There’s something a little different about people who decide to turn their back on homeland to immerse themselves entirely into a new culture. They’ve got the same driving passion for discovery as those first humans who decided to leave their caves. That was back when people moved from place to place without having to think about endless paperwork, visas, good schools for the kids and split pension pots. In an ode to simpler times, we’ve created this guide that will seriously demystify the process of becoming an expat in France for you. You will find:
- Top ten questions for expats to consider before going to France
- A handy checklist of things to sort out before you leave your home country
- Some top tips for expats of different types
Figure 1 Chenonceau is just one of many beautiful chateaux in France
Table of contents
Ten key questions for expats to consider before going to France
Am I in the right place to leave my home country?
Do I meet the entry requirements?
Do I already speak French or am I willing to learn it?
What is my reason for being in France?
Have I already secured a job or studies there?
Do I have enough money?
Am I going at the right time?
Am I okay with a bit of culture shock?
Am I going alone, as a couple or in a family?
Do I know what happens with my pensions or benefits at home if I stay long terms?
Your checklist for becoming an expat
Top tips for France by expat type
Top tips for explorers in France
What you need to be an explorer?
Best destinations in France for explorers
Finding temporary accommodation
Travelling in France
Seasonal work in France
Meeting people in France
Emergency medical care in France
Speaking the French Language
Top tips for career expats
What do you need to be a career expat in France?
Best places to work in France
What type of accommodation is available to me?
Getting to work
Top tips for retirees
What do you need to be a retiree in France?
Best places to retire in France
Meeting people & integrating
Top tips for families
What you need to be an expat family in France?
Best places for families in France
Schools and registration
References & Links
We don’t want to scare you off right from the get go… becoming an expat is one of the most wonderfully life-enriching things you can do. You’ll get to experience a new culture, a different way of living, make new friends and grow incredibly as a person. But it’s not all sugar and spice. Moving to another country – especially one so different to your own – is also hard. If you feel you can throw yourself head first into another culture without hesitation and the prospect of returning home only once a year (if that) doesn’t scare you… then go for it.
It’s a cruel injustice of the world that we get penned into the one corner that we, or our parents, happened to be born into. But such is life. EU citizens have the luxury of being able to live, work and retire in France with minimal stress. For you Americans, Australians, Kiwis and Canadians out there, you will need to apply for a short or long-term visa in order to gain entry to the country. French Visas are diverse and confusing and depend on your personal situation. The most sure-fire routes for entry are:
- To be the partner or child to a French citizen and get a carte de resident valid for 10 years.
- To have already secured a job or student position and get a VLS-TS or VLS-TS étudiant – the former which is valid for 1 year and renewable, the latter being valid for the length of your studies.
- To get a long stay visitor’s visa (une carte de séjour temporaire visiteur) if you’re planning to retire to France. Valid for 1 year, you will a monthly income of at least 1,170.69 to qualify for this visa.
You may have heard that all Europeans are English aficionados who have racked up countless hours watching House of Cards with the subtitles off, but this is not the case. In France, levels of English can be very mélangés. French was the world’s mother tongue until the Second World War and is still used in many Legal and State proceedings throughout the world.
Figure 2. Fall in love with the French language. Source: Ufal.org.
For short trips and holidays, English is fine, but language ability is indispensable for those planning to stay there longer. Unlike countries such as the Netherlands, official documents are not translated for English expats and you’ll most likely be met with blank stares if you use English when interacting with French bureaucracy.
It’s important before you decide to go to a new country that you know exactly what you’re going there for. Uprooting your entire life to a shack in the middle of Bouches-du-Rhône because you’ve just seen Manon des Sources for the first time may be romantic, but not practical. If you’re going to work in France, make sure you check up on the availability of jobs in your industry and how much you’ll likely to be paid before you go. Similarly, if you’re studying there, make you sure understand the education system and just how your qualification will convert if you come back home after getting it.
For prospective employees, make sure you have translated your CV and got it out there in the French recruitment world when you are still in your home country. This will be a good test for you to gauge whether you are in demand in France before you go and blow thousands on airfares. The same is true of students – relocating with the blind hope that you’ll be accepted onto a course once you arrive is a recipe that ends in you sitting on your couch, staring out your window at the Paris skyline for 6 months. Incidentally securing a job or a study position before you leave will greatly improve your chances of having your visa approved.
