Expats Guide to France

France is a very popular tourist destination which attracts millions of visitors each year and is home to many expats who either live here or have a second home. Many people choose to stay for a couple of months and some may choose to visit on the odd weekends.

Expats who choose to relocate here will enjoy the pace of life as well as lower costs and those with children are rest assured that their child will get the best education being one of the best education systems in the world.

Expats will be offered a life that is well-off in entertainment and culture within all of the 123 cities having a population of over 65 million people. As well as this, France is home for many retired people.

General Information

Population: There is a population of over 65 million
Capital of France: Paris
Official Language: Official language is French, but many residents can speak English
Major Cities Paris, Nice, Marseille, Lyon, Cannes
Popular Expat cities: Paris, Marseille and Nice
Time Zone: GMT +1 (GMT+2 from the end of March to October)
Money: The Euro (EUR) divided into 100 cents
Nearest Neighbours: Germany, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Andorra and Luxembourg
Popular attractions: Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame de Paris, Arc de Triomphe, Palace of Versailles, Disneyland Paris
Religions: The main religion in France is Christianity. In some areas such as Marseille there is a huge population of Jewish people
Public Holidays: New Year’s Day, Easter Monday, Labour Day, WWII Victory Day, Ascension Day, Whit Monday, Bastille Day, Assumption of the Virgin Mary, All Saints Day, Armistice Day and Christmas Day
International Dialling code: The international dialling code in France is +33 / Paris (0)1
Emergency contact: General emergencies -112, Specialised emergency medical services- 15, Fire services -18 and Police – 17
France Travel Advice: French Embassy or Consulate

Popular Destinations

The country is the sixth largest economy in the world and a major player within the EU which has a great culture as well as language, and many may find it difficult to adapt to the rules of French life. The language is one of the hardest barriers as most French citizens will prefer to speak in their own language, nevertheless most individuals would be able to speak some English. If you are making your decision to move to France, speaking the language will be a big benefit.

Those who move to France can enjoy long country lunches, sunbathing on the beaches and Parisian art and couture as well as many other things.

There are three main types of climates in France:

  1. Oceanic – In Western France where there is Large rainfalls, cool winters and cool summers
  2. Mediterranean – In the South of France there is cool winters, limited rainfall and hot summers
  3. Continental – In the Eastern and Central France it is cold, has snowy winters and warm summers.

Paris

Paris – France’s capital city and the most popular city in the country visited by millions each year. Expats will be moving to the city of love, lights and festivity where they are able to find historical landmarks on every street.

Some expats may not choose to live here and would prefer to live in the rural areas due to the less congestion and larger houses that are available.  It is easy to travel around in Paris, with great public transport, feel free to travel around visiting the popular sites in the area as well as having opportunities to work in the global companies that are located here. Though, expats who are unable to speak French and don’t have good qualifications may struggle to find work in the city

Living here will be enjoyable by many with the activities to enjoy, restaurants and parks to explore having something to do most of the time. The cost of living in Paris may be expensive as accommodation is expensive, quite competitive and in demand.

Despite the challenges, Paris is a great unforgettable city with exciting experiences for all.

Popular Tourist Attractions:

  1. Eiffel Tower
  2. Notre Dame de Paris
  3. The Louvre
  4. Champs-Elysees
  5. Musee d’Orsay
  6. Arc de Triomphe
  7. Disney Land Paris

Weather

Expats relocating to Paris will enjoy the pleasant summers with temperatures of up to 25°C (77°F) and winter being below freezing.

Marseille

Marseille is the second largest city in France after Paris with a population made up of native French citizens, foreign residents and many expatriates. Catholicism, Jewish and Islam are the main religions in Marseille with around 80,000 Jewish residents.

Many expats usually move to Marseilles to work at France’s largest port or in one of the multi-national corporations which are based in the main city.

Rather than finding employment once in the city, it is recommended that you secure work in Marseille before arrival and you should be able to demonstrate skills and experience you will be bringing.

Expats, who are not a citizen of the EU, will be required to apply for long stay visa or a residency permit. Children who are accompanying their parents to the country will be able to enrol into the international schools which are a good choice for long term-expats. It is also home to many international universities for students who wish to study here.

Popular tourist’s attractions:

  1. Old port of Marseille
  2. Palais Longchamp
  3. Abbey of St Victor
  4. Fort Saint-Jean
  5. Marseille Cathedral
  6. Marseille History Museum

Weather

Marseille has four seasons: Spring, summer, autumn and winter. July is the hottest month with temperatures of 24°C and the coldest month is January with temperatures ranging from 7°C. In the months of September – November it is mildly cold with October being the wettest month.

Nice

Situated on the Mediterranean coast, Nice is the second largest city which is on the south east coast of France. Expats moving here can enjoy the lovely summer weather and the natural beauty of the town with the oceans being a few miles away and mountains being a short bus ride. Expats are able to enjoy many activities from windsurfing to mountain climbing. Due to this reason, many artists and writers are drawn to Nice being inspired by the unique views.

Nice is a town which is one of the largest in France and most middle aged and retired expats generally move here to enjoy life in the hot weather, although some may come to study or work in the town. In addition to this, there is a large community of English speaking people with some Irish pubs in town where you can meet the locals.

Nice is a highly desirable location to live, with it being home to some well known celebrities, however expats moving here may be limited in employment opportunities with jobs mainly being available in the hospitality and tourism industry.

With the convenience of public transport, expats will not need to purchase a car as buses and trams run throughout the city and towns.

