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Living in France: Complete guide to moving to France

According to the United Nations, France is the world’s number one tourist destination – so it’s no wonder that millions choose to relocate for work or to live permanently.

Renowned for its impressive art scene, multicultural cities, historical monuments and landmarks, it’s the ideal destination to start a new life.

France also has the sixth-largest economy in the world, which is an attractive proposition for prospective investors and individuals considering moving to France as stable GDP plays a significant role in reducing poverty and increasing incomes.

Whether you’re considering moving to France for a  job opportunity, education prospects or a change of scene, this dream can still be fulfilled irrespective of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, it is essential to understand the intricacies involved in setting up home abroad to avoid being exposed to hidden costs when transferring funds overseas.

Our complete guide will advise you on the tips and hacks you can follow when immigrating to France, including how to obtain a visa and managing your finances to ensure your move to “la République” is seamless.

Emigrating to France

How to obtain a visa in France

If you plan to stay in France for less than three months, you can obtain a three-month tourist visa relatively hassle-free. However, if you plan to remain in the country for more than 90 days, you will need to apply for a Long-stay visa, which will need to be renewed annually.

After living in France for more than a year, by law, you are required to contribute to taxes on any income and abide by other legal requirements, such as acquiring a French driver’s license.

Applications for a long-term visa can be processed up to three months before entry into France and can be made by contacting the French embassy or consulate in your home country.

Citizens of the European Union, EEA and Switzerland do not need a visa to stay in France for longer than 90 days and are free to work and live in the country without restrictions.

If you already hold a French residency permit, you might be exempt from applying for a work permit; however, we advise examining the details on your resident card as this will specify whether it is permanent, provisional, or short stay.

To obtain a work permit, you must have secured a job before starting an application as your employer must sponsor the visa on your behalf.

If you are self-employed and want to stay in France for more than three months, you must be able to demonstrate the economic viability of your business to be granted stay.

Check your eligibility for a French visa online to see if you meet the requirements before you apply.

Those intending to stay in France indefinitely may want to consider obtaining citizenship, which comes with added benefits.

Legal requirements for French citizenship

Whether you’re an expat currently living in France, considering relocating permanently or have retirement plans in place, becoming a French citizen may be more advantageous than holding and renewing a Long-stay visa.

While migrants can enjoy a range of benefits with residency and work permits, citizens of France will also have the right to vote and obtain a French passport.

Furthermore, as France is a member of the European Union, all its citizens’ benefit from visa-free travel in the EU and the opportunity to work and live freely in all the bloc’s member states.

In France, citizenship can be obtained several ways, including:

  • through descent, meaning at least one of your parents was a French citizen at the time you were born;
  • through marriage, providing you have been married for a minimum of five years and are living together;
  • by naturalisation, which requires you to prove that you have lived in the country for a minimum of five years;
  • and lastly through birth.

However, eligibility will only be granted if you meet the requirements specific to the route you choose to apply for citizenship.

Should you apply for French citizenship by naturalisation, you will also be expected to demonstrate proficiency in French, attend an ‘assimilation interview’ which will test you on your knowledge and understanding of French culture, society and integration.

Can I apply for dual citizenship in France?

If you want to retain your nationality of origin, you’ll be glad to know that France permits dual citizenship; however, this can only be obtained if the country of your fist nationality agrees.

Most governments permit dual citizenship, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, the US and Spain.

You should note that no matter the route you choose to obtain citizenship in France, all applications come at a cost. Fees vary depending on the application type; however, securing citizenship on the grounds of naturalisation will set you back EUR 55.

You may also be exposed to additional costs and fees if your legal documents need translating, which could cost EUR 60 per page.

Suppose you’re making an application from overseas and will need to make an international money transfer. In that case, we advise using a foreign exchange specialist such as Halo Financial to avoid being overcharged by banks who tend to levy hidden costs in the exchange rate.

While banks offer international currency transfer services; foreign exchange providers such as Halo Financial can better serve your needs as this is their area of specialism.

Halo Financial can mitigate the risk of fluctuating exchange rates and offer you a competitive advantage to ensure you maximise your international currency transfers.

Unlike banks that don’t tend to employ FX specialists, Halo Financial assigns each of their clients a dedicated account manager, who will provide invaluable insight into the often-unpredictable currency market landscape and their clients’ foreign exchange transfer.

Whether you’re already living in France, making retirement plans, or exploring a new job opportunity in the country, currency exchange rates can make a significant difference to your income and savings.

