Advice on Moving to France as a Foreigner
France is an amazing place to visit. There is always something to do there; from tasting its delicious food to learning about its incredible history and culture. However, moving to France, as a foreigner, is a very different experience from simply making a trip there. If you’re thinking about becoming an expat in France, be sure to check out our guide. It has details on everything that you’ll need to know.
Can I Emigrate to France?
If you are reading this, then you’re probably interested in moving to France to experience the expat life. However, don’t only ask yourself “Do I want to immigrate to France?” before you leave home. Ask yourself “Can I emigrate from my country and move to France”. You can’t just buy a plane ticket, arrive with a backpack or a suitcase, and plan to stay forever. Read on to discover the most important things you’ll need to do before you leave home.
French Visas and Work Permits
Except for some European and Swiss citizens, most foreign travelers need a visa to travel to France. If you plan to stay longer than three months, you may also need a French residence permit.
As of November 2021, COVID-19 restrictions are also applicable in France. You can find the latest information about COVID-19 restrictions for entering France on the French government’s page, COVID-19 Advice for Foreign Nationals in France.
If you plan to work in France, then you will need a work permit. French work permits are linked to residency, so you may need to have a job in France already before you move there. To find out which visa suits your situation best, check out this guide to French work visas and permits.
Regardless of your nationality or type of work, you must register with the French government within three months of your move. If you’re self-employed, make sure you’re aware of the latest updated regulations.
France also has a micro-enterprise program, which means you may be able to register as a small business. You will need to register as self-employed, file a series of forms, and, in some cases, take a business administration course. Learn more about the program here.
Related: Moving to France from the USA
Bank Accounts in France
Once your visa and work permits are in order, you’ll probably want to open a bank account. Learn how to pick the right bank for you. A French bank account will make it easier for your employer to pay you and some French landlords insist you have a French bank account for rent payments.
Opening a bank account in France is generally easy, but it does have some tricky steps. It’s also useful to understand that French banks normally close in the middle of the day, for a long lunch, especially in the smaller towns. Often, banks are not open at weekends and rarely have evening hours.
You’ll normally need to arrange a visit to the bank in person, and have your passport or ID ready, as well as your residence permit and proof of residency. It will take about ten days to receive any bank cards you require and your checkbooks. Don’t forget to have plenty of Euros or an international bank card available to get you through those ten days.
Finally, yes, you did read that correctly, “checkbooks.” Unlike in many countries, checks are still widely used in France. The good news is that they clear quickly and are treated the same as cash.
Related: Cost of Living in Paris
France has an incredible healthcare system, but you must have international health insurance to access the system.
Most people can find coverage through the state health insurance program. To do so, you’ll need to register with France’s universal healthcare system (PUMa). Unless you are already working in France, you’ll need to live there for three months and establish residency, before you can apply.
If the PUMa is not enough for you, you can increase your coverage with a private health insurance plan, which will give you access to the best hospitals in France.
Best Health Insurance in France for Expats
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- Convenience and confidence of 24/7/365 customer service
Best Global Health Insurance for US Citizens Living in France
- Premium Benefits, Coverage and Service
- Define your deductible and prescription benefits
- For Foreigners in the US or US Citizens Abroad
Moving all, or even some, of your possessions abroad can be challenging. You can save a great deal of time by hiring an international moving company. They have all the required expertise in this area and can be a huge help. Many such companies exist and the cost varies depending on a variety of factors. International Insurance has partnered with Sirelo to help you find the right moving company to get you to France, including price estimates and other options to suit your situation.
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Moving to France with your Pet
The French love pets as much as you do, but there are strict rules for immigrating to France with your pet. If you plan to have your animal companion join you as an expat too, it’s important to check the latest French government regulations. Don’t forget to ensure your paperwork is also valid for any countries your pet may pass through en route.
When You Arrive in France
Even if you’ve been to France before, you can be sure that your experience of living there, as an expat, will be completely different from just visiting. You may discover that many things about French life are not as simple as you imagined they would be; from finding housing to navigating the cities, to learning the language, there’s a lot you may not know about French life.