Popular tourist attractions:

  1. French Riviera
  2. Promenade des Anglais
  3. Musee Matisse
  4. Musee d’art Moderne et d’art

Weather

The weather in summer is usually warm and dry with temperatures between 20°C and 26°C. Winters are also sunny with temperatures being 10°C – 15°C during the day, and 4°C – 10°C) at night. In the winter there will be rain but this usually clears up.

Connecting Utilities – Electricity, Gas & Water

When you have rented out or bought property in France, it is important to know what services are available in terms of Electricity, Gas and Water. Here is some information which will assist you in finding these utility services.

Electricity

If your rent does not include your utilities it is important to find out what the best services are in the area you are living to get your electricity services.

There are many local companies which offer good packages for electricity with the main one being EDF. The cost of electricity is cheaper than elsewhere in Europe but you are still advised to contact different companies to see who gives you the best rate.

The electrical system in France runs on a 220-240 Volt system which is the same as other EU countries.

French citizens usually consider the size of their home, type of heating and the frequency of use for electrical appliance before choosing the level of electricity of supply as this will determine how much your monthly bill will be. More information on this can be obtained from your electrical provider.

Expats living in rural areas are advised to fit surge protectors in their home due to the amount of power cuts there are in homes during storms.

When opening an account with an electrical supplier in France, you will be required to provide documentation such as proof of ID, information on your home and copy of tenancy agreement. Once your electrical agreement has been signed, the meter will be read and then turned on. After this meter’s will then be read every 6 months and bills will arrive every 2-3 months. With your electricity bills you will be required to pay a VAT charge as well as local taxes. Bills can be paid with a direct debit system, online or by even sending a cheque.

Gas

Gas can only be connected for houses that are in the towns and cities to use household appliances and for heating. Homes in the rural areas of France will need to use bottled gas.

The main gas supplier in France is GDF which is part of the electrical supplier EDF. When speaking to customer services, if you state you need both Gas and Electricity you may be able to get a discounted package.

Expats moving into homes will need to contact the local office, who take the readings of a meter and will take all your details before the Gas is turned on. To open up an account, you will need to provide proof of address, sale agreement of property and an ID. The local supplier will be able to assist you on what tariff you need to be on regarding your expected usage of gas.

Gas meters are usually fitted outside of the houses which are read every 4-6 months. Bills are then sent every 2-3 months and will need to be paid via direct debit, sending a cheque or online. Be aware that VAT may be added as well as extra charges for the extra gas used.

Water

There are not as many companies in France that supply water but the provider for each area is usually selected by Mairie. Based on the area that you live in, Mairie will inform you which company will be providing you with your water supply.

Expats who have moved into their home will need to go to the Mairie office to request the account for the property to be transferred in your name. You will be required to provide proof of ID and address. For some supplies, you may need to pay a deposit which will be taken from your first bill.

Water supply in France can be quite expensive but it solely depends on where you are living. Bills are sent every 6-12months which are also sent out by Mairie. Payments can only be made by cash or cheque.  The average price for metered water supply for a house of four people is around €400 annually. This is broken down into three parts with payments for tap water, sewage services and taxes.

Waste Disposal

To dispose waste in France you will need to contact your local authorities to find out more information. There are generally different requirements and regulations regarding this.

Many French people prefer to recycle and this is becoming quite popular in the country, so there will be recycling points in some areas in the towns and cities.

Formal Entry Requirements

Many citizens from Schengen countries can enter and stay in France without applying for a visa. In general expats will need a valid passport for the time of stay and will need to be able to prove that they will be returning to their home country once their visa expires.

To enter France from other countries the entry requirements are the following:

  • Valid Passport or Travel document
  • Visa
  • Document describing purpose of stay
  • Funds to be able to financially support themselves
  • Repatriation Insurance
  • Documents for children under the age of 1

 

You must also enquire at your nearest French consulate to see if you are exempt from any visa requirements for a short term stay in France.

Types of Visas Available

Your nationality and the duration of time you will be staying will determine what visa you will require before moving to France. There are different types of Visas and all of these are listed below.

Tourist / Visitor Visa

If you are a foreign national from a ‘Schengen’ appointed country, you will not require a Visa to travel to France if you will be staying for less than 90 days. Countries include are in the EU, EEA, Switzerland, USA, Australia, New Zealand and many more.

Expats from countries who are not listed will need to apply for a Schengen Visa before they are allowed entry into the country.

The Schengen Zone

France is one of the countries out of 26 which are in the Schengen zone. Countries in this zone will have one common visa so there will be no border controls between the countries.

This type of visa will permit expats 90 days of travel within a sixth month period to any country which is in the Schengen zone.

A Schengen visa must be applied for before travelling and the visa application as well as required documents will be need to be submitted to the French embassy or consulate in your home country. Your application will be processed if you have a valid passport or an ID document which has been issued in the last 10 years and is valid for 3 months after you depart from France. Expats may also need to provide proof of funds to cover the time of your visit, medical insurance and where you will be staying once in France. Processing time will vary.

Long-Stay Visit

Expats, who are planning on staying in France for more than 90 days, will be required to apply for a ‘long-stay’ visa. This visa is applied for by individuals who are going to France to study, work or re-join their family. These visas will also allow you permission to reside and work in France as well as visit other EU countries.

When applying for this visa you may need to attach a number of documents with your application. Applications are made at the French embassy or consulate in your home country before moving to France. You will be required to have an employment contract of one year or be a temporary worker with an employment contract for 3 months or more.

Citizens from the EU will not need to apply for long stay visa to live in France for more than 90 days.