Sometimes you can get a little wrapped up in the excitement of your new adventure and forget about the financial side of things. But excluding the visa and airfare, you’ll quickly rack up expenses once you get out there. Rental deposits, purchase of insurance and transport passes usually come in the first few months. Remember that there are a lot of properties in France are non meublés (not furnished) as well, so unless you want to be sleeping on the floor, it’s a good idea to put aside some money for furniture too. We would recommend having at least a few thousand euros equivalents put aside if you’re going to France on your own to get you through the first few months.
Cold, cold and cold if you live in the North. Hot, hot and hot if you live in the South. France’s yearly meteorological cycle is fairly consistent and doesn’t need to really be taken into account when considering becoming an expat there. But you should throw at least a little attention to the way of the seasons. Like most Mediterranean countries, France winds down a little in the summer. But what most foreigners don’t know, is that in August, most small French municipalities become Ghost Towns. For this month, where you’ll find virtually no local businesses open, most of the French take a long break abroad. Finding a job during this month will be virtually impossible.
Figure 3. Paris, like other French cities, is deserted in August. Source: jolpress.com
Okay, so it’s not like you are going to live with an Amazonian tribe for a year. You’ll still have access to the internet and all the frozen pizza the supermarket can provide – so how different can it be? Quite a bit to be honest. Small contrasts in lifestyle and social etiquette which seem minuscule at first can quickly be blown out of proportion without understanding why things are the way they are. Of course, preparation is not obligatory in this case, but we think it’s helpful that you learn a bit about French people and culture before you leave. This could be through watching French TV, interacting with French people in person or over skype or actually visiting the country for a holiday or exchange.
Parents of school-age children will have to cope with moving their young ones between two education systems – deregistering in their own country and then signing their child up at their local town hall in France and then to the school itself. Parents should be aware that children entering French state schools are tested on the proficiency of their French and may be placed in a special class for non-French speakers (abbreviated to UPE2A in French). Naturally, you can choose to place your children in an International school where English is taught, but you might find your children’s French skills slightly lacking compared to fully integrated kids.
If you receive welfare for any reason, you should contact the providers before leaving. Many benefits are no longer applicable once you live abroad. Those with children can claim child benefit (les prestations familiales) upon arrival, if you can prove you reside in France, have right to remain and are in charge of at least 1 enfant who resides there. Expats are only eligible for unemployment benefit once they have worked at 4 months in the country.
You’ve read our “Ten key questions for expats to consider before going to France” and you remain undeterred in your ambitions to find la vie en rosé. And so you should be - it’s an excellent choice of new home. To fully prepare your trip, we’ve made a checklist of the things you need to look into before you leave your home country for France. This includes visas, vaccinations, and more. Be sure to print it out and stick it on your fridge as a reminder.
Before you Move Checklist
Bills settling (gas, electricity, water)
France is a top choice for explorers who want their taste of Europe. Not only is it home to the famous landmarks, lifestyle and food that we’re so used to seeing in films, but it also extremely diverse from North to South. With borders to eight more countries and great transport links, it’s easy to get from France to other places in Europe. France is used to welcoming millions of English tourists each year and while it might not be as bilingual as Northern Europe, you should be able to get by in most situations without French.
As an explorer, you are:
- Likely young, without ties of family or job but may be older, experiencing a change of circumstance and wanting to explore something new
- Have a sense of adventure
- Want to immerse yourself in the country but likely for a short period of time
- Probably travelling on your own or with a friend or partner
Figure 4. France is a great country to explore.
Apart from wanderlust, there are a few other things you’ll need to have to in order to travel to and within France. If you’re a Europe citizen, things are pretty uncomplicated. You’ll need to have:
- A valid travel document, like a passport
Non-EU nationals, as well as the above. will need:
- A visa
- A job already lined up (if you’re going to work)
- Travel insurance*
*May also apply for EU citizens who live outside of Europe.
Where you go on France will depend entirely on what you plan to do when you get there. If you are going to spend the entirety of your stay travelling, you will visit several different cities and regions. While seasonal workers may stay put more of the time. Here are some places Smart Expat would recommend for explorers…
When to go
Pros & Cons
-Travellers (short stay)
-World famous landmarks and museums.
-Typical café culture
-Multitude of hostels, hotels, Airbnb, etc.
