Maybe you don’t know that, as a PhD student of the CEA, you have access to some benefits that could be very useful to save money. At the same time, if you come from a foreign country, there are some French procedures you need to do and maybe you don’t know and/or that it could be complicated to deal with.

So, don’t worry, ASTHEC is here!

Here you can find a small PhD survival guide for the incoming PhD students at the CEA and in France.

First things to do when you arrive in France if you are not French

1. Open a French bank account

Probably you already have your own bank account but in France, it’s very important to have a French bank account to perform all the following steps. It is not complicated and not expensive if you go to the BNP Paribas bank office of the CEA. You can find their office at the dining hall 1 (Cantine 1) from 12.15 pm to 2.45 pm. You just have to explain that you are a PhD student of the CEA and you will not pay to open it.

2. Get a French telephone number

The second thing you need and that will simplify your life in France is to have a French number. For example, Red by SFR is a cheap company, but you can find the company and the offer you like best. Find all options at

Once, you did the two first points, you can start with the serious stuff….

3. To be part of the French health system

In order to be part of the French health system you should know that, in France, there is a general health insurance system. It means that when you go for a medical visit or for some analyses, sometimes you may not have to pay because your insurance will pay for you and sometimes you pay and your insurance will give you back money. At times, the insurance will give you just a contribution and not the whole amount.

There are two organizations that compose your health insurance: the Sécurité Sociale and the Mutuelle. Both of them will pay for some or all of your health things.

So first, it’s very important to have a Numéro de Sécurité Sociale, which is your health ID (Social security number) in France. To do that you can follow all the instructions on the “Fiche CPAM” file and the CEA help file with english. Once the procedure is completed, the Mutuelle will be automatically activated. At the end of the procedure you will have two cards to use each time you go for medical visits: Carte Vitale and Carte Mutuelle.

Now information concerning all the PhD students

4. PhD school (Ecole doctorale) enrollment

Each PhD student, as you probably already know, has to enroll in the University that will give you the title of doctor at the end of the PhD. The procedure is different for each PhD school, so ask your PhD supervisor from the University (Directeur de thèse) as to how to do it.

5. Creation of the account at the finance office (Bureau des finances publiques)

As a PhD student at the CEA, you are also an employee for the CEA. It means that you have to pay taxes and to make a declaration of the annual incomes (Avis d’impôts). To do that, you have to create your own account at the finance office to make your existence known. They will give you a tax account number (Numéro fiscal) that you will use when you have to declare the annual income. To create the account and to get the number you just have to send an e-mail to the address You just have to write that you need to open your account and you want to have your Numéro fiscal. After that, you just have to remember to declare your annual income in May through your fiscal account.

6. Economical support from CAF: Prime d’activité

You probably have a “modest” PhD salary, so the French government offers you a little amount of money to help you, through the CAF organization. This kind of help is called Prime d’activité. In order to be able to collect this money, you have to go on the site and type on “mes services en ligne”, then “faire une demande de prestation”. Now you have to go on “vous êtes allocataire” if you already have an account for this site, if not you have to choose “vous n’êtes pas allocataires”. Then you go on “la Rsa et la prime d’activité”à“Prime d’activité”, à “Faire la demande”. Now you just have to follow the instructions and wait for the money!

7. To open a PEE (Plan d’Epargne Entreprise)

Another way to collect money and to save it is to open a bank savings passbook. Thanks to the BNP Paribas bank, you can open this passbook called PEE to save your own money and the CEA will add a certain percentage of money FOR FREE. The only thing you have to know is that you will not be able to touch this money for five years. However, at the end of your PhD, you have to close it if you do not keep working at the CEA, so in this case, they will give you back all the saved money before the deadline of the five years. To open it you just have to fill the document “Bulletin_adhesion_PEE” and to send it by mail at the address “BNP PARIBAS E&RE, TSA 80007, 93736 Bobigny CEDEX 9 ” with an allowance of 50 €. The 50 € are needed just to initialize the account, but you won’t lose them, they will be credited on the PEE passbook

8. To enroll in the CEA associations

The CEA has several associations concerning sports and culture, such as ACC, ASCEA, ASTHEC, …Through these associations you can, for example, buy the tickets for cinema, theatre, art expositions, classes to sports you like. You can find the list of the associations on the CEA website ( and look at all the options.

Lastly, it is very important to enroll you in the ACAS association. Thanks to ACAS you can take advantage of refunds on trips, tickets and to participate to the ACAS trips in foreign countries like Russia, USA, Indonesia, …for very cheap prices. All the ACAS advantages will be explained to you in specific meetings and you can also ask or to know about the dates. To subscribe, you have to fill in the “Imprimé Nouvel Arrivant” and to send it by the CEA inner mail to “BLG bât 154” with the all related documents.

The French procedures and documents are really annoying and people working in the offices sometimes do not do their job well ….So it could be a little bit difficult to complete/do the above procedures, but you just have to be persistent with people to have their attention and don’t be scared to write and contact them several times if necessary….In any case, for any problem, ASTHEC is here and if there is anything you don’t understand, you can always ask us for help.