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Moving to France: 8 Things to Know Before You Move to France

By Joshua Wood

Summary: Expats all over the world dream of someday making France their next destination. As with other countries, there is a lot of planning involved, and a lot of decisions to be made. Find important advice about finding a place to live, expat banking services in France and much more.

Moving to France - 8 Things to Know Before You Move to France

Expats who move to France live a dream that many people the world over envision for themselves. Moving to France requires a great deal of research. Here is some basic information from expats and official websites to help jump start the process of moving to France.

Expat Visas For France

The Consular General of France in Washington, D.C., which includes general visa information and long stay visa information.

Information about France's embassy in the U.S. can be found on France in the U.S..

French visas must be requested at a consulate; you cannot request one at the French Embassy. Here is a list of French Consulates in the United States.

Here is a list of U.S. Consulates in France.

Here are the websites for the British Embassy in Paris and the Canadian Embassy in France.

Expat Banking in France

Expat banking in France is a complicated matter. It is affected by the laws and regulations of your home country, France, as well as the policies of individual financial institutions, among other factors.

In a discussion on our France Expat Forum about services for expats in France, the following comments regarding banking services were made:

"For your banking, i regularly find the Societe generale to be the best for international transactions. I may not have tried the other ones but i am at the societe generale and very glad."

"I can assure you that until you manage to provide an EDF facture (bill for electricity) you cannot get a bank account or the internet. Despite having purchased a house, in my name, I was unable to open either until I could provide a bill from the EDF."

Currently, I'm trying HSBC which has an office in Oakland's Chinatown. They can do it. HSBC has an international banking commiytee (IBC) that reviews one's request to open an account in a foreign country. If approved, then it will happen. While this is admittently a simplification of the process, it might be an option worth checking out. (SEE MORE ABOUT HSBC BELOW).

"HSBC also has a branch in LA, which I was hoping to use to set up an account. Unfortunately for me, the account needed to maintain a very high balance that I can't commit to, so it was not an option for me."

"Yes, HSBC also asked me for a high deposit...$100K. That was ridiculous as far as I was concerned. What they kept stressing was the "relationship" with the client. Having worked serveral years for a bank, I can tell you that what they really want are all of your assets, at least the banking ones. I told them "no," that it was not possible. We then moved down to a lower grade of deposit leve.

"What HSBC originally wanted to sell me was their Premium, that is highest level, account. If I did that then the work with the IBC (see above reply) would be free. That's nice, but not worth it. At the next lower level of account, which I began to think of as affordable, I could still get the IBC service, but for something like $200. If you are interested in HSBC, check the personal account informatio that is on-line."

Once you have an address in France, you can open an account at Credit Agricole from the US. They have an English-speaking department called Key Finance that works pretty quickly. If there is a minimum balance, it's pretty small."

Expat Mortgages in France

In a thread about using a bank in the United States for a mortgage in France, an expat in France wrote:

I am buying a small house in Brittany and have gone through the process of looking at financing options. We have excellent credit in the US but I was told by everyone that the could not make a real estate loan on a property overseas. I thought perhaps my best chance was with Bank of the West, simply because they are owned by a French banking group. But the subsidiaries are completely separate, so even that didn't work. There are a few French companies that make loans to expats. I checked with several of them as well. However, what I learned was that they only make loans that are greater than €100,000.

So, in our case, because we found a 2 Bedroom, 1.5 bath house near our daughter, in the Breton countryside, it was a very good deal, only €40,000. Ultimately, I cashed out of a few smaller annuities to come up with half of the money, and I am taking out a signature loan of $30,000 to make the final purchase. I went through Bank of the West. I already had a credit history with them, and was able to bring the interest rate down to 5.99%. Its not as good as a true mortgage, but not bad for an unsecured, signature loan. And, they will loan up to $50,000 for any purpose.

This is how I am going to make my dream happen. Keep in mind that even if the property is listed through the notaire rather than a real estate agent (agence immoblier) you will still have some fees associated with the transaction. In my case, about 4,000 euros. That's 1,000 for notaire fees and 3000 for taxes associated with the purchase.

Expat Health Insurance in France

Every expat in France must have health care coverage. Tips for managing expat health care in France include obtaining a Carte Vitale, private health insurance and supplemental health insurance.

Expats in France interested in private expat health insurance should take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA.

Driving in France as an Expat

According to France in the U.S.'s webpage about United States's citizens driving in France, U.S. expats in France can drive for a full year on their license provided that they have a notarized translation in French. It adds that an international driver's permit is "highly recommended."

U.K. Citizens can drive in France on their Great Britain or Northern Ireland driver's license.

Moving to France to Retire

In an article about expats finding affordable retirement in France, an expat in the South of France offered a great overview of how to find affordable villages. He said, "further east = more expensive; further north (i.e. away from the coast) = cheaper; close to city commuters = more expensive. These days many small villages have no shops. A medium-cost area would be between Montpellier and Nimes in a medium-sized village. Within 2 hours you would have access to airports in Lyon, Marseille, Nimes, Montpellier, Carcassonne, Perpignan, Girona (Spain) and access by TGV to Paris in 3 hrs."

What Expats Should Bring to France

Expats in general don't report problems finding what they need in France, or complain that they brought too much. Take care to consider the size of your housing and what furnishings you'll actually need. Especially in cities, you're not likely to have as much space as in the United States if you are a U.S. citizen moving from a suburb.

An expat who moved to Montpellier, France reported: "I wish I had left some of our furniture behind because the houses here are much smaller than in the states. I wish I had left a lot of our clothes at home because the closets are much smaller here, and people wear the same clothes more often here."

An expat who moved to Eymet wrote: "No regrets about this - we moved with personal possessions, but larger items we bought in France."

Finding Expat Housing in France

An expat who moved to Orleans, France wrote: "The housing and neighborhoods south of the Loire river is more expensive but are nicer. When deciding where to live, think about the traffic you will face daily to get to and from work. All rental contracts in France allow the renter to get out with three month notice to the owner. If the owner wants to remove the tenant, he has to have a legimate reason such as non-payment of rent or he wants to move into the property himself. He can't just arbitrarily force you out even if he sells the property to another person. You can stay as long as your contract which is either 3 or 6 years."

An expat in San Raphael, France advised: "try to get an "in" with a local, or use the classifieds. You can stay cheaply in a hotel until you find a place, and you could easily come here and start looking in classifieds. It would be good to speak some French since the locals only know a few phrases, for the most part."

An expat in Eymet wrote that there are "so many beautiful areas in France - so many people spend months finding a house - stick to one area and search."

Need more information on living in France?

Login or Register and visit our France Forum. Talk with other expats who can offer you insight and tips about living in France.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood joined Expat Exchange in 2000. His areas of responsibility include creative aspects of the community, research, sales and business development. Joshua received his Master's Degree in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University and graduated from Syracuse University with a BA in English Textual Studies.

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First Published: Jun 06, 2017

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