-English widely spoken
-English widely spoken (for those wanting immersion)
Nice and the Cote d’Azur
-Beautiful beaches and mountains
-Close to Italy
-Quiet outside of warmer months
Lille, Amiens and the Hauts de France
Spring or summer (some battlefields close in winter)
-Battlefields and museums of WW1 and 2
-Close to Belgium and Germany
-Good transport links to the UK
-Closest airport is Paris
Lyon, Grénoble and the Alps
-Winter sports enthusiasts
Ski season or summer
-Good culinary scene
-Most cultural events outside of Paris
-Close to Alps for hiking and winter sports (and seasonal work)
-Close to Switzerland
Nantes, Tours and the Loire Valley
-Walking & cycling
Spring or summer (some Chateaux not open in winter)
-Contains most of France’s chateaux
-Reasonably close to Paris
-Loire perfect for cycling and walking
-Not as many accommodation options as South or Paris
Bordeaux and Aquitaine
West and South West
-Lots of agriculture opportunities
-Good food and wine
Rouen, Rennes, Normandy and Britany
-Steeped in medieval architecture and art
-Weather is bad outside of summer
Toulouse, Montpellier and Occitanie
-Great for outdoor activities; hiking, kayaking, beaches
-High concentration of airports
-Maybe a little dead outside of summer. Some airport routes may not be operating the rest of the year
Table 2. Each region in France is unique.
You’ll probably need to sort at least the first few nights’ accommodation in France before you leave your home country. As such we recommend using reputable companies rather than local ads. Airbnb does exist in France and is a great option for short stays. Below you can see exactly where Airbnb is most prevalent.
Figure 5. Airbnb listing in France are concentrated around large metropoles and the coast. Source:Le Telegramme
There are also options for temporary flat shares. If you’re looking to rapidly improve your French, you may want to try to implant yourself into a French-speaking household. The site chambrealouer.fr has listings for temporary rooms.
For seasonal workers, more often than not, accommodation is not provided as part of your work package. You should inquire whether this is the case with your future employer. If you need to find your own accommodation, you can use websites like seloger.com and logic-immo.com and sift through the à louer (for rent) ads. Alternatively, you can contact one of the many agencies dedicated to seasonal work, les maison des saisionniers, who can help you to find accommodation. You can find a list of them here.
Plane and rail - France has one of the best rail networks in Europe. With trains capable of reaching speeds of up to 300 km/h, sometimes it’s not much different to taking the plane when it comes down to the time factor. Having said that, the sheer growth of economy plane travel in the last few decades has meant that it is often cheaper over long distances. Below is a comparison of journey durations and average prices for a few popular domestic and international journeys.
Average duration (train)
Average duration (plane)
Paris – Lyon
€10 - 181
€46 - 329
Paris - Bordeaux
€15 - 181
€45 - 331
Paris - Brussels
€29 - 442
Paris – Berlin
€17 - 443
€37 - 388
Paris – London
€34 - 441
€44 - 453
Toulouse - Barcelona
€35 - 125
€30 - 70
Lyon - Geneva
€14 - 100
No direct flight
Lyon – Zurich
€45 - 163
€162 - 250
Nice – Rome
€19 - 211
€39 - 205
Table 3. France is quite big for a European country so travelling end to end can take a long time.
*Air ticket prices based on several days in April, booked two months in advance
Beside booking early, you might want to look into getting a railcard if you plan to travel frequently within France. There are two options here, both which are valid for one year:
- Young person’s railcard (12 – 27 years old)
- Price – €50
- Discount – 30% on any journey
- Weekend railcard (for 1 or 2 people of any age)
- Price – €75
- Discount – 25% on any journey
You can order these railcards on the SNCF website here.
Interrailing (or Eurailing for non-EU citizens) is also a possibility. If you stay just in France, you can obtain passes which allows you travel as much as you want from 3 days of the month, upwards, from €148 if you’re from the EU, or from €150 if you’re from outside the EU. If you want to travel outside of France, and into other EU countries, you can pick up a pass with 5 travel days from €208 (EU citizens) or €307 (non-EU citizens).
Coach - Outside of plane and train travel, there are a few more options for getting around the country. Coach travel is becoming increasingly more popular in Europe as a cheaper alternative to aerial and rate transport. The number of routes and frequency of departures have grown enormously in the last few years. To find out more information and book tickets, see the following websites:
Carpooling - Recently long-distance carpooling has become a thing. Using the app BlaBlaCar, drivers can effectively advertise free spots in their vehicle to those in need of transport. You simply need to download the application and search the cities from which you are leaving and going to, against a date. If any free spots are available they will be displayed, along with the price the driver is asking for. Each driver has a rating based on how well they drive and what they are like to travel with.
