France has always been a popular destination for expats. The world-renowned culture, food, drink and lifestyle is a huge draw for emigration, while the close proximity to the UK has made it a popular haven for Brits to retire to.
The varied landscape provides a wide range of environments for expats, from houses in Normandy and apartments in Paris to holiday homes in Dordogne and ski chalets in the Alps.
Whether you are looking to buy a property in France to retire to or are moving over for a new career, our step-by-step guide to emigrating to France is designed to make the transition that little bit smoother.
Do I need a visa to move to France?
Depending on your nationality, you may not require a visa to move to France. If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, you won’t require a visa. There is a voluntary registration system in place, however, that entitles you to receive a residency card should you wish to receive one.
As a citizen of the US, Canada or any country outside the EU, EEA and Switzerland, you will need to apply for a long-term French visa (visa de long séjour).
How to register as a French citizen
Every new arrival in France needs to register with the French authorities. Again, depending on your nationality, the process can differ.
EU, EEA and Swiss citizens moving to France are instructed to register at their local authority office (mairie) within three months of arriving. Here, you will need to provide details of your identity, financial resources, health insurance, employment contract and French address. At the end, you will receive your residence permit.
Alternatively, if you hold a long-term French visa you will find the process slightly longer as you will need to visit the immigration office (OFII) within three months of your arrival. This process will involve an interview, medical examination and a payment for residence taxes, while you may also be tested on your knowledge of the French language. You will need to provide documentation of your identity, as well as an employment contract should you be moving to France to work.
Once you’ve completed the registration, you will receive a sticker in your passport that shows you are living legally in France.
How to open a bank account in France
Opening a bank account in France is a fairly straightforward process, however you should be aware that French banks are not open in the afternoons or on weekends. This may make getting an appointment that suits you slightly difficult, however opening your new bank account is a very important step when moving to France.
Some landlords will actually require that you have a bank account to rent a property, however you may also need a permanent address to open a bank account in France. If you’ve just emigrated to France, this can be a challenge, however both the bank and landlord are able to offer some leniency.
Some banks will even allow you to open a bank account there before you arrive in the country. However, it’s always best to enquire about the process before you initiate opening an account.
Opening a bank account requires:
- Proof of identity (passport or driving license)
- Proof of address in France (lease or tenancy agreement)
- Residence permit
Once you have opened your account, it can take up to two weeks to receive your bank card and chequebook.
How to register for French health insurance
It is mandatory in France to have health insurance, whether it be covered by the state or private insurance.
If you’re moving to France to work and your salary is over a particular amount, you will qualify for state French health insurance (sécurité sociale) and need to register with CPAM (Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie) before you are eligible to use French healthcare.
Those who are emigrating to France for retirement, or whose salary does not meet the criteria, will need to seek private health insurance.
In addition, there is a top-up health insurance, referred to in France as ‘mutuelle’ health insurance. As there are certain healthcare costs that state healthcare does not cover, this additional insurance is an additional option. This is not classed as private healthcare, as it assists state healthcare in covering all medical costs.
On top of this, it’s very important to register with a doctor and a dentist in your local area. At your local GP, you will need to nominate a particular doctor. This doctor will be responsible for your healthcare and will have access to your medical records.
Moving to France with pets
You can, of course, emigrate to France and bring your pet (or pets) with you, however there is a process and strict rules that need to be adhered to.
Vaccinations against rabies and a number of other diseases will need to be completed more than 21 days prior, and also less than a year prior, to your pet entering the country.
Pets from within the EU need to have a European Pet Passport, which can be issued by a licensed vet once your pet has been micro-chipped and a blood test has been taken. This passport provides the relevant information on them, an identification number and documentation of their various vaccinations.
Most pet microchips are ISO 11784/11785 compliant, however in the event that your pet’s microchip is not compliant, you will need to bring the appropriate scanner with you for proof.
Bringing dogs or cats that are less than three months old is allowed without requiring an EU Pet Passport or other documentation, however additional regulations may apply. In this instance, it always best to check the latest French regulations on moving to France with pets.
Foreign currency exchange for moving to France
As every expat will tell you, you’ll need to make more than a few international payments from your UK bank account to your new bank account in France. As such, you’ll need to utilise the services of a foreign exchange specialist, due to high-street banks charging as much as £40 per overseas payment in transaction fees.
Enjoy a competitive GBP to EUR exchange rate and low transfer fees on every transaction with moneycorp. Our team of currency specialists are dedicated to ensuring you get the most out of your money when you send money to France.