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French pensions

By Katriona Murray-Platon
This article is published on: 17th May 2024

Many people come to France for “la belle vie” in retirement, but a large number of us (myself included) moved to France way before retirement and have even spent several years working in France contributing to the system here. Therefore when it comes to retirement, in addition to any other state or private pensions, we will need to apply for our French pension(s)..

Since 2017 the procedure to apply for your French pension has been simplified. You make one application and all your pensions from the various pension organisations will be paid to you. However, in practice things may not always go as smoothly and there have been numerous complaints from those trying to claim their French pensions.

No matter how long you have worked in France, or which pension body you have contributed to, you can consult your pension rights on this website This is the website that you need to use to apply for your pension. You can also download from this site your pension entitlement statement. If you are getting close to retirement it may be advisable to download this document and keep a copy of it in your paper or computer files as it is updated each year so it is important to check it every year. The website may not take into consideration any years that you have worked in other countries in Europe, so you may need to email them to ask for more detailed information showing all the countries you have worked in.

If you can see that any periods of work in France have not been recorded, rather than asking for them to be investigated, it is better to ask whether you can buy any trimestres. By doing this, the pension authority will then have to investigate whether you can in fact buy any trimestres or whether you are fully up to date on all the periods you have worked.

Since 1st September 2015, is has been possible to obtain a provisional payment of your French pension even if your application is not “complete” and then have your pension recalculated once you have been able to provide the missing information. To do this you must apply for the pension four months before the planned date of retirement.

It is important to plan ahead and start the process of applying for your French pension 4 – 6 months before your intended retirement date. By requesting your retirement this will prompt the pension authority to start to calculate all the periods you have worked and what you may be entitled to.

If you have lived in France for any amount of time you know how it is important to have the necessary documentation ready. With some French authorities I have found that they may request documents you have already sent, so make sure you have several paper copies or scanned copies on your computer ready to send off.

If you do not think that the amount is correct you have five years to get any unpaid amounts paid to you, and if you have any issues with your pension authority you should contact them directly. You can usually do this by email or on your online account messenger service.

If you are not satisfied with their response there is a mediation service available. You have 10 days for an urgent request, 40 days for non urgent requests, which may be extended to 90 days in more complex cases, and two months to apply to the Commission de Recours Amiable (CRA). If you are still not satisfied with the decision you can apply to the Defenseur de droits.

For those whose deceased spouse worked in France they may be entitled to a French widow/ers pension. Like other pensions, this should also be paid to you within four months of the date of application. However, this pension is means tested according to your annual income so you may find that you don’t qualify for it.

It is important to plan ahead and there are many things you can do at various stages:

    1. Throughout your working life in France, keep all paperwork. As cumbersome as this may be, it is important to keep all payslips, pension letters, social security payment statements, as you may need them when you apply for your pension.
  1. From age 50, if you haven’t already created and consulted your account on the website, now is the time to do it. You should regularly download the career statements and save a copies. Sometimes any missing periods may appear on earlier statements but not on later statements.
  2. From age 55, you can request pension simulations. The closer you get to retirement the more accurate these simulations are likely to be.
  3. Once you reach 61, think about working part time from age 62 as a progressive retirement and look at buying back any missing trimestres. You have to buy back the trimestres before going part time. Once you start receiving your pension you cannot buy back any missing trimestres.
  4. 4-6 months before your retirement date, start applying for your pension.

Can an employer force you to retire?

Strictly speaking an employer cannot force you to retire before you are 67 years old. If you want to retire before this date you have to request to do so and comply with the requisite notice period. Only when you are over 70 can an employer require you to retire without consulting you. Between 67 and 70 they can retire you, but only if you agree to leave. It is better to be asked to retire rather than voluntarily taking retirement since the statutory amount of retirement benefit is higher than the voluntary retirement benefit when it is the employee that requests it. You may have even more favourable provisions in your Convention Collective. This retirement benefit is exempt from income tax (except the higher amounts) whereas the voluntary retirement benefit is taxable in the same way as your salary.

For any questions about your pensions or planning your retirement, please do get in touch.

Article by Katriona Murray-Platon

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