Through tailored offerings, Halo Financial will protect your funds against adverse exchange rate movement so that you can make the most of your new life in France.

Cost of living in France

Boasting cosmopolitan cities, exquisite food, jaw-dropping landmarks and a healthy work-life balance, France is irresistible for many.

However, the cost of living in France comes at a price, particularly in the French capital, Paris, which according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Worldwide Cost of Living 2020 rankings, places fifth in the world for the most expensive city to reside.

With that being said, if you look beyond the capital in cities such as Toulon, Bordeaux and Rennes, prices fall dramatically.

Yet, while it is possible to move to France and live modestly, it’s worth knowing how your income could be impacted by rental prices, healthcare costs and other living expenses.

According to the latest figures published by Numbeo, the overall cost of living in France is higher than in the UK, with grocery prices and consumer prices significantly higher by 28.72% and 13.49% respectively.

However, rental costs, which will account for a significant proportion of your monthly outgoing, are 10.6% lower in France than in the UK.

Renting prices in France

What are the rental costs in France?

If you’re considering emigrating to France and are unsure of where to set up home, you could substantially reduce your rental bill if you choose to live outside of major cities.

According to Numbeo, the average cost of a three-bed apartment in the city costs EUR 1,387.79, whereas the same property outside of the city would set you back EUR 1,005.12.

Rural areas and suburban towns further away from the capital could save you almost half of what you would pay on rent if you were to live in Paris.

If you’re considering renting a property in France, we advise you to take heed if a landlord offers you a furnished home as the government gives those who rent unfurnished housing greater legal protection.

What is the minimum wage in France?

Despite France’s relatively high cost of living, migrants will benefit from above-average salaries and a better work-life balance than most other countries.

The national minimum monthly wage in France is EUR 1,539.42, with workers earning EUR 10.15 an hour. In the UK, this would be the equivalent of GBP 9.23 per hour, which is higher than the current minimum wage at GBP 8.72.

France also offers a better work/life balance than in the UK, which has increased the appeal of life in Spain as individuals have more time to spend on leisurely activities.

According to the OECD, less than 8% of employees work long hours in France, compared to 12% in the UK, which exceeds the OECD’s average of 11%.

With a higher minimum wage, better balance between professional and personal lives, as well as a world-class healthcare system – it’s no surprise that the country is a popular destination for expats.

Healthcare System in France

France boasts one of the best healthcare systems in the world, providing high-quality medical care to all its citizens regardless of status.

The hybrid healthcare system is made up of a fully-integrated network of public and private hospitals, doctors and other medical service providers, covering services for all healthcare needs and pharmaceutical costs.

However, only 70% of services are covered in the public system, so many citizens also purchase private healthcare, which employers are obliged to subsidise.

Although 30% of healthcare services are not covered under the government subsidised system, the extensive coverage makes France an ideal location if you’re considering relocating abroad, particularly for retirees.

Its sizable expat community also reduces the culture shock for foreigners; however, we advise those considering moving to France or already living in the country to learn the language, as this will help you integrate into French culture.

Education in France

Whether you’re getting married in France with a plan to start a family in the country or are considering emigrating with your family, we recommend knowing how the education system operates in the state.

France is renowned for having an elite education system, and according to US News & World Report, the country ranks in the top five in the world for excellence in education.

The curriculum emphasises memory-based learning and encourages peer to peer competition for academic achievement.

Unlike the UK, children aren’t required to attend school until the age of six; however, most enrol in some form of education at the age of three years old.

Between the ages of six and 16, education is compulsory in France; after that, students can choose to enter work or continue with academic study.

A prodigious 21% of the government’s budget is invested in the education system, and state education is free for French citizens and emigrants who can prove proof of residence.

Christmas in France

Christmas in France

Aside from world-leading education and healthcare systems, irresistible wines and better quality of life, France also maintains proud traditions, so it comes at little surprise that Christmas is widely celebrated.

While each region in France has its own Christmas traditions, most nationals tend to display crèches (nativity scenes) in family homes, with larger versions paraded in public places.

Traditionally, families would have attended Messe de Minuit (midnight mass) on Christmas Eve; however, many now opt to bring Christmas Day in at home with dear ones.

Like Spain, January 6th, which is the day of the Epiphany is considered a more meaningful celebration than Christmas day in some French regions, as it is believed to be the day when the kings came to visit Jesus with gifts.