CAF, or la Caisse des Allocations Familiales, is a type of rental assistance paid to any person in France who qualifies. Because most students living in studio apartments generally have low incomes and high rent in Paris, it is likely that you’ll be able to receive a small stipend to help pay your rent as a student.
In order to receive CAF (sometimes called APL, or Aide Personalisée à la Location), you’ll need to meet the following criteria:
1) Live in an apartment that’s eligible for CAF.
This means that you have a valid, legal lease (of at least 1 year) and that your landlord is declaring the rental income to the tax authorities.
Your landlord has to sign a form to get you approved for CAF, which opens him up to a potential tax inspection. If he’s cheating on his taxes (which a surprising number of French landlords do), he’ll probably refuse to sign. Try to make sure that you’ll be able to get CAF when you visit the apartment, and get it in writing in the lease if you can.
Also, if you live in student housing, such as a foyer or the Cité Universitaire, you may be eligible for CAF.
2) Make very little money in previous years.
You’ll have to provide details about your net income for the previous two years in order to qualify for CAF. While you won’t have a French tax return to submit if you haven’t been living in France, you can either provide a copy of your tax return in your home country for those two years (if you filed one), a copy of your W-2s or other wage statement if you worked, or proof of enrollment in university and of being a dependent of your parents (if you didn’t work). If you do provide these alternative documents, make sure to include a note converting the currency into Euros and explaining your situation.
3) Make very little money currently.
Even if you work part time in France, as a language assistant, for example, you’ll be eligible to receive CAF if you have a very low income. You’ll have to provide details of your job, a copy of your contract, and copies of recent payslips (standard practice is the previous 3 months).
4) Be a student.
While CAF is for anyone in France with low income, students get particular consideration if they are studying full-time. So as long as you’re enrolled full-time in a degree program, make sure to file for CAF as a student, even if you’re also working a bit on the side. Your CAF stipend will probably be slightly more generous that way.
5) Live with other low-income students.
One of the downsides of CAF is that they take into account the incomes of all of the people living in the apartment, even if you’re not related and you split the rent equally. This means that if you live with a professional significant other earning a real salary, s/he can prevent you from being eligible for CAF by virtue of a large income. If you live with other students, you’ll all have to include your past earnings and current income information during the application process.
6) Have a valid carte de séjour or EU passport.
While you can begin the CAF application process as soon as you arrive in France, you won’t be able to receive any money until you have a valid carte dé séjour. This means that you’ll want to send off yourOFII paperwork as soon as you arrive in your new apartment, so you can get your medical visit over with and validate your visa as soon as possible. Once you have a CDS in hand, you can complete the application process and get your money.
If you’re a European citizen, you’ll have to declare yourself a resident of France by going to the Préfecture, but you won’t have to wait to being the CAF process.
7) Have a French bank account.
You can either have CAF payments made directly to you, or you can have them made directly to your landlord, in which case you pay only the difference in rent.