To apply for a long-stay visa you will need to provide the following:

  • Valid passport
  • Passport sized photo
  • Payment for Visa fee
  • Proof of the purpose of the visit

Expats who are planning on staying in the country for more than 12 months will need to apply for a formal residence permit as well as the long stay visa. Individuals who have been granted a residence permit must register with the Office Français d’Immigration et d’Intégration (OFII) within the first three months in France.

Long Stay Visas which do not need to apply for a residence permit:

  • Long stay visa to work in France (assistant, full time and temporary workers)
  • Long stay non-working visa
  • Long stay visa to study in France (Students and Interns)
  • Long stay visa for spouses of French nationals

Residence Permit

Expats, who have decided to stay in the country for a longer period than the long stay visa will need apply for a resident permit within two months of the visas expiry date. These are usually renewable every year unless you have a permanent resident permit that is valid for up to 10 years. EU citizens will not need to apply for this.

You must have been in France on a long-stay visa to get a resident permit. This can be applied for at the Étrangers section of their local authorities (préfecture). Expats will be required to make an appointment to show proof of your financial situation, health insurance cover, proof of French address and employment contract.

Once the documents have been submitted you will be given a receipt with a date to go through a medical check up. The medical certificate will then need to be taken back to the local authorities to complete the residency process application.

Applicants will receive their permanent residency after a few days or even a few months.

Permanent Residency

Expats who have been living in France for five years can apply for a renewable EC or French citizenship which is renewed every 10 years. You will need to meet certain requirements to be approved and must be able to speak some of the French language.

Work Permit

Whether you are doing paid work or voluntary work in France, you will be expected to have a work permit before entering the country. There will also be certain requirements that you must meet and these usually depend on the country you have resided from.

EEA citizens and expats from Iceland, Norway and Switzerland who will be working in France will not need a work permit to work, to own a business or if they are self employed.

If you are not from the EEA or EU, you will be required to go through a process to be able to work in France. However this may be difficult to obtain due to the French government cutting jobs to non-European citizens.

It is recommended that employment is found before moving to France and individuals may need to prove that their skills are distinctive which cannot be found in people from EEA nationals. If you have secured a job within a French company, your employer may apply for your work permit on your behalf.  Employers may need to prove that no one is able to do the job in order to hire a non EU citizen.

Expats who will be working in France for more than 3 months will need to have a long-stay visa which can only be applied for once the work contract is secured and has been sent to the French ministry of Labour to approve.

Work permits will vary in how long they are valid for, requirements and the number of entries depending on the type of worker. These include: Skills and Talents permit and Employees on Assignment Permit.

To apply for a work permit the documents that will be required will be the same as the ones needed for residency permit as well as details of the work you will be doing. Offer of employment will need to be shown along with the relevant application form and permit fees.

French Citizenship

You may be able to apply for citizenship if you have lived and worked in France for five or more years. The naturalisation process is simple and the main requirements are the number of years you have been a resident in the country for.  This time can be reduced if you are married or are a child of a French national.

Expats can apply to be a naturalised French citizen if:

  • You have been living in France for 5 continuous years or studied in a French University for 2 years
  • You can prove that you are able to speak French and should have knowledge of French culture

Residents will be required to pass a written French language test unless you are a student or are over the age of 60.

Employment in France

Expats wanting to move to France to find employment will have many opportunities available to them as the country claims to be the third largest economy in the Euro zone. But finding a job may prove difficult because of the language barrier so it is recommended to secure work in large organisation before moving to the country.

Finding a Job

There are many ways that expats will be able to look for jobs. These include:

  • Advertisements in local media
  • Recruitment companies
  • Online

EU, EEA or Swiss nationals are able to use an online portal called EURES – European Job Mobility Portal which will allow them to upload a CV and have potential employers find them after entering preferences.

Some job requirements may want you to be able to speak French at a good standard, if your French language is not great you could consider teaching English.

Majority of the job opportunities in France are in the less popular destinations, therefore you should make a consecutive decision when deciding on where to live as some areas such as Paris or the South of France may be difficult to find jobs.

Many people come to France after securing a job with a company but other expats may able to find work through networking or get transferred from a company in their home country.  Keep in mind your education will be given priority over your experience and international graduates will be given great opportunities to apply in the larger multinational companies. The main industries in France are hospitality, aerospace, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, construction and much more.

Facts about working in France:

  • Business hours: Working hours in France vary with some companies opening and closing between 8.30am-7pm. There is a 35 hour working week but some companies allow you to be flexible. Expats may find that some businesses are open from 10am-4pm
  • Business language: The main language spoken is French
  • Dress Code: The dress code for where you work can depend on the job location. You will be required to dress formal, stylish and smart
  • Greeting: A handshake is the usual greeting in business; some colleagues will kiss on the cheek to greet others

Opening your own business

Expats moving to France to open up their own business will find that it is relatively a standard process compared to other countries. To open your own business EU citizens are permitted to live and work in France freely, however expats from other countries will need a permit.

You may find that competition is quite fierce in the French market so expats must ensure their business plan is good, and to research which businesses already exist in the area you are looking at.

Expats will then be required to obtain advice from a lawyer to find out what the business laws are in the country.

Majority of people prefer to be self employed so that they have full ownership and control over the business. All businesses should also have a legal structure and should be registered as an individual or corporation.

You must ensure that you get the right assistance and advice before opening your own business in another country. Your business will need to be registered with the CFE and these offices can be found in major cities and towns. The application must go through them and they will be able to provide you with guidance.

Housing and Accomodation in France

When moving to another country, you will want to find the right accommodation to live considering factors such as prices, schools if you have children, cost of living and also the distance from your work place.