With around 700,000 seasonal jobs in France, there’s plenty of work available. The market is heavily dominated by agriculture – including wine growing. Followed closely by waiting and hospitality.
Figure 6. Seasonal jobs in French viticulture and agriculture are booming. Source: strategie.gouv.fr
Some key things to know about seasonal work in France are:
- The summer is by far the best time to find seasonal work. You have the picking season, summer camps and hiking in the mountains.
- There are many websites purposely set up for English speakers who want to come to France for seasonal work, like seasonworkers.com and summerjobsabroad.co.uk
- If you come from outside the EU, you’ll need a work offer before you can get your short-term visa (le visa de court séjour).
- Minimum wage is currently €7.61 in France. Up to 17 years old, you can be paid 80% of this. 90% if you are 17.
Meeting people abroad can be challenging, especially if you’re particularly shy. And it doesn’t help that the French can be somewhat reserved with people they don’t know – away from specific social situations, like at bars or cafés. To get around this:
- Try to find events where people at more at ease and open to discussion. This could be at a live music event, a talk or lecture or over drinks. You can consult our events calendar to see what’s on in your region.
- Attend one of the many meetups which happen throughout France to bring people of similar interests together. This could be to do with sport, education or even language speaking.
- Go to the places where people are already used to non-Francophones; hostels and universities for example.
Figure 7. French people can be reserved, but if you persevere you'll make friends.
France has one of the best healthcare systems in the world, so rest easy in the knowledge if anything does happen, you’re in safe hands.
EU citizens should be covered for all emergency medical care by their EHIC card. Remember to bring it with you before you leave your country. You can claim the reimbursement once you return to your own country.
Non-EU citizens should take out travel insurance to cover any medical emergencies before they leave their home country.
What’s it for
If you have or are witness an accident anywhere in Europe
-Don’t use it close to borders with other countries.
Medical emergencies (ambulance)
Emergency services for people hard of hearing or blind
Table 4. Emergency service numbers in France
Being in of the most touristic places in the world means that France is used to catering for English speakers. The level of English is not as good as in the Netherlands or Scandinavia, but you should nevertheless be able to get by in most situations without learning French. There might be a few situations where you find people a little more reluctant to switch to English, including:
- At the bank
- At the post office
- At the doctor’s
German, Italian and Spanish may all be learnt in school alongside English but are not spoken widely at a high level and speakers are usually concentrated in the parts of France that border countries that speak those languages as a mother tongue.
If you have a strong desire to improve your French while you’re there, as well as accosting people on the street, you can attend one of the many language meetups advertised at meetup.com or find an individual language exchange partner at conversationexchange.com
If you are an English speaker in informal situations, you may find yourself trying out some French, only to be responded to in English. This is either because the person you are speaking to thinks the conversation will be easier in English or, as is mostly the case, they want to practise their English.
With Europe’s second largest economy, France offers a huge number of options to career expats relocating there. You can expect a strong work ethic and an increasingly progressive way of working in the major cities. At around 80% of their employed workforce, the Services sector is huge in France.
As a career expat, you are:
- an adult aged between 20 and 60, perhaps with a partner.
- looking to become highly familiar with the culture and the language.
- wanting to make long-term friends.
The prerequisites for the career expat coming to France are similar to that of the simple traveller. At the very least, you should have:
And if you’re from outside the EU, supplementary to the above:
- a working contract
- a valid working visa
- travel insurance
But there are also a few other things you should also consider before coming to a career expat…
- Notifying institutions in your own country about your departure
This includes your local council, phone and insurance providers, energy companies, the tax authorities and your bank.
- Translating your CV and references into French
It will get you off to a good foot with French employers and make you more likely to be hired.
- Understanding the different types of contract before you sign
Contracts are mostly split into permanent and non-permanent in France and the two have very different sets of rules. If your contract is not in English, you should consider having it professionally translated. You can read up on the different types of contracts in our Employment guide.
- Switch to a bank account in your home country with favourable international transfer rates
Assuming you’re going to still have a bank account back home, try to look for one that won’t penalise you too heavily for making transfers to your French bank. It may be helpful to switch to a bank which also exists in France, like HSBC, as it may make opening your French account easier.
- Budgeting correctly for the first few months
Costs can rack up in the first few months. Rental deposits, insurance and furniture are all things that need to be taken off from the start. We recommend having the equivalent of a few thousand euros saved up just in case.
