Recommandé avec accusé de réception
It’s very important that everything that you send to a French administration (OFII, Assurance Maladie, CAF, tax office) or ‘customer service’ entity (EDF, Orange/SFR/Bouygues internet and phone service) be sent using a yellow form called ‘recommandé avec accusé de réception.’
It’s so important I’m going to say it again: It is VERY IMPORTANT that you send anything official using a yellow form ‘recommandé avec accusé de réception.’
This yellow form is the French Post Office’s version of sending something registered mail with proof of delivery. It also serves as proof that you sent something by a specific date. Your OFII forms, for example, need to be sent within 90 days of your arrival in France, ‘cachet de la poste faisant foi’ (Must be postmarked by…), so having the receipt with a postmark would be proof that you sent your documents within the 90-day period.
When you submit it at the post office, the envelope and the receipt are both stamped with the date. Then, when the envelope is received, the person has to sign for it, and the slip is sent back to you in the mail. If you don’t get the proof of receipt slip back, you can use the tracking number on your receipt to check its delivery status on the La Poste website.
It’s VERY IMPORTANT because French administrations and companies are notorious for ‘losing’ documents, requesting them again, and making you bear the financial and time burden of the delay and of sending the documents again. If you have the good sense to send something ‘RAR’ and can prove definitively that the documents you sent were received, not only are they less likely to be lost (or “lost”), you can argue for a reduction in the fees or penalties the company may want to charge.
Example of a rookie error: When I left France after studying abroad during the 2007-2008 school year, I canceled my apartment’s internet service by sending a letter to Orange in May. I did not send it ‘recommandé avec accusé de réception’, and I used my parents’ address in the States as the return address on the letter.
In August, I received the letter ‘return to sender’ at my parents’ house, and my cancellation of the internet service went totally unacknowledged by Orange, except for the fact that they began sending bills for the uncanceled service to my parents’ house. (They did not have that address before I had sent the cancellation letter.) They continued debiting the French bank account I had left open until the account was overdrawn and closed, and the several hundred Euros I had left in that account for my future return to France were my stupid tax for saving a few Euros on postage.
Similarly, if you send a copy of your birth certificate to Assurance Maladie, for example, and it gets lost, you’re out 1) the cost of ordering your birth certificate; 2) The cost of the translation (You’ll have to pay for another copy of the translated page); and 3) The several weeks/months it will take to have a new copy of your birth certificate delivered after you order it from abroad. That can really add up!
Now that we’ve established how important it is to send important documents RAR, here’s how you do it:
1) Ask for a ‘recommandé avec accusé de réception’ form at the post office. Make sure it’s yellow and for ‘La France métropolitaine.’
2) Complete the form as shown.
3) Peel off the back. Stick the sticker to the front of the envelope and the form to the back.
4) Weigh the envelope on the machine and pay for the stamp.
5) Put the stamp on the envelope and give the envelope to a post office worker.
6) The post office worker will stamp the envelope and give you your receipt (below).
7) Wait for the proof of delivery to arrive in your mailbox (should take no more than a week for anything sent within France).
8) If you do not receive proof of delivery in that time, go to this website and input the tracking number: http://www.laposte.fr/particulier and click on ‘Suivre’ to input the tracking number.