Moving to France
Everything You Need To Know to Settle In
|A passageway to an apartment in Paris.
Here are the ground rules for moving to France:
The French allow you to stay in France on a tourist visa for three
months with little bother. If you wish to remain as a tourist longer,
you will have to get a one-year permit and renew it each year
until you are allowed to stay indefinitely. This can take from
three to 10 years. After a year, you will be obliged to start
paying French taxes on worldwide income, obtain a French driving
The Long-Term Visa
Assuming you are not a student and have not found a large corporation to fund your move and support your legal procedures in France,
you will need to do the following (the latest details in the long process of visa applications in France can be found by contacting the French Embassy and Consulate).:
Fill out an application form for a long-term
tourist visa before arriving in France. Applications are available
from the French embassy or consulates. Call the embassy for the
consulate in your area. Youll
need several copies of the application forms in French. No photocopies.
You must explain how you will support yourself in France. Include
as much information as possible about your financial status. The
major purpose of the lengthy visa process is to make sure you will
not be a burden to the state.
Once you submit your visa application to the nearest French consulate, you must sit and wait. The approval procedure can take from two
to six months. Once approved, you will have three months to enter France.
Upon arrival in France, you have eight days to visit the appropriate préfectures office. Go to the central Préfecture
of Police at 1 rue de Lutèce, just as you get out of the Cité metro stop. Bring your passport and you will be given a rendez-vous
or an appointment back at La Cité several weeks later. (Bring plenty of reading material; the appointed time is merely an approximation.)
The prefecture will also give you a list of required documents to bring, including identity photos, financial statements demonstrating your ability to sustain yourself with independent income, proof of insurance
(in French, of course), and a copy of your marriage license if you are a married woman. My husband and I have been married for 28 years but not bringing my
marriage certificate threw a monkey wrench in the works!
Other necessary steps include a physical examination at the Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration. The exam assures the French government that you are not a tuberculosis carrier, a drug user, etc. When everything is finally approved, you receive your Visa de Long Séjour, which is valid for a year and renewable yearly.
In other words, it isnt quick and it isnt cheap, but it is manageable. Follow the above directions carefully.
Living Arrangements in Paris
You will, of course, need somewhere to hang your beret once you arrive. A popular choice is to rent a furnished apartment. Several companies
now let you browse through available apartments online (see below). A furnished apartment saves you the hassle of organizing utilities and telephones. Many
short-term rental agencies will insist on payment in advance in cash or travelers checks. Credit cards may not be accepted.
Be aware if you decide to rent an unfurnished apartment that it is just that, unfurnished: no cabinets, no sinks, no appliances, no light
bulbs, no nothing. We rented an apartment with nothing except the kitchen appliances. On the one hand, it was a true-life experience of setting up life in
France as the French do it; on the other hand, furnishing the apartment took three months of our time.
We were also faced with the need for a guarantee on the rent. Most foreigners who rent apartments in Paris have an employer
to guarantee that the rent will be paid. As we had no employer, we had to pay the full years rent in advance.
You can arrange for a short-term rental while you hunt around Paris for the ideal place. There are no multiple listings in France. Each
rental agency carries its own list of apartments for rent, usually listed in the window. Therefore, you will need to decide which arrondisement, or area of
town, you want and then walk from immobilier to immobilier to see what is available.
Here are some rental agencies that provide short-term furnished apartments in Paris:
For a long stay a checking account is indispensable. One of the vagaries of living in France is that you cannot get a checking account
without an apartment or permanent address. Naturally, you cannot get an apartment without a checking account.
Fortunately, exceptions are made as long as the banker is comfortable with you. To that end, bring documentation and money. Be prepared
to set up an account with several thousand dollars, if possible, and bring along a letter from your banker at home. Any papers you can bring (stock broker
reports, tax returns, etc.) can be photocopied and put into your dossier. If you make things easier for your banker, he or she will make it easier for you.
If you think a checking account is not critical, think again. You cannot get a telephone line from France Telecom without a checking
account; they debit the amount directly from your account. You cannot get electricity without an account. And so on. As an extension of this, dont ever
let your account become overdrawn. Bad things happen if you do.
Once youre established in France, one
of the easiest ways of transferring funds from the States is your
ATM card. The exchange rates are generally the best you will find; there
is no delay while international checks clear, and the commission
charge is often less than other methods.
For More Information in English
There are a variety of excellent sources for information on life in Paris.
The U.S. Embassy in Paris publishes many documents in PDF format for those moving or currently living in France.
an online presence with ads for housing,
jobs, and services required by most expatriates.
The American Church in Paris, 65 quai dOrsay,
is a general meeting place for expats. You can attend classes and meetings
and check out ads for garage sales, rooms for rent, etc...
Check out our selection of expatriate websites in France, each of which offer unique forums and other forms of information to help you move and live in France.