Finding Somewhere to Live
France offers many amazing places for expats to live, from the city of Paris to the smallest mainland region of Grand Est. (Read about the best cities in France for expats to move to.) The perfect location for you will depend on your own lifestyle and what you want to do, as an expat, in France. All sorts of criteria are important. For example, where is your work location? What’s best for your family? Are you looking for a city experience or a quieter life?
Don’t wait until you arrive in France to start thinking about where you want to live. Most potential expats have a certain location in mind. But if you only know that you want to move to France, but haven’t picked a place, then do some research before you leave to see where you might want to go.
You’ll also need to decide whether you want a house or an apartment and whether you will buy or rent. There are pros and cons to both scenarios.
Renting is very common in France. Roughly 36 percent of the population rent their homes, including expats. Just over half of these rent from the private market. Of course, there are also many websites, agencies and brokers. You will find plenty of options, from furnished apartments in the cities to single-family homes in the countryside. But France has some unique rules around renting a home you should be aware of before you begin your search.
One advantage of renting is that living temporarily in a property in a particular neighborhood is the best way to learn about that area. In addition, as you will be new to living in France, it’s a good idea to rent first before you commit your finances to purchasing a home.
If you’ve already decided where you want to live in France, you might prefer to start looking at properties to buy online, before you move, or directly after you arrive. The biggest advantage of buying over renting is that you are effectively making an investment and not paying rent to someone else. Buying a property in France can be particularly attractive as, depending on where you buy, you can get a lot more value for your money than in some other countries.
However, for those who would rather buy, it’s important to know that moving costs and property transaction costs are relatively high in France. You will also have to consider currency conversion rates if your purchase capital is not in Euros. As of November 2021, the property market in France has been relatively stable for years and homeowners who decide to sell risk not making much of a profit on their initial investment.
Getting Around the Cities and the Countryside
Driving is the simplest way to get around France and is an option many expats are used to. However, a car can be a liability in traffic-heavy, parking-sparse city centers, and fuel bills and autoroute (dual carriageway/divided highway) tolls add up.
As an alternative, France has an excellent public transport network, which reaches almost everywhere in mainland France. This is a good guide to public transport in France for expats, and it will soon have you “parking” your thoughts of buying a car!
Cycling is also a great way to tour and travel through France’s cities. Many metropolitan areas have self-service bike rentals, and many are available 24/7. Services, such as Velib’ Metrolpole in Paris, allow you to pick up and drop off rental bikes at bike stations all around the city. You’ll have your choice of pedal bikes or electric bikes that you can use whenever you please.
For those who would still prefer to drive their own car, EU/EEA driver’s licenses are valid indefinitely throughout the country. Non-EU licenses are valid for one year only, but must be valid in their country of issue, have an official French translation, and the license holder must be over 18 years of age. In addition, your license is the basic document that permits you to drive a car in France, but be aware that France also dictates a list of Legal Requirements that you and your car must fulfill at all times. Details of these can be found here: French Vehicle Requirements Checklist.
Learning the Language and Culture
No matter where you go, it’s always a good idea to learn at the language. Once you’ve settled into a new home and job, take some time to learn French. Consider enrolling in a class or downloading a language app.
The easiest way to perfect your French is to make it the only language you speak! To get the most out of living as an expat, immerse yourself in the culture and live the way the French do.
Unlike living in some other countries, etiquette and manners are a very important part of life in France. French citizens have a reputation for being a little reserved, and their rules of social etiquette can make this seem true. For example, socializing with coworkers outside of work is not standard practice. French people are direct and forthright, but that should not be mistaken for rudeness.
Get Ready to Emigrate to France!
Do as much research as possible before you make the move to France. Decide what sort of life you are looking for in France and where you might find that. Know what visas and permits you need. Establish a bank account or arrive armed with an international bank card. Find housing, get health insurance, learn the language, and immerse yourself in the culture.
France has so many exciting things to offer and it can be an amazing place for an expat to live. However, you have to be prepared before you go. The more preparation you do before you move, the less stressful the experience will be.