France is one of the most popular destinations for expats leaving the UK and looking for a better life abroad. It is favoured as a retirement destination, but for younger adventurers, it is also a great country to work and raise a family.
Moving down the country, you will find the full range of seasons, so if you love the cold and snow of winter, head to the south. For a climate similar to the UK, aim for the middle, and if you want all-year sun and higher temperatures, the south, including the Riviera, could be the best destination for you.
If you require assistance for moving your household belongings to France, make sure to contact our team and we will be more than happy to help. Now, read below for things to consider before moving to France.
Research is Key
Before you make any decisions, it is worth doing some pretty in-depth research on life in France and then specifically on the area you are thinking of moving to. One crucial change is that the UK is no longer part of the EU, so the visa process has changed.
It is still possible to apply and successfully obtain a residency visa, but understanding the process is a good idea. Let’s start with some basic French facts before we get into the things you need to consider before packing up your life.
France has a population of around 65.3 million, and 200,000 have relocated there from the UK to start a new life. If you want to move somewhere that has a strong English expat community, then consider Brittany, Paris, the Dordogne, Aquitaine, Montpellier and Provence-Alpes-Cote.
The number of locals who have some English skills is high, so even in areas with few expats, you can probably get by with very little French. However, that said, it is definitely worth investing some time into learning the language. Finally, although most people are probably aware, France, along with most of Europe, uses the Euro as their currency of choice.
Cost of Living
While we are talking about Euros, it brings us nicely around to the cost of living. The overall picture of life in France is on a par with the UK. You will find some things are cheaper whereas others are more expensive, meaning it evens out overall.
For example, you will pay more for a draft beer in France than you do in the UK. The French tend to have cheaper utility bills, with the monthly average for the UK coming out at £155 and France just £130 per month.
One of the reasons that France is often seen as a destination of choice is because their property is a lot cheaper. It is possible to pick up a sizable property in one of the small villages for considerably less than it would be worth in the UK. However, you do have to consider the isolation of life if you choose a rural existence in a new country.
If you are just starting out in France, it might be worth renting for a while, and this tends to be cheaper than costs in the UK. In some cases, it is 25% cheaper, but again, this tends to be outside of the main cities, and you will find that property in Paris is very expensive, both for renters and those looking to get on the property ladder.
There are loads of international property websites online, so if you are looking to purchase property, it shouldn’t be a huge problem, but again, remember that there is a language barrier and local estate agents and solicitors will deal in French. You need to find an English counterpart who can help you and communicate well.
The quickest way to get accommodation as a newcomer to France is to rent. It's actually not a bad idea, even if you intend to buy a property eventually. You may inadvertently pick an area you don’t actually end up liking, or just simply fall in love with somewhere that you didn’t consider in the first place. It’s better to rent on a short-term basis while you get a feel for the area and learn how to live the French life.
The Visa Side of Things
As you are probably aware, Brexit changed the rules for UK citizens. Now, if you want to live, travel or work inside of the EU, there is a little bit more paperwork involved, and you no longer have free access. If you are looking to stay in France for a period longer than three months, you will need to apply for a Visa.
A long-stay Visa or residency permit is a VLS–TS. This gives you residency status for one year. This is appropriate if you are heading to France to work, be a student or are married to a French citizen. If you are retiring, the paperwork is different, and you need a type D long-stay Visa and then a separate application to confirm your residency permit.
In both cases, after the initial 12 months, you simply renew your Visa if you are planning to stay. Once this period extends past five years, you can submit an application to get permanent residency. Assuming you continue to meet all of the criteria, there is no reason at all why this would not be granted.
The paperwork is very similar to applying for a Visa In any other country. You need to have your identification documents in order and demonstrate that you have health insurance. You will be asked to provide confirmation that you have a home in France, be at a rental agreement or your property deeds, and you also have to be financially solvent and able to demonstrate that you can support yourself and your family during your time there.
If you are from the UK, you claim your UK state pension, even though you live in France. The application goes through the international pension centre. You won’t have to pay tax on your UK pension, but in France, you will be assessed for income tax liability.
Pensions can also be transferred permanently to France, and to do this. You need to find a French pension scheme using the qualified recognised overseas pension scheme, which is available as a list from HMRC. If you don’t pick a qualifying scheme from this list. You will find that you incur a very big tax bill.
The French Healthcare System
You can expect to receive excellent health care while you are living in France. You will need to obtain a French Social Security card, which you can do once you have an expat Visa. Soon after arriving, you need to pop down to the local Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie and get registered.
It is not a full NHS system like you are used to in the UK, and most people have top-up health insurance. Not every treatment or service is covered by your Social Security card, so it’s well worth protecting your family by adding health insurance. After you have been resident for three months, you can apply to the French healthcare system called PUMA, and this will cover you further.
UK state pensioners could also qualify for healthcare on the state in France, and in this case, it is paid for by the UK. You need to apply using a form called S1, which can be found on the UK Government website.
Whether you open a French bank account or not depends very much on your UK bank account and how accessible it is when you are living abroad. If you’re planning to become a long-term resident in France, it’s probably worth opening a French bank account as it will just make life easier.
There are noncitizen and non-resident accounts on offer. To open an account, you often need to visit the branch and bear in mind it is likely that the staff will speak French. So, unless you’ve learnt some of the language, you may well find a translator is needed.
Obviously, it’s not a necessity; you may run into issues with certain services wanting you to pay from a local account, but in the modern age, most people accept your bank account as being located elsewhere. You may pay fees for using a UK account and having all of your transactions in euros.
If you do decide to open a French bank account, you will need to take with you your valid ID, such as your passport, your Visa and immigration documents, whether you have a job or are a student or retired, and also proof that you have a French address.
Working in France
Assuming you can demonstrate the right to work, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t build a career for yourself in France. Of course, lots of people are relocating because they already have work, but if you don’t, there are still opportunities available.
Of course, it will be much easier if you happen to be fluent in French, but if not, the tourist industry is a great place to look for work. It’s important to have a copy of your CV in French and in English, and taking lessons in the language certainly won’t hurt if you are not very confident.
If you are good at teaching, you will find that there is a high demand for English teachers in France under the banner of TEFL. This means teaching English as a foreign language where you go into schools, language schools, or private tuition and teach English as a native to other French people. It is a great way to earn your money, but you do need to have a TEFL qualification and your belt. It’s not a huge expense, but it is an investment in your career, so it’s worth making. The basic qualification opens up many doors, and there is a chance to specialise in things like business, English, academic English and many others.
Moving to France is a great adventure, and we can help move your belongings. We are proud to be experts in European removals, and we have everything under control from the physical removal side and can deal with all the documentation.
Why not get in touch today and see how we can help you?