How to Assemble a Dossier in France

In France, it seems like you need a “dossier” for everything – rent an apartment, consult a physician or even to find a nanny. The dossier is a nightmare for most expats, utterly confusing, and one of the hallmarks of the oftentimes Kafkaesque bureaucracy that rules the country.

However, once you get the hang of it, assembling a dossier is not so bad. In fact, those with a little OCD find the experience of assembling a dossier somehow pleasurable – just ask my wife!

To make the dossier experience a little less headache-inducing, my wife and I keep a binder handy with all our original documents and copies of things that we think might be useful. Even after we assemble a dossier (after all, no two dossiers are the same, that would be too easy) we lug this binder with us the day we turn in our dossier. This way, if an extra copy of a passport or a bank statement is needed, we can pull it out of the binder and hand it over to the always pleasantly surprised clerk.

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Below are some dossier basics you will be expected to have. We recommend that you keep at least 3 copies of each item.

  • Birth Certificates (w/ translation)
  • Marriage Certificate (w/ translation, if applicable)
  • Divorce Certificate (w/translation, if applicable)
  • Livret de Famille (if you are French or come from a country that has this)
  • French ID (such as your carte de séjour)
  • Passport
  • Bank Statements for Last Three Months
  • Pay Slips for Last Three Months
  • Passport-style photos (3.5cm x 4.5cm, exactly)

If you’re wondering whether or not translations are required, click here.

For Renting an Apartment, you should also come equipped with the following:

  • Employment Contract
  • Tax Filing from Previous Year
  • Last 3 quittances de loyer (a receipt of payment from last apartment, last 3)
  • Attestation de Travail (Work Certificate from your employer, within last month)
  • Attestation de Salaire (Salary Certificate from your employer, within last month)

Depending on your situation, you might be asked for a guarantor (cosigner) or a caution bancaire (bank guarantee). Most landlords will want a guarantor who lives in France and will be legally beholden to them. In that case, the guarantor will be asked to provide the basics for a dossier plus a handwritten letter (acte de cautionnement) that is their pledge to pay the rent should you somehow fail to. For the caution bancaire, you will need to visit your French bank and provide the paperwork given to you by the bank to the landlord. If you’re a student and your parents are paying your rent, you will need the information of the guarantor as well as a letter, in French, from your parents stating your allowance per month in Euros.

For Medical Dossiers, you’ll want to have whatever is applicable of the following:

  • Medical Summary
  • Medical History
  • Recent Prescriptions
  • Physician Reports
  • Discharge Reports
  • Reports from any Exams or Analyses

This list is not exhaustive. It seems that there are always more things to be added to the dossier with most of it being paperwork from one of the many specialized offices in France for a very particular situation. The rule of thumb is to keep the original of whatever paperwork you receive and three copies in a well-organized binder. Do this, and the nightmare of a dossier is suddenly a lot less stressful!

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