There will be many types of accommodation that expats will be able to afford and the costs do vary depending on the type of property you are looking for.  There are also certain rules of renting and expats should be aware of their renting property rights in France. Some French cities will have high demand for accommodation making the rental prices higher.

How to find accommodation

  • Online publications and leaflets – These will generally include a time and date for people to view the property.
  • Networking – Ask around to see if there is any accommodation on sale
  • Real estate agent – A good option if you don’t have time to find property yourself or so that you have had all the correct guidance as well as being able to view the properties

In France there are different types of accommodation available

  • Apartments: These are the most popular accommodation in cities as they are rented out on a monthly basis. Expats will have an option in choosing small studio apartments to high end which usually are more expensive.
  • Cottages: Expats living in the rural areas of the country, may want to invest or rent out a cottage on a short term basis. The prices for a cottage vary on the size and the location.
  • Chateaux: If you are looking for something more expensive then you can buy a chateaux house. These are generally more expensive and can vary in the size.

Renting in France

Expats moving to France may consider renting out property as oppose to buying. You will find that if you are looking for accommodation in the city then the rent will be just as high.

If you are renting out an apartment or government subsidised housing complex the utility bills will be included in the rental fees

When renting out property you may be required to show three recent payslips to prove that your salary is more than the monthly salary.

It is quite common to use estate agents when renting out property as they will be able to provide information about amenities around that particular area. You should also consider viewing the property before moving in and making a final decision

Tenants and landlords are free to come to an acceptable agreement when they are renting out property. However, the landlord will not be able to increase the rent prices unless detailed in the agreement.

A tenancy agreement must be provided and must be signed before the tenancy start date. The tenancy agreement may have some clauses so the tenant must read all this information before signing as well having to pay a deposit.

Expats should also note that if you are renting out an unfurnished property it can have a tenancy of 3 years whereas a furnished property must be for one year. If you want to rent out property for a less time it must be agreed with the landlord beforehand.

In order to rent out property you must show the following:

  • Copies of passport and visa
  • Letter from employer which verifies employment
  • Copies of the last 3 months payslips as well as 2 tax returns
  • Receipt of rent payment and utility bills for current property
  • Name of guarantor

Buying property

Majority of expats moving to France will prefer to buy property in France as it is quite straightforward for EU citizens and prices are usually stable.

When a property has been selected, the buyer will need to negotiate and go into an initial agreement with the vendor. This is a legal contract which shows the terms and price of the sale. The legal process takes about 12 weeks to complete and is handled by a notary. You may want to appoint your own bilingual lawyer if not fluent in French. When the price has been agreed along with other terms, you will be required to sign a promise of sale. An independent account will be set up by the notary and expats will be required to pay 10% of the deposit. This becomes non-refundable after 1 week.

The notary will then make land registry checks to ensure that there are no complications and they will ensure all the taxes have been paid. Once you have successfully secured a mortgage a final deed of sale will be completed by the notary.

Education and Study

Expats taking their children with them to France will want to know what the options of schools are in the country. The standard of education in France is quite high with a variety of public, private and international schools available. Before deciding what school is best for your child, you must consider costs, curriculum and mainly the language.

Many children start education from the age of 3 and attending is compulsory for children aged 6-16 years of age. The state school system is divided into four stages:

  1. Early childhood Education: From Ages 3-6. Parents who admit their child into early childhood education will be taught a curriculum set by the state and will prepare students for primary schools. Early childhood schools are free, but parents may be required to pay for lunch as well as childcare outside school hours. This will also help your child overcome the language barrier.
  2. Primary Education: From Ages 6-11. Primary schools will teach children a range of subjects including Maths, History and Languages to prepare them for secondary education.
  3. Lower Secondary Education: From Ages 11-15. Here students will be given secondary education in core subjects, and then they will be required to take a National Diploma exam in the final year.
  4. Upper Secondary Education: From Ages 15-18

Academic school year is from September to July, which is the same as the UK. It is important that the children take part in activities such as Music and Art. Primary school children must attend half day on Wednesday or Saturday.

Public Schools

Education in public schools is usually free for citizens and children up to the age of 16 unless parents decide to send their child to a private school. Expats wanting to get their child enrolled into a public school will be required to show proof of residence.

Majority of the schools in France follow the national curriculum which is set by the country’s Ministry of Education and will be the same as the UK. So expats moving will not need to worry about the curriculum being different.

It is advised that parents speak to other parents who send their child to a public school as the standard can vary.  Some of the schools maintain an international curriculum geared towards teaching French to non-Francophone students before going to the French system. This is mainly in middle and high school which are found in the larger cities of France.

Due to the French education system, children may only be able to attend school within a distance of their home. Parents wanting their child to go to a public school outside of the area must put in a special request.

To enrol into a public school, you will be required to submit an application form at the local town hall for primary schools or at the rectorat school office for secondary school. The enrolment form must include:

  • Passport or birth certificate
  • Proof of immunisations
  • Insurance proof
  • Proof of residence

Private Schools

Private schools in France are privately funded or partially funded by the state. Parents prefer to send children to private schools because of the small class sizes, facilities being better and for the highly experienced teachers.

These are available for both primary school and secondary school children with some schools encompassing both.

Majority of the private schools will have a faith based value system which is mainly Catholic. You must consider that this will be included in your child’s education and subjects are most likely to be taught in the French language. Regardless of this, the schools are forbidden to discriminate against student’s religion and student will not need to take part in any religious activities.

The private schools which are state-sponsored have a better reputation than the funded schools. Although, sponsored private schools will follow a French curriculum and children will have less opportunities to take part in extracurricular activities. Schools that are state-sponsored are generally less expensive than those that are privately funded. Fees range from €400 to €4,000 annually, but this can vary.

