CAF, or La caisse d’allocations familiales is a subsidized housing benefit available to all legal residents of France. If you have a valid working visa, live in a legit housing situation with a lease and a landlord, and you have made zero to little money in the past two years, you should be eligible to receive CAF once you receive your carte de séjour at your OFII appointment.
However, you should start your application right away, even before your OFII appointment, because you will still be reimbursed later. For example, if you moved into your apartment in October, start your application in October, even if your OFII appointment isn’t until December, because you will still be reimbursed. If you move into your apartment in October but do not start your application until December, you will not be reimbursed for the months of October and November.
You can fill out a CAF application here. Now, almost everything is online. Overall, the application is pretty straight forward. When submitting your CAF paperwork, you will also be asked for several additional documents, including:
- Passport Identity Pages
- Copies of your visa WITH your OFII stamp (or carte de séjour)- you will probably have your OFII appointment after you’ve started the application process for CAF, so you can turn that in later
- a RIB
- Your first pay stub (Keep in mind that this first pay stub will have both October/November included on one pay stub, so it may look like you are making more money than you actually are. Consider having your secretary, head of school, or someone else write and sign a paper explaining your actual monthly income. Or, turn in your December pay stub along with your Oct./Nov. one.
- Your net earnings for the past two years (ie: Bring your tax returns from the US, or simply declare “Absence de Ressources.”)
You can usually just scan and upload these forms to the website. Otherwise, you can make copies and drop them off at the CAF office.
There are two important documents you must include with your CAF application:
- Déclaration de ressources:
CAF is based off the income you had two years ago. Technically, you are supposed to claim all foreign funds. But because I was a student and wasn’t making enough money to be taxed in the US, I simply ticked the box for absence de ressources en 20–. (and wrote “étudiant” next to it). Otherwise, you will need to include your earnings from abroad.
Keep in mind that once the new year rolls around in January, you will be required to fill out and submit this form again, but for the new year.
2. Attestation de Loyer
This is a document to be filled out by your landlord, and then you upload it on the site.
Once everything is turned in, the waiting game begins. Eventually, CAF will provide a numéro d’allocation along with a password for your account (do not lose these!)
Eventually, you will be paid all of your CAF money in a lump sum, and then receive monthly payments on the 5th of each month.
In my first apartment, I did not qualify for CAF since it was under the table rent, however, I did qualify once I moved into my second apartment. I turned in my paperwork at the end of January 2014 and received my first payment in March 2014, directly into my bank account. When I left Toulon to go back to the US for the summer, I physically went into CAF to let them know and to stop payments. Then, upon arriving in the north of France three months later, I logged into my account, plugged in my new address, and my dossier was automatically sent to Valenciennes (and then in June 2015, to Lille). Eventually, I was sent forms to fill out and update my file, and always received payments shortly thereafter.
To close your CAF permanently, you must send a letter notifying them of your moving date, the month to stop payments, and your new address. Remember, March CAF is paid in April, so don’t lose any money you may be entitled to!)
CAF is random and frustrating, and no two experience are the same. I received payments within two months but others waited close to seven. My biggest piece of advice is not to rely on CAF, or assume you are going to get CAF. Do not rent an apartment you cannot afford to pay for without CAF, because it can take a LONG time to get reimbursed. Not to mention the French economy is awful, and CAF payments have been reduced all around.
You can find your local CAF office by typing in your zip code on the CAF website.
Do you have any CAF horror or success stories? Share them below.