Around 1.7 million foreigners work in France at this time. There are a few places outside of Paris that have traditionally attracted workers from abroad. These include:
- Alsace (Strasbourg)
- Rhône-Alpes (Lyon, Grénoble)
- Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur (Nice)
Your language skills should play some factor in deciding where to go. If you don’t yet speak business level French, you may want to stick to cities like Paris and Lyon, where a decent number of English jobs are advertised.
Île-de-France (Paris), Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (Lyon, St. Etienne, Grénoble), Grand-Est (Strasbourg, Reims) and Pays de la Loire (Nantes, Le Mans) are the heaviest recruiting regions right now.
Figure 8. Recruitment in France is highest around Paris, Lyon and Strasbourg. Source: Regionsjob.com
French regions and cities are a diverse mix of lots of different types of employment, but if you were to associate one or two sectors with each place, this is how it’d go:
- Food processing – Britany, Hauts-de-France
- Car and plane manufacturing – throughout France
- Pharmaceutical – Lyon
- Supply Chain – Ile-de-France, Hauts-de-France
- IT and Tech – Any big city. Paris, Lyon, Nantes, Toulouse, Lille, Bordeaux
- Associations, volunteering and public sector – Paris
- Banking and Insurance – Paris, Lyon, Lille, Bordeaux, Toulouse and Nantes
- Communications and Media – Paris and Lyon
- Hospitality and catering – the South (Marseille, Nice and Montpellier) and Paris
Residences are roughly evenly split in France between individual housing (terraced, semi-detached, detached) and collective (apartment blocks). Although this changes rapidly if you separate homeowners (78% individual housing, 22% collective) and renters (25% individual, 75% collective).
Homeowners outnumber renters by about 10% in France and as you’d expect, the number greater as you go up the age brackets.
Be aware that most properties in France are unfurnished (non-meublés).
Traditionally it was quite common to live alone in France and studios were widely available. With rising rental costs in inner cities, more and more people are cohabiting. 43% of flatmates living in France are professionals.
Figure 9. Sharing a property is more common amongst those their 20s. Source: Huffington Post France
If you’re coming from Australasia, the US or the UK, and you have a car, you might want to think about selling it so you can buy a new one in France. This is the main mode of transport outside of Paris and means that public transport is a bit less well developed than other countries.
If your work in reachable by public transport, you employer should reimburse up to half of the annual cost if you buy a season pass.
Along with the practical things to take care off when becoming an expat, you should think about brushing up on your language skills whilst in your home country. Even if you’ve landed an English-speaking position, people will address you in French away from your desk – from the receptionist to the canteen staff. And outside of work more so.
If you’re a beginner, try to focus on listening to as much French as possible, simple vocabulary and starting to speak and form sentences. This will help you to at least hold basic everyday conversations – like saying Hello and Goodbye and asking how people are. Don’t worry too much about learning all the vocabulary and complicated grammar straight away.
DuoLingo is a good app for starting out. RFI (Radio France Internationale) also regularly releases a podcast called Journal en français facile (News in simple French) for French learners.
If you have a French-speaking friend in the area, it might be a good idea to ask them to accompany you when you go to sign your rental agreement or set up a bank account, so they can explain everything that is happening.
A great healthcare system and a lifestyle that leads to high life expectancy are two things that make France a top spot for retirees. If you’re not too bothered about integrating with the locals, you’ll be glad to know that there already pockets of older expat communities dotted across the héxagone where you can get a good taste of the French lifestyle without trying to learn all those complicated grammar rules. The South with its relaxed pace of life and a high number of sunny days makes for a great choice. As does Normandy and Britany to the North and West.
As a retiree, you are:
- approaching or over retirement age (starts from 62 in France)
- perhaps living with a partner who you will relocate with
- looking for a comfortable lifestyle
As with the other types of expat, EU retirees to France will need:
- A valid travel document, like a passport
Non-EU citizens will need, in addition to the above:
- A valid visa
- Some sort of income, like a pension, that means you won’t be completely reliant on the French welfare system
You should be aware that the visa for retirees, le visa de long séjour, is valid for one year before it needs to be renewed. There’s no reason not to renew it if you’ve done nothing wrong, but just keep it in mind that your stay is never guaranteed over a year.
In addition, you will also need to think about:
- Notifying institutions in your own country about your departure
This includes insurance providers, energy companies and tax authorities.
