Moving to France, a country with a rich history that shaped the rest of the world, vibrant culture, an array of gastronomical delights, and breathtaking nature is a great decision. But before you get there, you might want to check out our little guide specially prepared for Americans looking to become expats in this glorious nation.
France is located in the heart of Western Europe, and currently, its population counts more than 67 million people. It’s known for so many things like the Eiffel Tower in its beloved capital Paris, fine wine and cheese, and famous fashion and car brands like Dior, Chanel, Peugeot, and Renault. The Louvre, the world’s largest art museum is also there, and it’s home to many groundbreaking paintings and sculptures like Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. Choosing to live here is a fantastic idea, and we’ll help you prepare for what awaits you.
The First Step Is to Get to Know What the Legal Requirements for Moving to France Are
When relocating to whatever spot in the world outside of the US territories, you’ll need to have all the documents needed to travel abroad. Contact the French Embassy for the exact list of paperwork needed in your particular case, but before calling or visiting them, here’s some general information.
In case you’re staying longer than three months, you will no longer be considered a tourist, so you’ll need an appropriate long-stay visa. For that type of visa, you’ll have to register with the French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII) within three months.
Requesting a tourist visa that will allow you to stay up to one year and that can be renewed annually when it expires is also an option. After that period, you’ll have to pay taxes and obtain a driver’s license if you want to operate a car. You can ship your vehicle overseas or buy a new one.
You can get citizenship if you stay legally for five years, or if you’ve been married to a French citizen for at least four years.
List of Requirements for a France Visa Application
The list of documents and the type of visa varies depending on whether you’re moving to work, study, or male a new life in France. Whatever the case might be, you’ll have to apply for a France Schengen Visa. Here’s a list of things that you might need to do and prepare:
- Download the application form
- Check if you have a valid passport for at least three months and copy your previous visas
- Get a copy of your return-ticket reservation when you get the visa
- Get a Schengen travel insurance policy
- Write a cover letter stating the purpose of a visit
- Reserve your flight ticket
- Get proof of accommodation, civil status, and evidence of financial means
It’s Best to Open a New Bank Account
It’s not legally required, but since you’ll have some paying to do, it will all be easier if you open an account in a French bank. Paying for utilities, mortgage, and receiving your salary will become way easier if you choose a local bank. That way, you’ll avoid the costs of managing your finances from an overseas account. There are three types of bank accounts in France:
- Current account for managing everyday money
- General savings account for storing funds
- Long-term savings account for saving larger amounts of money.
To open an account, you’ll need proof of your identity, address, and residence status. Keep in mind that it’s possible that the bank staff doesn’t speak English in smaller cities.
Health Insurance Is Legally Required When You Become a Resident
The French healthcare system is one of the best in the world, according to Numbeo, but to access it, you’ll need health insurance. You can choose between public and private insurance policies. Unlimited access is a privilege of all legal residents who’ve lived in France for three consecutive months. Public insurance covers doctor’s visits and medication, emergency and specialist treatments, as well as dental and maternity care.
How to Apply?
Firstly, you need to join the social security system or visit the local department level of the national health insurance administration (CPAM). Self-employed workers apply via a special regime (RSI). CPAM can provide you with free insurance if your income is below a certain threshold. You have to bring:
- Proof of identity and residence
- Translated birth and marriage certificates
- Proof of three-months’ residence
- Banking details
- Evidence of income
- Doctor registration
Get to Know the Cost of Living and the Tax System
The best way to be completely prepared for the change is to compare the costs you have now with the ones that await you. The currency in France is the euro, so check the course on that day and see what the difference in the amount of money you spend now and what you’ll spend there is. The expenses you’ll face typically depend on the city you’ll live in and the lifestyle you choose for yourself.
Based on the data from Numbeo, the website that compares the costs of living in different locations, the most expensive places to live are Paris and Marseille. At the same time, living is more affordable in Toulouse and Lille.
What Are the Usual Expenses That French Citizens Face?
The average monthly salary of almost $2,200 after taxes is mostly spent in grocery stores and on rent. A meal in an inexpensive restaurant is around $14, and a loaf of bread costs $1.5. Utilities take 6% of the income, and the basic ones cost $155 a month.
Rent will consume a quarter of the average salary, and a one-bedroom apartment in the center of the city costs $750 monthly. If you decide to rent outside of the center, you’ll pay $580. When it comes to buying property, a square foot in the city center costs around $700, and you can expect a price of $460 in the suburbs. Transportation is also an expense to count on – a monthly pass for public transport is a bit more than $60.
What’s the Tax System Like?