Most of the schools will have a limited number of places, and admission may be competitive. It is important that parents try and secure a place by enquiring at the school before moving. Boarding private schools are also available where children are able to stay.

Admission requirements:

  • Proof of Address
  • Previous school records and entrance exams
  • May need to pass a test

International Schools

As well as private schools, there are also many international schools in France which are based in the larger cities such as Paris. This is ideal if parents want to maintain consistency in the curriculum for their child’s education. At majority of the international schools such as the British and American, the same curriculum will be taught and students will receive the same qualifications as the country of origin.

International schools are a great option for expats who will be returning to their home country and it will prove a smoother transition. Some however, are bilingual so children will be able to complete their education as well as learning about the culture in France.

Sending your child to an International school can be quite expensive with fees ranging from €3,000 to €25,000 depending on the school level i.e. primary school or secondary

Universities

For students who want to further study or want to come to the country to attend University there is over 80 universities in France with some of them ranking in the top 500 universities in the world.

Students are able to study for undergraduate, master’s and doctorate degrees in public or private universities.

Some of the universities will not teach all degrees and only specialise in business or science subjects.

Public universities are funded by the government, which means the tuition fees are cheaper than the private universities. Private universities are quite expensive with fees ranging from €2,000 to €30,000 per year.

Expats from an EU country will not need a study visa to attend a university in France but other international students will be required to have a student visa for the length of the course.

Health and Medical Care

There is a high quality health care system in France both privately and publicly. It is named by the World Health Organisation to have the best performing system in the world in terms of availability and experienced health care providers.

Whether you decide to have private insurance as well as free public insurance, you will be more than satisfied with the standard of care that will be provided.

Public Healthcare

Majority of the healthcare is covered by the state via a public health insurance scheme regardless of age, income and status. The public health care has more than 1,000 regional; general and university hospitals which have all have good high standards.

The French public health insurance system is known as Sécurité Sociale. This provides basic cover to individuals who qualify and this is generally funded by tax contributions from salaries. Majority of the costs are covered by the state via a public French healthcare insurance scheme, therefore residents must register with a French health insurer as well as registering with a doctor. Both the government and the patient will pay small contributions to their healthcare costs and individuals including, employed expats, self employed workers and retired people must register at their local security office.

The public health system will cover most part of the medical bills but some expats may decide to get extra private coverage to cover the remaining medical fees. Those with an illness such as cancer or diabetes, the government may cover all medical bills, surgery, therapy and drugs costs.

Expats living in France will be able to access healthcare after three months of ongoing residence or before if working and paying social security. The system offers free full medical check up every two years and allows patients to choose which doctor they want to visit as well as get medical attention from specialists without a referral from their GP.

Private Healthcare

Expats and French citizens choose to get private health care insurance to cover expenses which are not covered by the social insurance. A French insurance policy will prove to be cheaper and easier to get than an International health insurance policy.

You may be required to fill in a medical questionnaire if you are insured with a profit insurer.  Most of the privately funded health care work in private offices and the government still play a big part in medical fees and other costs which are related to prescriptions.

Some private health plans are supplied by employers and this can be negotiated into packages before expats sign a contract with a company that they will be working with.

How to Register for French Health Care

To register for health care in France, you must have lived in France for more than three months.

You will need to register via your local Caisse Primaire Assurance Maladie office which can be found on the website (Ameli)

Expats who are employed, your employer will be required to register you with the French social security before you can register for French Healthcare insurance.

If you are self employed you must contact the Regime Social des Indépendants (RSI) office instead.

Healthcare System Card

Those who are over the age of 16 will be required to have a carte vitale (health system card). You will be issued with one of these once you have registered with the health care system.

The card issued will have a photo and an embedded chip containing your name, address, social security details and information about payments. This card must be taken to any appointments that you may have which will allow you to reimburse payments directly from the health insurance fund for what you have been treated for. Patients will not be expected to pay upfront when carrying this card.

Pharmacies

In the major cities of France, expats will be able to find many pharmacies. Most of these are late night pharmacies with some only opening until 6pm.

If you require over the counter medicine, this will need to be purchased from a pharmacy and cannot be bought from pharmacies that are located in a supermarket.

Emergency Services

Emergency services are generally handled by SAMU which is an organisation that provides ambulance services and other emergency assistance.

Expats in an emergency must dial 15 on a landline and 112 on a mobile phone.

Banking – Opening a Bank Account

Opening a bank account in France is a quick and simple process. The banking and tax systems is very well managed although there may be a barrier when communicating due to the language. However in some banks you will easily be able to find representatives that are able to speak the English language to assist you.

When setting up your account in France, the bank may contact your existing bank for a credit reference. Many Expats choose to open accounts with local larger banks such as BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole, Credit Mutuel, Banque Populaire and International banks such as HSBC. Local French banks don’t usually pay interest and you may be required to pay a small monthly charge for your account to be maintained.

Banking is fairly expensive as monthly fees are charged and you may be charged when withdrawing money from an ATM. There are two types of accounts that you are able to open

  • Non-resident account: This is the best account for people who are living in France for less than three months or if you are unable to provide proof of employment or a resident permit. Expats opening a non-resident account will be required to pay a high opening deposit.
  • Resident Account: Will have more services available to them such as overdraft as well as being able to set up direct debits. Resident account holders can also have access to online banking.

Primary types of bank accounts in France:

  • Private current account: The bank account holder can receive payments, make deposits and also authorise withdrawals. Expats choosing to open this account will have no interest paid.
  • Joint account: This is a great options for couples to moving to France
  • Deposit Account: This is a savings account for funds you don’t need to access

To open a bank account it is quite simple, but you will have to follow the requirements.

