long time depending on the benefit you’re seeking for. In the meanwhile, you must call the CAF call center as a “non-allocataire” until you receive this code. Once you have the confidential code, go to mon compte on the main CAF page to access your personal file, which includes your most recent payments, emails, and access to any CAF statements that the school may want.
5. Can I just go and see the CAF?
You can queue to speak with an advisor in CAF offices that do not have an appointment system. You’ll need patience because you could have to wait a while. Since September 2014, various CAF offices have implemented an appointment system to reduce wait times. While this helps to reduce wait times, it has made it more difficult to actually see someone at the CAF. Previously, you could stroll into one of the offices, wait your turn, and speak with someone even if your French was weak. Now you must use the telephone system, and if your French isn’t up to par, it can be tough to communicate with the CAF operator, which can be stressful.
6. What services does the CAF provide
A list of all the numerous services provided by the CAF may be found on the main page of their website at www.caf.fr. We don’t have enough room to go through all of the advantages, but the website is truly rather good. Regrettably, it’s entirely in French! The following is a list of the primary services they offer:
• Services for young children (PAJE)
• Family Allowance (allocations familiales)
• School Grants (allocation de rentrée scolaire)
• Housing Benefits (allocation logement)
• Moving Grant (la prime de déménagement)
• Supplementary Benefits (RSA)
Documents to provide when you apply:
The list will vary depending on whatever benefit you are looking for, but as a starting point, you should have at least the following documents on hand, which you will need to supplement based on the benefit you are applying for:
• Passport or Carte de séjour
• Recent Proof of Address (EDF)
• Birth certificates with affiliation for every member of the family
• Social Security attestation
• Tax documents (Avis d’impostion)
• Appropriate CERFA document
• Bank RIB
Finally, when it comes to French bureaucracy, I advise my clients to follow the rule “more is better.”