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What is the French National Health Service?

Understanding the French health care system enables you to take better care of yourself!

The French National Health Service and Social Security

The Social Security, also known as the “Sécu”, is based on principles such as solidarity, universality, and equity, as well as financing mechanisms: contributions and taxes. It covers the risks associated with the three major aspects of life:

  • Family (childhood, youth, housing, disability, the fight against economic hardship),
  • Old age (retirement, widowhood, loss of autonomy),
  • Health with the “illness” branch on the one hand (care pathway, maternity, disability, death) and the “occupational accidents and illness” branch on the other hand.

The French National Health Service is the organization that manages this third component. Its mission is to provide access to health care to as many people as possible.

Different registration regimes depending on your situation

We are all registered with the French National Health Service via Social security to which we pay contributions (our obligations), and which provides us with services (our rights). Depending on our professional situation, we may be registered with one of three different regimes.

A. The general regime: this is for you, by default

As a student with or without a job, you are registered with the “general” regime attached to the CPAM in the catchment area of your place of residence.

B. The Social security for self-employed workers: possibly for you

Freelancers, sole proprietors, individual entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs having created a company for which they are the sole shareholder (private limited company under sole ownership) or (simplified joint stock company under sole ownership) are classed as “self-employed workers”. They are registered with the Social security for self-employed workers, e.g., RSI (Social regime for self-employed workers), not to be confused with the RSA (income support payment). This applies to you if you establish a professional project alongside your studies as a micro-entrepreneur (sole proprietor) for example. Find out more (in French).

C. Social security for agricultural workers: less likely to be for you

As its name indicates, the MSA only concerns agricultural workers.
Students at ISARA and VetAgro Sup, which are supervised by the Ministry of Agriculture, may be concerned by the MSA.

What coverage do students receive?

For a few years now, new students have been registered with the general social security regime, and attached to the CPAM of their place of residence.

How to register?

Once you have arrived in France and been issued with your certificate of enrollment by a French institute of higher education, you will be able to register on the National Health Service dedicated website, At this time, you will need to enter the required information and upload the requested supporting documents, as determined by your circumstances and country of origin. When you have completed all of these steps, a personal account is created for you. You will be able to log in to it using the email address you provided at the time of registration. For help with registration, please refer to our online tutorial in the "Help" section on

Here are several resources to help you:

Find out more on your student health insurance coverage (in English)

Find out more about the French social security registration process for foreign students (in English)

Find out more about the Registration of international students and overseas communities to Social Security (in French)

Find out more on your social protection as a student (in French)

All the explanations on those portals take into account this student social security reform.

Why is it important to know the different registration regimes?

  • Because it is not possible to be registered with two regimes at once,
  • And knowing who to contact ensures efficient follow-up,
  • For example, you will send your treatment forms to the right place if you were unable to provide your health professional with your carte Vitale, in order to obtain an optimal reimbursement.


Registration with the French National Health Service for French and international students

The Rhône CPAM support schemes

The Rhône CPAM prevention services