To open a non-Resident bank account expats will need to show:

  • Proof of Identity i.e. passport
  • Address proof
  • Reference from a previous bank
  • Deposit to open the account – This can be as high as 10,500 EUR

To open a resident bank account expats will need to show:

  • Proof of Identity i.e. Passport , birth certificate or EU card (For EU citizens)
  • Proof of Address (Utility Bill)
  • Resident Status
  • Reference from a previous bank
  • Proof of earnings or status (Work contract or student card)

Currency in France

The official currency in France is Euro (€), One Euro is divided into 100 cents

Coins: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 cents and 1 and 2 EUR

Notes: 5,10,20,50,100,200 and 500 EUR

Most debit and credit cards from different banks are accepted in France with ATM’s found nearly everywhere.

Remember: When withdrawing money from an ATM you will be charged

 

Tax System in France

Expats moving to France will need to be familiar with some regulations of the country. Individuals who work or have come to the country on a permanent basis will be liable to pay taxes as soon as they arrive in the country.

You will be required to pay French Taxes if:

  • You are a resident in France for more than 183 days in one year. This does not have to be all at once
  • France is your main place of resident – Even if you work abroad you will be considered a French tax resident
  • Your main occupation is in France
  • Your assets are in France

Individuals may need to pay tax on all income that is earned worldwide, which includes salaries, rental income, pension and investments.

Dual Taxation

Some countries that have a tax agreement with France will prevent individuals from the same income being taxed twice i.e. from your home country and France. Most of these are EEA citizens.

Tax Rates

France has different tax rates in regards to how much tax will need to be paid, so those who have a high income will be required to pay more tax than those individuals who are on a low income.

There is no PAYE system in France, so you must ensure that you file your tax return every year before the deadline which is usually 31st May providing all the information about how much has been earned etc.

Expats who own property or are self employed will be paying additional taxes. In addition paying tax around 21% of the gross income will go into social security deductions. This should be declared separately from social security contributions.

France has three types of personal taxation

  1. Income Tax
  2. Social Security Contributions
  3. Tax on goods and services

As well as the three types of the above you may have to pay occupier’s tax and property tax.

Expats from EU states will need to pay VAT for anything that is taken out of the country when leaving France. It is highly recommended before leaving the country to contact a VAT expert to see what you are able to take with you.

Social Security

A social security contribution is paid to the state which will help fund the welfare system of the country. This usually covers: Health and Sickness, Pension, Family benefits, accident cover and unemployment benefit.

The amount that is collected is split by the employer as well as the employee; the employer will take away the amount from an employee’s salary every month if not self employed.

Expats who are self employed will be required to contribute 40% of their earnings to social security.

 

Transport and Travel in France

When moving to a country like France, you will want to know what the reliable and convenient types of transport are available. The railway network has the fastest high speed trains in the world as well as metro tram lines to get around faster.

Trains

Trains are highly used in France to travel around as they all link to the major cities and other destinations in Europe. The railway system is centralised with 5 main train stations easily located and reached by trams.

Passengers travelling to the major cities will be able to do so via the TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse), which is France’s high speed rail network and travels up to 320Kph making journey times shorter. Routes on the TGV run from Paris to all the major cities in the country, passengers will have the option in travelling on first class or second class both offering great services. Travellers must book tickets in advance as there may not be seats available on the day; however passengers who have a France pass will be able to travel on the TGV and local trains frequently. Passengers who have booked way in advance will be able to get reduced fares.

For shorter distances around France, the train service mostly used is Transport Express Regional. Tickets for this train as well as other local services can be bought at the train station.

Ticket prices for trains are fairly reasonable but it is recommended that if travelling on a daily basis to get a pass and most people living in France will prefer to use the train than a bus.

Metro

Expats in Paris can use a metro, also known as the underground system. The metro is fast, easy and reliable making it an easy way to travel around the city without a car.

The underground consists of 14 lines and 380 stations in France. Passengers buying tickets to travel on the metro will be able to use the same ticket to travel on buses. However, if the ticket has been purchased on a bus you will not be able to use the same ticket on the metro.

The French cities: Lille, Lyon, Paris, Marseille, Rennes and Toulouse all have metro lines with trains running every two-eight minutes.

Buses

The buses in France are slower and not as luxury as a train, but are definitely cheaper. Services in cities and large towns run frequently and most bus stations are located near a railway station. Whereas some areas of France will not offer as many bus services. Smaller towns and cities will have their own local bus services.

Travellers, who are travelling long distances, will not have the option to do this on the buses as they do not offer long coach services, therefore trains are generally used for long distance travel.

Bus prices vary on where you are and are much cheaper than a train. Many people may be able to get discounts if in the groups of students or the elderly which can help save some money.

Eurotunnel

The Eurotunnel links France and England making it a reliable, safe and comfortable way of travelling if not using a plane. High speed trains in the euro tunnel transports passengers, cars and buses underneath the ocean through a dry-land tunnel under the English Channel.

Prices will vary depending on when tickets are booked. To get good offers, passengers are advised to book in advance.

Air Travel

Air France is a national airline which flies to 20 domestic destinations in France. Flights run frequently between the minor cities as well as all the major cities.

The average flight time between France’s cities are roughly one hour, and if you book in advance like other transport methods you will be able to travel at cheap prices.

Taxis

Taxis in France should be booked in advance, hailed at or collected from a taxi rank which is found in different places of each city. Hailing a taxi can only be done in the major busy cities.