- Switching to a bank with favourable international rates
If you’re keeping a bank at home, you might want to switch to one that has favourable transfers to France – some even waiver the transfer or have free withdrawals abroad. You could also consider a bank that exists in both your home country and France. This way, you might be able to set up a new French account even before you arrive.
- Professionally translating your will into French
In 2013, Notre Temps (Our Time), a French magazine for the older generations, published its report ranking 18 cities in France. It scored them out of 20 on five factors: climate and quality of life, housing, healthcare, transport, sport and culture.
Its top five was:
- Grénoble (South East) – 15.5
- Bordeaux (South West) - 15
- Angers (West) & Tours (West) - 14
- Strasbourg – 13.5
Figure 10. Grénoble, Bordeaux, Angers and Tours rank amongst the best cities
in France for retirees. Source: Notre Temps
And if you focus on the topics individually, the cities came out as follows:
Best quality of life
Table 5. Each French city has its own perks for retirees. Source: Notre Temps
To add to this, here’s how those cities stack up in terms of rental costs / house prices.
Average property price in France per m2
Figure 11. Bordeaux and Aix-en-Provence are amongst the most expensive
French cities to buy property in. Source: Meilleursagents.com
Average rental prices in France per m2
Figure 12. Lille and Aix-en-Provence are some of the most expensive French cities to rent property in. Source: Meilleursagents.com
One last point you might want to consider is whether you want to live in a well-established expat area or you want to put yourself as far as possible from your fellow countryman and women. It’s hard to bring up statistics for every expat nationality and where they live. With expats from the UK, we know that they number 200,000, and we know the popular destinations for them are:
- the South West (Nouvelle Aquitaine)
- the South West (Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur)
- the West (Britany and Normandy)
Figure 13. Large British enclaves have been set up in the Dordogne and Poitou-Charentes. Source: france3-regions.com
Don’t be daunted by the challenge of making new friends in France, there are plenty of ways to get yourself out there. Here are our top tips for integrating with the French retiree community:
- Practice a collective activity.
You can join a gym or a yoga class. Swimming is also a very popular activity for seniors in France – you’ll find classes targeted towards the older generation, like Aquafit. If you’re into hiking, you can find a list of clubs here.
It might seem illogical to retire and then start another job, but you’ll probably be picking up a less strenuous activity and it’s a great way to meet people. The types of jobs you can do include volunteer work, working at your local church, mosque or synagogue and artistic work.
- Join a seniors’ club
There's no more sure-fire way to make friends than at one of the many clubs devoted to the older generation. Here you can expect to share a coffee with fellow retirees, get involved in cultural and sporting activities as well as language learning and painting. You should consult your local mairie (town hall) as clubs vary from region to region.
It’s entirely possible to receive a pension from abroad while in France. You must check what type of fiscal accord your country has with France concerning foreign income to see if it:
- Needs to be declared
- Is taxable
In most circumstances, if your pension is taxable, you will be taxed at the French rate.
In the case that you have worked in both France and another country, you should be eligible to receive from both pots (providing you have worked at least 200 hours in France). You will need to contact your pension providers in both countries to set this going. The sole exception to this is EU citizens with state pensions who have worked in one or more EU countries other than their country of origin. In this case, they only need to contact the provider in their own country.
If your pension income is low, you may be entitled to a special type of welfare called l’ASPA (Allocation de solidarité aux personnes âgées, or solidarity welfare for seniors).
In order to qualify you must either be:
- An EU citizen
- Had a working resident’s visa (un titre de séjour autorisant à travailler) for 10 years or more
The upper limit of the welfare is currently set at €9,638 for people living alone and €14,963 for couples. The amount that your annual income falls below this limit, is what you will receive.
If you have Social Security coverage in your home country, you might be entitled to use it abroad. Again, it depends on whether France has a special accord with your country of origin that permits this.
Otherwise, you will be covered by France’s basic social security scheme – PUMA, formerly knowns as CMU. This will mean you will be reimbursed for most medical care (including emergency care) that you receive in France.
In order to be eligible, you need to:
- Have lived in France for at least 3 months uninterrupted
- Have permanent residence in France at least 180 days a year
- Evidence your legal right of residence (your visa)
Social security is currently free for annual incomes of up to €9,029 per household. A fee of 8% is levied on any income over this amount.
For example, if you have an income of €12,600 a year, €3,571 will be subject to the fee, the amount over the limit (€12,600 – €9,029 = €3,571).
