Be warned before continuing; possible side effects include impatience, headaches, unhealthy amounts of queuing and sleepless nights (in extreme cases).
The system seems quite straight forward; paperwork has to be filled out and returned to the local CAF office by post, in person or online. But do not be fooled by the simplicity; there is a list of things to watch out for and not to forget if you want your allowance before you come home again…
Before you can even apply:
- You have to have a French bank account - there’s no way round it; no French bank account, no money. Bad times.
- You need a housing contract with your name on it (either private or a university residence) or an ‘attestation de logement’ if in colocation .
- Students need to have proof from your home university and the university that is hosting your, generally just a headed letter stating the exchange programme.
- You need proof that you have paid your rent for the first month (a photocopy of a receipt should be ok for this) so that you can have your payments backdated.
The form itself is the easier (!!!) part, but there are a few bits you need to have to hand before filling it in:
- Your RIB and account number for your new bank account. Normally on a tear-off slip of paper within your account paperwork and has to be sent off with the application and filled in on the form itself.
- The area of your accommodation in square metres. Normally this is given when you rent the accommodation; luckily you most probably won’t have to get out that tape measure…
And finally (deep breath)... there are several niggly bits that you have to remember when sending off the form (most of which I didn’t remember or didn’t know about!):
- A photocopy of everything (literally) - from your passport to your birth certificate to your student loan details; leave no piece of identity paperwork unphotocopied. It’s best just to send everything you have, don't hold back...
- A ‘declaration of honour’ - this needs to be a couple of sentences in French stating your name and that you have sufficient funding. You then need to sign and date the paper in order for it to be valid or it will be returned and you will be annoyed.
- If any changes are made to any of your application by (e.g.) your landlord, they have to sign and date the alteration. If not, the paperwork will annoyingly be returned as invalid and you will be annoyed (again)...
- A translation of your birth certificate, if not born in France, is very handy to have. It is often, but not always, asked for in order to validate your identity alongside the rest of your identification paperwork too.
Yes, I know - you deserve some kind of public recognition, prize or a bloomin' good pat on the back... but for now revel in the fact that if you haven’t fallen into a neurotic state, confined yourself to a dark room or had your forms returned.
You have passed the CAF initiation.
Welcome to French admin: it's going to be a bumpy ride...