The prices of taxis will be calculated on the distance which is travelled and when taking luggage with you, an extra charge may be applied. Expats are assured that taxis in France are safe with them being regulated and monitored so that a good service is provided to all.

Cycling

Cycling in France is a popular transport method for many French residents. The country is cycling friendly and respect is shown to cyclists by motorists giving room to manoeuvre with country lanes designated for the cyclists.

Driving Rules and Regulations

Driving in France is on the right hand side and EU citizens are able to drive with their national driving license. Those who are not a citizen of the EU will be required to apply for an International driving license. There is an agreement with other countries and states including US states, Canadian provinces, South Africa and Australia where expats are able to exchange their license within the first 12 months of legal residency in the country. If the license is not exchanged, expats will have to take a French theory and driving test.

France has a great effective network of highways and toll roads which are mainly used when travelling to other cities. With the road safety improving, many people prefer to and enjoy driving in the country despite the traffic congestion in the major cities. The ‘A’ routes (French motorways) are mainly tolled and the ‘N’ national routes are toll free.

Expats moving to France for more than 6 months will need a French driving license as well as have their car inspected. Drivers will also be required to have a registration certification and an insurance certificate

Speed Limits

The speed limits in France are as follows:

  • Toll Motorways : Max speed limit is 80Mph (Good weather) and 68Mph (Bad weather)

Dual Carriageways and Non-Toll Roads: 68Mph

  • The Paris ring road : 49Mph
  • Built up Areas: 31Mph
  • Outside built up areas: 55Mph (Good weather) and 49Mph (Bad weather)

If you are caught speeding you will be heavily fined and you may have your license and car confiscated.

Removal and Shipping Services

Expats wanting to get things shipped to France will be able to do smoothly and easily due to the amount of ports that are available in the country. The largest is Marseilles and Le-Havre

To get shipping, you will have the option to choose from sea, air or land and most services providers will be provide this as well as door to door services.

However, due to the services provided by shipping companies it can prove to be a quite expensive process. Some expats find that buying goods in France may work out cheaper than actually getting items shipped over.

Shipping costs are usually calculated depending on the distance, door to door service, weight of items and how many items there are. Most shipping companies will also add on extra costs for handling large items and packing materials. Regardless of this, relocation companies have become very popular with expats moving to international countries.

It is advisable to shop and around and get some quotes from different companies as prices may be different on the services that you required. The company should also be registered with the Federation of International Furniture Removers.

What services should be considered from a shipping company:

  • Border clearance and custom formalities
  • Fuel surcharge
  • Pick up goods at your location
  • Disassembly and reassembly of furniture
  • Export documents for household goods
  • Unloading all items to destination and setting up all the items
  • Removal of packing debris from destination resident

Expats are able to ship household goods and personal belongings duty free to France. The items must be six months old and you should have lived outside EU for over one year.
You must provide proof of residency in France

Communications – Internet, Mobile phones & Telephones

Expats leaving their family and friends should be assured that there will be many ways that they can keep in touch with them through the means of different communications.

Internet

Setting up the internet once you have reached the country is one of the first things that should be done. Majority of the internet providers offer various packages with internet, phone, cable and television services. Internet services can be of a good quality depending on where you live. When contacting internet providers, you should ask about any additional charges with some companies including the cost of installation.

The services provided especially as packages including most things will be high quality and for a good value. Some companies will offer new customers services at reduced rates of the first few months of subscription when choosing a package.

To get internet services connected you will need to show proof of ID and proof of address. You may also need to pay a deposit.

Customers will receive a monthly bill including payments for any packages you may have. Bills are usually paid by direct debit, online or by cheque.

Expats who don’t have internet services at home will be able to take advantage of internet access in libraries and internet cafes. As well as being able to use free WIFI.

Mobile Phones

Majority of the French companies will use the GSM system so all the GSM compatible phones will work in the country. Expats who have this, will not need to purchase a new phone and will simply just need to get a SIM card.

When getting a new SIM card be sure to find out what packages they have on offer, as some contracts will include unlimited texts, calls and internet access. Some packages will include free calls to European countries. To sign up however you will need to show proof of your ID and proof of address. Expats can choose to commit to a contract package, where they will be required to pay monthly or they will have the option to ‘pay as you go’ which will require topping up a card.

Telephones

Although most people have mobile phones, landline telephones are still used in and around the country.

There are four different major telecoms companies in France: Orange, SFR, Bouyges and Free. All services will offer free landline to landline calls in France and the EU. Orange has an English speaking section when calling customer services to help with general and technical support.

Many of the telephone companies provide both internet and television services as well as telephone services. You may be able to get a discounted package if you purchase all three services. To open an account for telephone services, it is quite straightforward and you would just need to contact your local services. Customers may be required to show proof of address and an ID to be able to get connected. If you have rented or bought a property, they may have had a telephone line connected previously, in this case you will just need to re-open the line and get the account transferred on your name.

Telephone bills are issued every 2 months and sometimes VAT will be charged on any telecom services that you have used. To pay for your bill, you can either be set up on a direct debit, pay with a cheque or even pay online.

In France there are five main area codes

  • Paris: 01
  • Nantes: 02
  • Strasbourg: 03
  • Monaco, Marseille: 04
  • Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lyon: 05

Postal and Mail delivery

Postal services in France are provided by ‘La Poste’, this is a reliable and convenient service which offers a full range of postal and banking services.  Expats may find that when sending something internationally this will be more expensive than sending something within the country.

All services which are offered are accessible online and the reliability of this service is quite good.

Television and Radio

There are different types of television services available in France. One of the services is a terrestrial television service which uses SECAM system and there is also satellite television where a satellite dish will need to be connected. This usually provides wider choice of programmes.