The amount you pay = €285.68 (8% of €3,571).
Generally, you will be expected to speak French when you go to your doctor’s in France. There is a list of English speaking doctors that you can here.
No matter if you have young kids or ones that are ready to leave for college or university, France is a great destination to open them up to the world. They’ll be able to experience a different culture in their formative years and set themselves in good stead for the future by becoming fluent in another language. France is very different top to bottom with some places being better suited to extracurricular activities and others performing better in education.
As a family, you are:
- an individual or couple with children.
- looking for somewhere with good education opportunities
As a family coming to France, you will need to have at least:
- Valid travel documents for every family member
And as non-EU citizens, you will need:
- Valid visas for every family member
- Travel insurance
Children in France are vaccinated against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio before starting school. If your child(ren) has already undergone these injections, make sure to bring the certificate.
The needs of a family are complex and depend completely on its makeup and the respective ages of its younger members. In September 2017, the website seloger.com (Find a house) published an article on the top 10 towns to live with kids in France, which considered things like standard of education, number of activities and employment opportunities for parents. Their list came out as follows:
Figure 14. Grénoble is located in the South East, close to the Alps. Source: Google Maps & Wikimedia Commons
- Good hospitals
- High standard of education
- Relatively affordable housing
- Good location for kids’ activities
Figure 16. Rennes is located in the North West, in the region of Britany. Source: Google Maps & Wikimedia Commons
- High standard of living
- Good work opportunities for parents
Figure 18. Toulouse is located in the South West, close to Spain. Source: Google Maps & Wikimedia Commons
- High standard of living
- Good location for kids’ activities
- Focus of care on toddlers
- Culturally rich
Figure 20. Nantes is a city in the West of France, close to the Atlantic Ocean. Source: Google Maps & Flickr
- Lots of green spaces
- Good work opportunities for parents
- Relatively affordable housing
- Culturally rich
Figure 22. Lyon is located in the South East of France, close to the French Alps. Source: Google Maps & Wikimedia Commons
- High standard of living
- 2nd biggest employer amongst French cities
- Good geographical location for activities
- Rich cultural calendar
Figure 24. Marseille in located on the south coast of France, next to the Mediterranean. Source: Google Maps & Wikimedia Commons
- Good weather
- Good standard of living
- Good hospitals
- Good employment opportunities for parents
Figure 26. Angers is located in the west of France in Pays de la Loire. Source: Google Maps & Wikimedia Commons
- Accommodation relatively easy to find
- Good hospitals and healthcare
- High quality of life
Figure 28. Bordeaux is located in the South West of France, close to the Bay of Biscay. Source: Google Maps & Wikimedia Commons.
- Good geographical location for kids’ activities
- Reasonably affordable
- Lots of green spaces
- Low rate of crime
Figure 30. Nice is in the Riviera, the South Eastern corner of France. Source: Google Maps & Wikimedia Commons
- Good standard of living
- Young and dynamic population
- Good for toddlers
- Good weather
Figure 32. Paris is located in the centre and north of the country. Source: Google Maps & Wikimedia Commons
- Culturally rich
- Best employment opportunities
- Good schools
If you have toddlers, they should automatically be eligible for state-run creches if you can prove both you and the child are permanent residents in France.
L’école maternelle (primary school) is not mandatory in France.
With school-age children, you will need to make the important decision of whether to put them in a French-speaking school or an International school:
Type of school
-Easier to get a place
-If child’s French is not up to scratch they may be put in a special class for non-natives
-Level of teaching is generally good
-Can be hard to come by depending where you live.
-Integration with French community is more difficult for child.
Table 6. The choice between a French state or International school is an important one.
To register your child for a school in France, you will need to apply to the local council (mairie). Before your child can start school, they will need to be examined by the family doctor.
You should be aware that the school year in France starts in September.
When you arrive, you will need to register at a doctor’s in France. They will automatically assign you and your family a doctor (un médecin traitant). You can change this at any time by writing to your doctor’s.
In your first few months or even years in France, it may be understandable that you want to use a doctor that speaks your own language. You can find a list of bilingual doctors here.
So that’s it - your ultimate guide to becoming an expat. Hopefully, we’ve given you a good indication of what to think about and prepare in the very initial period before going abroad. Now it’s time to start the relocation process; to find jobs or schools, obtain visas and start detaching from your life in your home country, for which you can consult our other guides. We wish you the best of luck at the start of your journey.
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