The social security system is one of the most generous in the world, but it’s paid through high taxes. There’s an income tax, local taxes, tax on goods and services, social security contributions, and occupiers or property tax. You’ll also get taxed on investments, inheritance, corporate, or business income, among other fees. There’s also a tax return from your local tax office, so make sure you file it on time.
What Are the Job Opportunities for Expats?
Wondering how to get a job in Europe as an expat? We’re not going to lie – it can be hard without knowing the language, but you can use the knowledge of English to your advantage. Being an English teacher is one of the most popular positions when working in Europe as an American.
If you do know some French, you can search for job opportunities in tourism, as it’s the most developed sector of the economy and the most visited nation in the world. Other industries that are hiring are pharmaceutical, industrial machinery, electronics, and food and drinks. It’s good to know that you’re relocating to a country with a strong economy that is built mostly on tourism and agriculture.
If you’re a graduate, you can apply to one of the multinational companies like Michellin, L’Oreal, or AXA. The unemployment rate may be somewhat high, but don’t let that discourage you. It’s a vast country, and there are plenty of options. Make sure you start your search before you relocate, and don’t forget to create a good CV. It will greatly facilitate the process of relocation.
What Are the Differences Between American and French Work Ethics?
You might want to check out some of the tips on how to understand French business etiquette. The following pieces of advice can come in handy:
- There’s a strong hierarchy with defined positions
- Punctuality is important
- Planning and making strategies usually lasts long
- Appointments are typically made two weeks in advance
- Business dress code is very elegant
- They don’t like doing business over dinner
- Handshakes are a formal way of greeting, and kissing on both cheeks is for coworkers who know each other well.
The Educational System Ranks as One of the Best in Europe
If you wish to provide quality education for your children or to go to a good college yourself, this is the place to move to. If you’re moving with kids, keep in mind that all children between the ages of six and sixteen must go to school and will have free high-standard education. There are primary, middle, and high schools, and also private and public schools. You can register your child in a French-speaking or an international school.
You can also come to study abroad in one of their top universities. There are exchange programs and scholarships. Students from the US can create their personal file and apply to one of the universities.
Make Sure You Know Some French Before You Move
You’ll definitely need some French language proficiency. Find a course near you or try learning it online if you have the time. If you don’t, try to overcome the language barrier by learning it through some apps such as Duolingo. It’s closely related to English, and we do not doubt that you’ll learn it quickly, but it does take some effort. Start with the basic phrases and expand your vocabulary from that.
Listening to the French News Could Be a Good Method
There are plenty of tips for learning a new language. Listening to their music and the news will help a lot. Try to read the newspaper or some articles online. You’ll learn the pronunciation and intonation, and it will be much easier to adapt once you move.
Learn as Much as You Can About This Country
It’s a respectful and useful thing to do when relocating to a foreign place. It’ll help you choose where to reside, how to behave, and what to expect. Keep in mind that the climate, cuisine, and habits vary depending on which one of the regions you’re in. There are sunny beaches and snowy mountains, wonderful places to visit, and so many beautiful destinations to move to.
The top five we’d recommend are:
- Côte D’Azur.
France is so much more than Paris and the Eiffel Tower. It used to be a monarchy, and the royalty left some beautiful Renaissance and classic style castles behind them that all tell a different story. You’ll be able to go and visit them whenever you want. Fun fact is that one of the castles, Château de Brissac, is still inhabited by its owners. Start living the dream and enjoy the breathtaking views that this place has to offer.
Catch up on Some Eating Habits
French people take their food seriously, and it’ll be good to learn what their specialties are. Learn the differences between the baguettes, know that the knives are also used for pushing the food from your plate on the fork and that crepes aren’t a breakfast item.
They have so many cheese varieties that there is a different one for every day of the year – and you should try them all. Beef is highly present, and almost every traditional meal consists of meat or some other animal product.
International Relocation Is Not a Simple Thing, So Be Well Prepared
Relocating from one continent to another asks for a lot of organization and checklists. You’ll need everything new – documents, a home, a job, and friends. An excellent way to handle moving stress is to be well prepared and to start doing everything on time. This is a significant and stressful decision, so the last thing you want is to worry about whether your belongings are going to get damaged. That’s why it’s smart to hire a reliable company for international moving services. Transporting all of your items won’t be safe if they’re not adequately protected, so it’s best to have movers do the packing for you, too.
We Hope That This Article Helped You With Your Moving Decision
If you’ve been having second thoughts, we hope that you managed to make the final decision and move to this beautiful place and join many other Americans in some of the many expat groups. Residing in this amazing country will surely be a pleasant experience, and we wish you all the best.