There are five free public stations but if you want to watch something in English from your the UK a cable will be necessary. Some English programs will be shown in French with subtitles and some will be dubbed.

When buying a television for your property you will be expected to pay a fee for a television license every year. You will need to provide the local authorities with the details about having a television connection.

French people enjoy listening to the radio and there are different national and regional radio stations which are available. However, only a few of these stations will broadcast in English. Expats may prefer to listen to the radio over internet as they will be able to listen to something in their own language

Leisure – Sports, Food, Art, Golf, Cinema & More

As well as food and art, sports also make up the French culture. France offers different options for expats to take part in and enjoy

If you want to take part in a sports team in France, you must obtain a sporting license which will show your medical suitability to be able to participate in that sport.

With all the opportunities of sports such as football and rugby the gym is not so much used by French residents.

Sports: There are many different types of sports available in areas of the country such as scuba diving and fishing which is popular in the Mediterranean resorts. Expats who are quite adventurous will have the option to go Kayaking and rafting and many sports companies do a lot of adventure sports.

Skiing: Another favourite sport with tourists and visitors as the world’s leading ski resorts are here.

Golf: If you are in the countryside, golf can be enjoyed with the several golf courses that are available.

Cinema: If you are not a fan of sports, France has one of the largest cinema outputs in the world and is the most popular hobby. Cinemas in France show movies that have been made in the UK and the US as well as French movies. Expats may find that some movies have been dubbed into French.

Theatre: Going to the theatre is also becoming popular with different ones in the country. You will find a theatre in the large cities as well as the smaller towns.

Museums: Many people enjoy going to the museum and most tourists visit at least one of them when on holiday. It has been established that there is around 1200 museums in the country

Sight Seeing:  When living in France there will be many buildings and monuments that you will want to visit. These include The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral and Sacre-Couer Cathedral. These are generally open to the public

France is also known for its cafe culture, Cafes in France have a relaxed atmosphere and many people prefer to go here in a relaxed environment to spend time with their friends.

Festivals: France is home to a number of festivals in the year. With literature and music events as well as arts and crafts. Residents will also have the opportunity to learn about developments of Science in the world in the Science week that is held. Also a popular choice for children

Cannes Film Festival: Most famous festival in France which celebrates cinema from countries around the world.

To find out more information about what activities take place in your area, you can visit the La Mairie in your area.

French Cuisine – Cultural and Regional

French people love their food and the cuisine is a fundamental part in their culture which is reflected through the different types of dishes that they offer.

The country is known to have traditional dishes as well as dishes from other cuisines but they particularly enjoy foods such as:

  • Baguettes
  • Cheese
  • Croissants
  • Onion soup
  • Snails

Expats will find other cuisines from Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, and Caribbean in addition to the French dishes that are available, with restaurants for these cuisines in different regions. The French also are famous for wine which is had with every meal, this is produced everywhere in France

Each of the regions may have their own traditional specialty dish, for example in the city Provence dishes will include garlic, tomatoes, and peppers as well as sea food.

The restaurants in France, provide a menu with a range of specialties with some people ordering snails, some would order pizza or even crepes

Expats should keep in mind that restaurants don’t serve food after a certain time and can be open for a short period to cover lunch and dinner.

Annual Events in France

There are many events that take place in France which gives opportunities to meet new people and socialise.

In France there are 11 national holidays, one of the main ones being Bastille Day.

Bastilles Day: Held every year in July to commemorate the storm of the Bastille at the beginning of French revolution. This is one of the most important festivals in France and holds a parade, free concerts and shows the best fireworks.

Armistice Day: An event which is held in November has become a national holiday after the First World War end.

Menton Lemon Festival: This is held every year in spring for a period of 2 weeks with parades being held, high statues, fruit floats

Cannes Film Festival:  One of the most famous film festivals held which celebrities attend. Screenings are invitation only but there is a huge open air cinema which shows the films in competition.

Festival of Lights: This is usually held at the end of November where thousands of candles are lit and buildings are lit up. It is said to have drawn over four million people

La Fete De La Musique: A musical festival which celebrates all genres of music performed in the street and in restaurants by professionals.

Le Tour de France: A world famous cycling race which starts in the North of England and continues on through France.

Expats wanting to meet other expats can do so via the ‘Expat meet up’ website http://brit.meetup.com/cities/fr/, this will give you links to meet up other expat groups in different areas of the country. This is another way of getting to know people and socialising through doing different activities.

Expert Helpers for Guidance and Help

Expats who require guidance and advice in services when in the country are able to contact different people. One of the main ones being La Mairie, you will be able to find these office in and around the country who will able to assist you in many different things.

Other services available

British Community Association of Lille: This is an organisation supplemented by English speakers. Expat families will have opportunities to meet and enjoy social activities – http://www.bca-lille.com

Bordeaux Women’s club: A woman’s club which helps international English speaking communities to integrate into the French life and culture – http://www.bordeauxwomensclub.org

British Association Alpes Maritimes: Provides welfare, social and general advice to British newcomers in Alpes Maritimes. With different branches in other cities. – http://www.britishassociation.info

Alliance Anglo-normande:  Helps English speakers to integrate into the French life and provides French language courses – www.alliance-anglo-normande.info

L’Association Bordeaux-USA: Holds weekly meetings, conferences and debates on the US with open conversation in both English and French. – www.bordeaux-usa.com

Popular recruitment agencies and website which will help find work include:

Other services

http://www.ariase.com – This website will provide expats information on Internet services providers and service comparisons. This can assist you on finding a company with the best package for you in your area.

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